In Catholic Circles
An International News Roundup
In this Issue:
Court ends Colombia’s abortion ban
A May 10 constitutional Court decision in Colombia legalized some abortions. Previously, abortion was completely illegal in the country, with some estimating that as many as 400,000 illegal abortions took place each year. Now, abortion will be legal in cases of rape, when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or health or when a fetus has severe malformations.
The ruling leaves Chile and El Salvador as the only countries in Latin America where abortion is still completely illegal and follows a concerted campaign by Monica Roa, an attorney with Women’s Link Worldwide, who was supported by many reproductive rights groups in the country. Roa claimed that the law discriminated against women, especially poor women.
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (cdd) in Colombia, which has been closely involved throughout the campaign, welcomed the ruling: “This decision respects women’s autonomy to decide about our own
sexuality and reproductive rights. It acknowledges and respects women’s human rights and it is a very important step towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in the entire Latin American region.”
Cardinal Seeks Change in UK Abortion Limits
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, has urged the UK government to set up an inquiry into abortion time limits in the country. In a meeting with Patricia Hewitt, the secretary of state for health the cardinal raised several issues with the Secretary of State including the 24 week time limit on abortion. The health secretary poured cold water on the possibility that the government would lead or even support any such changes. In a statement, she said, “It has long been the parliamentary convention that proposals for changes in the law on abortion have come from back bench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes. We believe this should still be the case and the Government has no plans to change the law on abortion.” Fewer than one percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks gestation in the UK.
• Settlements and fees in the US sex abuse scandal tripled from 2004 to 2005, rising to some $467 million, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced March 30. The scandal involves 12,000 victims of 5,000 abusers and has cost the church over $1.3 billion. Dioceses in full compliance with the bishops’ charter for protecting young people dropped to 88.5 percent in 2005 from 96 percent in 2004.
• The Archdiocese of Los Angeles on April 17 saw the US Supreme Court refuse its appeal to withhold two accused ex-priests’ personnel records. Los Angeles district attorney Steve Cooley had sought the records.
• The Archdiocese of Boston, epicenter of the US scandal, released financial records April 19 showing a $46 million deficit, which experts called a record for any diocese. The archdiocese, which has paid out $150 million in the scandal, signaled further cuts and consolidations ahead.
• The Diocese of Spokane, Wash., is selling $11 million in property, including its headquarters, to help pay costs of the scandal, the New York Times reported May 26. The diocese has filed for bankruptcy, as have those in Tucson, Ariz., and Portland, Ore. The latter’s archbishop, John Vlazny, complained in May about lay Catholics “who wash their hands of the whole matter and seek reassurances that their contributions will not be used to compensate victims or pay attorneys.”
• The Catholic World Report reported in May that Colorado has become an important battleground among the 10 US states considering or implementing laws to extend statutes of limitations on abuse allegations. Faced with similar proposals in Maryland, the church in Maryland and Washington, DC, was “just short of frantic” in March efforts to defeat the bills, state delegate Carol Petzold said.
• One hundred and two Dublin priests have been accused of abusing 390 children since 1940, according to data released by Dublin archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the primate of Ireland.
• US Catholics’ donations to parishes have held steady, but their contributions to dioceses have continued to fall since the scandal’s peak in 2002, Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate said in a new study. Catholics’ participation in and satisfaction with the church and its leaders have mostly rebounded to prescandal levels, the center said.
“If Father Maciel and his charism as a founder are to be judged by the fruits of his work, those fruits are most impressive indeed.”
—George Weigel, senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, June 2002
“A cardinal in whom I have unbounded confidence and who has been involved in the case tells me that the charges are ‘pure invention, without the slightest foundation.’… I can only say,… after a scrupulous examination of the claims and counterclaims, I have arrived at moral certainty that the charges are false and malicious…and should be given no credence whatsoever.”
—Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, president, Religion and Public Life, March 2002
“I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man’s radiant holiness.”
—Dr. Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand professor of law, Harvard University, May 2002
On May 19, 2006, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, invited Rev. Marcial Maciel to lead “a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry” after finding him guilty, without going through the process of a trial, of at least some of the accusations of sexual and physical abuse leveled at him by nine seminarians of the order he founded, the Legionaries of Christ.
Vatican Censures Antichoice Polish Radio Station
Radio Maryja, a Polish radio station run by the outspoken Roman Catholic monk Tadeusz Rydzyk, has become embroiled in a major scandal over anti- Semitic statements by a presenter, Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, who said Jews were “trying to force our government to pay extortion money disguised
as compensation payments.”
Pope John Paul II personally blessed Rydzyk, while Radio Netherlands included the station in a program exposing hate radio.
Conservative groups came quickly to the defense of Radio Maryja. “The main offense of Radio Maryja, HLI, and other similar Catholic organizations is to boldly proclaim the truth that the Church teaches and to name the darkness of abortion and the culture of death for what it is,” wrote Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, the president of Human Life International.
The Vatican saw it differently. In a letter to the Polish bishops’ conference, Warsaw-based papal nuncio Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk wrote, “The Holy See has for a long time followed the activity of Radio Maryja with attention and patience. It now earnestly requests the Polish bishops to overcome the difficulties caused by certain transmissions and attitudes by Radio Maryja, which do not sufficiently observe the appropriate appropriate autonomy of the public sphere.”
Fired for Becoming a Father The Boston Herald has reported that a teacher at a Catholic school was fired after he acknowledged breaking a mandatory celibacy policy that was in place for single employees. When Robb McCoy admitted to his parish priest that his bride-to-be was pregnant, they were refused marriagerites and McCoy lost his job at Bishop Feehan High in Attleboro, Mass. His local priest, Rev. David Costa, told the couple they were getting married for the wrong reasons.
Fired for Being Gay
The UK ’s mail on Sunday revealed that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, dismissed his chief communications aide because the aide was gay. Apparently the aide, Stephen Noon, had been handling a portfolio that included improving the church’s image in the media.
“The first thing we have to do is get you off the birth control…devise a plan to get [your wives] to stay home with the kids…. They want that strength and security from you. They might resent it at first…(but) that is the natural position for a man: to lead your family to Christ.”
—Sean Forrest, keynote speaker at the annual Boston Catholic Men’s Conference, describing plans for the 5,000 attendees’ wives.
“We are taking measures to strengthen the Filipino family. Perhaps this will be the best birthday gift I can offer you. [You are] a very important adviser to me in the population policy of our government.”
—Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president of the Philippines, addressing Archbishop Paciano Aniceto on his 69th birthday on her opposition to divorce and abortion.
“If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade? People have rights. If we let the ilgo in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?”
—John Dunleavy, chairman of the Manhattan St Patrick’s Day Parade committee, outlining his opposition to the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization’s marching in the parade.
“[While abortion is regrettable,] any person must be respected who, hopefully after much reflection and suffering, in extreme cases follows their conscience, even if they decide on something that I do not approve of…. The legalization of abortion was a positive development it contributed to reducing and eliminating illegal abortions.”
—79-year-old former archbishop of Milan Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.
“On the pessimistic side of the equation, concern begins with the Koran itself. In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages.… Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.”
—Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, addressing a group of conservative Catholic business leaders.
“Remember to love each other…don’t hate the other guy. The other guy, whoever he is, is still better than Eliot Spitzer.”
—Monsignor Jim Lisante, pastor of Saint Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Hempstead, New York, delivering the invocation at this year’s state Republican convention. Spitzer is the Democratic attorney general of New York.
“If a Scot has an automatic negative reaction to supporting England [in the World Cup], then they would have to question where that feeling is coming from. As Christians we are called to have positive relationships with others who may be different from us. If we have an automatic anti–relationship with someone simply because they are English, then that is anti-Christian.”
—Father William McFadden, a Scottish Catholic theologian, shows how out of touch the Catholic church is on the important things in life. 
“[Vatican City is] of minuscule political substance, and [has] the sole purpose of guaranteeing the independence of the Pope, as supreme authority of the Catholic Church, from
any form of civil jurisdiction.”
—Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for relations with states for the Vatican. 
“The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization.”
—Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., seems to think that the answer to the sexual abuse scandal is getting shot of Patricia O’Connell Ewers, chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People. Ewers had asked for Bruskewitz’s diocese to receive a “strong fraternal correction” for its unwillingness to cooperate with
- Marie Szaniszlo, “Catholic leader: Men, rule roost—and your gals,” Boston Herald, March 5, 2006.
- Zenit, “Arroyo Says: No Divorce, Abortion Laws,” March 15, 2006.
- Sean O’Driscoll, “The politics of parading in New York,” Irish Times, March 16, 2006.
- Malcolm Moore, “Papal favourite gives blessing to condom use: Cardinal accepts abortion
in ‘extreme cases,’” Daily Telegraph, April 22, 2006.
- Cardinal George Pell, “Islam and Western Democracies” (speech, Legatus Summit, Naples, FL, April 2, 2006.
- Ben Smith, “The Daily Politics: Most…Partisan…Invocation…Ever,” New York Daily News, June 1 2006.
- James Hastings, “Theologian: Scottish soccer fans may sin by not
supporting England in Cup,” Catholic News Service, June 5, 2006.
- Vatican Information Service, “Archbishop Lajolo: The Church Does Not Impose Civil Laws,” April 21, 2006.
- Statement by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, March 31, 2006.