Signs of the Times

Iraqi Archbishop Calls for More U.N., Arab Involvement

Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad said the answer to Iraq’s problems is not a hasty U.S. military pullout, but greater involvement by the United Nations and Arab countries. A sudden withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces would be a great act of irresponsibility, the Latin-rite archbishop told the Italian missionary news agency, MISNA, on Dec. 5. Neither the Americans nor the allies should leave the country. It would mean passing from anarchy to chaos, he said. He said it would long be remembered if Western powers simply created another crisis zone in the Middle East and walked away.

If the United Nations takes up the problems of Iraq with the consensus of the international community, including the Arab countries, then it will be a force recognized by everyone. Even most Iraqis would show support for it, he said.


Archbishop Sleiman said that in retrospect it was clearly a mistake to dismantle the Iraqi army of 400,000 men immediately after the main battles ended in April. These soldiers are now dispersed in society, many unemployed, and may be participating in the guerrilla warfare, he said.

The archbishop also lamented the growing activity by U.S. Christian groups that have openly announced that they are in Iraq to convert Muslims: These groups represent a real provocation to followers of Islam, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some Muslims react aggressively.

Jesuit Journal Warns Against Abrupt Military Pullout From Iraq

An influential Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica (Catholic Civilization), cautioned against an abrupt pullout of foreign soldiers from Iraq, saying the country’s citizens should not be abandoned at a moment of crisis.

But the magazine said the type of military and reconstruction intervention in Iraq should change, with more cooperation between the United States and the United Nations and more involvement by other countries. The comments came in an article in the Dec. 6 issue of the magazine, whose contents are reviewed at the Vatican prior to publication. In the months leading up to the Iraqi war, the magazine was one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led invasion.

Given the current situation of almost daily attacks against foreign personnel, the way of operating must change in Iraq, it said. The first objective should be the creation of an embryonic modern Iraqi state able to govern at least the major cities. Achieving this will require more confidential contacts with a wider network of political forces in Iraq, in order to negotiate a way out of the impasse in which the country finds itself, it said.

To reach this objective and to work in favor of the economic development of the country, more countries must be involvedmoderate countries of Islamic majority and European countriesbut this is impossible without greater cooperation between the United States and the United Nations, the article said.

No Communion for Pro-Choice Politicians, Says Burke

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, Mo., said that if Catholic politicians in St. Louis take public positions against church teaching, he would be obliged to confront them privately if possible but publicly if necessary, as he did as bishop of La Crosse, Wis. On Dec. 4, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Archbishop Burke had sent letters to three Catholic legislators: Julie Lassa, a state senator; another unnamed Wisconsin state lawmaker; and an unnamed U.S. congressman. The letter requested that they refrain from Communion until they had a change of heart on issues of human life.

Archbishop Burke indicated that he had a hard time believing that a Catholic lawmaker could in good conscience favor anti-life legislation. You would not expect any public official to vote against his conscience, he remarked, even if it meant that some members of their constituency would not agree with him. Asked what would happen if a conscience informed by faith would disqualify Catholics from being worthy of public office in the minds of voters, the bishop responded, Then there won’t be any more Catholic politicians.

In requesting that they refrain from Communion until they had a change of heart, Archbishop Burke denied that he was singling out lawmakers for special treatment. Any Catholic who is not faithful to Catholic teaching should refrain from Communion, he said, adding that it was not a matter of excommunicating them.

The bishop made reference to the document Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, approved by Pope John Paul II and released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last January. That document reiterates the pope’s position that Catholics involved directly in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any measure that is an attack on human life. In September the U.S. bishops formed a special task force to develop guidelines for bishops for implementing the principles spelled out by the Vatican document. At their national meeting in November, the bishops had a preliminary discussion of the direction such guidelines should take.

Irish Bishops Apologize Over Handling of Sexual Abuse Cases

In releasing a report that acknowledged the church’s past failures, Irish bishops apologized for their handling of child sexual abuse cases. Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore said the 332-page report, released on Dec. 4, was an act of sorrow and openness. For what has happened we are truly sorry, and while we cannot undo the wrongs of the past, we can use this research to help us deal with victims of abuse with understanding, compassion and sensitivity, said Bishop McAreavey.

Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, president of the Irish bishops’ conference, said the report tells a very complex and tragic story of deep hurt, and trust betrayed. Archbishop Brady, in apologizing to the victims of clergy sex abuse, said the church failed in its pastoral responsibilities in handling the cases. We hope that this report can be a useful part of the telling of the story, and that it will help to ensure that the next chapters are of healing and reconciliation. We hope that someday those who have been abused and harmed will feel able and be ready to forgive. Until that day we will continue to work to restore people’s trust in the church, the archbishop said.

More than 100 members of the Irish clergy have been convicted of sexual offenses in the last decade, according to The Associated Press. A compensation panel formed earlier this year is expected to pay up to $700 million to thousands of claimants who allegedly suffered abuse at church-run schools and orphanages from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. The government is responsible for most of the settlement, since it had the responsibility of supervising the institutions, The A.P. reported.

The research examined the psychological and social impact of sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy and how the church managed complaints of sexual abuse. Researchers surveyed 1,081 citizens and conducted interviews with seven victims of molestation and eight priests convicted of sex-abuse crimes. They also interviewed more than 100 high-ranking diocesan officials as well as 35 Irish bishops, and concluded that church leaders were guilty of bad management. The survey was conducted by psychologists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Clearly in relation to clerical sexual abuse we failed many young people over too long a period, Bishop McAreavey said, noting that the church, in dealing with abusers, used the best psychiatric advice available at the time. He said that in light of the report’s recommendations, the church would improve its existing abuse policies. He said more than half of the report’s 19 recommendations already had been implemented.

The results of the survey found that 77 percent of Irish citizens believed that the church had not responded adequately to the scandal. The survey also revealed that confidence in the church declined among the families of those abused mostly because of how the church responded to their complaints rather than the abuse itself.

Clergy surveyed said the strategy adopted by the church was an attempt to prevent scandal and protect the church as an institution. Some senior church officials reported being poorly advised by legal and mental health professionals. Poor communication, lack of procedures, unfamiliarity with the issues involved and poor leadership contributed to an ineffective management of the issue, according to clergy surveyed.

News Briefs

After five years of dialogue, a team of 20 Catholic and Lutheran scholars moved toward finalizing a study of The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries during a recent meeting in Washington, D.C. The studywhich will include 10 recommendations to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and to the Catholic Churchwill be completed and made public next April in Milwaukee.

In keeping with its promise not to use parish, appeal or capital campaign funds to finance a record $85 million sexual abuse settlement, the Archdiocese of Boston announced on Dec. 3 that it would use insurance money and sell a portion of church property that includes the former cardinal’s residence to pay for the settlement.

The Japanese bishops said they oppose sending Japanese soldiers to join U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq.

Terrorism is both immoral and a sin, said Jerusalem’s Latin-rite patriarch in a new document. Patriarch Michel Sabbah said the church condemns all acts of violence...especially terrorism that are intended to injure and kill the innocent.

While Gregorian chant and pipe organs hold pride of place in Catholic liturgical music, the use of new compositions and other instruments are appropriate at Mass if they reflect the sacredness of the occasion and help people pray, Pope John Paul II said in a document on sacred music dated Dec. 3.

The Chaldean bishops elected Archbishop Emmanuel-Karim Delly, 76, a retired auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, to be their church’s new patriarch. He and the bishops met with Pope John Paul II, formally sealing the election by requesting and being granted communion with the pope.

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