OCTOBER 4, 2004





Miami Archdiocese to pay $3.4 million
in abuse cases

MIAMI (AP) – The Archdiocese of Miami has agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle 23 lawsuits brought since 2002 by people who accused 10 south Florida priests of sexually abusing them. The settlements range from $75,000 to $500,000.
The settlements were not an admission of guilt, said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta. “What it does do is bring to conclusion these events so that the church can continue to move on in a financially responsible way and the alleged victims can continue with their healing,” she said. Agosta said Archbishop John C. Favalora had not decided the fate of the accused priests who had been placed on administrative leave.

Tucson Diocese declares bankruptcy
TUCSON (RNS) – The Diocese of Tucson filed for bankruptcy protection Sept. 20, making it the second diocese in U.S. history to take such a step.
Like the Portland, Ore., archdiocese, which declared bankruptcy in July, the Arizona diocese sought legal protection after dealing with ongoing lawsuits concerning sexual abuse of children by parish priests. The Tucson Diocese also made the move because it is facing a $7 million deficit in unrestricted net assets and $4.64 million in long-term debt as of June 30.

Judge rejects libel suit by Napa priest
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A lawyer representing alleged victims of clergy abuse cannot be sued for libel for naming a priest in a lawsuit involving accusations of decades-old child molestation, a judge has ruled.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jon Mayeda threw out the libel lawsuit against Raymond Boucher, stating that Boucher did not violate any laws by naming Msgr. Joseph Alzugaray in the sex abuse suit. Msgr. Alzugaray’s lawyer, Lauren Katunich, said the priest would appeal.

Earlier this year Mayeda dismissed a related defamation suit against the support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which circulated pamphlets alluding to the fact that Msgr. Alzugaray, a pastor at St. Apollinaris Church in Napa, was under investigation for alleged molestation.

Msgr. Alzugaray has denied the allegations. His lawsuit states that the Santa Rosa Diocese has cleared him of those abuse allegations. No criminal charges have been filed against him. Katunich said that the libel lawsuit was intended to show that Msgr. Alzugaray is innocent.

Rwanda Catholic priest faces tribunal trial
ARUSHA, Tanzania (RNS) – The first trial of a Rwandan Catholic priest by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda began Sept. 20 amid protests of the tribunal itself.

Father Athanese Seromba, 41, has been accused of directing the murder of 2,000 of his parishioners during the 1994 genocide in the central African country. The priest failed to appear at the first day of the trial, joining 43 other detainees at the Tanzania-based tribunal in a boycott of the proceedings to protest plans to move case files and detainees to Rwanda.

Although Father Seromba’s case is the first trial of a Catholic priest at the tribunal, several priests have been convicted by courts in Rwanda. Two of them were later acquitted on appeal.

Father Seromba has pleaded innocent to the charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. His lawyers plan to argue that although their client was present at the time of the killings in his church in the western parish of Nyange, he was powerless to
prevent the murders.

Pope’s poems describe heartache
of losing mother

ROME (RNS) – In youthful, sorrowful poetry just translated from Polish, Pope John Paul II pays tribute to his mother, who died when he was 8 years old. The Italian publishing house Edizioni Studium on Sept. 15 issued “Karol Wojtyla: The Youthful Poems,” a collection of verse, translated into Italian, that the young Pole, who was to become pope, wrote at age 19.

Bishops oppose mandatory drug sentences
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A coalition of religious organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has voiced support for a bill that would repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenders, and vowed to fight a competing bill aimed at strengthening current laws.
The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI) brought together leaders from a broad base of religious organizations and the NAACP on Sept. 21 to support a bill by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

“We cannot incarcerate our way out of our country’s drug problem,” said Waters. Saying the nation’s war on drugs has been a failure, Waters wants to restore authority to judges to decide whether jail is warranted, and for how long. She urged that the focus be on rehabilitation and treatment for minor offenses.

Health plan ended to avoid gay couple benefits
BOSTON – Hospitals run by Caritas Christi Health Care in Massachusetts have ended their own employee health care plan to avoid having to cover the spouses of legally married same-sex couples.

Gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts this spring, and the hospitals became obligated to extend spousal benefits to gay workers. But Caritas Christi Health Care decided to end its entire benefits program opting instead for self-funded plans which are subject to federal rather than state laws.

Nun honored for battles against anti-Semitism
NEW YORK – The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has awarded Sister Rose Thering its Jan Karski Moral Courage Award for her lifelong commitment to Christian-Jewish relations, her unwavering, inexhaustible support for Israel and her relentless opposition to anti-Semitism.

Sister Thering conducted a groundbreaking study of text books used in Catholic parochial schools in the 1960s in cooperation with AJC. That work led to positive, significant changes in the books regarding Jews, Judaism and the Holocaust. She also taught at the Institute for Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall
University for more than 30 years.

Toledo Diocese might close 33 churches
TOLEDO (RNS) – The Diocese of Toledo has recommended closing or merging 33 churches due to a declining number of priests and shifting populations. The proposal would decrease the number of parishes from 157 to 131. The diocese, with about 307,000 Catholics, expects to finalize the reduction in March.
Bishop Leonard Blair said the plans are not related to clergy sex abuse.

Bishop won’t be tried on child rape charges
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (RNS) — Because of the statute of limitations, the former Catholic bishop of Springfield will not be prosecuted on two counts of child rape for which he was indicted on Sept. 27. But there is still a possibility Bishop Thomas L. Dupre could face federal prosecution on charges of transporting two boys across state lines for sex more than two decades ago.

Dupre became the first Catholic bishop in the United States to be charged with sexual abuse. He had resigned as bishop of the Springfield Diocese at age 70 on Feb. 11, a day after the Springfield Republican newspaper confronted him with allegations he abused two minors more than 20 years ago.

Dupre attributed his early retirement to poor health. He was treated at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., this year. The facility is known for treating priests with a variety of disorders, including those charged with molesting children.
A civil suit was filed in March by the two men accusing Dupre of sexual abuse.

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