Clinton's reproductive rights remarks spark concern

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent remarks expanding the definition of reproductive rights to include abortion have sparked criticism and warnings from a U.S. church official and a Catholic congressman.

Clinton's comments are a "real threat" to U.S.-based international aid agencies, such as Catholic Relief Services, which do not promote or provide abortions, said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

"The news is that she's not being euphemistic anymore," McQuade told Catholic News Service in early May.

On Capitol Hill in late April, Clinton responded to a series of questions from Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a leading pro-life member of Congress and a Catholic.

"Reproductive health includes access to abortion," Clinton said. "We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care."

Friend of murdered Jesuits in Moscow expresses shock

A Chilean priest who was friends with the two Jesuits murdered in Moscow expressed sadness and shock over their deaths.

"Everything is so weird," Jesuit Father Tomas Garcia Huidobro told Catholic News Service Oct. 29. He is currently studying in Washington.

Saying he has "no idea what could have happened" to cause the murders of Jesuit Fathers Otto Messmer, 47, and Victor Betancourt, 42, Father Garcia noted that the work of the Catholic Church in Moscow "is very limited."

Father Garcia, who lived in Russia in 1999-2001, visited the priests for three months over the summer. He lived with Father Betancourt in an apartment outside Moscow before Father Betancourt moved to a downtown apartment with Father Messmer in late August.

Fathers Messmer and Betancourt were found dead late Oct. 28 in the downtown apartment. Father Garcia said that apartment contained nothing to rob.

Father Betancourt "really loved Russia. He was a regular person ... a very good person," he said.

"He didn't do anything" to provoke his death, said Father Garcia.

When asked if the priests commented on Russian politics, Father Garcia said "no."

Catholic agencies cautiously prepare for economic future

WASHINGTON -- Officials at Catholic aid agencies said it is too early to tell how the shaky economy will affect their donations and investments and noted they are cautiously preparing for the future.

John F. Galbraith, president and chief executive officer of the New York-based Catholic Medical Mission Board, said nonprofit organizations tend to react more slowly to market punches than other sectors of the economy.

Although "it is premature to look at our results (of donation revenue) in the past two months," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 30, the board has "to be prudent at this point in time."

"The psychology of the stock market is just as important as the reality of the stock market; if people think they have less money we have to prepare for it -- that they will give less money," Galbraith said. "If they are on a fixed income, they will be much more diligent. We're not going to lose them (as donors), but they will be more careful of how they allocate that portion of money they can afford to be charitable with."

Former child soldier, Brazilian bishops work against slavery

WASHINGTON -- When Anywar Ricky Richard was a teenager, he witnessed the murder of his family, was kidnapped by Ugandan rebels twice and forced to fight as a child soldier.

Although he escaped his captors both times, Richard could not run away from the memory of his childhood. In 1999, he founded Friends of Orphans, a nonprofit organization that helps former child soldiers.

Friends of Orphans and several other anti-slavery activists and organizations -- including a Brazilian bishops' agency -- were honored with Freedom Awards Sept. 15 by Free the Slaves and the John Templeton Foundation for their efforts to end forced labor around the world.

When Richard was 14, he and his brother were abducted from his village in northern Uganda, taken more than 30 miles away and forced to fight as child soldiers for the Lord's Resistance Army.

Three-and-a-half years later, they escaped while their captors slept.