National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  July 18, 2003


Edited by Dennis Coday

Bishop criticizes harvesting eggs from aborted human fetuses

LONDON -- The prospect of producing human eggs from aborted fetuses has been greeted with grave concern by Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales, chair of the department of Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales. “There is something deeply wrong with a society that can even contemplate harvesting eggs from the ovaries of aborted fetuses,” he said.

The development was announced at a meeting in Madrid of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology and was widely reported in British newspapers.

A team of Israeli and Dutch scientists found that ovarian tissue from aborted fetuses, when treated with a hormone to stimulate the growth of follicles, survived for a month and that the primordial follicles inside it began to mature into primary and secondary follicles about halfway along the way toward fully mature follicles that could produce fertile eggs.

This is “the furthest stage anyone has got” in maturing eggs from embryos in the laboratory, said team leader Tal Biron-Shental of the Meir Hospital, Kfar Saba, Israel.

Pope seeks new global solidarity

ROME -- A Catholic response to the globalized economy must be a globalization of solidarity marked by true sharing and work for justice, Pope John Paul II said in a message to the July 7-12 general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization of Catholic charities worldwide. The pope said solidarity flows from a recognition of the poor as brothers and sisters and not from pity.

“The globalization of solidarity requires not only adapting to the new needs of the international situation or modifying the rules of the marketplace, but responding to the pressing appeals of the gospel of Christ,” the pope said.

Assistance without love leads to humiliation, the pope said, while solidarity between people created with equal dignity is an expression of “fraternal sharing.” Globalizing solidarity, he said, also requires international political efforts to guarantee the security of aid efforts in situations of conflict and new models for sharing between rich and poor countries.

Catholics in security law protest

HONG KONG -- On the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong’s reversion to China, some 10,000 Christians, mostly Catholics, assembled for a prayer gathering led by Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong and the Rev. Eric So Shing-yit, general secretary of the Protestant Hong Kong Christian Council.

The prayer meeting was held shortly before some 500,000 citizens from all walks of life protested the National Security Bill, which many fear will limit freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of association.

During the July 1 protest, marchers also expressed discontent with the administration of Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, whose six years of governance has been blamed for an economic malaise and other problems in the territory. Zen did not join the march; he went to a nearby church to pray.

The protest was the largest in Hong Kong since the 1989 rallies in support of the pro-democracy movement in Beijing. Later, Tung announced the bill would be amended to reflect the concerns of the public.

Israel razes mosque foundations

JERUSALEM -- Israeli authorities demolished the foundations of the unauthorized mosque that had been built next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, bringing to an end a squabble that began some five years ago. Officials are negotiating to find an appropriate alternative site for the mosque.

Workers immediately began construction on the Italian-style plaza originally planned for the area in preparation for the year 2000.

Israeli media reported that hundreds of Israeli police stood guard as the demolition began in the early hours of July 1. Eight people were arrested, including Nazareth Deputy Mayor Salman Abu Ahmed Zuabi, local leader of the Islamic movement.

After the demolition some 200 Muslim worshipers gathered peacefully for noon prayers on a nearby road that had been closed to traffic, the Ha’aretz newspaper reported. A group of Muslim fundamentalists claim a martyr from the Crusades was buried at the site.

A cathedral for Mongolia
Construction cranes loom over the brick Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Mongolia's capital of Ulan Bator in early July. Work continued on the church even as the Vatican announced that Pope John Paul II would not make a summer trip to Mongolia, a historically Buddhist land. There are only about 200 Catholics in the population of 2.7 million. The new cathedral will accommodate 1,000 people.
-- CNS/Frank Brown

Vietnamese jail ethnic Christians

VIETNAM -- Nine members of a banned branch of Christianity in Vietnam have been sentenced to between 18 and 30 months in prison for “sabotaging national unity.”

The nine members of the Montegnard ethnic minority founded a branch of “Dega Protestantism,” a type of evangelical Christianity followed by many Montegnards in Vietnam’s central highlands, in April 2001. Protestantism is among the six religions the Vietnamese government recognizes, but other organized religions are illegal.

The nine were indicted for sabotaging national unity in May 2001, when two of the accused “incited local believers to flee Vietnam and speak ill of the regime,” according to a report of the Official Vietnam News Agency.

The communist Vietnamese government regards “Dega Protestantism” as a rallying creed for Montegnards seeking an independent homeland and has set out to eliminate its practice, Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year. More than 200 Montegnards have been detained over the last two years. Evangelical Christians have been heavily targeted in the government’s crackdown on indigenous highlanders.

World trade rules questioned

MANCHESTER, England -- The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, CAFOD, organized thousands of supporters to lobby Parliament for international trade rules to benefit the world’s poorest countries and protect the environment.

CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, is a lead member of the Trade Justice Movement, which is pressing politicians to rewrite world trade rules at the forthcoming World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, Sept. 10-14 in Cancun, Mexico.

The bishops’ conferences of England and Wales and of Scotland said in a mid-June joint pamphlet that they recognized trade was essential for development, but they warned that the current imbalances had a dramatic impact on the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries. The bishops said the whole international trade system should be restructured to protect the poorest people.

Patricia Hewitt, Britain’s secretary of state for trade and industry, said the British government “fundamentally agreed.” She told The Guardian newspaper, “We need to do more to help all developing countries secure better access to rich country’s markets.”

Church distracted from more pressing issues, bishop says

SOUTH AFRICA -- The Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa said the Anglican Communion has become so obsessed with sexuality that it has ignored the more pressing issues of poverty, AIDS and spreading the gospel.

He said it is irresponsible for conservative church leaders -- including other African bishops -- to criticize Anglicans in Vancouver for allowing same-sex unions, or Episcopalians in the United States for electing an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Ndungane said he agreed with the leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, “that we dare not become preoccupied with the sexuality issue. We must focus on mission. We are faced with matters of life and death.”

Several Third World bishops, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, recently severed ties with the Vancouver diocese and threatened to do the same with New Hampshire. Ndungane downplayed threats of schism from conservatives who are upset with the Western church’s more liberal stands on homosexuality.

(Read more about this issue at in The Word from Rome column of July 3 by NCR Rome correspondent John L. Allen Jr.)

Security fears tether freedoms

LEUVEN, Belgium -- The ecumenical International Religious Liberty Association has said that nations can meet security goals without restricting religious freedom.

The association has issued a seven-page document, “Guiding Principles and Recommendations on Security and Religious Freedom.” The document said, in part, “Too frequently, responses to religion-based terrorism have involved efforts to enhance security at the expense of religious freedom. … These responses have often proved counterproductive, and result in violations of international standards of human rights. Such violations, which diminish both security and religious freedom, must be opposed by governments, religious groups, people of faith and all those who truly value human rights.”

The document recommends that nations avoid widespread arrests and extended imprisonment without charge. It also said national leaders responding to terrorism should impose sanctions for actions and not for beliefs or religious identity.

“We believe that freedom of conscience is a vital asset to security -- and that to crack down on religious expression will only destabilize society, the opposite effect to what is planned,” said Jonathan Gallagher, deputy secretary general of the association.


California diocese drops suit against Boston archdiocese

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Bishop Gerard R. Barnes of San Bernardino said he would drop the suit his diocese filed against the Boston archdiocese in April for not disclosing the abusive history of a pedophile priest. Barnes said it was a gesture of good will toward Archbishop-elect Sean O’Malley.

“For the good of the victims, the church and the faithful, we must move forward,” Barnes said. “It is important to me to live and be an example of the gospel. That means sitting down with Bishop O’Malley to resolve this matter directly.”

Barnes filed the suit in April -- the first time one diocese had sued another -- after he said his diocese should not be held responsible for abuse inflicted by Fr. Paul Shanley.

Shanley was transferred from Boston to San Bernardino in 1990 with a letter stating he was a priest in “good standing.” Court documents released last year showed that Boston officials knew of allegations against Shanley from at least 1967. He is currently free on $300,000 bail awaiting trial on 10 counts of child rape in Massachusetts.

Black nuns celebrate 175 years

BALTIMORE -- The Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest Catholic order of black nuns in the United States, opened a celebration of the order’s 175 years of service July 2 with a Mass at their motherhouse in Baltimore. About 300 well-wishers joined 85 Oblates for the celebration.

The Oblates were founded in 1829 by Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange and Sulpician Fr. James Nicholas Hector Joubert to educate the children of slaves and former slaves in defiance of a law at the time that forbade it. In recent years they have welcomed members from Latin America into their ranks.

In his homily, Msgr. Raymond East of Washington said Lange understood that “education is liberation, information is power, conversion is on the road to salvation,” which he said were precepts that all those who have encountered the Oblates have a duty to uphold.

East called every sister who joined the Oblates in the early years “a martyr for the charity of the Lord,” noting their endurance through calls that their “misguided experiment” be disbanded and that they “take off their habits and become domestics.”

Thousands back Dallas bishop, countering drive to oust him

DALLAS -- Countering a string of negative articles, letters to the editor and op-ed columns in The Dallas Morning News, as well as a drive by a small group of lawyers and businesspersons to oust their bishop, more than 5,000 Catholics in the Dallas diocese signed petitions as signs of support for Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann. Pastors and lay leaders at three parishes gathered the signatures June 29.

The petition drive was the brainchild of a small group of pastors who had met recently and discovered they all were “really fed up with the attacks on the bishop” in the local media, said Fr. Cliff Smith, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Grand Prairie, Texas, where 1,308 signatures were collected.

“[We] are hoping to send the message that there are far more people in support of Bishop Grahmann and the teaching of the church than those vocal few who think they can get rid of a bishop,” he said.

“The bishop is humbled by this huge outpouring of support,” said Msgr. Glenn “Duffy” Gardner, vicar general of the diocese.

Biotech industry works on ethics

WASHINGTON -- The National Council of Churches has signed an agreement with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade association, to work together to address ethical and moral issues surrounding biotech.

The agreement promises to cultivate “an active and informed debate” on biotechnology and a shared “belief in the importance and urgency of the appropriate and ethical use” of new knowledge in the field.

The two groups signed a “memorandum of understanding” at the industry group’s recent convention in Washington. Both pledged “unequivocal opposition to human reproductive cloning” but remained silent on cloning for research purposes, an area of rapid growth for the biotech field.

The biotech group represents about 1,000 research, development and manufacturing companies in the $200 billion biotechnology sector.

Death sentence commuted

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Catholic bishops of Kentucky have commended Gov. Paul Patton for commuting the death sentence of Kevin Stanford, the only person on death row in Kentucky who was under 18 when he committed a crime.

The bishops, in a statement released by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, also asked Catholics and “people of good will” to pray for the family of victim.

Stanford, now 39, was 17 in 1981 when he and a co-defendant raped a gas-station attendant before Stanford killed her. Stanford was convicted of the rape and murder and sentenced to death.

Patton said commuting Stanford’s death sentence would “correct an injustice” -- the sentencing of a person under 18 to death. Kentucky is one of 22 states in which juveniles can be sentenced to death.

“The bishops believe that the governor’s action ... holds Kevin Stanford accountable for his crime and will bring a new respect for human life, even of those convicted of horrible crimes,” said the bishops’ statement.

Churches send Iraq medical aid

WASHINGTON -- Church World Service, the relief arm of the National Council of Churches, is shipping $1.2 million in medical supplies to Iraq to bolster the country’s debilitated health care system. In the chaotic aftermath of the war, Iraqi hospitals are operating at only half their capacity, the United Nations reported.

While the United States military remains preoccupied with security and law enforcement, the burden of meeting the medical needs of Iraqis falls on humanitarian agencies, said the Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service.

Supported by 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, the agency has been working to meet medical needs in Iraq since the start of the first Gulf War more than a decade ago.

Malnutrition among children has doubled in some parts of Iraq since the start of the war, according to a U.N. report. Already a widespread problem due in part to economic sanctions, acute malnutrition among children under the age of 5 in Baghdad has increased to almost 8 percent, marking a 4 percent rise since the start of the war.


National Catholic Reporter, July 18, 2003

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