Bishops and other Catholic leaders responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the use of the RU-486 abortion pill with dismay, bewilderment and a firm resolve to continue the fight against abortion in all forms. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said that the F.D.A.’s decision was a setback for the common good of our society. The use of RU-486 furthers the myth that abortion is a private matter without broader social implications, he said. It advances the claims of abortion rights advocates who insist the main issue in this debate is one of individual choice, not the protection of human life.
Never has this nation had a stronger reason to fear for the loss of its basic decency and honor, said Archbishop Edward M. Egan of New York. It is time for all citizens to speak out for an abandonment of the culture of death and a recommitment to the culture of life. Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark said he was bewildered that the agency refused to accept much well-documented testimony about the complications that this drug can inflict on the women who may use it.
Rebels Murder Italian Missionary in Northern Uganda
Rebels murdered an Italian missionary in northern Uganda, said MISNA, the Rome-based missionary news agency. Members of the Lord’s Resistance Army shot and killed Comboni Father Raffaele Di Bari on Oct. 1 as the priest was traveling by car from his mission in Pajule to the small village of Acholi bur, where he was to celebrate Mass and baptize several children, MISNA reported. The agency said that a nun and a catechist who were also in the car escaped unharmed. Father Di Bari, 71, had been working in Uganda since 1959 and had often spoken out against the Lord’s Resistance Army, said MISNA.
Pope Defends Controversial Vatican Document on Salvation
Responding to sharp criticism from other religions and other Christian churches, Pope John Paul II defended a Vatican document on salvation, saying its affirmation of Christ as the one true savior was not arrogance. The pope said the document had been subject to mistaken interpretations. He said the text, far from being an effort to weaken interreligious or ecumenical cooperation, offered a framework for meaningful dialogue. The document clarifies the essential Christian elements, which do not obstruct dialogue but illustrate its foundations, because a dialogue without foundations would be destined to degenerate into empty verbosity, he said.
Patriarch Calls Palestinian State Only Way to End Mideast Violence
As Israeli-Palestinian violence increased and the death toll mounted, Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah said the only way to prevent such conflict is to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. These sorrowful and painful events prove to all that there is no choice but to have justice for the Palestinian people, who must be given back their entire freedom and own independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, said Patriarch Sabbah. This will lead to real stability for both Israelis and Palestinians and the entire region, he said.
Religious Leaders Urge Use of F.H.A. Surplus for Housing
More than 400 U.S. religious leaders, nearly a third of them Catholic, urged President Clinton and other politicians to use a record $5-billion Federal Housing Administration surplus to build more affordable housing. The interfaith coalition statement said, We feel that using all available funds to end the housing crisis is a moral imperative, a sacred moment that cannot be shunned.... Release the $5 billion in surplus funds to provide housing for low-income families and their children. The F.H.A. is an agency of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that insures loans for first-time and low- to moderate-income home buyers.
Detroit Newspaper Cartoon Called Blatantly Anti-Catholic’
The head of the Michigan Catholic Conference and a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit have demanded an apology from the Detroit Free Press for its Sept. 26 editorial cartoon, which they described as anti-Catholic. The six-panel cartoon by Mike Thompson blasted a school voucher proposal on this fall’s ballot in Michigan. The cartoon was drawn as an ad for the amazing Vouch-O-Matic, a school vouchers machine that slices, dices, chops and shreds cherished constitutional principles, sucks millions [of dollars] out of public education and blows enough smoke to blind thousands of voters. Its final panel says, To order, rush your tax dollars to: The Roman Catholic Church c/o Kids First! Yes! ORDER NOW! Kids First! Yes! is the name of the coalition that led the petition campaign to put the voucher proposal on the ballot.
Pope to Travel to Syria Early Next Year
Although the Holy Year will have officially ended by then, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to continue his jubilee pilgrimages by going to Damascus in Syria early in 2001. The trip, likely to take place at the end of February or early in March, also will include a stop in Maltapart of a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul, a Vatican source said. A Vatican advance team was scheduled to visit Syria during the first week of October to work out a detailed itinerary and to deal with the hundreds of technical details associated with a papal trip.
Sierra Leonean Victims of Rebel Amputations Urge World Action
Children and adult victims of forced amputation by rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war urged the United States and the international community to help stop the terrorizing violence. The war is not tribal, and it is not religious, said 27-year-old Muctar Jalloh, testifying at a hearing before the Africa Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. Six children and another adult who had limbs cut off by rebel soldiers also appeared. It is largely a war over control of diamonds: little pieces of rock that people around the world like to wear on their fingers and from their ears, said Jalloh, whose right hand and right ear were cut off by a machete-wielding rebel.
California Bishops Stay Neutral on Voucher Ballot Question
While neither endorsing nor opposing the school voucher initiative on November’s state ballot, the Catholic bishops of California have issued a statement criticizing exaggerated and unfounded claims on both sides of the issue. The bishops were especially critical of negative assertions which imply that institutions such as Catholic schools lack accountability or properly credentialed teachers. The statement urged that negative campaigning about Proposition 38 be recognized for what it isthe enemy of the common good and of the educational needs of all of California’s children. If passed, the initiative would authorize the state to issue $4,000 payments per pupil to be used at private or religious schools.
The statement praised the splendid educational accomplishment of the state’s Catholic schools and the countless men and womenmany of them Catholic parishionerswho provide dedicated service and leadership to society through their efforts in public education. The bishops said they are greatly disappointed in the negative advertising which pits one system of education against another.
Archbishop McCarrick at White House Session on Debt Relief
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., and other religious and congressional leaders joined President Clinton at the White House on Oct. 2 to urge Congress to fund the full U.S. share of an international debt relief plan for the world’s poorest nations. The archbishop was among more than 20 legislators and religious leaders Clinton brought together for a strategy session in hopes of pushing Congress to pass his proposed $435 million in debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries.
Families of Murdered Churchwomen Sue Salvadoran Officers
A civil suit against two former Salvadoran military officers involved in the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen 20 years ago has renewed interest in the abuses committed during El Salvador’s civil war. The relatives of two Maryknoll sisters, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, an Ursuline sister, Dorothy Kazel, and a lay missionary, Jean Donovan, have brought a civil action against former Salvadoran National Guard chief, Ret. Col. Eugenio Vides Casanova, and the ex-minister of defense, Jose Guillermo Garcia, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The action, supported by the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, seeks to establish that the two officers knew about the 1980 murders and actively covered up who was responsible for ordering them. Both have been living legally in the United States for more than a decade, but could lose their residency if their part in the conspiracy is proven, lawyers say.
Under intense pressure from the U.S. government, five guardsmen were put on trial in 1984 and sentenced to the maximum 30 years in jail. Although the guardsmen admitted having taken part in the killings, they later said that they were acting on superior orders. Three of the five were released on conditional parole in 1998. Human rights groups estimate that more than 80,000 people were killed during the 1980-92 conflict. A sweeping amnesty law, passed at the end of the war, assured freedom from prosecution for senior army officers and former guerrillas implicated in killing civilians during the conflict.