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Issue Date:  April 18, 2008


Ad identifies ‘moral crisis’

NEW YORK -- Presented as “a message on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S.,” the Catholic reform group Voice of the Faithful ran a full-page ad in the April 8 New York Times that called on “all Catholics to transform our church.”

Benedict will visit Washington and New York April 15-20. Citing the lingering human suffering and financial cost of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the ad said the church faces a moral crisis.

The ad, which was paid for by more than 1,000 donors, according to a statement from the organization, called for Benedict and “all our bishops” to meet with victims of clergy sex abuse, “embrace full lay participation” in the church and “have full financial transparency and accountability.”

“Pope Benedict should call for the resignations of those bishops who repeatedly reassigned predator priests,” the ad said. A copy of the ad is at

“We … believe that the transformation of our beloved church is possible,” said the group’s president, Dan Bartley. “We … encourage all Catholics to participate in this transformation.”

Civil War-era law may apply

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. -- A Virginia court has ruled that a Civil War-era law applies to a property dispute between the state’s Episcopal diocese and 11 congregations that have seceded from it. The statute in question, which dates to 1867, relates to the settlement of property when there is a division in a church or religious society.

The 11 breakaway churches have gathered as the Anglican District of Virginia. They are now fighting with the Virginia diocese and the Episcopal church over who gets to keep church property worth tens of millions of dollars.

While leaders of the district claimed the ruling as a victory, the Virginia diocese, in a statement, noted that the court has not made a decision on the property issues on this matter and still has constitutional matters to address at a May 28 hearing.

“Theological disagreements within the Episcopal church ... are ours to resolve according to our faith and governance,” the diocese said.

Church to donate tax rebate

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Members of an Asheville, N.C., church have pledged to give to charity the tax rebates they receive under the economic stimulus package approved by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush earlier this year. Under the plan, 100 million U.S. households can expect tax rebates in May and June worth $600 per adult and $300 per child.

The 33 households in the Circle of Mercy Congregation could have around $25,000 available to “give away all or part” of “to organizations that foster justice,” according to an open letter the church sent to the president and their members of Congress.

The letter criticized the rebate goal of boosting consumer spending and notes the “frightening, and escalating, pattern of economic disparity” both within the United States and between nations, saying, “In the language of our faith, this disparity is a sin and the evidence of spiritual distress.”

“We do not believe that shopping is an appropriate response to our trauma,” the letter said.

-- Getty Images/Daniel Berehulak

Beijing boycott urged
Free Tibet supporters stand in Trafalgar Square fountain April 6 in London as the torch for the 2008 Beijing Olympics is carried to the Houses of Parliament. Demonstrators tried to stop the torch’s progress to protest China’s human rights record and actions in Tibet. The same day, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federally mandated religious freedom watchdog, urged President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics unless “there is substantial improvement” in China’s treatment of Tibet. The nine-member panel said China must open “direct and concrete talks” with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhism, before Bush attends the opening ceremonies. The commission urged Bush to visit Tibet and to request a meeting with political prisoners and dissidents. The idea of boycotting the opening ceremonies has been floated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said April 7 that Bush plans to attend.


Church details forced labor use

BERLIN -- Germany’s Catholic church released April 8 a detailed report of its use of forced laborers in the Nazi era. The 703-page report, “Forced Labor and the Catholic Church 1939-1945,” documents the fate of 1,075 prisoners of war and 4,829 civilians who were forced to work for the Nazis in nearly 800 Catholic institutions -- mainly hospitals, homes and monastery gardens -- as part of the war effort.

The church in 2000 acknowledged its use of forced labor under Hitler. It has paid $2.4 million in compensation to foreign workers and financed some 200 “reconciliation” projects. But the report is the most thorough look at the issue so far.

Runners mark anniversary

DAEGU, South Korea -- About 200 runners gathered at St. Justin Major Seminary in Daegu for the first of a series of marathons, part of preparations for the Daegu archdiocese’s 100th anniversary celebrations. The anniversary is in 2011.

For the “111 Pilgrimage Ultramarathon,” 186 runners opted for a 111-kilometer (about 68 miles) route passing through sites of religious significance in the archdiocese. Of those, 154 completed the run. Fifteen of 17 runners completed a shorter, 42-mile route.

The Daegu Catholic Marathon Club organized the event. Norbert Chung Woong, 51, of Seoul, who ran the shorter course, said the experience reminded him of the journey of faith where one “runs with God.”

Christian politics questioned

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Church leaders have questioned the need for Christian political parties to exist because such parties have not fought effectively for the values of the kingdom of God.

Fr. Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops’ Interreligious Affairs Commission, recently expressed this concern when he declared that many Christian politicians “do not orient their political activities toward the values of the kingdom of God but their own interests.”

He made this remark during a seminar for leaders of churches, nongovernmental organizations and political parties on “The Role of Christians in Politics” held last month to discuss the 2009 general election. About 200 people attended.

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, April 18, 2008

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