Church Notes

Church Notes

Ireland: religious orders agree compensation to abuse victims By: Dan Bergin

ijpgFive religious orders in Ireland have agreed on compensation packages to make amends to past victims of abuse. The Christian Brothers has said they intend to donate €161m ( £145m) in cash and land.

The order said yesterday they will hand over up to €30m to an Irish government trust fund, and will also give €4m for counselling services. The Christian Brothers will also transfer land valued at €127m to joint ownership of Government and the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

In a statement the Christian Brothers said: “The range of incremental measures outlined above follow the Christian Brothers’ acceptance, shame and sorrow at the findings of the Ryan Report.

“We understand and regret that nothing we say or do can turn back the clock for those affected by abuse.

“Our fervent hope is that the initiatives now proposed will assist in the provision of support services to former residents of the institutions as well as the facilities, resources and scope to protect, cherish and educate present and future generations of children.”

RTE report that the Oblate Order has offered €20m, while the Presentation Brothers is offering an extra €3m. The Daughters of Charity have also announced that they are offering to contribute €10m for the benefit of abuse victims. The Sisters of Charity said last night that they have offered another €5m in additional redress.

Ireland’s minister for education, Batt O’Keeffe, has urged other religious congregations that have had cases of abuse to come forward with financial offers.

A separate report into clerical child abuse in the Dublin Diocese is due to be released later today.


US Bishops disappointed at abortion funding provisions in healthcare bill

gif The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed concern over abortion funding provisions in the Senate health reform bill, which they say “does not live up to President Obama’s commitment of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.”

The bishops urged the Senate to make essential changes its health reform bill in order to keep in place federal law on abortion funding and conscience protection on abortion, protect access to health care for immigrants and include strong provisions for adequate affordability.

They have now called the Senate health care bill an “enormous disappointment” that creates new and unacceptable federal policy for funding and coverage of abortions, as well as rights of conscience. Bishop William Murphy, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishop John Wester voiced their wish for better health care reform legislation in a 20 November letter to the Senate. They chair the bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Migration, respectively.

The letter, which was accompanied with a fact sheet on the House Stupak Amendment, urged Senators to improve the Senate health care bill in the key areas of affordability, immigration, federal funding and coverage of abortion and conscience rights.

According to the bishops, the bill “does not live up to President Obama’s commitment of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.” They cited an “abortion surcharge” that would force insurance purchasers to pay for other people’s abortions, provisions that would allow the HHS Secretary to mandate unlimited abortion coverage nationwide, and that the bill does not even allow for religious institutions to offer their own employees coverage that conforms to their institution’s teaching.

“The Catholic bishops have advocated for decades for affordable and accessible health care for all, especially the poor and marginalized,” the bishops said. “The Senate bill makes great progress in covering people in our nation. However, the Senate bill would still leave over 24 million people in our nation without health insurance. This is not acceptable.”

The bishops encouraged expanding Medicaid eligibility for those living at 133 percent or lower of the federal policy level. They also urged an end to the five-year ban on legal immigrants for accessing federal health benefits programs and said that undocumented persons should not be barred from purchasing insurance plans with their own money.

“Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority,” said the bishops.

The text of the letter can be found online at:

World Churches call for investigation of Gaza war crimes

jpgThe World Council of Churches (WCC) has asked the United Nations secretary-general to make sure that recommendations of a key report about war crimes committed during the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian armed forces in Gaza at the beginning of 2009 are properly followed up.

In an 18 November letter, the WCC general secretary Rev Dr Samuel Kobia urged the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to take steps in order to press both Israel and Hamas to “unconditionally concede the need for complete and credible investigations into their actions during the war”.

In his letter, Kobia cited “growing anxiety” amongst members of the international community that at the UN Security Council “there could be a resolution that dilutes the intent and scope of the Goldstone Report”.

The Goldstone Report, produced by a UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone and released in September 2009 found evidence of both parties committing actions which amount to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during the three-week long armed conflict.

The report recommended that the UN Security Council require Israel and relevant Gaza authorities to report to it, within six months, on investigations and prosecutions both parties should carry out with regard to the violations identified in the report. If independent proceedings were not carried out in good faith, the Security Council should refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

“If the recommendations of the Goldstone Report were pursued, it would send a strong message to combatants in all conflicts that nations or groups cannot act with impunity, and that there must be appropriate channels of accountability for the perpetrators of crimes in any form of conflict”, Kobia pointed out in his letter to Dr Ban Ki-moon.

“During the Gaza War, civilians on both sides suffered and yet atrocities were significantly higher among the Palestinian population”, Kobia stated. “The people of Gaza have suffered enough, and they deserve a respite in the knowledge that the perpetrators of indiscriminate violence against them will be brought to book.”

As “durable peace, reconciliation and healing between Palestinians and Israelis should be based on justice”, Kobia added, “the need of the hour is an unequivocal affirmation of the highest principles of justice, human rights and humanitarian practices”.


To read the full text of the letter from the WCC general secretary to the UN secretary-general see:

UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict:

WCC solidarity with churches in the Middle East:


Church challenged to broaden its moral scope By: Ellen Teague

ijpg The Catholic Church has been urged “to get away from being a church primarily involved in sexual morality” by Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby. Speaking to an audience of around 1,000 supporters at CAFOD’s annual Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture in London on 27 November, she called for church leaders nationally and regionally to engage with politicians on a broad spectrum of social justice issues. Her talk, entitled ‘Capitalism, Catholicism and Community: Harmony or Dissonance?’ touched on some of them.

Lobbying governments to honour their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals was a key issue, in her view. She complained that the UN target of richer nations providing 0.7% of their national income in aid to poorer ones “is a long way from being met” and she contrasted it with “the huge debt being racked up to save the banks”. Britain’s aid, as a percentage of national income, stands at 0.43% and in the US the figure is considerably lower at 0.18%. She also urged the churches to promote the Tobin Tax, a tax on international financial transactions which would potentially raise more than US$ 420 bn a year for such things as public services, green energy and funding the Millennium Development Goals. “Fifty-eight countries have embarked on an intergovernmental working group to study the tax but the UK is not a member” she noted.

Baroness Williams also felt Churches could also do more to raise awareness of climate change. “I’ve rarely heard a sermon on climate change in my parish, but the parishes should take up this moral issue” she said; “after all, papal encyclicals have addressed it, albeit in passing”.

She felt Catholic schools should move towards becoming eco-schools, having recently visited one in Northumberland which generated its own electricity from windmills in its grounds. They could then speak at their local parishes and educate Catholics in the pews.

The veteran politician felt there should be more dialogue between politicians and clergy at local level to inform moral issues being addressed at a national level. “Life sciences, for example, is just one of the heavily moral issues that comes up increasingly”, she said; “human trafficking is another”. There was laughter throughout the room when she suggested that “perhaps one reason for the distance between Catholic clergy and politicians is that clergy don’t always relate well to women, such as me!”.

She expressed deep appreciation for the inspiration of the Church’s “distinguished” Social Teaching, particularly the 1965 document, ‘Gaudium et Spes – the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’. Also, for proponents of liberation theology in Latin America, such as Brazilian church leaders Dom Helder Camara and Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, and their identification of structural sin. Yet she lamented that “as the influence of Vatican II falls, so does public perception of the Church and its Social Teaching”. She outlined three miracles she had witnessed during her time in politics – the peaceful fall of the Soviet Union, the peaceful of apartheid in South Africa and the reign of the Pope who was regarded as a stop-gap candidate at the time of his election in 1958 but called the ground-breaking Second Vatican Council – Pope John XXIII. The audience of CAFOD and Justice and Peace activists cheered.

The lecture was chaired by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master General of the Dominican Order and a member of CAFOD’s Board of Trustees. It was preceded by a presentation from CAFOD Director Chris Bain, who explained that CAFOD partners have been hit by “a double whammy” this year of recession and climate change. He felt December’s climate summit in Copenhagen is critical for global agreement to reduce emissions to keep global temperature rise below two degrees, and urged supporters to attend ‘The Wave’ events in London on Saturday 5th December. The vote of the thanks was expressed by Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam and Chair of CAFOD, who is joining Archbishop Vincent Nichols at ‘The Wave’ ecumenical service next weekend.

Baroness Shirley Williams is a renowned politician and academic. Serving as a life peer in the House of Lords, she is also Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a member of the Tablet Trust.

Details of The Wave service and march on 5th December can be found at:


Thanks to Independent Catholic News

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