National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  December 19, 2003


Edited by Dennis Coday


Remittances outpace investment

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Latin America will receive some $40 billion in remittances from family members who have migrated to other countries, 25 percent more than in 2002, according to a recent report of the Interamerican Development Bank. Meanwhile, direct foreign investment has fallen steadily since 2000. Last year, it fell 33 percent compared with 2001, from $84 billion to $56.7 billion, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The fall in investment was due mainly to “the sharp fall in the price of shares of many transnational companies” and “the marked reduction in privatization and acquisitions of international assets,” the commission reported. In 2002, Latin America received more than $32 billion in remittances from citizens who migrated, mainly to the United States.

‘The Passion’ screened in Rome

ROME -- Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ,” was shown Dec. 4 and 6 in a small screening room in Rome to invited guests, including U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; U.S. Dominican Fr. Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Msgr. Kevin C. McCoy, rector of the North American College. It was not known if the pope watched the film directed by Gibson.

Gibson turned down a request for a private screening of the movie at a Dec. 2 conference that was part of a film festival cosponsored by the Vatican, reportedly because the film’s final version had not been completed. The film is set for a February U.S. release.

S. Africa to build peace institute

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The South African bishops are proposing creating a peace-building institute to help other African countries emerge from decades of war.

“No doubt there will be more churches in situations of conflict who will seek to learn from the experiences of South Africa, and who will request that the [bishops’ conference] play a more active role in advocacy,” said Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, vice chairman of the justice and peace department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

He said the church has “something very particular to offer” African countries seeking peace after civil war or other conflicts, including strong community networks. Plans for the institute were discussed during a Dec. 2 meeting at the Southern African bishops’ headquarters in Pretoria.

The institute could provide a place for political leaders in war-torn countries to talk off the record, “where all parties might find the space and atmosphere to make concessions and compromises in seeking peace,” a statement from the bishops’ conference said.

Irish bishops admit past failures

DUBLIN, Ireland -- In releasing a report that acknowledged the church’s past failures, Irish bishops apologized for their handling of child sex-abuse cases. Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore said the 332-page report, released Dec. 4, was an “act of sorrow” and “openness.”

“While we cannot undo the wrongs of the past, we can use this research to help us deal with victims of abuse with understanding, compassion and sensitivity,” McAreavey said. The report, commissioned by the church two years ago, made 19 recommendations for protecting children, handling complaints from alleged victims and training to prevent future abuse.

More than 100 Irish clergy have been convicted of sex offenses in the last decade. A compensation panel formed earlier this year is expected to pay up to $700 million to thousands of claimants who allegedly suffered abuse at church-run schools and orphanages from the 1940s to 1980s. The government is responsible for most of the settlement since it was responsible for supervising the institutions.

Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, president of the Irish bishops’ conference, apologized to victims and said the church failed in its “pastoral responsibilities” in handling the cases.


Faith-based programs studied

WASHINGTON -- Two recent studies asked whether faith-based social service programs are more effective than secular programs. One study answered “no” and the other “sometimes.” The conclusion of both: More study is needed.

The Charitable Choice Research Project of Indiana University and Purdue University evaluated data from 5,683 people involved in job training in two Indiana counties. Researchers found that clients trained through faith-based providers were as likely to get employment and had similar wages as those trained through secular providers. But clients of faith-based organizations were less likely to have health insurance and less likely to have full-time jobs.

A study by Pepperdine University professors conducted on welfare-to-work programs in Los Angeles found that faith-based providers who explicitly integrated religious elements into their programs were most successful in helping boost clients’ sense of optimism. Employed participants in these programs also were most likely to still have jobs six months later. But the study also found that faith-based providers were least successful at moving clients off welfare.

Traditional marriage reaffirmed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than a third of state Baptist conventions affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention affirmed marriage as the union between a man and a woman during their fall meetings. Seventeen of the 41 regional organizations made statements about the issue, which has been a major topic of discussion in light of recent court decisions concerning gay relationships.

Resolutions supporting traditional definitions of families and sometimes specifically opposing same-sex “marriage” were passed by messengers, or delegates, to meetings in Louisiana, Maryland/Delaware, Michigan, New England, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

In addition, nine state conventions voiced support for the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. The constitutional amendment would declare that marriage is between a man and a woman and would prohibit gay marriage.

Death penalty may be reinstated

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has announced that he will push for reinstatement of the death penalty in his state during the upcoming legislative session. In the wake of the announcement, a majority of Minnesota legislators have said in a poll that they oppose the death penalty. Various attempts throughout the years to vote to reinstate the Minnesota death penalty have failed. Pawlenty said he was motivated by the recent increase in violent sex offenses, including the suspected abduction of a 22-year-old college student in neighboring North Dakota.

Bishop chastises lawmakers

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Bishop Raymond Burke of La Crosse, Wis., has been criticized for writing letters to Catholic legislators chastising them for their voting records on pro-life issues. Burke, who was appointed archbishop of St. Louis Dec. 1, said he wrote the letters with the recipients’ spiritual welfare in mind. “I would be less than faithful as their spiritual leader were I not to do as much. I know this has been construed as a form of electioneering, but I can tell you it was not that at all.”

William Bablitch, a longtime state senator and state Supreme Court justice, who is Catholic, said Burke had “crossed a line” by invoking the moral authority of the church in a threatening way.

Citing the confidential nature of the letters, Burke declined to name the legislators involved, but The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper said letters went to two state lawmakers and a U.S. congressman. The paper had a copy of one letter sent to State Sen. Julie Lassa, a Democrat.


National Catholic Reporter, December 19, 2003

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