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Issue Date:  November 2, 2007


Memorializing dark history

FOREST HILLS, Mass. -- Catholics in this part of the Boston archdiocese are seeking historic landmark protection status for St. Andrew the Apostle Church.

While two local historical societies say the church warrants protection for architectural aesthetics, a Catholic group wants it preserved lest a dark chapter in the history of the Boston church is forgotten. St. Andrew was served by the serial pedophile, former priest John Geoghan from 1974 to 1980.

The archdiocese has closed the parish and is trying to sell the property, five buildings on a 3.1 acre lot. Survivors of Geoghan’s abuse want a memorial on the site and they want landmark status so that the church cannot not be demolished or significantly altered, even after a private developer buys it.

Maryetta Dussourd, mother of an abuse victim, is leading the effort to use the site as a victims’ memorial.

Online ordinations questioned

YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- Anna and Casey Pickett fell in love during a college class on Transcendental literature, reveling in the nature-loving rhapsodies of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was only natural, then, that when the couple married last July, they would stand beside a rustic lake in Pennsylvania, with the professor whose class brought them together officiating at the ceremony.

Two months after they tied the knot, however, the couple got a call from a York County clerk, who told them their marriage might not be valid. The problem: Their professor, who was not a minister, got ordained online to perform the ceremony.

A judge ruled that ministers who do not have a “regularly established church or congregation” cannot perform marriages under state law. If the York precedent holds in Pennsylvania’s 66 other counties, as some officials think it should, it could spawn hundreds of legal and domestic disputes, experts say.

Senator cuts religious funding

WASHINGTON -- Bowing to pressure, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has backed off an attempt to steer $100,000 to a Christian group that supports teaching religious and alternative theories of creation alongside evolution in science classrooms.

Vitter has taken heat from educational, religious and civil rights groups for earmarking money in a fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, “to develop a plan to promote better science education.”

The group has long challenged Darwinian theories explaining the origins of life, and the earmark was seen by some as an attempt to inject Christian religious doctrine into the classroom.

Vitter went to the Senate floor Oct. 17 and announced that “to avoid more hysterics,” he wanted to shift the money to science and computer labs in schools in Ouachita Parish. He said the earmark had been misconstrued.

-- STR/AFP/Getty Images

China under pressure
Activists wear masks of Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 24. The U.N. special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, was in China that day on the last stage of his diplomatic tour of Asia in support of democratic reforms in Burma. Gambari was expected to return to Burma early this month. China, a close ally of the country officially known as Myanmar, is under pressure to take tougher action against the military regime in the wake of a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September. A resident of Burma writing under the name “Nang” sent e-mail to a British Broadcasting Corporation bulletin board saying, “You can smell the fear in the air. You can feel it everywhere. ... Many believe that the U.N. and the U.S. will be able to change everything. Many believe that this is just the beginning, not the end.”


Baptists, Mennonites approved

HANOI, Vietnam -- The government officially recognized the Baptist and Mennonite churches and, in a ceremony Oct. 2, gave them certificates authorizing them to practice their religion.

Two years ago, the government revised its Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions. Since then, 500 religious establishments have opened their doors and a thousand clergymen of different faiths have been ordained, according to the deputy chief of the Committee for Religious Affairs, Nguyen Thanh Xuan.

The Baptist church in Vietnam has about 18,400 followers with 500 ministers and 135 congregations. Mennonite churches in Vietnam number about 80 with 5,000 members.

Church leaders assailed

SÃO PAULO, Brazil -- Bishops across Brazil are receiving death threats for protecting land used by native Indians and small-scale farmers from large-scale developers and timber barons, according to a report in the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet.

Archbishop Luiz Soares Vieira, vice president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, and Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, its general secretary, said that developers and timber barons are attacking the church for speaking out against land grabs.

Barbosa said that Bishops Erwin Kräutler of Xingu diocese in the state of Para, could not leave his house without bodyguards, and wore a bulletproof vest while celebrating Mass.

Catholic missionaries and a mission station had been repeatedly attacked in Raposa Serra do Sol in the north of Brazil. The bishop of that area, Roque Paloschi, reported “persecution by the state, by politicians who are always in favor of [large-scale] farmers and producers.”

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2007

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