NCR Today

Morning Briefing

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Vatican ridicules report of plot to kill the pope

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ROME -- In response to a report today about a secret letter from a former high-ranking Vatican cardinal warning of a plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI within the year, a Vatican spokesperson today said it consists of “ravings which in no way should be taken seriously,” and is “so incredible as to defy comment.”

tThe report, carried by the Italian paper Il Fatto Quotidiano, is based on a letter allegedly penned by Colombian Cardinal Dar'o Castrillón Hoyos, 82, who served from 1996 to 2006 as the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy.

Religious celebrate in Uganda

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I wonder what stereotypes you have of the religious in Africa? I had some when I came, imagining them, perhaps, as a bit stodgy. That was until one of the first nights when they began spontaneously dancing along with some entertainers who were showing some cultural dances. In Africa (I should have known better) music touches everyone, and the livelier the music the deeper the impact.

African religious choose new leadership

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Kampala, Uganda -- Daughter of the Sacred Heart of Mary Sister Marie Therese Diene, from Senegal, and Comboni Father Julio Ocana Iglesias, from Ethiopia, today were elected president and vice-president of the Confederation of Conferences of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, or COMSAM. The group was formed in 2005 and is meeting for only its second time, in Kampala, Uganda.

A pan African group of religious men and women, COMSAM aims to offer a stronger and more united voice to Catholic issues, including religious matters and violations to justice and peace and human rights on the African continent.

The work of COMSAM represents a greater presence for the church in Africa, still viewed as a relatively young church, but one that has grown significantly in the last century.

Contraception clash leads to more questions than answers

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Rarely have I felt so torn about an issue as I do in this current debate on contraceptive coverage in the health care law. On the one hand, I have never understood the official church position on contraception, and apparently, neither have 98 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age who use it. It always struck me as something out of the Dark Ages.

On the other hand, I believe in religious freedom. I don't think anyone should be forced by anyone to do something that violates his or her conscience.

If you haven't been following the news, here is the nub of the story: Under a ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services, based on the new health care law, employers must provide contraceptive coverage in employee health care plans without a co-pay -- unless they have a "religious exemption."

"Religious exemptions" can be granted to institutions that employ and serve mainly those of their own religious tradition. So exempt Catholic institutions would include the USCCB, diocesan agencies, religious orders (they need contraception?), Catholic parishes and parish schools.

A plea for compromise

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A reader called to tell me that something was bothering her about the news coverage she has seen on Catholic reaction to the Obama administration’s mandate on contraceptive coverage in health care plans.

The mandate has only a narrow exemption for employers who are opposed to contraception. The U.S. Catholics bishops are vehemently opposed to that provision and many other Catholic leaders have joined them in opposing it.

El Salvadoran accused in priest slayings indicted on perjury charges

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From the Boston Herald:

A former El Salvadoran government minister accused of colluding with other officials in the murder of six Jesuit priests now faces up to 40 years in prison after a grand jury indicted him on perjury charges, authorities said.

Inocente Orlando Montano of Everett tried to hide his military experience from immigration officials and lied about when he entered the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in announcing indictments against the 69-year-old Salvadoran.

Vatican abuse summit: Web-based 'Center for Child Protection' launched

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ROME -- As the final act of a four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse crisis, a new internet-based “Center for Child Protection” was unveiled this afternoon in Rome, designed to educate priests, deacons, and other church personnel in fighting child abuse.

tAccording to German Deacon Hubert Liebhardt, an educational scientist who serves as director of the new center, its aim is “to promote a culture of vigilance in Catholic environments.”

tWith a budget of $1.6 million over its first three years, the center will provide on-line training and certification programs in German, English, Italian and Spanish. It’s a joint project of the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome, the Munich archdiocese, and the University of Ulm in Germany.

tInformation on the center can be found here: www.elearning-childprotection.com

tThe launch of the center formed the conclusion of the Feb. 6-9 Vatican summit, titled “Towards Healing and Renewal.” It brought together more than 100 bishops and religious superiors from around the world to discuss the church’s response to the clergy abuse scandals.

Vatican abuse summit: A 'new baseline' for the church

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ROME -- A four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse crisis signals “a new baseline”, meaning a new “agreed standard of the Roman Catholic Church” in dealing with the issue, according to one of the participants.

tFr. Brendan Geary, a Scottish member of the Marist order who works in the United States, defined that baseline in the following terms:


  • “We start by listening to victims, and we honor their experience.”

  • “We’re trying to become leaders in the world in the protection of children, not following behind others.”

  • “In the words of Pope John Paul II, there is no place in the Catholic church for those who would abuse children.”


tCommitment to those three principles, Geary said, “came across clearly from every part of the world” during the Feb. 6-9 event.

tGeary spoke in a session with reporters on the final day of the four-day symposium, titled “Towards Healing and Renewal.” It has been held at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University, in cooperation with several Vatican departments.

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June 16-29, 2017

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