Signs of the Times

Catholic Press Group Silent on Resignation

Catholic Press Association members voted 48 to 28 on May 26 against a statement expressing concern about the resignation of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., as editor in chief of America magazine and emphasizing the importance of Catholic journalists’ exercising our mission with editorial freedom and responsibility. A majority of the 80 or so members in attendance approved a recommendation that the C.P.A. president appoint a committee to discuss the issue further. The vote came during the annual C.P.A. business meeting at the Catholic Media Convocation in Orlando, Fla., on May 25-27. Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, executive editor of U.S. Catholic magazine, introduced the statement, which was not a formal resolution, because C.P.A. bylaws require those be submitted to the board at least 30 days before the business meeting. As an association we owe it to ourselves to respond, he said. It’s a question of the credibility of the Catholic press. But during floor debate, some members said they felt any action by the C.P.A. would send the wrong message. Father Reese announced on May 6 that at the end of the month he would leave America. He also resigned from the C.P.A. board.

House Lifts Limits on Funding of Stem Cell Research

Rejecting the advice of Catholic leaders and the threat of a veto by President George W. Bush, the House approved legislation on May 24 to lift the president’s restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research involving the destruction of human embryos. But immediately after its 238-to-194 vote in favor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, the House gave nearly unanimous approval to a bill promoting increased stem cell research using umbilical cord blood, an area that Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore called indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits. The cardinal, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in a letter to House members before the votes that unlike the false expectations raised by embryonic stem cell research, studies using umbilical cord blood retrieved immediately after live births had already shown results in treating more than 60 diseases.


Chicago Leaders Oppose Landmark Changes

Religious leaders of various denominations have joined in a campaign to oppose changes to Chicago’s law on landmarks that would allow the city to designate houses of worship as landmarks without the consent of their owners. We feel it’s an inappropriate intrusion into religious decision-making, said the Rev. Paul Rutgers, executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. It basically puts a control on both the present and future of any property so designated. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a bill giving the city significant control over the property of the former St. Brigid Churchcountermanding state and federal court rulingshas passed the California Senate and awaits action in the state Assembly. The church, owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was closed 11 years ago.

CELAM Calls for Better Formation for Mission

The 30th general assembly of the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM) ended with a call for the formation of disciples and missionaries. In the closing statement of the council on May 20, the bishops noted that they had celebrated the council’s 50th anniversary and the providential action of God, which has helped it grow in episcopal fraternity and find responses to the many challenges that our churches have faced during these years. Much of the discussion at the 30th general assembly, which began on May 17, focused on the need to form disciples and make the Latin American church more missionary, topics that will also be on the agenda of the fifth general conference. The phrase that our peoples may have life’ is key, given the situation in our countries, said Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela, president of the CELAM communications department. Among the problems he cited were increasing poverty, marginalization, violence with all its different characteristics and political and economic instability.

Mandatory Service Leads to Death of Recruits

Catholic officials said Chile’s policy of mandatory military service should be changed in the wake of the deaths of 45 soldiers during a blizzard in the Andes Mountains of southern Chile. Those who froze to death on the Antuco volcano in mid-May were mostly new recruits who lacked the experience and equipment to survive the harsh conditions, observers said. The group was forced to march in the blizzard at the orders of an army major, despite the objections of mid-level officers. Public opinion on obligatory recruitment has changed after Antuco. Now is the time for a more profound discussion of the issue, which, hopefully, will lead to the elimination of the obligatory draft altogether. A modern army cannot be based on recruits who must be trained year after year, and in poor conditions, said Alvaro Ramis Olivos, a Catholic theologian who is president of the Chilean Network of Conscientious Objectors, an alliance of religious and human rights groups that advocate the elimination of mandatory service and the establishment of conscientious objection.

Path to Peace Award Given Knight of Malta

Fra Andrew W. N. Bertie, grand master of the Knights of Malta, has been chosen to receive this year’s Path to Peace Award. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, said on May 23 that Bertie was chosen because of his leadership in promoting the extensive humanitarian work of the knights. They have been active in areas like Congo, where their contribution of food and medicine aided United Nations peacekeeping efforts, the nuncio said. Born in London in 1929, Bertie was elected grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta in 1988.

Martino Calls for Health Aid for Africa

Working to ensure that babies of H.I.V.-positive women are born healthy and stay healthy and that their mothers survive to raise them is an important part of promoting a culture of life, said Cardinal Renato Martino. The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke on May 27 at an international conference on preventing AIDS among children in Africa. The conference was sponsored by the Rome-based lay Community of Sant’Egidio. The conference was attended by health ministers from 19 African countries as well as European and North American government officials and representatives of pharmaceutical companies, donor agencies and H.I.V.-positive African women with their healthy babies and toddlers. Cardinal Martino told the conference, It is a moral obligation to give a future of hope to Africa, which in turn will give hope to the world.

New Fund-Raising for Catholics in U.S. Military

The U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services has launched an $8 million fund-raising campaign to support and enrich the lives of Catholics in the armed forces and patients in Veterans Affairs medical centers. With a $1 million pledge from the Knights of Columbus and a large six-figure gift from retired Gen. Alexander Haig, who served as secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, the capital campaign already has received more than $3.5 million in cash and pledges, according to a news release from the military archdiocese on May 24. In addition, the Constantinian Order of St. George has donated services valued at $550,000, the archdiocese said. More than half the fund-raising goal is designated to start a new program called Catholics Seeking Christ, a peer-to-peer ministry program for young Catholics in the armed forces, both in the United States and abroad.

Donations for Tsunami Relief Set New Record

Donations to Catholic Relief Services to aid victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia on Dec. 26 topped $150 million, believed to be a record for a single appeal by the Catholic Church. A press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the church’s overseas relief and development agency collected $71 million from dioceses and the rest from parish collections and individuals and through the C.R.S. Web site. Some dioceses are still expected to send in their donations. The release said the funds will support the recovery and rebuilding process for five to seven years in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand. The money will be used to rebuild schools, education systems, homes and sanitation systems; to distribute food and medicine; to re-establish agricultural and fishing industries; and to provide vocational training and long-term trauma counseling.

McCarrick Encourages Abbas in Peace Efforts

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., encouraged President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to continue working with Israeli leaders to achieve peace and security in the Holy Land. We share the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people who long for the day when they, and their Israeli neighbors, will enjoy peace and prosperity, said Cardinal McCarrick. We have, and we will, support United States funding to build the capacity of Palestinians to establish the institutions you need for a viable state, said the cardinal. We will continue to call on our government to exercise balance and concerted leadership to pursue a peace process for all the peoples of the land we call holy, Cardinal McCarrick said. The cardinal gave a short talk at a meeting in Washington on May 26 of Abbas with 20 Christian leaders, including the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister.

New President Named for Bethlehem University

As Vincent Malham, a U.S. member of the Christian Brothers, approached the end of his nine-year tenure as the president and vice chancellor of Bethlehem University, he remained busy with various administrative duties. "I am so involved in Bethlehem University I will be [working] until my last day," he told Catholic News Service between trips to international fund-raising engagements. "I haven’t had the time or the energy to think about the future yet." He will be replaced at Bethlehem University on July 1 by Daniel Casey, F.S.C., also from the United States. After a three-month sabbatical, Brother Malham will take up a new post as president of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn.

Benedictines Now in Charge at Roman Basilica

Pope Benedict XVI has named the first archpriest for Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and, at the same time, confirmed the responsibility of Benedictine monks to provide pastoral care at the basilica and to promote ecumenical activities. In an official document published on May 31, Pope Benedict said it was time to clarify the relationships among the Benedictine community at the basilica, the Diocese of Rome and the Vatican, which owns the church and its surrounding property. Separately on May 31, he named Italian Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, a longtime Vatican diplomat who had served in Israel and in Italy, to be archpriest of the basilica. St. Paul’s, unlike the three other patriarchal basilicas of RomeSt. Peter, St. Mary Major and St. John Lateranpreviously did not have an archpriest.

Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corps Comes to Newark

The Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corps has come to the Archdiocese of Newark, tapping into the wisdom and experience of retirees. According to its mission statement, the volunteer corps provides retired men and women, age 50 and over, the opportunity to serve the needs of people who are poor, to work for a more just society and to grow deeper in Christian faith by reflecting and praying in the Ignatian tradition.

We follow the Jesuit philosophy and send you where you’re needed, and you adapt your skills, said Edmund J. Stankiewicz, coordinator for the corps’ northern/central New Jersey chapter, which was established last November. Volunteers work two days a week at a nonprofit organization in their area. The Baltimore-based corps was founded by James Conroy, S.J., and Charles Costello, S.J., in 1995 and has spread to several major U.S. cities and metropolitan areas.

Covington Sets Up Sexual Abuse Settlement Fund

In what could be the largest settlement by a U.S. diocese in a case of sexual abuse of children, the Diocese of Covington, Ky., has agreed to establish a $120 million fund for victims. The agreement requires the diocese to provide $40 million of the settlement fund, with the remaining $80 million coming from insurance companies. The diocese has threatened litigation against diocesan insurers who fail to comply. The agreement, which requires court approval, was announced in a joint statement on June 3 by the diocese and Stan Chesley, lead attorney in a class action suit filed against the diocese in 2003 on behalf of all individuals who were sexually abused by priests or others employed by the Covington Diocese. It establishes a compensation range of $5,000 to $450,000 per victim with the sumbased on the nature and severity of the abuseto be decided by a settlement administrator selected by the diocese and class action attorneys.

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