Signs of the Times

Pope, Other Leaders Urge That War With Iraq Be Avoided

As war clouds darkened the coming of a new year, Pope John Paul II joined other church leaders in asking that a U.S.-led war be avoided with Iraq. In a year-end speech to Vatican officials, he warned against conflicts “that risk exploding again with renewed virulence.” In his subsequent Christmas message, he asked that the world not “yield to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement, even though the tragic reality of terrorism feeds uncertainties and fears.”

Although the pope did not mention Iraq by name, it clearly appeared to be on his mind as he cautioned against igniting a new and avoidable war. In the days before Christmas, a growing chorus of Vatican officials warned against resolving problems with Iraq through war.


Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the pope’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said the United States has no right to decide by itself whether Iraq should be attacked if it failed to comply with U.N. resolutions that required it to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq should live up to its U.N. obligations to disarm, but the results of U.N. inspections in Iraq should be studied before any war plans are made, he said. “The use of weapons is not a given, and moreover a preventative war is not foreseen by the U.N. charter,” he said. “A single member of the international community cannot decide: ‘I’m doing this and you others can either help me or stay home,’” said Archbishop Tauran.

Iraqi-born Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, now living in Michigan, asked all U.S. bishops to speak out strongly “from the pulpit, every bishop in his cathedral, to tell the people we should not go to war in Iraq at this time.” There are about 160,000 Chaldean Catholics in the United States. The Chaldean Church traces its origins to Iraq and is based there. The 700,000 Chaldean Catholics in Iraq make up about 75 percent of the country’s Christians.

Two-Fifths of Nuns Experienced Abuse/Harassment

As many as two-fifths of U.S. nuns may have experienced some form of sexual abuse as children or sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment as adults, according to a national study conducted by a team of specialists at St. Louis University. The team found that many nuns who experienced such abuse connected that experience with feelings of anger, shame, anxiety, confusion and depression and with difficulty praying and working. Some had considered leaving religious life or leaving the church following such an experience.

The results of the study, conducted in 1996, were fully reported in two scholarly professional journals in 1998 but did not receive wide public attention until The St. Louis Post Dispatch did a story on the study on Jan. 5 of this year.

Precious Blood Sister Andree Fries, who was president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at the time of the study, told Catholic News Service the results “were not a big surprise” to communities of nuns, because “all of us had been dealing with the aftereffects” of sexual abuse experienced by community members, especially those abused as children.

Donna Markham, O.P., a former president of the L.C.W.R. who is now president of the Southdown Institute near Toronto, a treatment center for clergy and religious with psychological or emotional problems, said the study “provided empirical support to the fact that women religious are subjects of the same types of abuse and exploitation as women in general.... The negative impact of abuse and exploitation on women religious is fundamentally no different from the impact of such behavior on any woman.”

The researchers from Jesuit-run St. Louis University were John T. Chibnall, a psychiatry professor; M. Ann Wolf, then a graduate theology student; and Paul N. Duckro, a now-retired professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine and a specialist in the interface of psychology, medicine, religion and spirituality. The study was based on responses to a detailed questionnaire by 1,164 women religious.

One notable finding was that only 18.6 percent of the women religious surveyed reported having been sexually abused or harassed as a child—a figure well below the 30 percent to 40 percent range of childhood sexual abuse/harassment found in many other studies of U.S. female populations. Most of the nuns who experienced abuse as a child said the abuser was a male relative or family friend, but 6 percent of the abusers were reported to have been priests and 3.2 percent nuns.

When the sisters were asked about experiences of sexual exploitation as an adult—defined as a violation of professional ethics in relationships such as teacher-student, counselor-client, doctor-patient or confessor-penitent—only 11.5 percent reported such experiences.

The study also found a lower incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace among women religious than is found among women in general. Only 9.3 percent of the women religious reported such experiences, while studies of lay women have come up with figures ranging from 40 percent to 70 percent.

The study also asked about sexual harassment by nuns in their own communities and about any other form of sexual abuse not covered in the other categories. Of the respondents, 11.1 percent reported such intracommunity sexual harassment and 13.3 percent reported experiencing some sort of sexual abuse other than child abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual harassment in the work or community context. The researchers found that nuns who had been sexually abused as children were more likely to experience abuse, exploitation or harassment as adults.

California Dioceses Face Hundreds of Lawsuits

A new California law, which took effect Jan. 1, gives alleged clergy abuse victims a one-year window to sue church institutions, regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. The first lawsuits under the new California law were filed Jan. 2 against the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the dioceses of Oakland and San Jose and the Order of Friar Servants of Mary, better known as the Servites. David Drivon, an attorney in Stockton whose firm is representing about 250 alleged victims, has predicted that 500 such lawsuits will be filed in California during the one-year suspension of the statute of limitations.

Attorneys for the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles entered into negotiations in late December with attorneys for more than 100 alleged victims in an effort to reach a process that would lead to a mediated settlement of all cases. Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said on Jan. 2, “The archdiocese believes that settling these cases through mediation is certainly preferable to conflict.”

Before the new law took effect the state’s bishops issued a joint pastoral letter, distributed or read in churches throughout California on Dec. 7 and 8, warning Catholics to expect large numbers of lawsuits and highlighting the risk that amid authentic claims there also may be some fraudulent ones. “Some of the lawsuits may involve the revival of already settled cases and some may involve alleged perpetrators and witnesses long since dead. Under those circumstances, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the truth,” the bishops wrote.

Up to 33 U.S. Bishops Could Retire for Age Reasons in 2003

When Bishop William R. Houck of Jackson, Miss., retired on Jan. 3, he was the first of as many as 33 active U.S. bishops who could retire because of age in 2003. The age-75 rule, which implemented a policy established by the world’s bishops in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council, was incorporated into general church law for the Latin Church in 1983 and for the Eastern Catholic churches in 1991. The pope may refuse a bishop’s resignation or delay accepting it. Pope Paul rarely did so, but in recent years Pope John Paul II has increasingly kept bishops active beyond their 75th birthday. Of the 17 active U.S. bishops who turned 75 in 2002, he allowed only five to retire that year. As 2002 ended, 18 active U.S. bishops were already over 75. There are 15 more whose 75th birthday is coming in 2003.

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, who turned 79 last June, is the oldest of all the currently active cardinals, archbishops and bishops in the United States. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 17, 1923, he has been a priest since 1949. He was made auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn in 1980, bishop of Pittsburgh in 1983, archbishop of Philadelphia in 1988 and a cardinal in 1991. Even if he remains archbishop of Philadelphia when he turns 80 this June, after his birthday he will lose his eligibility to enter a conclave to elect a new pope.

The only other active American cardinal over 75 is Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State since 1997. Cardinal Szoka turned 75 last Sept. 14. A Michigan native, he was ordained a priest in 1954 and made first bishop of Gaylord, Mich., in 1971. He was made archbishop of Detroit in 1981, named a cardinal in 1988 and called into Vatican service in 1990 as head of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

Besides the two cardinals and Bishop Houck, the other 15 U.S. bishops who were already 75 but still active when the new year started are:

• Auxiliary Bishop Leonard J. Olivier of Washington, a priest since 1951 and bishop since 1988. He turned 75 Oct. 12, 1998.

• Auxiliary Bishop Thad J. Jakubowski of Chicago, a priest since 1950 and bishop since 1988. He turned 75 April 5, 1999.

• Lithuanian-born Bishop Paulius A. Baltakis, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., as bishop of Lithuanian Catholics outside Lithuania, who has been a priest since 1952 and a bishop since 1984. He turned 75 Jan. 1, 2000.

• Auxiliary Bishop John R. Gorman of Chicago, a priest since 1952 and bishop since 1988. He turned 75 Dec. 11, 2000.

• Bishop William H. Bullock of Madison, Wis., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1980 and head of the Madison Diocese since 1993. He turned 75 April 13, 2002.

• Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi of St. Maron of Brooklyn for the Maronites, a priest since 1955 and bishop of his diocese since 1997. He turned 75 June 25, 2002.

• Bishop Anthony G. Bosco of Greensburg, Pa., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1970 and head of the Greensburg Diocese since 1987. He turned 75 Aug. 1, 2002.

• Bishop James C. Timlin of Scranton, Pa., a priest since 1951, bishop since 1976 and head of the Scranton Diocese since 1984. He turned 75 Aug. 5, 2002.

• Bishop Daniel A. Hart of Norwich, Conn., a priest since 1953, bishop since 1976 and head of the Norwich Diocese since 1995. He turned 75 Aug. 24, 2002.

• Ruthenian Bishop Andrew Pataki of Passaic, N.J., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1983 and head of the Passaic Diocese since 1995. He turned 75 Aug. 30, 2002.

• Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1975 and head of the Brooklyn Diocese since 1990. He turned 75 Sept. 23, 2002.

• Auxiliary Bishop Raymond E. Goedert of Chicago, a priest since 1952 and bishop since 1991. He turned 75 Oct. 15, 2002.

• Bishop Frank J. Rodimer of Paterson, N.J., a priest since 1951 and bishop of Paterson since 1978. He turned 75 Oct. 25, 2002.

• Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1968 and head of the Hartford Archdiocese since 1992. He turned 75 Nov. 14, 2002.

• Auxiliary Bishop Joseph J. Madera of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, a priest since 1957 and bishop since 1980. He turned 75 Nov. 27, 2002.

Among the 15 active bishops who will turn 75 in 2003, there are no cardinals and only one archbishop. In order of their birthdays, they are:

• Feb. 26: Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1985 and head of the Green Bay Diocese since 1990.

• March 3: Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland, Calif., a priest since 1953, bishop since 1974 and head of the Oakland Diocese since 1977.

• May 5: Auxiliary Bishop Agustin A. Roman of Miami, a priest since 1959 and bishop since 1979.

• May 12: Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of Worcester, Mass., a priest since 1953, bishop since 1975 and head of the Worcester Diocese since 1994.

• June 10: Bishop Walter F. Sullivan of Richmond, Va., a priest since 1953, bishop since 1970 and head of the Richmond Diocese since 1974.

• July 7: Auxiliary Bishop Charles J. McDonnell of Newark, N.J., a priest since 1954 and bishop since 1994.

• Aug. 5: Bishop Lawrence J. McNamara of Grand Island, Neb., a priest since 1953 and bishop of Grand Island since 1978.

• Aug. 9: Archbishop John F. Donoghue of Atlanta, a priest since 1955, bishop since 1984 and archbishop of Atlanta since 1993.

• Aug. 16: Auxiliary Bishop William C. Newman of Baltimore, a priest since 1954 and bishop since 1984.

• Aug. 17: Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., a priest since 1955, bishop since 1988 and head of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese since 1989.

• Sept. 4: Bishop George K. Fitzsimons of Salina, Kan., a priest since 1961, bishop since 1975 and head of the Salina Diocese since 1984.

• Sept. 9: Auxiliary Bishop Moses B. Anderson of Detroit, a priest since 1958 and bishop since 1983.

• Sept. 12: Bishop Joseph J. Gerry of Portland, Maine, a priest since 1954, bishop since 1986 and head of the Portland Diocese since 1989.

• Sept. 16: Melkite Bishop John A. Elya of Newton, Mass., a priest since 1952, bishop since 1986 and head of the Newton Eparchy (diocese) since 1994.

• Oct. 9: Auxiliary Bishop Francis X. Roque of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, a priest since 1953 and bishop since 1983.

Hindu Organization Tells Indian President to Avoid Jesuit Meeting

A prominent Indian Hindu organization said a planned presidential speech at a Jesuit meeting would legitimize a “violent Christian denomination.” Kupholly Sitaramayah Sudarshan, head of the national volunteer corps, known by its Hindi acronym R.S.S., advised President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam not to address a Jesuit-sponsored meeting in Calcutta because, he said, the order has taken an oath that “prescribes violent and barbaric means to decimate all those who do not follow the Roman Catholic religion,” according to a report by UCA News.

The volunteer corps clarified in a statement issued on Jan. 1 that it does not question Kalam’s decision to open the meeting but fears the president’s presence there would legitimize the Jesuits’ activities in India. The volunteer corps is an umbrella organization for various Hindu groups trying to turn India into a theocratic Hindu nation. Lisbert D’Souza, Jesuit provincial of South Asia, accused the Hindu group of showing “scant regard for the truth.”

Some 500 people from 12 countries are expected to attend the World Jesuit Alumni Congress in Calcutta on Jan. 21-24. Its Indian coordinator, Herman Castelino, S.J., said that Kalam was invited because he is an alumnus of Jesuit-run St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli, southern India. The congress, he said, is not a meeting of Christians or Jesuits, but of former Jesuit students, “in this case most of them Hindus.” Earlier congresses were held in Australia, France, Italy and Spain, and this would be the first such meeting in Asia.

The Hindustan Times newspaper described the controversy as a “regrettable” and “disruptive campaign” by right-wing Hindu groups to “tar minority communities with the brush of suspicion.” In an editorial on Dec. 31, the paper dismissed as “unacceptable” what it called the volunteer corps’s attempt to “virtually coerce” the country’s highest office-holder “to follow its dictates.” The editorial said Sudarshan’s “stiflingly narrow understanding of life” comes amid “a concerted attempt” by right-wing Hindu groups to “corner minorities and falsely portray them as untrustworthy.”

The All India Christian Council, an ecumenical body, condemned Sudarshan’s “blasphemous speech against the Christian faith and its institutions” and noted that the volunteer corps chief had made such statements throughout the past year.

In recent years, India, which has a majority Hindu population, has been the scene of interreligious violence. Small groups of Hindu fundamentalists have made numerous attacks on Christians and their places of worship.

Vatican to Open Pre-World War II Archives

On Feb. 15 the Vatican will open to scholars its archival records relating to Vatican-German relations leading up to World War II. The early release of part of the archival material relating to one historical period is unusual; the Vatican typically opens the documents for an entire pontificate. The archival documents that will be made available cover the period 1922-39, in which Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, served first as nuncio to Germany and then as secretary of state. They include more than 600 folders that came from the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Vatican embassies in Berlin and Bavaria. About four years’ worth of documents were destroyed in 1945 when the Vatican Embassy in Berlin caught fire during an Allied bombing.

Vatican Criticizes U.S. Blocking of W.T.O. Deal on Medicine

A top Vatican diplomat criticized the U.S. position blocking a world trade deal aimed at ensuring access to cheaper medicines for poorer countries facing health crises like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. “The true victims will be the poorest of the poor,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, head of the Vatican’s observer mission to the World Trade Organization.

The United States, the world’s leading producer of pharmaceuticals, was the only country in the 144-state World Trade Organization that refused to budge on its objections to the proposed deal as the Dec. 20 deadline passed. U.S. trade delegates said they wanted clearer limits on what diseases would be covered by the accord. W.T.O. officials hope to reach an agreement by mid-February for the next meeting of the organization’s general council.

Archbishop Martin said the Vatican was critical of the U.S. position for humanitarian and ethical reasons. He said the church holds that private property rights, including intellectual property rights, are important but are held under a “social mortgage” and are trumped by grave social needs like life-saving health care.

News Briefs

• At least 25 priests, religious and lay missionaries—including 10 in Colombia—were killed in mission territories during 2002, said Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency. Most of the killings took place in Latin America, where 13 church workers died, and in Africa, which counted 10.

• An assortment of New York Catholic and Baptist organizations filed suit against the state on Dec. 30 seeking to stop a new law that would force religious employers to provide contraceptives for employees.

• East Timorese Bishop Basilio do Nascimento has apologized to the country’s Muslim community for the involvement of Catholics in an attack on a mosque in early December.

• Executive orders signed by President Bush on Dec. 13 say faith-based organizations applying for federal contracts or grants cannot be denied funds simply because they have a religious word in their name, display religious symbols on their walls or hire employees based on religious beliefs. The orders continue to ban overt proselytizing in government-funded programs and emphasize that “no funds will be used to directly support inherently religious activities.” For more on this story, see below.

• The Los Angeles archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs office, which was to be closed because of budget cuts, has been saved through the generosity of an anonymous, non-Catholic benefactor whose gift funds it through June 2005.

• Kenya’s Catholic bishops have hailed as fair and transparent the country’s recently concluded elections in which voters chose the country’s first Catholic president, Mwai Kibaki.

Faith-based initiatives get boost of support from President Bush

Since he was elected, President Bush has been pushing faith-based initiatives, but Congress has never been completely behind him. But this December, while Washington was in a furor over Sen. Trent Lott’s comments on segregation, the president gave his faith-based initiatives programs a Christmas present of sorts with executive orders that clear a broader path for religious-based groups that provide services to the poor. The orders, signed Dec. 13 and not requiring congressional approval, essentially give faith-based organizations equal footing with secular groups applying for federal contracts or grants. In other words, they cannot be denied federal funds simply because they have a religious word in their name or because they display religious symbols on their walls.

Predictably, those in favor of this collaboration voiced approval, saying the president’s orders would allow these groups to get on with the business of helping people, while those leery of the initiatives in the first place said Bush was giving faith-based religious organizations special treatment and was circumventing the normal process to do so.

Action on faith-based initiatives has been basically stalled in Congress. Last summer, the House approved legislation backing elements of the initiative, but in November the Senate never even allowed a "faith-based" bill to get to the floor for a vote after senators could not move discussion beyond the hiring practices of faith-based organizations. Now, Bush’s order says outright that even though religious organizations can hire employees based on religious beliefs they cannot be stopped from receiving federal funds.

One part of the president’s plan for faith-based initiatives was not touched in his executive orders -- providing tax incentives for charitable contributions to religious groups that provide social services.

The president announced his executive orders during a speech in Philadelphia to religious and charity workers, where he praised faith-based groups for their "power and unique contribution" in providing care for the homeless, safety for battered women and care to AIDS victims and senior citizens. He said religious-based charities often have the "heart to serve others" but "lack the resources they need to meet the needs around them." "The days of discriminating against religious groups just because they are religious are coming to an end," Bush told the cheering crowd, adding that "charities and faith-based programs should not be forced to change their character or compromise their mission" to receive federal funds.

The president gave examples such as St. Francis House Homeless Shelter run by the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., which was denied a grant of $53,000 because of its practice of voluntary prayers before meals. He also mentioned the Victory Center Rescue Mission in Dubuque, Iowa, which was told to return federal grant money because the mission’s board of directors was not secular enough, and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty in New York, which had been discouraged from even applying for federal funds because of the word Jewish in its name.

The executive orders continue to ban overt proselytizing in government-funded programs and emphasize that "no funds will be used to directly support inherently religious activities." These stipulations are clearly spelled out in an 11-page set of guidelines for faith-based groups released by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives on the day the executive orders were announced.

For example, the guidelines stress that "inherently religious activities" such as religious worship or instruction, must take place in a separate time or place from where federally funded projects are offered. And those who receive federally funded services from an organization may participate in its religious activities, as long as they are assured that such participation is completely voluntary -- as in a prayer before a meal at a soup kitchen. When employees or volunteers at a religious-based organization are asked about their faith, they are advised to respond briefly and to have longer discussions at another time to "avoid using government funds for what might be taken to be an inherently religious activity."

The guidelines also address a major criticism of the faith-based programs -- the fact that religious groups have the right to hire those of the same faith. According to the guidelines, this provision enables faith-based groups to foster a sense of community and define or carry out their mission. They compare this situation to a college or university looking at the academic credentials of someone applying for a professorship or an environmental organization considering the views of potential employees on conservation. The executive orders, and the guidelines that go along with them, are meant to make clear the "tangle of laws" and spell out exactly what faith-based groups can do, according to a White House senior official who spoke to reporters Dec. 12.

For those who’ve worked on these issues over the past few years, the president’s executive orders did not come as a big surprise. In November, when the Senate failed to consider legislation for faith-based efforts, Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told Catholic News Service that Bush was extremely committed to the collaboration between government and charity groups and said that his administration was "looking at all its options, both legislative and administratively" to see this agenda move forward.

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