Signs of the Times

Jesuit Education Praised by Education Secretary

U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley commended Jesuit educators for imparting a sense of social responsibility to their students and described that as one of the most crucial tasks of higher education. Riley lauded the Jesuit tradition of encouraging learning for the sake of learning and pursuing knowledge for where it might lead. Riley told the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities that for some time he has been familiar with the emphasis on social justice and social responsibility in Jesuit educational institutions. The number of his staff members at the Education Department who spent time in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps has made that even more clear. I believe you are changing American society, Riley said, as well as influencing the way higher education shapes students’ views of social responsibility.

Death Threats Continue Against Mexican Church Groups

Death threats continued in January against members of two prominent church-run human rights groups noted for their defense of indigenous people in southern Mexico, the groups said. In Mexico City, the Jesuit-backed Miguél Augustin Pro human rights center said its lawyers who defend peasant leaders in the state of Guerrero found two threatening letters inside a desk within their offices on Jan. 31. The center said the threats appeared to be related to its investigation of the April murders of three indigenous men and the rapes of two women by soldiers in Llano Largo, Guerrero.


These threats, added to the constant obstacles that are placed in the way of foreign observers, seem to be designed to create a situation in which the human rights of the least protected groupspeasants, indigenous people, grass-roots leaderscan be violated with impunity and without witnesses, charges and defenders, the Pro center said.

Bishop Stresses Flexibility of Catholic Education Norms

Bishop John J. Leibrecht of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., said that new norms the bishops have adopted for U.S. Catholic colleges and universities offer those institutions the flexibility needed to avoid conflicts with civil law. Bishop Leibrecht headed the committee that drafted the norms, passed by the U.S. bishops last November and currently awaiting Vatican approval. The norms are meant to implement Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

The bishops hope that these norms are applied with integrity, and we also want not to do any harm, Bishop Leibrecht told more than 200 Catholic higher education administrators on Feb. 2 at the meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

He said the implementation norms protect the institutional autonomy of Catholic universities by stating at the outset that as academic institutions, their governance is and remains internal to the institution.

He said the bishops accounted for the diverse histories of institutions and differences in legal requirements they face from state to state by calling on the colleges and universities to implement the norms in light of relevant provisions of applicable federal and state law, regulations and procedures. He said the document’s qualifying phrases, as far as possible and appropriate and as much as possible, offer institutions the flexibility they need for their particular circumstances. In applying the norms, he said, institutions are not asked to harm themselves in their beneficial relationships with federal or state law.

Similar flexibility appears, he said, in the use of the phrase to the extent possible in norms calling for the majority of a university’s faculty and board to be Catholic. The implementation document clearly recognizes the importance also of those who are not Catholic as members of faculties and boards, he said. He quoted the document’s recognition that those of other faiths can make a valuable contribution to the university and should be welcomed as full partners in the campus community.

He said the bishops’ conference plans to begin a consultation with theologians on procedures for the granting of the mandatum as soon as Vatican confirmation of the implementation document comes through. The requirement of a mandatuma mandate given by a bishop to those who teach theology or related subjects at a Catholic college or universityhas been one of the most vigorously debated issues in the development of the norms.

In a question and answer session, he said the law asserts only that the theologian is to have a mandatum.

What if a theologian doesn’t have it? he asked. Does that mean that that theologian cannot be hired? Not according to this document. There’s an upside and a downside to a legal document, he continued. Who makes the decision to hire a theologian who doesn’t have a mandatum? That’s the university. Could a university say, We want everybody with a mandatum?’ If that’s what they want to say, they say it. If the university says, We want everybody to have a mandatum but there may be a few exceptions,’ that’s the university’s decision, he said.

If the bishop looks at the faculty and sees there’s hardly anybody with a mandatum, he’s going to say to the president, We need to talk. You see what’s going on here. What’s your rationale?’

Bishop Leibrecht said the bishops are aware of the anxiety over the lack of specific procedures for giving the mandatum within the implementation document. But he said it was wise to keep them out. When you get procedures into norms, you’re going to have a much more difficult time changing them, he said. There is anxiety, we know that, he added. We don’t know exactly what to do about it except to say we are going to work with you and consult with you and try to come up with something that is acceptable to all parties involved.

Main Suspect Arrested for Killing Missionaries in India

The main suspect in the killing of two missionaries in separate incidents in Orissa state was arrested on Feb. 1 after a yearlong hunt. The police arrested Dara Singh while he slept in the forest bordering Keonjar and Mayurbhanj districts. Singh, who allegedly engineered the killings of a Protestant missionary, Graham Stuart Stains, and his two sons in January 1999, had evaded police since then. He is also a prime suspect in the murder of Father Arul Doss of Balasore Diocese on Sept. 2.

1993 Assassination of Mexican Cardinal Called Premeditated

The 1993 assassination of a Mexican cardinal was a premeditated crime, the governor of Jalisco told his state congress. However, while Jalisco Gov. Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez said evidence points to a plot to assassinate Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara, there is still not sufficient evidence for the case to be sent to the courts.

The statement by Cárdenas appeared to uphold the position taken by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, who has always insisted that his predecessor died as a consequence of a murder plot. Last year, Cardinal Sandoval accused a former federal attorney general of lying and hiding evidence in order to cover up a plot to kill Cardinal Posadas. Federal authorities describe the cardinal’s death as an incident that occurred during a shoot-out between rival drug gangs. The man who in 1995 confessed that he fired the shots that killed the cardinal, Edgar Rabago Mariscal, is in prison and has testified that he did not recognize Cardinal Posadas.

East Timorese Leaders Want Church to Lead Truth Commission

East Timorese leaders say forgiveness is vital to restoring their ravaged homeland, and they want the Catholic Church to take a lead by heading a South African-style truth commission. Bishops Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili and Basilio do Nacimento of Baukau should head such a commission, just as the retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu did in South Africa, said Jose Ramos-Horta, who is being called the de facto foreign minister of East Timor. Hating someone or a nation is all-consumingat an individual level. On a pragmatic level, if we want to rebuild East Timor, we have to nsure peace and stability. To ensure peace and stability we have to reconcile with people who were on the wrong side, he said.

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