Friday, January 24

'Splain to me why a Jesuit retreat house would hold a fundraiser that features a columnist who writes pieces like this.

I've only been halfway following the agitation on Mount Athos, so I didn't really get that it had gotten this bad.

For 30 years the monastery has been fighting a doctrinal war with the office of the Patriarch, head of the Orthodox Church, which favours forging closer ties with the Catholic Church.Now the Patriarch, Vartholomaios, has grown tired of the holier-than-thou attitude of those within Esfigmenou and has given the monks until the end of the month to leave.For the monks there is no question of giving into this new ultimatum. For them the monastery's resemblance more to a medieval castle than a place of worship is about to come into its own. A theological conflict is about to become a physical siege.

"The Patriarch wishes to evict us," said Abbot Methodius, "But we will not go. However he tries, we are ready for everything

.....How the Patriarch intends to enforce his will remains unclear. The monks are willing to bolt the reinforced doors and bide their time. They have a well and stores."We will not fight with weapons," laughed Abbot Methodius. "We have only our rosaries. But one thing is for sure. The only way we will leave is if we are dead."

Chicago gets three new auxiliaries

Picked by George but appointed by the Pope are:

Father Gustavo Garcia, age 46, ordained in Guadalajara, Masters degrees in Philosophy, Theoloogy and Psychology, worked with migrant workers in Los Angeles and Fresno, now head of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit based in Mexico City.

Father Thomas Paprocki, raised on Chicago's southwest side, attended Quigley South High School, earned a Law Degree and co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic. He's chancellor for the Archdiocese and is pastor of Saint Constance Parish.

Father Francis Kane attended Quigley Prep, earned a degree in theology. Director of the Office for the Ministry of Peace and Justice. He's most recently been pastor of Saint Joseph parish in Wilmette and spearheaded reopening of the parish school there that had been closed for ten years.

School denies they're raking it in with LeBron James

Should prison inmates get organ transplants?

The unidentified inmate -- the first California convict to get a new heart and only the second given a transplant of any kind -- was serving a 14-year sentence for a Los Angeles robbery at the time of his surgery. Due to be paroled in 2008, he was suffering from a viral infection that led to a gradual degeneration of his heart muscle.After he was struck with congestive heart failure, the inmate was taken to Stanford University Medical Center, where he was kept alive by a machine that made his heart keep pumping. Hospital officials determined that a transplant was medically necessary, and a Stanford ethics committee approved him for the surgery.The patient had done fairly well after the transplant and was taking anti-rejection drugs, prison officials said. But by fall, he was ailing and it appeared his body was rejecting the organ. A corrections spokesman said he "was not a model patient," suggesting he may not have been taking his post-surgery medication as directed.The prisoner died Dec. 16 at Stanford, and corrections officials estimated the costs of his transplant and related care at $2 million, including $1 million for the surgery and $12,500 a day for his stay in the intensive care unit.Officials said they were compelled to provide the transplant by court decisions concluding that denial of decent medical care to prisoners amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Denham called the inmate's transplant outrageous, saying that taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for such expensive procedures for prisoners. His bill, however, is more narrowly drawn. It would simply allow motorists who fill out forms donating their organs or tissues to specify that no incarcerated person may benefit.

LA Archdiocese faces more financial problems

....with one bright spot:

One bright light in the otherwise grim picture was that giving was up slightly in the archdiocese's annual "Together in Mission" fund, which provides subsidies to underfunded parishes and schools in the most economically disadvantaged areas. Contributions to that fund totaled $13.4 million in 2002, compared to $13.1 million in 2001.

See? People know what's important and where their money will be best used.

A weird little story from Massachusetts about a priest being investigated for fund-raising irregularities...

Do contemporary discoveries support the view that the universe is pointless and random?

Paul Davies says no

Cosmic pointlessness has also been argued on philosophical grounds on the basis that the very concept of a "point" or "purpose" cannot be applied to a system like the universe because it makes sense only in the context of human activity. Some years ago, I took part in a BBC television debate with Hugh Montefiore, then Bishop of Birmingham, and the atheist Oxford philosopher AJ Ayer. Montefiore declared that without God all human life would be meaningless. Ayer countered that humans alone imbue their lives with meaning. "But then life would have no ultimate meaning," objected the bishop. "I don't know what ultimate meaning means!" cried Ayer. His objection, of course, is that such concepts as meaning, purpose and having a point are human categories that make good sense in the context of human society, but are, at best, metaphors when applied to non-living systems.

Hispanics not entering ministry in proportion to their numbers

But while Hispanics make up about one-third of the nation's 65 million Roman Catholics, they are just 3.6 percent of U.S. Catholic clergy....

Father Solorzano, spokesman for the National Association of Hispanic Priests, said the goal is to recruit American-born Hispanics as clergy."Immigrants from Mexico are not thinking of entering seminary," he said. "They are thinking of the American dream, like work, make some money, help their relatives."But the tide is turning, given the large number of Bible institutes that are cropping up, new Catholic movements seeking priests and lay leaders, and chances for higher education for Hispanics. "While it looks like a bleak picture, there are some bright spots," Mr. Hernandez said. "Some institutions are aggressively recruiting Latinos."Of the 9,400 lay Catholics in the United States now studying for certificates in theology and church work to help at parishes, about 60 percent are Hispanic, according to recent surveys.

IRS investigating priest and his ministry (LRR)

Federal and state authorities are moving against a Catholic priest's ministry that has spent large sums of money to benefit its leaders while charging poor people millions for help, sources say.

The Internal Revenue Service, reacting to recent articles in The Dallas Morning News, has assigned a criminal investigator to scrutinize Casita Maria, a tax-exempt ministry that counsels foreigners on how to deal with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The INS' Dallas office, in turn, is urging an end to government certification of Casita Maria as an organization fit to provide such counseling. Two Dallas lawyers who formerly served on the charity's board said such unprecedented action, which needs U.S. Justice Department approval, would put Casita out of business.

INS spokeswoman Patricia Mancha confirmed that the agency's primary concern is that Casita improperly depends on client fees for income, instead of raising outside funds and offering free or nominally priced aid to the poor. She declined to comment further. ....The Rev. Justin Lucio, a priest in good standing with Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, controls the charity as executive director and board chairman. The charity receives no diocesan funding or supervision.

....Guadalupe Granados, who recently resigned from Casita's board but remains on its paid staff, told The News two weeks ago that it was the priest's idea to buy the house in DeSoto. Father Lucio conceded that point when pressed by WFAA.

Ms. Granados said that Father Lucio telephoned her to get a proxy vote approving a house loan, and that there is no record of the vote. Another board member who recently quit, Dallas lawyer Jose Pineda, said Father Lucio did not contact him about the decision.

One of the sellers of the house, Rhonda Alvarado, said the priest and the maintenance man, 28-year-old David Villatoro, paid $179,000 in cash to close the deal. She said she was shocked to learn from recent articles in The News that the money had come from fees paid by undocumented immigrants.

Ms. Alvarado said Father Lucio contacted her about three days before closing and said his loan had fallen through. "He called to assure me," she said, "that he had the cash, that he was going to borrow it from a friend."

Father Lucio later transferred the house's title to Casita, and board members decided to charge him and Mr. Villatoro $10 in monthly rent. Board meeting minutes reflect no discussion of why Father Lucio needed housing, given that he already had a home – a duplex in East Dallas that he still owns.

When WFAA asked why he needed the new house, the 59-year-old priest cited poor health and said, "It seemed to me at the time that the house in DeSoto was a little bit closer." In fact, it is several miles farther from Casita's office in north Oak Cliff than the duplex is.

....Father Lucio started Casita in 1989 after Bishop Thomas Tschoepe removed him from his last pastor's job because of sexual and financial misconduct allegations. Bishop Tschoepe let the priest run the charity as a "special assignment," as Bishop Grahmann has done since taking over the Dallas Diocese in 1990.

The priest has denied the misconduct accusations, which diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard has said were never substantiated. Mr. Havard has downplayed sworn statements by four people corroborating the allegations and the priest's acknowledgment, in a 1991 deposition, that he sometimes handled Latino parishioners' genitals when they had health concerns.

.....Asked to explain, Father Lucio said Hispanics with health concerns have no inhibitions about showing "what's wrong and what needs to be corrected. ..." "They simply go like this and they show you. And they say, look, what is – what is this?" he testified. "Yes, that's what my people do."


Another fine case from the...Grahmann Files...

Journalist writes book on the 1998 murder-suicide of a Vatican Swiss Guard and his wife

The commander of the Swiss Guard, the force entrusted with protecting the pope, and his Venezuelan-born wife were found dead in their apartment within the Vatican walls. A few feet away, a young corporal in the Guard, 23-year-old Cedric Tornay, also lay in a pool of blood. According to the Vatican's investigation, Tornay had committed the murders, then killed himself. The act was the result of a "fit of madness," brought on by the decision of the commander, Colonel Alois Estermann, to refuse a medal to Tornay - a medal Tornay had been counting on to secure his future in civilian life.

The author began to have his doubts about the Vatican's official version, however, after reading about the crimes in various Italian newspapers:

"The newspapers ascribed the deaths to an 'act of madness' on the part of the young guard, Cedric Tornay, or to jealousy and an illicit love affair between him and the commander's wife, Meza Romero," writes Follain. "One writer referred vaguely to 'peculiar aspects' of the relationships between the three; another saw the hand of a fanatical member of a sect intent on making its mark on the eve of the 'Holy Year,' which the Pope had announced would take place in two years' time, and which would bring millions of pilgrims to Rome. In the four years I had lived and worked as a journalist in the city, no other event at the heart of the Catholic Church had prompted so many different interpretations in so short a time."

According to the author, who devoted three years to investigating the crimes, there was, indeed, a love affair - but it was between the corporal and the colonel.

LA to close undergraduate seminary

The writing on the wall proved indelible. St. John's Seminary College in Camarillo will close in May with the 82 current students being given the chance to complete undergraduate studies at adjoining St. John's Seminary. It means the end of a 41-year-old Catholic campus designed to help undergraduate students advance to the seminary graduate program and then to the priesthood. Announced by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Thursday, the decision was made by directors representing the college and seminary in mid-January. Cardinal Roger Mahony said in November closure was inevitable after a task force recommended closing the college, with the seminary picking up some services.


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