Today (05.17.07)

Around the Diocese

   MIDLAND — Communitywide Drug Taskforce Meeting, First Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Texas, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Today’s Readings

Acts 18:1-8
Psalm 98:1-4
John 16:16-20

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service


L.A. Archdiocese to sell chancery to fund future abuse settlements

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said May 15 that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would sell its chancery building, the Archdiocesan Catholic Center, to help fund future settlements in sex abuse cases. In December the archdiocese settled 46 civil cases of sexual abuse for $60 million. Its share of the settlement was about $40 million, with the remainder covered by insurance companies or religious orders. At the time the settlement was announced, the archdiocese said its share had been anticipated and set aside in 2005. Cardinal Mahony said the archdiocese now must be prepared to fund its share of coming settlements in all remaining cases, estimated at more than 500. “It is only right that the archdiocese begin this process by demonstrating our commitment to reach final settlement in these cases by selling our central administrative building,” the cardinal said in his May 15 statement. He said the archdiocese would either lease office space for chancery functions, or lease back some space in the existing building.

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Priest urges Catholic newspapers to encourage new age of literacy

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) — Catholic newspapers can encourage a new age of literacy by printing more book reviews, said Jesuit Father Raymond A. Schroth, a professor of journalism, whose family once owned The Brooklyn Eagle, at one time the borough’s daily newspaper and recently resurrected by a new publisher. In an address May 11, he said the “Judeo-Christian culture is a culture of literacy” and “of books,” but today’s society is caught up in a struggle between a culture of literacy and what he called a culture of distraction created by music, television, consumerism and all manner of electronic devices that vie for everybody’s — especially youths’ — attention. He challenged the Catholic press as well as priests, teachers, parents and opinion leaders in the church to penetrate this bubble of distraction and encourage young people especially to read books, including the writings of the doctors of the church. Father Schroth was the featured speaker at the Brooklyn Diocese’s annual luncheon observing World Communications Day, called for by the Vatican. It was held at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, also the site of the national Catholic Media Convention May 23-25.

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Immigration bill takes shape behind scenes; debate begins in late May

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Negotiators were closer May 16 to crafting a Senate immigration bill that could be introduced as soon as May 23. The bill seemed likely to include a legalization plan for most of the nation’s illegal immigrants, but was viewed as far from ideal by the director of migration and refugee policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other supporters of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Director Kevin Appleby said that among the problems it would make it much more difficult for relatives to join their family members in the United States, making spouses and children wait eight years before they could immigrate legally. Other provisions would eliminate some categories of family visas, such as those for adult children of legal residents, and cut in half the number of visas available to the parents of adult immigrants. On May 15 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., postponed for the second time in a week plans to put an immigration bill up for consideration on the Senate floor.

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Santa Rosa Diocese adopts guidelines on unions, Catholic health care

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nearly eight years after its approval by a committee of U.S. bishops, a set of guidelines for resolving disputes between unions and Catholic health care institutions received its first formal endorsement by a U.S. diocese in April. The Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., adopted “A Just and Fair Workplace: Principles and Practices for Catholic Health Care,” a 1999 document of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy, at the recommendation of the diocesan Priests’ Council. The council voted 10-1 in favor of the document, with two abstentions, after meeting with representatives from the St. Joseph Health System and the Service Employees International Union, which has been working to organize service and technical workers at six hospitals sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, including Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Msgr. John Brenkle, pastor of St. Helena Church in St. Helena, Calif., announced the adoption of the guidelines May 5 at a congressional round table in Santa Rosa.

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Strong winds topple spire of basilica at University of Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) — Strong winds during a thunderstorm that hit northern Indiana May 15 knocked down one of four spires and damaged two stained-glass windows of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. The storm also severely damaged many trees on campus. Thirty trees were down or damaged so severely that they will have to be taken down. William Thistlethwaite, superintendent of landscape services at Notre Dame, who has worked on the campus for almost 30 years, said the storm was “among the three worst storms” he has witnessed on the campus. Maintenance crews worked quickly to clear fallen trees and branches just days before Notre Dame’s May 20 commencement ceremonies. No injuries were caused by the winds, and there was no evidence a tornado touched down on the campus, according to Dennis Brown, Notre Dame spokesman. There is no estimate of the cost of the damage yet. Structural engineers were examining the area where the spire came down to determine what happened and assess future repairs, Brown told Catholic News Service May 16.

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Commencement speakers urge graduates to look beyond themselves

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Commencement speakers from the fields of business, politics, sports and journalism advised students graduating this spring from Catholic colleges and universities around the country to look beyond themselves and make their mark in today’s world. Tony Snow, White House press secretary and speaker at the May 12 commencement of The Catholic University of America in Washington, told graduates that loving others is “to acknowledge that life is not about you,” which he described as a hard lesson to learn. “To love is to place others before you and to make their needs your priority. Do it. When you put somebody else at the center of the frame, your entire world changes, and for the better. You begin to find your own place in the world,” he said. Snow, who recently announced that the colon cancer he had been treated for two years ago had since returned and spread to his liver, told graduates to also focus on “what it means to be loved,” something he said he has experienced profoundly since the news of his cancer broke.

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Movement members say European church should defend Christian identity

STUTTGART, Germany (CNS) — Representatives of nearly 240 Christian movements have urged Europe’s churches to be a cohesive force in defending the continent’s Christian identity and pressing for greater solidarity with the poor and marginalized. “We see more clearly our responsibility in facing Europe’s challenges today: to be a strong social, cohesive force in its cultural pluralism,” the movements said in a declaration to European politicians. “Together we want to say to Europe and the world that our movements and communities are inspired by the Gospel of life and peace.” The declaration was published after a May 10-12 ecumenical gathering, “Together for Europe 2007,” in Stuttgart, Germany. About 10,000 people — including members of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican groups — attended, as did Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, chairman of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a former bishop of Rottenberg-Stuttgart.

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Papal warning about authoritarianism causes stir in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI’s warning about resurgent authoritarianism in Latin America has caused a stir in Venezuela, whose leftist President Hugo Chavez often has clashed with the church and has been accused of hoarding power. In an address to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Brazil May 13, Pope Benedict expressed concern about “authoritarian forms of government and regimes wedded to certain ideologies that we thought had been superseded.” Venezuelan Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, a frequent Chavez critic and a retired Vatican official, said the pope was referring to the Chavez government. “Here they see that there are manifestations of a dictatorship,” the cardinal said. He suggested that the government was working to eliminate private property, manipulate the justice system and introduce socialist indoctrination into schools.

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Church officials: Explosive Gaza violence leaves many scared, trapped

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Exploding violence in the Gaza Strip has left the people weeping and trapped in a war zone, said a local parish priest. “We are very anxious about our students. This has touched us through our students,” said Msgr. Manuel Musallam of Holy Family Parish in Gaza. The priest added that anyone who could get out of Gaza had left. In a May 16 telephone interview, he told Catholic News Service that after days of intensive infighting between gunmen of the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions, he had offered to protect local children at the church, but there was no safe way to get them to the building. Msgr. Musallam said he closed the parish elementary and high schools May 16 although students were in the middle of exams, because there was a “feeling of deep anxiety” among the students and their parents.

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Pope accepts resignation of controversial Argentine military bishop

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the controversial head of Argentina’s military diocese, who submitted his resignation at age 75 in accordance with canon law. There was no immediate word on who would succeed Bishop Antonio Baseotto, who clashed with the government of President Nestor Kirchner two years ago. Pope Benedict accepted his resignation May 15. Earlier this year, an Argentine legislator drafted a bill to eliminate his position. Kirchner clashed with Bishop Baseotto in early 2005 after the bishop wrote a letter to Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia containing a quotation from Mark 9:42: “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The health minister has supported broadening Argentina’s abortion law. Kirchner expressed offense at what he claimed was an allusion to the notorious death flights during Argentina’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, when government opponents were dumped from airplanes into the sea.

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For her 103rd birthday, woman asks for presents for her parish church

LIBERTYTOWN, Md. (CNS) — Before Anne Morrissey celebrated her 103rd birthday May 13, she said didn’t want presents for herself. Instead, she asked family, friends and well-wishers to make donations to the restoration fund of her beloved parish for the past 71 years, St. Peter the Apostle in Libertytown. The feisty centenarian with the slight Irish brogue said the church needs the money more than ever to rebuild, following a devastating June 2004 fire, and she was happy to forgo birthday gifts to help complete construction before she turns 104. “I have everything I need,” she told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, “except being able to worship in my church.” It looks like Morrissey got her wish even without having to blow out any birthday candles. While she had a quiet celebration on her birthday, including a small lunch at the home of a grandson, St. Peter the Apostle rectory worker Liz Hunter said at least $1,165 had been contributed in Morrissey’s name through May 14. Hunter added that the figure may rise.

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Religious sisters open up their home for child in need of healing

MENDHAM, N.J. (CNS) — For 1-year-old Ismerlyn Vasquez Mercedes, life is changing. The tiny toddler from the Dominican Republic is one of 36 children receiving medical care through the efforts of the local chapter of Healing the Children. Sister Immaculata Aborline, with the help of her fellow Sisters of Christian Charity at Malinckrodt Convent in Mendham, is host parent to Ismerlyn, who came to the United States with her mother, Inmaculada Mercedes, to receive care for a right-leg deformity. This is the second time the Sisters of Christian Charity have welcomed a child who was receiving health care in the United States. Recently, an Iraqi boy and his mother stayed with the sisters for five months. He is now living with a Muslim family as he continues his recovery. “We feel so happy we can help,” said Sister Pierre Koesters, a former provincial for her order who has been translating for Mercedes and the sisters. “Everyone’s so interested in what is going on. When we came home from the doctor’s, they all asked, ‘What did the doctor say?'”

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Prominent evangelical theologian returns to Catholic Church

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The return of a prominent evangelical philosopher and theologian to the Catholic Church, his childhood home, has provoked a storm of controversy in the evangelical community. Francis J. Beckwith is a tenured associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, the largest Baptist university in the world. He resigned as president of the Evangelical Theological Society May 5, after entering into full communion with the Catholic Church a week earlier. He said in interviews that a combination of factors — including the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” and a closer study of the writings of the early Christian theologians known as the Fathers of the Church — had led him gradually to embrace Catholicism. Beckwith is a specialist in Christian philosophy, philosophy of religion, social ethics and church-state issues. He has written extensively on issues of religion and public policy. He is especially known for his defense of the pro-life position on abortion and of the constitutionality of teaching, in public schools, the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory.

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Brazilian rancher guilty of plotting U.S. nun’s murder, gets 30 years

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) — A Brazilian rancher convicted of masterminding the February 2005 assassination of U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. As more than 800 rural workers celebrated the verdict outside the court building in Belem May 15, Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura was led away in handcuffs. Some of the workers had traveled hundreds of miles to the Para state capital, camping in front of the courthouse for two days. Prosecutors said 73-year-old Sister Dorothy — a native of Dayton, Ohio, and a naturalized Brazilian citizen — was killed because of her project on the sustainable development of the Amazon region, which bothered many of the large landowners in the area. De Moura and Regivaldo Pereira Galvao are landowners and were said to have offered $25,000 for her murder. In Brazil those who are sentenced to more than 20 years for a crime have the right to appeal, but Judge Raimundo Alves Flexa denied defense attorneys’ request that de Moura remain free while appealing the conviction.

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