Signs of the Times

Vatican Calls for Durable Solutions’ for Refugees

The international community must do more to welcome and support the thousands of refugees daily fleeing the horrific violence in Iraq, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva. Speaking there on April 17 at an international conference addressing the humanitarian needs of Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced people, he said, The world is witnessing an unprecedented degree of hate and destructiveness in Iraq, which not only destroys the social tissue and the unity of Iraq, but is exerting a widening deadly impact on the whole Middle East, according to Catholic News Service in Rome. The archbishop said history has shown that the international community can be effective in creating durable solutions to the massive displacement of peoples. Now nations must help Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced people by providing a coordinated, effective and generous response.

Staffers of Protestant Publisher in Turkey Slain

Catholic leaders in Turkey were shocked by the murder of three employees of a Protestant publishing house, said an official at the Vatican nunciature in Ankara, Turkey. We are upset, said Msgr. Georges Marovitch. With each explosion of violence, it is like all our work for dialogue is being questioned. The three employees of the Zirve publishing house in Malatya, a city in central Turkey, were found dead with their throats slashed April 18. Police arrested four men in the Zirve offices shortly after the murders and a fifth man, who was hospitalized with head injuries after apparently jumping from a fourth-story window in the Zirve building. Five more suspects were detained April 19. Turkish press reports said that some of the men arrested told police they acted to defend Islam. Monsignor Marovitch told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, We understand that the victims belonged to a Protestant group that distributed Bibles on the street in a Muslim society, and this irritated nationalist and fundamentalist Turks.


Nigerian Bishops Criticize Election Irregularities

The Nigerian bishops’ conference criticized national elections, saying they were not free, fair or credible. The reports from across the country showed that the mandate of the people was abused, traumatized and brutalized, said a conference statement April 24. Church leaders said they based their remarks on the observations of 30,000 election monitors deployed under the church’s justice and peace commission. The bishops said government officials and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission failed to prepare adequately for the April 21 round of national elections after allegations of improprieties in the April 14 elections for state and local posts. It is very unfortunate that neither INEC nor the government heeded our call to provide better logistics, tighter security for the ballot boxes and the electorate. We never seem to learn from the past, the bishops said.

Nobel Laureate Shot in West Bank Rally

Northern Ireland’s 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, was injured in the leg by a rubber bullet while taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the Israeli separation wall. Maguire, a Catholic, required medical treatment for her injury and also for tear-gas inhalation. She remained in the hospital for a few hours, then returned to the demonstration. She left the country the following day, April 21, as planned. Maguire had been attending the Second Bil’in International Conference on Nonviolence in the West Bank village of Bil’in, where Palestinians and international and Israeli peace activists have held such protests against the wall since February 2005. The conference was sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement. One movement activist, Jonas Martinez, said conference participants joined the weekly demonstration against the wall and were met by Israeli soldiers armed with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.

Supreme Court Upholds Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

The Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in a 5-to-4 decision on April 18. The ruling was lauded by abortion opponents, including President George W. Bush, who called partial-birth abortion an abhorrent procedure in an April 18 statement from the White House. Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America. The partial-birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress passed and I signed into law, represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America, said the president. He signed it into law in 2003, but because of court challenges it never went into effect. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion in the Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood cases, said the law’s opponents have not demonstrated that the act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases. Also voting in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Voting in the minority were Justices Paul Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

$75 Million Settlement Ends Portland Bankruptcy

The first Catholic diocesan bankruptcy proceeding in the nation ended April 17 when a federal judge approved a $75 million settlement of sexual abuse claims against members of the Catholic clergy and a financial reorganization plan for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Smoothing the way for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris, lawyers at the last moment negotiated payment for all remaining abuse claims. A last case, which was not over sexual abuse, was settled just a few hours before the court approval was announced. Since February, lawyers from both sides worked out the two dozen most difficult cases, bringing the total settled claims under the 33-month bankruptcy to 177. Checks will go out to victims at the start of May. On the same day that the Portland settlement was finalized, all parties to similar bankruptcy proceedings in the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., filed court papers there agreeing to a $48 million settlement of clergy sex abuse claims there. More than 160 victims are reportedly involved in the Spokane settlement.

Chicago Catholic Foster Care Closes; Insurance Gone

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has begun dismantling its foster care program after announcing that it will stop providing foster care services as of June 30. The decision, which Catholic and state welfare officials called tragic, came after Catholic Charities was unable to obtain liability insurance for its foster care program. Catholic Charities and other private agencies recruit and train foster parents to be licensed by the state; they then place children with the foster parents they have trained and provide monitoring, casework and social services to the children.

When the closure was announced April 16, about 900 children were in the program, said April Specht, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities. More than 150 staff positions are to be cut as well. Its current carrier agreed to continue providing coverage of all of Catholic Charities’ services except foster care. The agency approached 25 providers besides its current carrier; 24 turned it down, and one did not respond, Specht said. The insurance company’s decision came after Catholic Charities settled a lawsuit over the alleged abuse of three children in a foster home in the 1990’s for $12 million.

Vatican Commission Sees Hope for Unbaptized Babies

After several years of study, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission said there are good reasons to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven. In a new document, titled The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized and published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limboas a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with Godseemed to reflect an unduly restrictive view of salvation. The church continues to teach that because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said. But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and wants all human beings to be saved, the document said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ’s special love for the little ones, it said. Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered...give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Lay oversight of Catholic bishops is needed—but it should be a process that respects the principle of apostolic succession while providing a check on the successors of the apostles.
John GarveyFebruary 22, 2019
Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, president of Bellarmine University, Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O., and Archbishop Thomas Kelly during the ceremony at which Brother Hart received an honorary degree from Bellarmine University on May 10, 2003. (Courtesy of Bellarmine University)
For decades, Patrick Hart was the literary executor of Thomas Merton's works and the custodian of the legacy of the 20th century’s most prominent religious seekers and teachers.
Joseph McAuleyFebruary 22, 2019
Child psychologist and founding member of the Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) organization, Miguel Hurtado from Spain, center, reads an open letter to the Benedictine order outside the St. Anselm on the Aventine Benedictine complex in Rome on Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
In addressing the abuse crisis, Ms. Ghisoni called for “the dynamic involvement of the whole people of God.”
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 22, 2019