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Issue Date:  February 22, 2008


Bishops favor stiffer penalties

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky’s four Catholic bishops expressed support for a bill in the state Legislature that would stiffen penalties for people in a position of trust who sexually abuse minors and for people who fail to report such abuse.

The bill “will effectively protect young people from sexual predators” and “will encourage public and private institutions to be vigilant in protecting children entrusted to their care,” said a statement issued by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

Under the bill, anyone in a position of trust or authority -- such as a clergyman, teacher or coach -- who has sexual contact with a minor would be guilty of a felony. The bill would raise some types of sexual abuse involving young teens from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Penalties for failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect also would be increased.

Davenport files bankruptcy plan

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Fifteen months after the Davenport diocese filed for bankruptcy, it submitted a reorganization plan with the committee that represents most of its creditors -- 156 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The plan outlines the process for distributing a $37 million settlement among creditors and identifies 17 nonmonetary measures the diocese will take to foster healing and to prevent abuse in the future.

The proposal, filed Jan. 31, could be confirmed later this spring, said Dick Davidson, the diocese’s bankruptcy attorney.

Travelers Insurance is contributing $19.5 million to the settlement, while the diocese’s share is $17.5 million. The diocese will sign over to the settlement trustee the deed for the property of its headquarters, valued at $3.9 million. The diocese has $5.7 million cash on hand and will receive $3 million toward the settlement from St. Vincent Home Corp., the foundation established after the closing of what was an orphanage, and another $2.9 million from four parishes where significant abuse took place.

-- CNS/Malea Harget, Arkansas Catholic

Responding to disaster
Fr. Ernest Hardesty, pastor of Assumption Church in Atkins, Ark., visits with parishioner Cindy Ehemann Feb. 8, three days after a tornado tore off her home’s roof. Assumption Church’s annual Valentine’s roast beef dinner became an affair of the heart for victims of the tornado that swept through Atkins, killing four people and damaging or destroying more than 100 homes and businesses. The Feb. 9 dinner turned into a fundraiser for relief efforts.


Postponing elections urged

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe’s Catholic justice and peace commission has called for the postponement of March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections. The commission said it noted impediments to free and fair elections “with grave concern.”

“The voter registration process and requirements are cumbersome, thereby limiting full participation of all citizens” and “in some areas voter registration was not adequately done,” the commission said in a Feb. 9 statement.

“There has been inadequate preparation and voter education on the electoral process,” it said.

Millions of Zimbabweans who have fled to neighboring countries and overseas to escape their country’s economic meltdown should be allowed to vote because they still contribute significantly to Zimbabwe, the commission said. Also, laws that prohibit opposition campaigning and access to information “continue to be an obstacle to the freedoms required for the preparation and conduct of a free and fair election,” it said.

Seven weeks before the elections, citizens still did not know which candidates would be running and which parties would field candidates, the commission said.

Exploitation of women decried

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI decried chauvinism and the “serious and relentless” exploitation, discrimination and violence being waged against the world’s women.

“There are places and cultures where women are discriminated against or undervalued just for the fact that they are women,” he said Feb. 9 in remarks to participants attending a Vatican-sponsored international congress, “Woman and Man: The ‘Humanum’ in Its Entirety.”

The congress was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity to mark the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”).

The pope recalled a speech he gave last year in Brazil, at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean bishops, in which he criticized the persistent “chauvinistic mentality” that “ignores the novelty of Christianity, which recognizes and proclaims the equal dignity and responsibility of women with respect to men.”

The church teaches that men and women are equal in dignity; however, there exist real sexual differences that are not cultural constructions, but are “written into human nature,” he said.

-- Newscom

For our feathered friends
British TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall poses with a chicken on his River Cottage farm in Dorset, England. The British group Catholic Concern for Animals has enlisted Fearnley-Whittingstall and another celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, to persuade the bishops of England and Wales to promote their dioceses as “free-range” users. The animal rights group -- whose members include Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham -- wants all parish, rectory, school, convent and retreat center dining halls to use only free-range poultry and eggs. Fearnley-Whittingstall is well known for his love of home-grown vegetables, herbs and fruits, and for being a strong supporter of the rights of local farmers and the principles of fair trade.

Vietnam to return nunciature

HANOI, Vietnam -- After round-the-clock prayer vigils and protests on the grounds of the former apostolic nunciature in Hanoi (NCR, Feb. 8), Vietnamese authorities have decided to return the building to the Catholic church.

City officials said the government would return the former nunciature, which the communist government confiscated in 1959, after the Vietnamese lunar new year celebrations ended Feb. 9.

Government officials informed the Hanoi archdiocese of the building’s return at a Jan. 31 meeting, but Catholics continued occupying the property.

Church sources told the Rome-based missionary news service AsiaNews that civil authorities decided to let the church have the building “to show goodwill and respect toward the pope.”

Good Friday prayer rewritten

VATICAN CITY-- Pope Benedict XVI has reformulated a Good Friday prayer, removing language about the “blindness” of the Jews but preserving a call for their conversion. The new prayer replaces the one contained in the 1962 Roman Missal, sometimes called the Tridentine rite or Latin Mass. Benedict reauthorized use of this rite last year.

The new formulation was published Feb. 5 on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The text, made available only in Latin, begins: “Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men.”

The new wording removes language some Jewish leaders and groups found offensive, including appeals that Jews “be delivered from their darkness.”

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, February 22, 2008

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