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Looking at parish closures from different angles


“The Grace of Everyday Saints: How a Band of Believers Lost Their Church and Found Their Faith” by Julian Guthrie. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, 2011). 288 pp., $25.

“No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns” by John C. Seitz. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass., 2011). 322 pp., $39.95.

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Bell stolen from San Francisco cathedral

October 26th, 2011 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,


SAN FRANCISCO — A 5,330-pound church bell owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 1889 has been stolen from the grounds of St. Mary’s Cathedral, apparently for the scrap value of its copper.

The bell was reported missing at 11 a.m. Oct. 24. It has been on a concrete slab in a garden in front of the cathedral at Geary Boulevard and Gough Street since 1970.

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London Benedictines investigated over abuse cases

October 26th, 2011 Posted in International News Tags: , , ,


LONDON — At the request of the Vatican, a bishop has conducted a review of child protection procedures at a Benedictine abbey following a number of high-profile child abuse cases.

Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster and Abbot Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation, conducted the apostolic visitation at Ealing Abbey and the neighboring St, Benedict’s School during September.

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Catholic students at Jesuit house help Thai flood victims

October 25th, 2011 Posted in International News Tags: , , ,


BANGKOK — Catholic university students and staff used the Jesuit residence, Xavier Hall, as a base for relief efforts for flood victims on the outskirts of the capital.

About 30 students from the Catholic Undergraduate Center of Thailand joined hundreds of other volunteers at two relief centers in Don Muang and Chatuchak sections of the city, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

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Catholics recall Gadhafi’s brutality, look to future

October 24th, 2011 Posted in International News Tags: , , ,


BEIRUT — Catholic leaders said they could not rejoice at the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but they recalled some of his more brutal moments and speculated on the future of Christians in the region.

“Gadhafi brutalized people for 42 years. He lived by the sword and, therefore, it’s not surprising that he would die by the sword,” said Habib Malik, associate professor of history at the Lebanese American University, Byblos campus.

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The Three Musketeers

October 24th, 2011 Posted in Movies Tags:


Catholic imagery abounds in “The Three Musketeers” (Summit), the latest remake of Alexandre Dumas’ durable costume epic of 17th-century swordsmanship, French patriotism and political treachery.

A quick inventory: Aramis (Luke Evans), a former priest, blesses himself and carries a rosary. D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) has a climactic swordfight with the Englishman Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen) on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris — a sequence so overblown, one half-expects Quasimodo to pop out of his bell tower.

As always, there’s also the problematic Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), who was, of course, the real-life prime minister to King Louis XIII and a practitioner of political intrigue with England and other powers.

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‘The Mighty Macs’ is ‘Rocky’ with basketballs

October 20th, 2011 Posted in Movies Tags:


By Joseph McAleer

“The Mighty Macs” is the fact-based story of a women’s basketball team from a Catholic college who, through the grit and determination of their rookie coach, got a shot at the national title.

This old-fashioned, family-friendly film is “Sister Act” without the singing, “Rocky” with basketballs, and “The Trouble with Angels” with Ellen Bursytn in the Rosalind Russell role of the mother superior.

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Missouri bishop plans ‘vigorous defense’


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which he heads, entered pleas of not guilty to misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

The charges, brought by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in relation to the diocese’s handling of the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, were acknowledged in an Oct. 14 statement on the diocesan website.

“Bishop Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office” and the independent commission appointed by the diocese to study the matter, said Gerald Handley, the bishop’s attorney. “We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter.”

Bishop Finn said in a statement after diocesan attorneys entered the pleas in court that he “will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

The charge against Bishop Finn carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. The diocese faces a fine of up to $5,000.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, had no comment on the indictment. The diocese had no further comment.

Father Ratigan was arrested in May on state charges of possessing child pornography. In August, federal prosecutors charged him with producing child pornography. The priest, a former pastor, also is facing accusations made against him in two separate lawsuits filed this summer.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Finn also have been named in the civil suits, which accuse both of failing to keep Father Ratigan away from children apparently after learning disturbing images were found on the priest’s computer and being warned of the priest’s inappropriate behavior around children.

In early September, an independent report commissioned by the diocese to examine its policies and procedures on assessing child sexual abuse allegations found “shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures.”

The report also said that “diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports” relating to abuse claims.

After the priest’s arrest, Bishop Finn pledged to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and Baker credited him for that during a news conference announcing the indictments. The grand jury handed down the indictments Oct. 6, but they were not made public because Bishop Finn was traveling outside of the country and did not return until late on Oct. 13, Baker said.

Bishop Finn testified before the grand jury Sept. 16. Afterward, he told reporters, “We’re doing the best we can to cooperate with law enforcement.”

Several other diocesan leaders, including diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers, also testified before the grand jury, the Kansas City Star daily newspaper reported.

In the diocesan statement, Bishop Finn said that once the situation with Father Ratigan arose, the diocese began to “address the issues that led to this crisis.” He pointed to steps to reinforce and expand diocesan procedures regarding the reporting of child sex abuse. He also appointed an ombudsman charged with having “the responsibility and authority to receive and investigate reports of suspicious, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by clergy, employees or program volunteers.”

A separate vicar for clergy, Father Jerome Powers, also was appointed. The role previously had been part of the vicar general’s responsibilities.

Bishop Finn also asked for prayers for himself and the diocese as well as for the “unity of our priests, our people, the parishes, and the Catholic institutions.”

“With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” he said.

Suspicions about Father Ratigan first arose in mid-December 2010, when a laptop belonging to the priest, then pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, was turned in to diocesan officials; a computer technician found disturbing photos on the hard drive. The photos included pictures of female children at parish events, including one of a naked female child who was not identifiable.

In May, a search of his family’s home turned up a disk and hard drive with 18 different images of child pornography, Father Ratigan was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography in Clay County, followed later by the federal charges.

In a message read in parishes at Masses in early June, Bishop Finn expressed regret for the way the diocese handled information it received about Father Ratigan’s activities.

“As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have — and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters,” he said.

Contributing to this report was John Thavis in Rome. The full statement from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is available at www.diocese-kcsj.org/news/viewNews.php?nid=168.

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Chaplains object to same-sex weddings memo

October 13th, 2011 Posted in National News


WASHINGTON — Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and a group representing hundreds of other Christian military chaplains have objected to a Pentagon memo allowing military chaplains to participate in or officiate at same-sex marriages on or off military installations.

The memo was issued by Undersecretary of Defense Clifford L. Stanley Sept. 30. It followed the Sept. 20 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

Stanley’s memo said: “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate (at) any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law.”

It also said that “a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate (at) a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion.”

Archbishop Broglio has questioned how the military could allow chaplains in the U.S. armed forces to be involved in same-sex marriage ceremonies when the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits such unions.

“The Pentagon’s new policy, as outlined in these two memos, appears to ignore the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law 15 years ago and remains in effect,” Archbishop Broglio said in a statement emailed to Catholic News Service Oct. 12.

“How can Undersecretary Stanley say, on the one hand, that chaplains may take part in any private ceremony as long as it is ‘not prohibited by applicable state and local law,’ and on the other, say nothing of the federal law?” he asked.

A statement from a group called Chaplain Alliance for Liberty, which represents evangelical and Orthodox chaplains, raised the same concerns.

The alliance’s executive director, Ron Crews, told reporters that despite the Pentagon saying that chaplains are not required to participate in same-sex weddings, as stated in Stanley’s memo, he is concerned that a chaplain who refuses to perform such a ceremony will not be seen as “a team player” by the military and would be reassigned.

The Chaplain Alliance for Liberty does not allow its members to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies “under any circumstances,” he said.

Taylor Henry, spokesman for the military archdiocese, told Catholic News Service that it goes without saying that no Catholic chaplain will preside at same-sex weddings. “There is nothing that has changed in church teaching about that,” he said.

In his statement, Archbishop Broglio said the Pentagon’s new policy on chaplains and same-sex marriage “seems to undermine the will of the American people.”

“In no fewer than 29 states, men and women of goodwill have affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman,” he said. “Anywhere that the people have been allowed to decide, marriage has been reaffirmed as that union made clear by nature itself. Furthermore 41 states have statutory or constitutional ‘Defense of Marriage Acts.’”

He said the new policy “seeks to circumvent the clear will of the majority, whose unquestionable sovereignty has the last word in the system of government enshrined in the federal Constitution.”

He emphasized that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was passed through the “efforts of a substantial, bipartisan majority in Congress” and was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

“As a nation we walk down a dangerous path when appointed officials are allowed to undermine the will of the people,” Archbishop Broglio said.

“The women and men I am privileged to serve place their lives on the line every day to defend the country whose government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Let us pray that the millions who have died to ensure those liberties did not die in vain,” he said.

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Pro-life groups offer practical help to pregnant women

September 30th, 2011 Posted in National News


By Carol Zimmermann

For women facing unplanned pregnancies, the price of disposable diapers alone can be daunting.

That’s because they cost an estimated $800 per year and are just one expense among many.

And that’s why Mimi Eckstein, director of the Denver archdiocese’s Gabriel Project — which supports pregnant women and new mothers — makes sure she has plenty of diapers in all sizes to offer new mothers.
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