National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  November 21, 2003


Edited by Dennis Coday

Sodano lauds Legionaries founder

ROME -- Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state and hence the second most powerful figure in the Catholic church after the pope, praised Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Nov. 11 at Regina Apostolorum, the university of the Legionaries in Rome.

“Dear father, I’ve seen the great work that you do,” Sodano said to Maciel, 83, while embracing him at a ceremony opening the academic year at the university. In 1997, nine former members of the Legionaries of Christ accused Maciel of sexual abuse. They brought a canonical complaint against Maciel, which was received by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but never adjudicated.

Maciel thanked Sodano for the support he has shown the Legionaries and for encouraging “this university in its birth and growth.” In 2000, Sodano came to Regina Apostolorum to inaugurate its new facility.

Sodano embraced Maciel a second time at the conclusion of his welcome. Founded in 1993, Regina Apostolorum today has 3,300 students divided into faculties of philosophy, theology and bioethics.

Matrix ‘plunders’ Christian ideas

VATICAN CITY -- Vatican Radio has given “The Matrix Revolutions” a thumbs down, saying the film plunders Christian ideas and symbols in the most shallow way, using them “in a direction opposite that of the original, in order to commercialize them.”

“The Matrix Revolutions” combines moments of postmodern mysticism with stupefying violence, the radio said in a review Nov. 10. “Here once again, New Age and Christianity have a chance to meet, but it’s not clear for whose benefit and in the respect of which culture,” it said.

Religious can’t meet with pope

ROME -- An atmosphere of “centralism” in the Roman curia has prevented direct dialogue between religious orders and Pope John Paul II, said Discalced Carmelite Fr. Camilo Maccise, the former president of the Union of Superiors General. Maccise said the lack of opportunity to meet the pope face-to-face “is a subtle way of blocking space for indispensable dialogue for intraecclesial collaboration.”

The union represents more than 240 male religious orders worldwide. Maccise served as the group’s president for six years until November 2000. The union’s last meeting with Pope John Paul was in 1990, at the end of its general assembly in Rome.

In an article in the Chilean bimonthly magazine Testimonio, Maccise said “other irrelevant minority groups and individuals foreign to the faith and to the church” have been able to meet directly with the pope, but neither his group nor its female counterpart, the International Union of Superiors General, have had the same opportunity.

Maccise said he thought the pope’s ministry should be aided more directly by bishops’ conferences than by the Roman curia.

HIV vaccine trials begin
Passionist Fr. Kieran Creagh baptizes a baby at St. George's Church in Atteridgeville, a black township outside Pretoria, South Africa. The priest is one of 24 uninfected volunteers taking part in clinical trials to assess the safety of the AlphaVax replicon Vector vaccine and measure the immune response it generates. "I feel proud and privileged to be a part of this," Creagh said.

-- CNS photo/Reuters

Croatian bishops address voters

ZAGREB, Croatia -- In the run-up to Nov. 23 elections, Croatian bishops are urging citizens to vote for political parties that oppose abortion, euthanasia and homosexual marriages. In an Oct. 29 pastoral letter, the bishops also warned politicians to conduct themselves with “dignity and honor,” while avoiding “personal insults, untruths and slander.” They also said church property should not be used for political campaigning.

The bishops told citizens that when they vote they should keep in mind the “fundamental principles that ensue from the church’s social doctrine” in making their choices. The bishops urged citizens to vote “with great moral and social awareness and responsibility.”

They said voters should support candidates who “promote justice for all, especially the most vulnerable,” and those who understand the values of tolerance, community, forgiveness and reconciliation.

“A believer does not vote for a party and individuals who act on behalf of the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and unnatural same-sex marriages,” the bishops said.

Gargoyle sponsors sought

LONDON -- Gloucester Cathedral is seeking sponsors to pay for 10 new gargoyles for the building’s south elevation, where the existing ones, over 500 years old, are almost completely eroded. The cathedral authorities hope that individuals or groups of people will make donations of $5,085 per gargoyle.

The new gargoyles will depict various animals playing musical instruments, in keeping with Psalm 148, where “beasts and all cattle, creeping things and feathered fowls” are among those exhorted to “praise the name of the Lord.” The cathedral’s master mason, French-born Pascal Mychalysin, is currently working on designs including a ram, a lion, and single- and double-headed wolves.

Carey: Anglican union ‘damaged’

LONDON -- The Rev. George Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, has added his voice to those deploring the Episcopal church’s consecration of the openly gay Canon V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. In a letter to The Times on Nov. 6 Carey wrote: “As the archbishop of Canterbury who presided over the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which declared its mind so decisively on the issue of practicing homosexuality, I can only share the principled distress of the Primates of the Global South and others who have expressed themselves so strongly in recent days.

“The damage done to ecumenical relations, interfaith dialogue and the mission of the worldwide church is incalculable.”

He joined current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in encouraging all those most deeply affected not to drift away from each other “but to strengthen the bonds of affection that remain at the heart of Anglicanism.”

He also urged people to resist the idea that this was the only issue Anglicans were interested in. “Wherever one goes in the world, Anglican Christians are working with others in issues of life and death -- poverty, conflict resolution, AIDS/HIV, relief to the very poor, and compassion to the dying,” he wrote.

Concert promotes reconciliation

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican, with the financial support of the Knights of Columbus, will sponsor a concert dedicated to the theme of reconciliation among Christians, Jews and Muslims. Gilbert Levine will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a choir with members from Pittsburgh and from Ankara, Turkey, for the Jan. 17 concert in the Vatican’s audience hall, the Vatican announced.

The concert is designed “to entrust to the effective and suggestive means of music the intention of promoting peaceful coexistence among all the children of Abraham,” said the Vatican’s Nov. 7 announcement. The Vatican offices responsible for relations with the Jews, for promoting Christian unity and for interreligious dialogue are sponsoring the concert. The January concert will feature the debut of “Abraham,” a piece for choir and orchestra composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison.

The orchestra and choir also will perform Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony.


Massgoers’ poll grades bishops

WASHINGTON -- A newly published poll says lay Catholics who regularly attend Mass give their bishops better marks now on their handling of clergy sexual abuse, but they are more concerned than they were a year ago about financial accountability and openness in the church. Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities commissioned Gallup to conduct the poll in October. The report is available on the Internet Nov. 7 at

The new survey was directed at the 656 regular Massgoers who had responded to the same poll in October 2002. For the 2003 survey, the pollsters were able to interview 309 of the original 656.

One of the more striking findings was a significant drop in the numbers who said they did not want to support an annual diocesan appeal at all or were giving money usually earmarked for the diocese to other Catholic causes.

Catholics donate $7.4 billion

WASHINGTON -- Despite previous indications that the clergy sex abuse scandal was causing a drop in church giving by Catholics, a new report says U.S. Catholics actually contributed more to their parishes in 2002 than in 2001. The report said contributions to diocesan appeals nationwide declined slightly, however.

The report by Joseph C. Harris, a Seattle-based researcher, analyzed nationwide data compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington. Based on CARA figures reporting from two-thirds of the dioceses, Harris projected that weekly offertory collections in the parishes of all U.S. dioceses in 2002 was $273 million higher than in 2001, representing a 4.9 percent increase.

His projected totals for offertory collections were $5.573 billion in 2001 and $5.846 billion in 2002. Other parish contributions brought total parish revenue in 2002 to $7.375 billion. Offertory collections generally represent 73 percent of total parish revenue, researchers say.

The average 2002 collection for diocesan annual appeals nationwide was $3.6 million per diocese, down from an average of $3.7 million the year before. Nearly half the national decline, however, could be attributed to the Boston archdiocese, epicenter of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Farm worker boycott endorsed

JACKSON, Miss. -- The National Council of Churches voted Nov. 6 to join boycotts against Taco Bell and the Mount Olive Pickle Company, the first boycotts endorsed by the council since the apartheid era. The council’s General Assembly decried the two companies’ treatment of migrant farm workers who pick tomatoes and cucumbers in Florida and North Carolina. The ecumenical body represents 36 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches. The boycotts will remain in effect until the companies launch talks with farm worker groups, raise wages and establish guidelines for working conditions.

Representatives of Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, Inc., did not immediately return calls for comment. The Mount Olive Pickle Co., based in Mount Olive, N.C., sells 70 million jars of pickles and relish each year. Mount Olive spokeswoman Lynn Williams said the National Council of Churches has not allowed company officials to speak to either its executive board or the general assembly. “We think that the demand ... they’ve placed on us is inappropriate and unrealistic,” she said.

Christian music honored

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The song “Three Wooden Crosses,” recorded by singer Randy Travis and produced by the Christian record label Word Records, was named “Song of the Year” at the 37th annual Country Music Awards Nov. 5. The song reached No. 1 status on charts ranking country music, a first for a Christian label. “You know, our world needs hope,” said Doug Johnson, who wrote the song with Kim Williams. “And if any of us can give anyone hope, well, we’ve done our job.”

Episcopal bishop grants interview

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- In his first interview since his consecration as a bishop, the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church, said his opponents have a literal view of scripture that has never been mandatory in the Anglican tradition. “I hope it won’t be true but it might be, that we might ought not to try to hold together if indeed we go about this Christian endeavor so differently,” he said.

Robinson was interviewed on the PBS television show “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” broadcast the weekend of Nov. 7-9. Episcopalians have always sought to interpret scripture rather than read it literally, he said. “We take it seriously. But we’ve never taken it literally. It’s the Word of God, not the words of God.”

Third World Anglican leaders who oppose Robinson’s consecration say he will not be welcome in their dioceses, and they will not recognize his position as a bishop. Robinson said he is not bothered by such rejections. “I’ve not been welcome in their dioceses for many years,” he said. Many who won’t recognize him also won’t recognize the dozen or so women bishops in the Episcopal church.

Activists ready annual rally

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. -- Demonstrations this year outside the training school for foreign troops in Fort Benning, Ga., will focus on South America and Iraq, according to Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Bourgeois founded SOA Watch to monitor activities at the school, once known as the School of the Americas, but now called The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. His organization’s annual weekend of protests against the school was scheduled for Nov. 21-23.

Bourgeois, a Vietnam navy veteran who earned a Purple Heart, said he sees similarities between current American foreign policy in Iraq and Latin America. “We are doing overtly in Iraq what we have been doing covertly in Latin America for decades,” he said.

The U.S. Army school trains military personnel in counterinsurgency, infantry tactics, military intelligence, counter-narcotics and commando operations. Its stated purpose is to “teach democracy.” However, Bourgeois said, “You don’t teach democracy through the barrel of a gun.”

Iraqi war casualties counted

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The war on Iraq and its aftermath have exacted a heavy toll of death and injury on combatants and noncombatants, according to a report prepared by Medact, an affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “Continuing Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq 2003” concludes that between 21,700 and 55,000 people have died since the invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces. Between 7,800 and 9,600 of the dead were civilians, the report estimates. Injured civilians number around 20,000 the report says. The report is available at in English, Arabic and Italian.


National Catholic Reporter, November 21, 2003

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: