JULY 5, 2004





Ratio of women leaders in Church in step with U.S.
WASHINGTON – The percentage of women in diocesan leadership positions compares favorably with the U.S. workforce, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators and released June 6.

The study, called for by the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and in the Church, cited statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed that women made up 51 percent of the executive, administrative, managerial and professional workforce in 2002. Women, meanwhile, held 48.9 percent of diocesan administrative positions that same year.

Pope renews apology for Inquisition

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has strongly reiterated his apology for the Inquisition as the Vatican published a collection of historical studies indicating that Church tribunals tortured and burned at the stake far fewer accused heretics than generally believed.

“The children of the church cannot fail to return in spirit to repentance for the acquiescence shown, especially in some centuries, toward methods of intolerance and even violence in the service of the truth,” he said. The pontiff expressed his regret in a letter to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray to mark the publication of “The Inquisition,” a 786-page collection of papers delivered by 29 Italian, English, French and Spanish historians at a Vatican-sponsored symposium held Oct. 29-31, 1998, in preparation for Holy Year 2000.

Colorado Court rules against voucher program
DENVER (RNS) – The Colorado Supreme Court on June 28 declared the state’s school voucher program to be unconstitutional because it removes control over education from local school boards. The 4-3 decision upheld a lower court ruling.
Colorado’s voucher law had not been put into effect because of legal challenges. It was the first passed in the country after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld voucher programs in 2002.

Kerry: lift restrictions on stem cell research

DENVER (RNS) – Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry vowed to lift federal restrictions on funding stem cell research if he becomes president. Kerry, campaigning here June 21, accused the Bush administration of disregarding sound scientific evidence about stem cells in favor of ideology.

“We need a president who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear,” Kerry said, according to the Associated Press.

Stem cell research remains controversial because some cells may come from destroyed human embryos, a practice that some religious and other groups find ethically problematic.

Program hopes to change student minds on Israel
LOS ANGELES (RNS) – Jewish and Catholic leaders are hoping that a pilot program that sends Catholic school teachers to Israel will help combat negative perceptions about Israel among Catholic high school students.

The program hopes to especially reach the Catholic Hispanic community, which has a higher likelihood of anti-Semitism among first-generation and foreign-born immigrants, according to Anti-Defamation League surveys.

“My sympathy is with the everyday Israelis and the everyday Palestinians,” said Jeanine Di Cesaris, a social studies teacher at the all-girls Pomona Catholic High School in Pomona, one of five Catholic high schools that sent seven teachers to Israel for the Holy Land Democracy Project. The program for Catholic high schools is co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Tucson Diocese may declare bankruptcy
TUCSON (RNS) – Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson has sent a letter to parishioners warning them that the diocese may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

While the letter states that bankruptcy may be “the only option for the diocese,” the bishop said in an interview that no action is imminent and that the diocese “will continue to explore our options to heal the hurt of those who have suffered while also continuing the mission of the church.”

The diocese has been in financial straits since an expensive investment in a television station went bust in the late 1980s. In 2002 it reached an out-of-court settlement with 10 men and their families who said that they had been sexually abused by four local priests. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, but some news reports have estimated that it could be as high as $16 million. The diocese’s insurance carriers have refused to cover any of the money paid to settle the claims.

If the diocese files for bankruptcy, it would be the first in the U.S. to take that step. The Archdiocese of Boston appeared to be ready to make the move in 2002 but avoided it by closing 65 parishes and selling off millions of dollars in assets.

Pope: EU Constitution cuts off Europe’s roots

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Defeated in his campaign for an acknowledgment of Europe’s Christian heritage in the new European Union constitution, an angry Pope John Paul II has accused EU politicians of cutting off the continent’s roots.
“You don’t cut off the roots from which you have grown,” he declared in an unusually angry and exclamatory tone in an address to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, June 20.

The charter upholds religious freedom but does not contain the explicit reference to Europe’s “Christian roots” sought by the pope in a tireless two and one-half year campaign.

Panel urges religious freedom as top in Iraq
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A federal advisory panel on international religious freedom urged Secretary of State Colin Powell to make religious freedom in Iraq a top priority for the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked that a “high-level official” be appointed to ensure “freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice” in Iraq. “The deplorable Abu Ghraib prison incidents highlight the necessity for the United States to ensure that human rights are protected both in U.S. actions in Iraq and in the permanent constitution,” said Michael Young, chairman of the 10-member panel.

In addition, the commission urged Powell to designate Saudi Arabia a “country of particular concern” for its “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.”

The independent panel was created by the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 to advise Congress, the White House and the State Department on global religious freedom issues.

UCC leader urges wooing of disillusioned Catholic
sSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (RNS) – Calling disillusioned Roman Catholics “our best aftermarket,” the national advertising coordinator for the United Church of Christ has urged Massachusetts congregations to make a point of welcoming “former Catholics who are hurting.”

Ron Buford, coordinator of this year’s $4 million campaign to increase UCC membership, said that “Catholics are willing to come back to church.” However, he said, they may want to “return” to a new denomination with “less dogma,” “more respect for free thinking” and “more available pastors.”

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