MAY 24, 2004





Iraq on agenda for
Bush visit with Pope

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II and President Bush are expected to discuss their differences over Iraq and the Middle East when they meet, June 4.
Bush will be in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome by Allied forces. Although the pope and the president see eye-to-eye on right-to-life issues with the exception of capital punishment, which the pope opposes, they are deeply divided over the U.S. decision to attack Iraq. The pope also seeks more vigorous and even-handed action by Washington to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

Charges filed against elderly nuns in Boston
BOSTON (RNS) – Nine former students at a suburban Boston school for the deaf accused 14 nuns of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, on May 11, the first time widespread allegations of abuse have been made against women in the scandal-scarred archdiocese.

The three women and six men, now 41 to 67 years old, said they were raped, beaten, fondled and had their heads submerged in toilets by nuns at the now-closed Boston School for the Deaf in Randolph, Mass. All of the alleged victims are deaf and mute and attended the school between 1944 and 1977. The school, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, closed in 1994. The suit names 14 nuns, a priest, a staff member and retired Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, who held several top jobs in the Boston Archdiocese.

The nuns named in the suit are all between 75 and 95 years old. A statement from the order promised an immediate investigation “that will be fair and sensitive.”

Catholics say governor reneged on vouchers
NEW ORLEANS (RNS) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans has accused Gov. Kathleen Blanco of breaking her promise to Archbishop Alfred Hughes and other Catholic leaders to support legislation that would enshrine in law a program giving low-income parents state money to send 1,500 children to private preschools.

But Blanco disputed the contention, saying she recalls making no assurances on the bill, which would have codified in law an $8.5 million program that sends 4-year-olds to pre-kindergarten classes in private or parochial schools. The bill failed on the Senate floor May 5 in the face of intense lobbying from the governor’s office, as well as opposition from teacher unions and other public school groups. Blanco has said she supports the 3-year-old program and has included money for it in her 2004-05 fiscal year budget, but she opposes putting it into law, leaving it to the discretion of lawmakers and the governor each year.

An estimated 900 children use the program in New Orleans. Most attend Catholic schools, which offer themselves as alternatives to failing public schools.

Bush urged to push plight
of Holy Land Christians

WASHINGTON (RNS) – Fifty Catholic and Protestant leaders have appealed to President Bush on behalf of the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, who they say are under economic and physical assault from Israel.

In a May 7 letter coordinated by the advocacy group Churches for Middle East Peace, the signers said “the endangered indigenous Christian population in the Holy Land could well disappear” unless Bush intervenes. “We need your help in convincing the Israeli government that thriving Christian institutions are vital to all of our interests and to the future of a secure Israel,” the letter said.

The letter also said Israel’s “security wall” has already cut off Palestinians from their land, employment and schools. “The separation barrier is damaging Christian institutions and the daily livelihood of individual Christians,” the letter said.

Brother Robert Schieler, a leader of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who oversee Bethlehem University, said the plight of Palestinian Christians is not known by most Americans. “I wonder if U.S. Christians who visit Bethlehem as tourists know that many of their Christian brothers and sisters who live and work and worship where Jesus was born are not able to travel just a few miles to Jerusalem to where Jesus died and was risen,” Brother Schieler said in a statement.

Irish archbishop calls for IRA to disarm
LONDON (RNS) – Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Ireland, has called on the Irish Republican Army to disarm and disband.

“We must dispel any ambivalence in our own (Roman Catholic) community about the presence or actions of non-democratic and totally unaccountable armed groups in our own community,” he said, referring to the IRA. “I’m calling on people to forsake once and for all the armed struggle.”

For decades the IRA has been a waging a sometimes violent struggle for separation of the six counties of northern Ireland from British rule and for unification with Ireland. They have been opposed by equally militant and violent
Protestant forces.

Figures in abuse scandal defrocked by Church

BOSTON (RNS) – Paul Shanley, a key figure in the child abuse scandal of the Archdiocese of Boston, has been formally removed from the priesthood, which was decided by Pope John Paul II. Shanley, 73, is scheduled for trial in October on charges of raping four boys at a Newton, Mass., parish in the 1980s. He is free on $300,000 bail. Ronald H. Paquin, 61, who was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison in 2002 for raping an altar boy, also was defrocked.

NJ governor says he won’t take Eucharist
NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) – Gov. James E. McGreevey, who supports abortion rights, said he would comply with the wishes of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers and not seek Communion at public Masses.

Archbishop Myers has issued a five-page pastoral statement saying it was “objectively dishonest” for Catholics who support abortion rights to seek Communion. While not naming McGreevey, the archbishop wrote, “On this grave issue, public officials cannot hold themselves excused from their duties, especially if they claim to be Catholic.”

1,000 priests form new celibacy-petition group

NEW YORK (RNS) – A petition drive that started last summer with 163 Catholic priests in Milwaukee asking for a discussion on celibacy has resulted in a new group of about 1,000 priests who want the church to consider married clergy.
Organizers of Priests’ Forum for Eucharist met in the Bronx last month. They claim to represent about 1,000 priests from at least nine dioceses. The priests say limiting the priesthood to celibate men hampers the ability of rank-and-file Catholics to have access to the Eucharist.

Women barred from duty as Swiss guards

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – The commander of the Vatican Swiss Guard has ruled out the recruitment of women for the elite force that has watched over the safety of the pope for the last 498 years.

“No, there will never be a woman recruit among the Swiss Guards, or at least not under my command,” Col. Elmar Maeder declared. Asked why the Swiss Guard remained entirely male although Switzerland’s army has had women members for several years, Maeder cited the Vatican’s all-male “ecclesial environment” as well as the expensive renovations to the barracks that would be needed to house women.

Official applauds FDA’s “morning-after” ruling

WASHINGTON – Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, praised the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for denying the request of Barr Laboratories to sell its “morning-after pill” Plan B without a prescription.
“We are pleased that the voice of reason prevailed,” Ruse said. “A drug which can destroy human embryos and increases health risks to women and girls does not belong on the drugstore shelf.”

Plan B is described as an “overdose” of birth-control pills, which do require a prescription. It is marketed and advertised as a “contraceptive” but its own proponents admit that it works before and after conception.

Concern about religious freedom in Iraq

WASHINGTON (RNS)—Imprisonment, torture and murder as part of religious persecution will continue unchecked around the world unless the U.S. takes action to curb such practices, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The commission also warned about the future of religious freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and called on the U.S. to support “moderate” Muslims and encourage explicit guarantees of freedom.

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.