AUGUST 9, 2004





Funeral for
murdered priest

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, second from left, and his wife Luisa Duran, left, attend the funeral Mass of Italian priest Faustino Grazziero at Santiago’s Cathedral, July 27. Father Grazziero was murdered July 24 at the cathedral by a young man alleged to be connected to a Satanic sect.


Hunger in India
Buri, a one-year-old Indian girl, eats a dry sweet on a pavement in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, July 26. More than 1.2 million destitute, homeless or orphaned children in India beg on the streets.



Rebels in Colombia free Catholic bishop
BOGOTA (RNS) – After three days of captivity, the Catholic bishop abducted by Marxist rebels in Colombia was released unharmed July 27.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) had kidnapped Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez of Yopal, on July 24, while he was traveling with two priests and a local politician. The rebels took the bishop to give him a message to deliver to the government, the bishop’s companions told news reporters.

But with international condemnation mounting, and government troops surrounding their jungle hideout, the ELN let Bishop Vacca Ramirez, 48, go before they had imparted their message, the bishop told reporters.

“I was treated well,” he said. “At no moment did anybody show me disrespect. So it turned out to be nothing more than a big scare for me.”

The bishop has been negotiating for a cease-fire between Colombia’s leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and the government of President Alvaro Uribe, according to Colombian Catholic leaders.

Bishop orders signature of “Affirmation of Faith”

BAKER, OR (RNS) – Catholics in the Diocese of Baker, Ore., who want to lead their parishes in singing or assist the priests during Mass must sign an “Affirmation of Faith” that promises allegiance to Church teaching on homosexuality, abortion, purgatory and other issues.

In April, Bishop Robert Vasa told lectors, cantors, altar servers, lay teachers and Eucharistic Ministers that they must sign a 13-paragraph statement that reflects a “presumption of orthodoxy.” The “Affirmation of Faith” includes opposition to “direct, intentional abortion,” contraception, extramarital sex including homosexuality, and agreement with Church teaching on the Virgin Mary, purgatory, heaven, hell and the “reality and presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.

Judge stops mediation talks in clergy lawsuits
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A judge has broken off mediation talks in 60 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and has recommended that plaintiffs’ lawyers be allowed to take sworn testimony from Bishop Tod D. Brown of the Orange Diocese and other top Church officials.

Further confidential talks “would be counterproductive and would actually serve as an impediment to further settlement discussions,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman said July 23. Under a recent state Supreme Court ruling aimed at encouraging open mediation, documents prepared for closed-door mediation talks cannot be used at trial.

‘Designer baby’ decision criticized in Wales
LONDON (RNS) – The decision by Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to allow the selection of an embryo which would be a tissue match for an existing seriously ill sibling has been sharply criticized by the Catholic archbishop in Wales.

Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, chairman of the department of Christian responsibility and citizenship, described the decision as “deeply flawed” and needing to be reversed. “Everyone will sympathize with the plight of parents searching for a tissue donor for a gravely ill child,” he said. “But to allow an embryo to be selected for this purpose (and others discarded) is wrong, because it abandons the foundational moral principle that human lives should never be used as a mere means to an end.”

The decision came in a case involving 2-year-old Joshua Fletcher of Northern Ireland. He has a potentially fatal blood disorder which can be treated by using stem cells to stimulate his body to produce healthy red blood cells. But neither his parents nor his 5-year-old brother have tissues that match his closely enough.

Bishops join effort to end juvenile death penalty
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops joined a wide array of nearly 30 religious groups last month in calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw the execution of minors. The high court is expected to hear oral arguments for Roper v. Simmons, a juvenile death penalty case, when its new term opens in the fall.

“We are pleased that representatives of a broad cross section of religious groups in the United States – reflecting Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions – have joined in this effort,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee.

“It is our shared conviction that because of their age, juveniles lack the psychological maturity and judgment of adults and therefore should not be treated as adults for purposes of capital crimes,” the cardinal said.

Investigation of sex scandal in seminary
VIENNA, Austria (AP) – A Vatican investigation into the discovery of a vast cache of child pornography at a Catholic seminary in Austria could take all summer, the Archdiocese of Vienna said.

Austrian Bishop Klaus Kueng began his inquiry on July 21, a day after Pope John Paul II appointed him as an “apostolic visitor” to deal with a scandal. Bishop Kueng has been interviewing students, teachers and diocesan officials in St. Poelten, about 50 miles west of Vienna, where authorities uncovered some 40,000 lurid photos and numerous videos, including child pornography and seminarians kissing and fondling each other and their older religious instructors. He will report his findings directly to the pope.

Authorities have launched a separate criminal investigation into the child porn aspect of the case. A 27-year-old former seminary student from Poland has been charged with possessing and distributing the illicit material, a federal offense punishable by up to two years in prison. The school’s rector and his deputy both have resigned.

Congress chided for temporary welfare aid
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A coalition of Christian and Jewish groups including NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group, urged Congress to stop keeping welfare alive with temporary extensions and instead move to a long-term overhaul of the program.

“Congress is denying the states the certainty of funding and clarity of program direction that they need to operate their programs most effectively,” said a July 13 letter to senators from the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs. The welfare program, known as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), was originally set to expire in September 2002. Unable to reach agreement, Congress has passed seven temporary extensions.

The most recent, passed in late June, funds the program at current levels through Sept. 30. The House has passed one version that increases weekly work requirements for welfare recipients from 30 to 40 hours per week and provides incentives for recipients to marry. The Senate version proposes a 34-hour work week but adds increased money for child care. That measure has not reached the Senate floor because of disputes on whether to include an increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7 per hour.

Most religious groups in Washington support the Senate version because of its increased levels of child care money. Many also want to reopen welfare to illegal immigrants.

Vatican, Russian officials discuss Iraq
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, met July 15 and discussed possible collaboration in the United Nations on Iraq and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.It was the first such high-level meeting since Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Pope John Paul II at a Vatican audience in November.

House committee acts against gay marriage
WASHINGTON (RNS) – On the same day the U.S. Senate rejected a propose constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a House committee approved a measure to ban federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex marriages.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 21-13, July 14, to approve a bill that would strip federal courts of jurisdiction in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states not to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

The measure now heads to the full House. Republican House leaders have said they may schedule a vote on the gay marriage amendment before the November elections.

‘I Had an Abortion’ t-shirts criticized
WASHINGTON – American Victims of Abortion, an outreach of National Right to Life, expressed outrage at a t-shirt that had been posted for sale on the website of Planned Parenthood that reads, “I Had An Abortion.”

“Every abortion not only ends a life, but it can leave a woman emotionally wounded,” said Olivia Gans, director of American Victims of Abortion. “The experience of abortion is traumatic and devastating and I am appalled that Planned Parenthood would exploit the tragic experience of women like myself to further their agenda.”

The American Life League also expressed shock and outrage. “This shirt’s message celebrated an act of violence that is traumatic for women, and worst of all, kills an innocent child,” said Jim Sedlak, executive director of the American Life League’s STOPP International.

Catholic hospitals reach landmark agreement

LOS ANGELES – Registered nurses in 11 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals ratified a landmark agreement providing major improvements in patient-care protections, retirement security, and economic gains, the California Nurses Association announced July 23.

More than 35 percent of the 4,000 RNs covered by the agreement turned out for the vote. The final vote was 1,343-92, a 94 percent approval. The pact unites 4,000 RNs at the 11 hospitals in a statewide master contract.

Pope pays tribute to Poles who rose against Nazis
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II, paying warm tribute to his fellow Poles who rose against the Nazi occupation during World War II, said Aug. 2 he bowed his head in homage to the rebels who fought for their country.
“I bow before the rebels who in the unequal struggle did not spare their blood and their lives for the cause of the country,” the pontiff said.

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