DECEMBER 15, 2003
Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.






Ohio archdiocese pleads no contest
in abuse case

CINCINNATI (RNS) – Entering a plea of no contest to five misdemeanor counts in a Hamilton County courtroom Nov. 20, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati was found guilty on charges of failing to report sexual abuse involving priests and minors.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, spiritual leader of the 550,000 Catholic faithful in the diocese, entered the plea, in which the archdiocese did not admit guilt. The archdiocese was ordered by Judge Richard Niehaus to pay a $10,000 fine for the violations, which occurred from 1978 to 1982, when Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin headed the archdiocese.

As part of a settlemen, the archdiocese is creating a $3 million fund to compensate victims abused as children by clergy or other agents of the Cincinnati church. Compensation will be made available to any victim who is not suing the archdiocese, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Archdiocese to sell house
to pay abuse settlement

BOSTON (RNS) – In a surprise bid to remedy both the financial and symbolic tolls of last year’s sexual abuse crisis, the Archdiocese of Boston announced Dec. 3 plans to sell the opulent house that has been the residence of its archbishops.

The Italian-style mansion and an adjacent 28 rolling acres are expected to command tens of millions in Boston’s high-priced real estate market. Proceeds from the sale will reportedly enable the church to pay whatever remains uncovered by insurance in an $85 million settlement with 540 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Albany priests petition for
discussion on celibacy

ALBANY, NY (RNS) – Eighty-six Catholic priests in Albany, N.Y., have joined calls from priests in a half-dozen other dioceses for a discussion on optional celibacy.

“We urge that from now on celibacy be optional, not mandatory, for candidates for the diocesan Roman Catholic priesthood,” said the Albany priests, who represent about one-fifth of the diocese’s clergy. The priests said they wrote the letter out of “pastoral concern” that a priest shortage had denied parishioners’ access to the sacraments.

The petition was sent to Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has received similar letters from priests in Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Southern Illinois, New Ulm (Minn.), Pittsburgh and Boston. The National Federation of Priests Councils, representing about half of all U.S. priests, has also called for a discussion. Bishop Gregory has said Pope John Paul II has made it clear that celibacy is not optional.

Hunger in developing countries on the rise
ROME (RNS) – The number of hungry people in developing countries rose during the second half of the 1990s despite a concerted campaign against hunger in the world, the United Nations said Nov. 25.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said the total number of the hungry in the developing world dropped by 37 million in the first half of the 1990s, then rose by 18 million in the second half of the decade.

Bishops call gay marriage
a ‘national tragedy’

BOSTON (RNS) – The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts said a recent state Supreme Court decision to open marriage to gay couples is a “national tragedy” that “in the long run will seriously harm family life.”

The bishops urged the state’s 3 million Catholics to lobby for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. “It is not the intention of the Catholic community to infringe on the civil rights of homosexuals or anyone else,” the bishops said in a joint letter that was ordered to be read in Bay State parishes on Nov. 29 and 30. “Our opposition to a redefinition of marriage is to safeguard the institution of marriage for future generations.”

Ugandan Anglicans cut ties over gay bishop
KAMPALA (RNS) – The Anglican Church in Uganda, the world’s third-largest Anglican church, has formally cut ties with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church over the consecration of an openly gay bishop.

Bishops of the 8 million-member church said Nov. 20 that “any same-sex relationship is a disorder of God’s creation” after the U.S. church consecrated Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire on Nov. 2.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, which claims 77 million members, including the 26 million members of its mother church, the Church of England.

College worship attendance drops

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – The proportion of college students who attend worship services drops from more than half to less than a third between freshman year and junior year, according to initial findings of a $1.9 million study at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Spirituality in Higher Education survey found that 52 percent of students frequently attend services before entering college, but that segment dropped to 29 percent by the third year of college. Seven in 10 students said they had attended at least one service in the past year.

The findings are part of a survey of 3,680 students at 46 colleges and universities. Researchers plan to expand the study to a more in-depth survey of 90,000 students on 150 campuses.

Despite a drop in worship attendance, researchers say college students are intensely interested in spiritual matters, but often find limited outlets to express or explore their spirituality on campus.

First step taken toward sainthood
for John Paul I

ROME (RNS) – Admirers of Pope John Paul I have taken the first step in a process they hope will lead to sainthood for the pontiff who reigned for only 33 days in 1978.

Bishop Vincenzo Savio of Belluno-Feltre in northern Italy opened hearings in the Belluno Cathedral on Nov. 23 on the life of Albino Luciani, who is known to Italians as “the smiling pope.” Elected on Aug. 26, 1978, to succeed Paul VI, he died on Sept. 28.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Portuguese prelate who heads the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints described John Paul I as a pastor who had “the charisma of simplicity, which sends words straight to people’s heart, a pastor in whom the concept of holiness was natural.”

Religious display OK in holiday park event
TALLAHASSEE (RNS) – A Florida judge has ruled that Broward County officials cannot exclude a church’s “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” display from a holiday lights event in a county park.

U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch of Miami said the county violated Calvary Chapel’s right to freedom of speech when it rejected its application to participate in the event.

Aware of church-state concerns, the judge ordered that the display by the Fort Lauderdale church be slightly modified to say “Calvary Chapel Says Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” In a suit filed Oct. 22, the nondenominational church said it paid $15,000 to participate in the two-mile “Holiday Fantasy of Lights” but an original approval was revoked by county officials. wins online journalism award

NEW YORK (RNS) –, a Web site focused on religion and spirituality, has won the Online News Association’s award for general excellence in online journalism.

“Beliefnet has taken one of the under-covered topics in American life, one which seems even more important to explore and understand in today’s world, and developed a rich, interactive site which both breaks news and facilitates a dialogue among a diverse community of users,” the judges of the contest said.

Interfaith coalition backs
striking grocery workers

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – With thousands of California grocery workers still on picket lines in a six-week-old labor dispute, Los Angeles area religious leaders launched a “Week of Walking Prayer” to encourage the beleaguered strikers and focus renewed attention on their fight to retain insurance and pension benefits.

Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), a Los Angeles interfaith coalition, scheduled meals with striking workers and joined them on picket lines to offer “prayers of encouragement.”