Vatican Rejects Appeal Against Excommunication
The Vatican’s highest court said it has no jurisdiction over a decision in March 1996 by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., that Catholics in his diocese who are members of Call to Action Nebraska and 10 other organizations were automatically excommunicated. In the wake of the ruling, Bishop Bruskewitz renewed his invitation to Call to Action Nebraska members to leave that organization and return to full communion with the church. Rachel Pokora and Gordon P. Peterson of Call to Action Nebraska had asked the Apostolic Signature, the church’s supreme court, to overturn Bishop Bruskewitz’s decision and its affirmation last year by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. In a Jan. 27 letter to Pokora and Peterson, a copy of which was sent to Bishop Bruskewitz, the court said it had no competence, or jurisdiction, in the matter. Call to Action Nebraska was the only group to ask the bishop to reverse his decision.
Maryland Bishop Urges Ban on Death Penalty
In an unusual move that highlights the priority Maryland’s bishops have placed on abolishing the death penalty, Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore testified in person at a committee hearing in Annapolis on Feb. 21 regarding a bill that would replace the death penalty with life sentences without parole. Representatives of the Maryland Catholic Conference usually testify on behalf of the Maryland bishops, but Bishop Madden personally urged members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary committees to pass the legislation. During his testimony in the Senate, Bishop Madden appeared to look often in the direction of Republican Senator Alex Mooney, a member of St. John Parish in Frederick and member of the deadlocked Judiciary Committee. Mooney holds the deciding vote on whether the legislation will make it to the floor of the Senate. The teachings of our church recognize the right of legitimate government to resort to capital punishment, but directly challenge the appropriateness of government’s doing so in a society that is capable of defending the public order and ensuring the public’s safety, said Bishop Madden.
World Anglicans Warn U.S. Church Against Fracture’
At the end of a meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Feb. 15-19, the primates of the world Anglican Communion warned of fracture in the U.S. Episcopal Church and urged it to abide by a 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that defines marriage as heterosexual and rejects the blessing of same-sex unions. They explicitly asked the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to make an unequivocal common covenant that they will not authorize blessings of same-sex unions in their dioceses. They also asked the bishops to affirm that any candidate for bishop who is living in a same-sex relationship shall not receive the necessary consent [for ordination] unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the communion. The primates are the presiding bishops of the Anglican Communion’s 38 self-governing provinces around the world. The controversy they were addressing stems chiefly from the 2003 decision by the Episcopal Church, which is the U.S. member of the Anglican Communion, to ordain Bishop V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire even though he was living in an openly gay relationship.
Ash Wednesday Call to Confess Error in Iraq
Christian leaders in Baltimore, Md., used the backdrop of Ash Wednesday and props of a dead soldier’s combat boots as they called President George W. Bush’s Iraq War policies immoral and urged Marylanders to take part in an organized antiwar rally in Washington, D.C. The 13 religious leaders from varying Christian faithsincluding Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimorechose Feb. 21, the first day of Lent, to launch their collective antiwar platform, because Lent is a penitential season. The time has come to confess our mistakes and wrongdoing and withdraw our troops from Iraq, said the Rev. Peter K. Nord, head of the Presbytery of Baltimore, part of the national Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Jesus we follow prays for peace and so do we, Rev. Nord said at the news conference at City Temple Baptist Church in the Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. I’m troubled that our commander in chief neither shares this prayer nor listens to his people.
British Military Bishop Welcomes Troop Reduction
The head of Britain’s military diocese said families will welcome the British government’s decision to reduce the number of soldiers serving in Iraq. But Bishop Thomas Burns told Catholic News Service that he believed troops would have been able to return home sooner if they had been better equipped for their mission. He said the reduction of 1,600 troops from southern Iraq, announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair Feb. 21, will be warmly welcomed by servicemen and women, and not least of all by their families.... News of roadside bombs or suicide bombers brings terror to anxious relatives and loved ones back home. He added: It is everyone’s longing that they should come home safe and sound, unharmed physically or psychologically. Yet these are soldiers, sailors and airmen and women doing their duty, as best they can, cherishing values of peace and justice wherever they are sent.
Maronite Cardinal Opposes Arms Buildup in Lebanon
The patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church has warned that Lebanon’s rival political factions are engaged in an arms race that has become like the weapons stockpiling during the country’s 15-year civil war. All the parties have started again to be armed as if we had gone back more than 20 years and learned nothing from the tragedies, abominations and difficulties which we went through, said Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, the Maronite patriarch. Cardinal Sfeir’s comments, made during a homily on Feb. 25 in Bkerke, the Lebanese headquarters of the Maronite Church, came after several explosive devices were found around the country. Beirut’s L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper reported his comments Feb. 26, and a press spokesman for the patriarch confirmed the comments. With tensions running high because of Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis, the discovery sparked fears that an attack was being planned.
Good Soldier, Good Father Killed in Iraq
Before he left Hawaii for Iraq last August, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Trane McCloud made sure to spend a daddy day with each of his three children. He and his son, Hayden, 7, went to Hanauma Bay. He and 5-year-old Grace went bowling and had dinner at the Sizzler restaurant. And he took 2-year-old Meghan to the movies. He was this consummate Marine but, oh Lord, was he a dad, said his wife of more than 12 years, Maggie McCloud. And he was ready to be a dad from the moment I met him. The man who served his country and loved his family was killed Dec. 3, just 11 days before his 40th birthday, when the helicopter he was in crash-landed on Lake Qadisiyah in Al Anbar province in western Iraq shortly after taking off from Haditha Dam. He served with the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment. A memorial Mass was celebrated Feb. 9 at St. Anthony Church in Kailua, where Hayden and Grace are enrolled in the parish school.
The Jesus Family Tomb? Scholars Say Nonsense’
A Catholic biblical scholar and an Israeli archaeologist rejected a claim by filmmakers that a tomb uncovered nearly 30 years ago in Jerusalem is the burial site of Jesus and his family. Dominican Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, a biblical archaeologist and expert in the New Testament at the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, who was interviewed for the film two years ago, said he did not believe there was any truth to the claim. It is a commercial ploy that all the media is playing into, he told Catholic News Service Feb. 27.
Amos Kloner, an Israeli archaeologist who wrote the original excavation report on the site for the predecessor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, called the claim nonsense. In their movie they are billing it as never before reported information,’ but it is not new. I published all the details in the Antiqot journal in 1996, and I didn’t say it was the tomb of Jesus’ family, said Kloner, now a professor of archaeology at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.
The Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and the Oscar-winning Canadian director James Cameron announced at a press conference in New York City on Feb. 26 that by using new technology and DNA studies they have determined that among the 10 ossuariesburial boxes used in biblical times to house the bones of the deadfound in the cave by Kloner in 1980 are those of Jesus, his brothers, Mary, another Mary whom they believe to be Mary Magdalene and Judah, son of Jesus. The documentary film by Jacobovici and Cameron is to be aired March 4 on the Discovery Channel and in Canada on Vision TV on March 6.