National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  July 4, 2003


Edited by Dennis Coday

No Hindu temple at disputed site

AYODHYA, India -- The state-sponsored Archaeological Survey of India has found no evidence of Hindu temple remains under the ruins of a mosque in Ayodhya northern India.

The lack of archaeological evidence calls into question Hindu nationalists’ claims that the mosque in the town of Ayodhya stands on a sacred Hindu site marking the birthplace of the god Ram. Hindu hardliners are campaigning to build a Hindu temple in the town.

The archaeological dig to determine whether a temple ever existed under the mosque was ordered by India’s courts in March in an attempt to settle ongoing and sometimes violent clashes over the site.

Contention over the Ayodhya mosque site in Uttar Pradesh state has strained Hindu-Muslim relations since 1992, when Hindu zealots destroyed the 16th century mosque and incited nationwide riots in which 3,000 died.

Chinese Christians arrested

HONG KONG -- Chinese public security officials arrested Fr. Lu Xiaozhou of the “underground” church June 16 as he traveled to Wenzhou City Hospital to anoint the sick, according to local Catholic sources. Wenzhou is 880 miles southeast of Beijing.

“He was transferred to the custody of the Religious Affairs Bureau the next day, probably to force him to sign an agreement letter to join the government-recognized Catholic Patriotic Association,” one source said. He will not be released soon if he does not sign such a letter, the sources added. The association is a body of the government-approved “open” church.

Meanwhile, Human Rights in China, a group based in the United States, reported 12 Protestants belonging to a “house church” were arrested June 6. House churches are not affiliated to the China Christian Council, the government-approved administrative body for the Protestant church in China. Members worship in houses or other venues not registered as churches.

Court allows same-sex unions

OTTAWA -- Catholic priests officiating at the marriages of same-sex couples can expect to be suspended from their duties, Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa, former president of the Canadian bishops’ conference said in a statement June 23.

The Ontario Court of Appeal June 10 cleared the way for same-sex marriages in the province by declaring that the constitutional definition of marriage must be changed to a union between “two persons” rather than “between a man and a woman.”

As dozens of gay and lesbian couples rushed to get married or applied for marriage licenses, the federal government announced it would not appeal the court’s ruling.

Indian Jesuits eye Afghanistan

BETTIAH, India -- Indian Jesuits are to launch education projects in rural Afghanistan in July. Two Jesuits visited the country for 10 days in February to explore the possibility of launching a mission there.

Fr. Aloysius Lawrence Fonseca, 69, who will coordinate the mission, said that Jesuit leaders in India have been concerned for the past year about the “murky educational scenario” in Afghanistan, where various sources have told them there is little modern education.

Fonseca said the Jesuits will draw on their experience in India using non-formal methods to provide basic education to children and adults in Afghanistan. “This option costs a lot less compared to formal schooling that requires an infrastructural set up,” he noted.

He also said local instructors will run the education centers the Jesuits plan to set up to teach literacy and vocational skills.

Martyrs mural
A mural by Miguel Antonio Bonilla depicts the Jesuit priests and two women who were shot to death by an elite army unit Nov. 16, 1989, at the Jesuit-run Central American University in San Salvador. The priests, Juan Ramon Moreno, Amando Lopez, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin Baro, Joaquin Lopez Lopez, their housekeeper Elba Ramos and her daughter, Celina, are depicted in the upper portion of the painting, which appears inside a chapel dedicated to Archbishop Oscar Romero at the Salvadoran university. Some observers believe their deaths were partly responsible for convincing rebels and government leaders to come to an agreement to end 12 years of civil war that claimed the lives of more than 75,000 in El Salvador. Peace accords were signed at the start of 1992.
-- CNS/Octavio Duran

Ugandan rebels target missions

WASHINGTON -- The rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, known for kidnapping and inducting children into its army, has identified Catholic priests, nuns and missions as targets in its attacks on the civilian population of the north.

The Lord’s Resistance Army, which is fighting to replace Uganda’s current government with a theocracy based on the biblical Ten Commandments, announced its plans to attack Catholic missions after church leaders sought to mediate a cease-fire between the rebels and the government. The army’s leader Joseph Kony ordered the attacks over a radio network used by missions in the north.

“Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood and nuns beaten black and blue,” Kony said, according to the Vatican-based Missionary News Service.

Catholic priests of the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative said they were confused by Kony’s orders but believed them to be authentic. Previously, the army said it was willing to work with religious leaders seeking a peaceful resolution to the central African nation’s 17-year civil war.

Lawsuit filed against big oil

NUEVA LOJA, Eucador -- An Ecuadorian court has accepted a lawsuit against the U.S. transnational oil company Texaco. Representatives of 30,000 indigenous people and campesinos affected by oil exploration and extraction in the northeastern part of the country have been working on the case for almost a decade.

The lawsuit is the offshoot of a case originally brought against Texaco in a U.S. federal court in 1993. That case wound for years through the legal system until last year, when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that it was a matter to be decided in Ecuador. Prosecuting lawyer Alberto Wray said, “Now we can take on the company in this country [Ecuador]. It wasn’t possible before because [Chevron]Texaco does not have a local branch.”

According to the prosecutors, between 1964 and 1992, Texaco -- which merged with Chevron in 2000 to become the fourth largest oil company in the world -- spilled 16 million gallons of crude and 20 billion gallons of contaminated water in the area. The local communities are demanding compensation of $1.5 billion for damages to their health and the environment.

Bishops criticize constitution

WARSAW, Poland -- European bishops criticized a new draft constitution for the European Union for failing to mention the role of Christianity in European history. “An inclusive reference to the contribution of Christianity, without which Europe would not be what it is today, remains essential,” said the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community in a June 19 statement.

“Along with many of our fellow citizens, we also continue to believe a reference to God should be included in this constitutional text as a guarantee of the freedom and dignity of the human person. We think this completion is necessary and could be achieved without discriminating against anyone,” the bishops said.

The commission, which includes bishops’ conferences from the European Union’s 15 member-states, was reacting to the 300-article draft constitution, approved June 20 by European heads of government.

Despite the summit’s endorsement, the draft constitution may still go through several revisions before adoption of a final constitution, which is expected to take place before June 2004.

Vatican backs rights of disabled

UNITED NATIONS -- An effort to develop an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities got Vatican support in a statement June 19. “These persons are rich in humanity,” said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, nuncio to the United Nations. “Each has rights and duties like every other human being.”

He said disability was “a place where normality and stereotypes are challenged,” and where society was moved to see “that crucial point at which the human person is fully himself or herself.”

Meeting June 16-27 at U.N. headquarters in New York, the committee found most speakers supportive of the convention proposal. Dzidek Kedzia, speaking for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, put the number of disabled persons worldwide at 600 million, and said U.N. human rights instruments had “not been fully used so far” to support their rights.


Roe v. Wade revisit declined

DALLAS -- A federal court in Dallas declined June 19 to reopen the historic 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, despite a request by the former plaintiff known as “Jane Roe” -- Norma McCorvey.

McCorvey had filed a “motion for relief from judgment” seeking to have the court reopen the abortion decision and to begin an in-depth study on the effects of abortion on women. The court ruled that McCorvey’s request was not made within “a reasonable time” after the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 decision.

“Whether or not the Supreme Court was infallible, its Roe decision was certainly final in this litigation,” U.S. District Judge David Godbey wrote in the ruling. “It is simply too late now, 30 years after the fact, for McCorvey to revisit that judgment.”

McCorvey, who became Catholic in 1998, has said she regretted her role in the historic case. Several years ago she joined the antiabortion movement.

Catholic, Orthodox laity meet

BOSTON -- Leaders from Orthodox Christian Laity in Detroit, Mich., traveled June 4 to the Newton, Mass., headquarters of Voice of the Faithful, the Catholic group formed in response to last year’s clergy sex abuse scandal to swap insights and strategies.

The Orthodox initiated the meeting, according to Voice spokesperson Luise Dittrich, with hopes of learning from her group’s progress. “They used to have lots of lay influence, and it’s slipped away over the years,” Dittrich said. “Our situation is the opposite. We [Catholic laity] never had it, but we’ve been gaining it over the past 30 years.”

Despite differences in structures and practices, the lay reformers said they recognize a “kindred spirit.” Both groups formed in response to apparent improprieties on behalf of their leaders. The Orthodox group traces its roots to 1998 in order to correct alleged mismanagement in the Greek Orthodox archdiocese.

The groups resolved to share resources on the traditional roles of laity, to promote lay involvement in the leadership of their respective churches and to meet again before the end of 2003.

AMA cloning vote criticized

CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association has drawn criticism from Catholic and pro-life groups for the June 17 vote at its annual meeting in Chicago declaring, “cloning for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics.”

The recommendations from the association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, approved without debate, said physicians should be free to decide whether or not to participate in such research and called for “appropriate oversight of this research and safeguards for subjects participating in this type of research.”

But the research is never safe for the human embryos created in the process, said officials of several Catholic and pro-life organizations, including the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Christian Medical Association and the American Life League.

                                                                             -- CNS/Reuters
Hit-and-run victim mourned

TUBA CITY, Ariz. -- More than 300 people attended funeral services June 19 in Tuba City for Jim Lee Reed (above), who died in Phoenix after being struck by a car police say was driven by Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien as Reed crossed a street June 14. O’Brien was arrested on a felony charge for leaving the scene of the accident that killed Reed, 43.

The Rev. Warren Fuller, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Assembly of God Church, conducted the service for Reed. Joining Reed’s family members and friends were three officials representing the Phoenix diocese: Msgr. Richard W. Moyer, vicar general and moderator of the curia; Msgr. Dale Fushek, vicar general and pastor of St. Timothy Parish in Mesa; and Sister of Charity Mary Ann Winters, the chancellor.

After the service, the three spoke individually with each member of Reed’s family, offering prayers, condolences and sympathy.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M. was appointed apostolic administrator of the Phoenix diocese June 18 after the Vatican accepted Bishop O’Brien’s resignation. News reports said the archbishop’s first official act as administrator was to authorize a private plane to transport the three church officials to Tuba for the service.

Oil could relieve African poverty

WASHINGTON --As foreign companies invest billions of dollars for petroleum production into the region, sub-Saharan African governments should seize the opportunity to alleviate poverty, says a yearlong study of oil development in Africa by Catholic Relief Services.

The study estimates that the sub-Saharan oil industry will make more than $200 billion over the next 10 years, money governments could invest in education, health, water and other vital social programs.

The report says most oil-exporting countries fail to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. In Nigeria, where oil revenues over the last 25 years topped $300 billion, the average daily income is still less than a dollar. Such failures suggest that mismanaged oil revenues exacerbate poverty, the report says.

To prevent a Nigeria-like scenario from unfolding in other oil-rich nations, CRS, which supports church and civil society programs in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Congo and Angola, is pushing for greater financial transparency and government accountability.

The United States imports 17 percent of its oil from Africa. By the end of the decade, the percentage is like to reach nearly a quarter. U.S. companies like ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil expect to invest up to $25 billion in African oil in the next decade.

Bush told to talk with North Korea

WASHINGTON -- At a three-day conference that ended June 18, Christian delegations from South Korea, U.S. church leaders and policy experts called for the U.S. government to reconvene peace talks with North Korea. These talks stopped last October when North Korea announced its previously clandestine nuclear program.

Participants called for a lowering of the confrontational rhetoric and stepped-up negotiations to defuse the crisis. The National Council of Churches and Church World Service, the council’s humanitarian arm, sponsored the conference.

Citing the militant stances of both governments as an impediment to peace and stability in the region, participants pressed for normalization of relations with North Korea and greater humanitarian assistance to the region.

“We need to advance a view not of preemptive war, but of diplomatic priorities,” said the Rev. Bob Edgar, the council’s general secretary. “If we want to show shock and awe, we need to show love and justice.”

“We are at a very dangerous moment,” said Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy. “North Korea is showing signs of desperation I’ve never seen before -- for example, by their threat to sell plutonium to third parties.”

Dallas Catholics seek new bishop

DALLAS -- Thirty-five Dallas Catholics, calling themselves the “Committee of Concerned Catholics,” have written the papal nuncio to the United States urging the replacement of Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann. Their letter was reprinted in The Dallas Morning News June 20. It said the group believed “daily harm will continue to accrue to the church unless this crisis is addressed.”

“The current sexual abuse and leadership crisis in the diocese of Dallas has become a scandal and an embarrassment to the church,” they wrote, adding that Grahmann’s quick replacement would help to end the crisis.

According to the diocesan newpaper Texas Catholic, the group has repeatedly complained to the nuncio and others. Several signatories were recognized by diocesan officials as individuals who have sought to do business with the diocese or complained about business matters that reflect self-interest.

Other signatories were among a group upset by the transfer of a popular pastor. Grahmann, 71, and Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph A. Galante, who was appointed in 1999, jointly wrote last year to one of the petitioners urging them to “let go of the resentment and move forward for the sake of the parish community.”

Washington cardinal visits Iran

WASHINGTON -- Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who participated in a June 10-18 U.S. delegation of Muslims, Jews and Christians to Iran, said the war-torn region needs “a long-term solution.”

The visit was “an effort to improve and expand communication between the peoples of Iran and the United States,” the cardinal wrote in the June 19 edition of the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper.

The cardinal noted that tension still persists in the region. “There is no love for Saddam Hussein here,” he wrote, “but the clouds of war make people anxious. We must bring a long-term solution to the critical problems of this region.”

He said the members of the delegation, which included professors from The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, expressed hope that “our Abrahamic religious heritage is the common ground upon which the dialogue of cultures can take place.”


National Catholic Reporter, July 4, 2003

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