The Israeli-built wall separating Israel and the Palestinian territories constitutes a grave obstacle to peace in the Middle East, said the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem. For both nations, the wall will result in a feeling of isolation. Moreover, for many Palestinians it means the deprivation of land, livelihood, statehood and family life, the Christian leaders said in a statement on Aug. 26. Occupation remains the root cause of the conflict and the continuing suffering in the Holy Land. Israel says it is building the wall to keep out suicide bombers, but Palestinians say it is forming ghettoes, cutting them off from jobs, tourists and, in some cases, family. The church leaders said the wall would have a major negative impact on daily life.Attacks on Conscience Threaten Catholic Hospitals, A.B.A. Told
The ability of Catholic hospitals to provide services in accord with their values is under increasing attack by those opposed to the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, a priest and a law professor told the annual American Bar Association meeting in San Francisco. The Rev. Michael Place, president of the Catholic Health Association, and Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, participated in a panel discussion on Aug. 11 on Patients’ Rights: Refusal Clauses and Their Impact on Health Care Access and Rights. The refusal clauses in question are those state and federal conscience clauses that prohibit the government from forcing individuals and associations to participate in, provide or pay for abortions, sterilizations or other procedures that they oppose on religious or other conscience grounds. The freedom of Catholic institutions to refuse to perform abortions was opposed by the other panel participants, including Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, MergerWatch and the National Women’s Law Center.Non-Catholic Leader Criticizes Post-Synodal Document
The head of Europe’s largest non-Catholic church group criticized the post-synodal document on the church in Europe, issued by Pope John Paul II in June, and said he was amazed by its failure to acknowledge recent ecumenical advances. We fully understand and appreciate that in a text such as this apostolic exhortation, the Holy Father is not giving detailed prescriptions or laying down specific programs for the bishops and faithful, but rather is stating fundamental principles and perspectives, said the Rev. Keith Clements, a British Baptist minister and general secretary of the Conference of European Churches. Rev. Clements was a fraternal delegate at the 1999 Synod of Bishops for Europe, to which the apostolic exhortation was the pope’s response. Rev. Clements said he spoke for Finnish Orthodox and German Protestant representatives who had attended the synod with him. He said that the impression will inevitably be created in the minds of some readers that no account whatever is being taken of actual, significant developments in ecumenism and the partnerships in which the Roman Catholic Church is actively involved.English Bishop Suggests Women Be Allowed to Hear Confessions
An English bishop has suggested that Catholic lay women should be allowed to administer the sacrament of reconciliation. Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Malone of Liverpool said there might be circumstances in which it was more appropriate for a woman to give absolution than a man. In a new book, Healing Priesthood: Women’s Voices Worldwide, the bishop compared the confessional to a medical practice, where patients are routinely given the choice between a male and a female doctor, and he asked whether the time had come to offer Catholic women a similar choice of confessor. The bishop also questioned whether the church should continue to keep lay men and women from administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick. Bishop Malone insisted that he did not want his comments to provoke an acrimonious debate. I’m not banging a big drum. I am making a little murmur, asking: Is this worth thinking about?’ he wrote.California Legislature Ignores Bishops on Same-Sex Bill
Legislation giving same-sex couples substantially all rights, benefits and obligations of married persons was headed to California’s Gov. Gray Davis for his signature in early September, despite the opposition of the California Catholic Conference and several other organizations supporting traditional values. The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 passed the state legislature, and Davis has said he will sign the bill. Calling the bill a monumental change in state law, the California Catholic Conference urged Catholics to make their opposition known by calling the governor and their representatives in the state Assembly and Senate.
California law gives domestic partners a variety of rights, including hospital visitation, making health care decisions for an incapacitated partner and receiving health benefits if one partner is a state employee. The bill would expand previous legislation to include such rights as the joint ownership of property, the custody of children if a partner dies and the right not to be forced to testify against a partner. The bill also would include new obligations, such as paying child support if the partners break up and being responsible for each other’s debts.Activists Say Minority Religions Being Driven From Bangladesh
Rosaline Costa and Sitangshu Guha see parallels between the treatment of religious minorities in their home country of Bangladesh and recent notorious genocides in other lands. Costa, a former member of the Sisters of Charity who runs a human rights newsletter, Hotline Bangladesh, said Christians, Hindus and Buddhists are being systematically driven out of their country by those who want Bangladesh to become a Taliban-style Islamic state. Costa and Guha, a Hindu Bangladeshi immigrant to the United States and member of the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council, USA, point to violence against non-Muslims that goes unpunishedincluding rapes of all the women in a whole family or villageas evidence of a systematic campaign to squeeze minority religions out of the country. In Bangladeshi society, women who have been raped are thought to have brought shame to their whole family. Because of this, many of them move away from their home villages. Census figures show the population of minority religions has shrunk from about 30 percent in the 1940’s, at the end of British rule of the region that was then a part of Pakistan, to less than 10 percent today.Peoria Bishop Asks, What Will It Take to Get Us Mad?’
In a passionate call to defend the faith that drew sustained applause on Aug. 24 at an outdoor Mass on Peoria’s riverfront, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky declared contemporary culture is at war with Jesus Christ and asked Catholics, What will it take to finally get us mad? Will you tolerate the holiest things of our religion on a daily basis being mocked and ridiculed on TV, in the press and in the movies? he asked the crowd of 800 worshiping under a tent on the grounds of the city’s annual Irish festival. Noting that even the most blessed and glorious mother of God becomes a joke for comedians and sports writers, Bishop Jenky challenged Catholics to rise up and become more militant about what you say you believe.James P. Shannon Dies; Former Bishop Reconciled With Church
James P. Shannon, who resigned as auxiliary bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis in 1968 because he could not accept Pope Paul VI’s teaching on birth control, had been quietly reconciled with the church several years before his death on Aug. 27 at the age of 82. Although he had been excommunicated when he married in 1969, a St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocesan statement said that through the special permission of Pope John Paul II, Dr. Shannon lived his last years in full communion with our church. While under excommunication, he continued to attend Mass regularly but, in accord with church law, did not receive Communion.
In an interview with The National Catholic Reporter in 1973, he said he still considered himself Catholic and was not angry with the church. He said he had not sought laicization because he regarded it as an illegitimate canonical process. He added, Since our marriage, I have been informed that Rome would never have granted me laicization because of my having been a bishop.News Briefs
Claims that the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity secretly buried the bodies of women who died in their care are preposterous and untrue, said Sister Ann Marie Ryan, provincial superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Dublin, Ireland.
To mark Pope John Paul II’s 25th anniversary in October, the world’s cardinals plan to join the pontiff for five days of liturgical celebrations, speech-giving, discussion and a musical concert, Vatican sources said.
Regina High School, a private Catholic school operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid, said it would review its dress code after barring an Islamic student from the campus because she wore a Muslim head scarf. Current policy as published in the school handbook reads, No hats, no bandanas or head wraps are permitted.