Signs of the Times

Charities Denied Injunction in Contraceptives Case

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has denied a motion by Catholic Charities of Sacramento for a preliminary injunction to block a state law that includes most religious institutions in a requirement that employers pay for contraceptives in prescription insurance plans.

Bishop Says Kosovars Determined to Pursue Autonomy

The top church official in Kosovo said the fall of Yugoslavia’s Communist regime has little importance for Kosovar residents, who are determined to pursue autonomy whatever Belgrade thinks. Relations between the breakaway republic of Kosovo and Yugoslavia are a thing of the past, Bishop Marko Sopi, apostolic administrator of Prizren, told the Vatican news agency Fides on Oct. 10. At this point, one cannot link Kosovo to Serbia, as it was before. Now there is the United Nations and NATO, and we think this will last for a while. On Oct. 28 there will be town elections to choose legal and local authorities, a first step toward normality.


More Federal Money Urged for Child Abuse Prevention Efforts

A Catholic Charities USA official said more federal support is needed for state programs to protect children from abuse and neglect when their families face a crisis involving substance abuse. Sharon Daly, vice president for social policy for Catholic Charities USA, also said Congress should encourage states to develop integrated treatment programs to help families deal with addictions and other related problems, such as depression. In a time of unprecedented economic prosperity, we believe Congress should do more to heal families and protect our nation’s children, said Daly.

Cardinal Ratzinger Saddened by Reaction to Document

If the tone of the Vatican’s recent document on salvation in Christ was problematic, it should be explained, not despised, said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation. The cardinal, responding to criticism of the congregation’s September declaration, Dominus Iesus, said it was written because Pope John Paul II wanted to offer the world a great and solemn recognition of Jesus Christ as Lord at the culminating moment of the Holy Year. In an interview published on Oct. 8 by L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal expressed his sadness and disappointment that public reactions, with some praiseworthy exceptions, have completely ignored the true theme of the declaration.

African Bishops’ Meeting Denounces Corruption, Injustices

In a message at the close of their annual meeting, African bishops deplored the state of postcolonial Africa and said independence had ushered in grave injustices against many countries’ civilians. Taking African leaders to task for corruption and hunger for personal power, the bishops also condemned former colonial masters for imposing enormous debts and supplying arms to poor African countries.

Vocations, Immigration Top Concerns for Hispanic Priests

Vocations and immigration were principal concerns at the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Priests, leaders reported. Members of the association emphasized their desire to work in solidarity, the leaders said. The association president, the Rev. J. Fernando Gil, said members saw themselves as a cohesive body, despite cultural differences from being born in various countries of Latin America, in Spain or in the United States to Hispanic parentage. More than 100 association members attended the convention at a retreat house in New York.

Two Sides to Story of Iraqi Sanctions, Say Jesuit, U.S. Official

The decade-long U.N. sanctions against Iraq has two sides. G. Simon Harak, S.J., said the sanctions are like a siege, the oldest form of total war...a war on everything that lives in a country. Father Harak said the sanctions let the country die by depriving it of water, food and medicine. U.S. State Department official Dan Sreebny disagreed. There are no sanctions at all on food or medicine, he said. People who deliver such humanitarian supplies to Iraq must jump through a hoop or two, he said, but that process monitors rather than bans such supplies.

Vatican Bioethicist Criticizes U.S. Couple’s Genetic Screening

The Vatican’s top bioethicist criticized the genetic screening process a U.S. couple used to conceive a child in order to save their older daughter. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that apart from the parents’ presumably good intentions in trying to save a child’s life, the process raised serious moral issues.

Fifteen embryos were created in vitro. The one with the desired genetic mix was implanted in the mother and was born. Cells from his umbilical cord were then infused into the system of his 6-year-old sister, who had been born with Fanconi anemia, a fatal, inherited bone marrow deficiency. The rest of the embryos were destroyed. These embryos are human individuals, he said. You cannot destroy individuals to cure the sickness of another individual.

Catholic Groups Get HUD Funds to Aid Low-Income Elderly Renters

Several Catholic dioceses and organizations are among the 161 nonprofit groups nationwide that received $597 million in federal grants to create some 6,500 subsidized apartments for more than 8,000 low-income senior citizens. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awards are going to groups in 42 states and the District of Columbia. According to a 1999 HUD report, more than 7.4 million senior-citizen households pay more than they can afford for housingdefined as more than 30 percent of their incomeswhile others live in substandard housing or housing that does not meet their needs.

Catholic Statements Urge Care of Environment

In separate statements the bishops of northern New England and Indiana have called care of the environment a moral responsibility. The earth is not being well cared for, said the Indiana statement, which focused especially on agriculture, saying that there is clearly, indubitably and increasingly a crisis of the family farm in Indiana. The bishops of the Boston ecclesiastical provincewhich includes all of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Mainequoted the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople: To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. They said there are two primary [environmental] concerns in our region: agriculture and fisheries.

Caritas Calls on Indonesia to Bring End to Moluccas Violence

The umbrella Catholic relief organization Caritas Internationalis called on Indonesia to halt anti-Christian violence in the Molucca Islands. In a statement released on Oct. 6, Caritas asked the Indonesian government to stop the militia from entering the island [of Ambon] and to take urgent steps to end the smuggling of weapons into the hands of those already there. The agency said Indonesia must also identify and prosecute the people responsible for provoking and continuing this conflict, while the United Nations has the responsibility to do everything in its power to help bring a quick end to this violence.

Bishops Say E.U. Charter 'Ignores Place of Churches’

Catholic bishops from the European Union voiced disappointment at the lack of reference to churches and faiths in a major new human rights document, said a spokesman for the bishops. But the spokesman said church leaders still hoped for amendments in time for the document’s final adoption at a European Union summit in December.

We have to keep a low profile nowadays, and we know a direct reference to God would be hard for member-states to accept, said Silvio Marcus-Helmons, legal adviser to the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union. But if labor unions and political parties are explicitly recognized, why shouldn’t churches be as well? he asked. The Belgian was reacting to the removal of a reference to Europe’s religious heritage from a draft preamble to the Charter of Basic Social Rights, at the insistence Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France.

Marcus-Helmons said an amendment mentioning the continent’s religious heritage was proposed on COMECE’s behalf by German delegates to the drafting convention, who defended the move, citing a reference to God in Germany’s Basic Law. However, he added that the proposal had met vigorous objections from Jospin, who had warned it would infringe France’s status as a lay state and pose a major legal and political obstacle to the charter’s acceptance. France was supported by Italy and Spain.

Besides reaffirming rights to association, property, education, health care and political asylum, the charter says the European Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic variations and recognizes the right of parents to ensure their children’s education in line with their own religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions. Article 10 also guarantees the right to express one’s faith or beliefs individually or in common with others, publicly or privately, through conducting of a cult, teaching, practical actions or ritual acts. The 54-point charter, drawn up by a 62-member convention appointed after the E.U.’s Cologne summit in June 1999, is expected to form part of a future E.U. constitution.

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