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Issue Date:  December 14, 2007


Davenport settles abuse cases

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The Davenport diocese has agreed to a settlement of $37 million with 156 people who claimed they had been sexually abused by clergy in this Iowa diocese. The agreement will allow the diocese to come out of bankruptcy, though it requires approval of the bankruptcy judge to take effect.

Mike Uhde, co-chair of the Creditors Committee, which represented the abuse claimants, and a survivor of clergy sexual abuse himself, praised the mediator, retired Judge Stuart Nudelman, and Davenport Bishop Martin Amos for their roles in resolving the settlement.

Nonmonetary provisions covered by the agreement include counseling for survivors of abuse; visits by Amos to parishes where abuse occurred; publication of the names of abusers; and an opportunity for survivors to address parishes where the abuse occurred and to publish their stories in The Catholic Messenger, the diocese’s weekly newspaper.

News Corp. buys

NEW YORK -- Being acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. won’t change the interfaith character of, one of the country’s leading Web sites devoted to religion and spirituality, says the site’s founder Steve Waldman.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal -- another News Corp. property -- quoted a source who said the deal involved “tens of millions of dollars.” The site will be managed by the Fox Entertainment Group and Waldman will serve as president and editor in chief.

News Corp. also owns Fox Faith film division and HarperOne and Zondervan, two of the biggest names in Christian publishing, and has expressed interest in expanding its Christian media portfolio.

But Waldman said will retain its distinctly interfaith character.

“We’re confident that we will maintain our strong commitment to serving all faiths,” he said. “It’s part of what enabled us to create our reputation, and our reputation is part of what they’re buying.”

Court rejects faith program

DES MOINES, Iowa -- An Iowa prisoner rehabilitation program run by evangelicals oversteps church-state boundaries and should not receive government funds, a federal appeals court decided Dec. 3.

InnerChange Freedom Initiative runs a program “dominated by Bible study, Christian classes, religious revivals and church services,” ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

“The direct aid to InnerChange violated the Establishment clauses of the United States and Iowa constitutions,” the court decided.

The prison program, which is affiliated with prominent evangelical Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministry, received state funds from Iowa beginning in 2000. Part of that money should be returned to the state, the court ruled.

While participation in the program was voluntary, those who signed up got better cells, were allowed more visits from family members and had greater access to computers than other inmates, the court found.

-- CNS/
courtesy of Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Reigniting passion for the word
Pictured is a cover of the seventh-century Freer Gospels, showing the painted figures of two evangelists each holding scriptures. The artwork was part of “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000” exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington last year. Pope Benedict XVI has called a world Synod of Bishops to discuss the Bible under the theme “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” The synod is scheduled for Oct. 5-26, 2008. Synod secretary-general Archbishop Nikola Eterovic spoke Dec. 5 about the hundreds of submissions made by bishops’ conferences, religious orders and individuals to prepare for the synod. Eterovic said the responses show a widespread desire to recover the interest and enthusiasm for studying and praying with the Bible that marked the years immediately after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). “Our hope is that the synod assembly will help recover the passion for the word of God in the church,” he said.


Church roofs marked with DNA

LONDON -- British clergy, fed up with losing their church roofs to thieves, are striking back by daubing the lead and copper coverings with a high-tech liquid to provide each church with its own traceable “DNA.”

The chemical, called SmartWater, makes an individual -- and invisible -- identification mark that experts say can be read even if the metal has been melted down.

If the lead or copper can be recovered in usable form, then so much the better. But in any case, the “DNA” mark will enable police to pinpoint exactly which church the metal came from and give them a far better chance of apprehending the culprits.

Police are warning scrap dealers about the use of SmartWater and advising them not to accept scrap metal from churches.

The Church of England has seen a sharp increase in thefts of church roofs, from 80 recorded cases in 2005 to some 1,800 already this year. Insurers have paid out some $12 million worth of claims in 2007 alone.

Film explores Jesus’ ‘lost years’

CHENNAI, India -- Roman Catholic leaders in India have dismissed a proposed Hollywood film on Jesus’ “lost years” in India as just “Hollywood makers in search of a new audience rather than the truth.”

The film, “The Aquarian Gospel,” is to be directed by Drew Heriot and is scheduled for release in 2009. The movie seeks to fill in Jesus’ “lost years” between 13 and 30 with a story about him as a wandering mystic who traveled across India, living in Buddhist monasteries and speaking out against the country’s caste system.

News reports say the new film sets out to be a “fantasy action adventure account of Jesus’ life, with the three wise men as his mentors.”

The movie takes its name from a century-old book that examined Christianity’s Eastern roots. The film’s producers say it will follow the travels of Yeshua -- believed to be the name for Jesus in Aramaic -- from the Middle East to India. Casting for Hollywood and Indian actors has begun.

Quebec begs pope to visit

OTTAWA -- Marc Bellemare, a former Quebec justice minister, has launched an online petition at aimed at bringing Pope Benedict XVI to Quebec for the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in June. As of Dec. 4, 12,000 people had signed the petition.

However, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said: “I have not seen any plans for a visit to Quebec.”

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, December 14, 2007

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