National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  February 13, 2004


Edited by Dennis Coday

Historic ruins uncovered

JERUSALEM -- Israeli archaeologists have uncovered impressive remains of the Tiberias Crusader fortress gate and walls as well as other architectural elements dating back to Roman-Byzantine times, Israel’s Antiquities Authority announced Jan. 22.

The discovery was made during excavations in the summer of 2003 but news of the find was made public only last month to coincide with the conference, “Excavations and Research in the North of Israel,” which took place that day at Haifa University. Tiberias is on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

A portion of the 12th-century Crusader fortress north of the wall containing a basalt gate more than 9 feet wide is in excellent condition. The wall’s facade, which consists of large ashlars -- hewn stones of high quality -- was excavated to a depth of about 13 feet.

Anglicans seek to repair relations

VANCOUVER, Canada -- A coalition of dissident conservative Anglicans in Greater Vancouver suffered a setback as one of its nine founding parishes has decided to restore relations with liberal Bishop Michael Ingham.

The lay leadership of St. Martin’s Parish in North Vancouver has decided to go through official Anglican channels to hire a replacement priest and to stop its protest of withholding annual dues to the diocese.

The parish wants a priest “and the only way to do that is to go through the diocese and pay our assessments,” said Lindsay Buchanan, 46, a parish lay leader.

The nine parishes, called the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, has for 18 months defied the authority of Ingham, seeking to operate under an external bishop and withholding more than $500,000 in dues.

Still, St. Martin’s Parish remains painfully divided over how much loyalty to show Ingham. Buchanan says St. Martin’s is “a conservative parish looking for a conservative priest” who won’t bless same-sex unions. Some members of the congregation say they will never accept Ingham as their spiritual leader.


Priests blast rhetoric on gays

Rochester, N.Y. -- Thirty priests here have signed a letter saying the Vatican’s rhetoric toward gays and lesbians is unnecessarily harsh, although they say they support church teaching against homosexual acts.

The letter follows a similar letter signed in December by nearly two dozen priests in Chicago who called Vatican rhetoric “vile and toxic.”

“Language can destroy or build up,” Fr. Joe Marcoux, a signer who serves three Rochester parishes, told the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. “These people have value in our church. They have gifts that our church needs. Every person has an inherent dignity because he or she was created in God’s image.”

Peace activists subpoenaed

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Three Iowa peace activists have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury the second week in February as part of an investigation that the activists believe is being conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Des Moines Register reported Feb. 5.

Brian Terrell, Patti McKee and Elton Davis say they have been ordered to testify in federal court Feb. 10 about “possible violations of federal law.” Authorities also have subpoenaed membership and meeting records involving the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a 65-year-old legal organization that frequently has been involved in social activism and the defense of public protesters. Drake University is in Des Moines.

Government officials won’t say what kind of crime the investigation involves, the Register reported. But the activists say the subpoenas were served by a sheriff’s detective who works with the federal terrorism task force.

Terrell, a member of the Catholic Peace Ministry and frequent war protester, told the Register, “We’re just speculating on what this may be. I think it’s part of the fact that more and more authorities are seeing dissent as criminal.”

Activists said they think they will be questioned about a November conference that included protests against the war in Iraq and civil disobedience outside Iowa National Guard headquarters.

Laity survey priests on celibacy

CHICAGO -- The Catholic reform organizations Call to Action and FutureChurch are surveying priests about optional celibacy. To date, members of the organizations have mailed anonymous surveys to all diocesan priests in 52 dioceses in the United States. The surveys ask the question: “Do you favor an open discussion of the mandatory celibacy rule for diocesan priests?” By the end of January, results had been compiled from five dioceses.

Buffalo, N.Y.: Twenty-eight percent (160 of 580) of priests responded. Sixty-eight percent favored discussion, 24 percent did not, 8 percent were unsure.

Dubuque, Iowa: Forty-six percent (102 of 222) of priests responded. Fifty-six percent favored discussion, 39 percent did not, 4 percent were unsure.

Indianapolis, Ind.: Thirty-four percent (56 of 166) of priests responded. Eighty-four percent favored discussion, 16 percent did not.

Oakland, Calif.: Forty-one percent (126 of 301) of priests responded. Eighty-four percent favored discussion, 14 percent did not, 2 percent were unsure.

Syracuse, N.Y.: Forty-two percent (130 of 312) of priests responded. Seventy-three percent favored discussion, 22 percent did not, 6 percent were unsure.

Call to Action members Jim and Sally Orgren of Buffalo, N.Y., initiated the surveys after 163 priests from Milwaukee, Wis., signed an open letter in August calling for an open discussion of optional celibacy.

Striking workers make pilgrimage

LOS ANGELES -- Organizing a “Grocery Workers Justice Pilgrimage,” California religious leaders accompanied striking workers on a journey from Los Angeles to the San Francisco area to deliver 10,000 cards and letters urging a key supermarket official to return to the negotiating table in the 4-month-old labor dispute.

After a morning prayer service Jan. 27 at a Los Angeles supermarket hit by the strike, some two dozen California clergy and 50 grocery workers and their families boarded a bus to head north, according to the organizer, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

The next morning, workers, clergy and additional supporters met at a Safeway supermarket in Alamo, Calif., near the home of Safeway CEO Steve Burd. About 250 people walked about half a mile from Safeway toward the Burd home. A small delegation of clergy, rather than the entire crowd, made the final approach to the gated hilltop community where Burd lives. A Safeway representative met them and prayed with them.

The workers say current contract offers threaten their health care benefits. The strike also involves workers from the Ralph’s and Albertson’s supermarket chains.

Gay civil unions gain support

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Slightly more than one in four American Catholics (28.7 percent) say their church should open the sacrament of marriage to gay couples, and nearly 40 percent say gays should be able to enter into civil marriages, according to a new poll.

While a strong majority (63 percent) of U.S. Catholics supports church teaching against homosexual acts, parishioners showed stronger-than-expected support for gay civil unions, despite lobbying from church leaders -- especially in Massachusetts -- to oppose such unions.

A joint poll by LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and Zogby International found that a majority of Catholics -- 56 percent -- support civil unions for gay couples that allow most legal benefits of marriage. When asked about legalizing “gay marriage,” support fell to 38 percent.

Muslims drive to register voters

WASHINGTON -- A major drive to register Muslims to vote took place across the country the weekend of Feb. 1, which was also the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, hopes to register 100,000 voters by election day in November.

The holiday marks the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael. The holiday comes at the end of the annual pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca.

The council said it held at least 33 voter registration drives nationwide. The group estimates that there are 6 million to 7 million Muslims in America, about half of whom are eligible voters, and half or less of those are currently registered.

Prison faulted for Geoghan’s death

An investigative report on the murder of John Geoghan in his prison cell last August blamed “major administrative breakdowns” for an unwarranted transfer that placed the defrocked priest among some of the state’s most dangerous inmates.

The report was released Feb. 3. It says that Geoghan, 68, who was serving a 10-year sentence for fondling a child, should not have been moved from the MCI-Concord prison, where he was originally assigned, to the protective custody unit at the prison in Shirley, where he was killed by another inmate Aug. 23.

Joseph L. Druce, a self-proclaimed homophobe serving a life sentence for killing a gay man, allegedly beat and strangled Geoghan to death.

Edward A. Flynn, the state public safety secretary, said the ex-priest would not have been killed if correction officials had followed written policies. He also said “strong indications” in the report of employee misconduct could lead to disciplinary action or possible prosecution.

The report said Geoghan was “unduly harassed and physically abused.” It said one guard at MCI-Concord slapped Geoghan in the face and guards there filed numerous “overzealous and unwarranted” disciplinary reports on Geoghan for “minor” infractions. The number of reports against him played “a significant role” in Geoghan’s being reassigned to a more dangerous security classification, it said.


National Catholic Reporter, February 13, 2004

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