WASHINGTON (CNS) --- Officials with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development rebutted a report that 55 agencies funded by the U.S. bishops' anti-poverty program in 2010-11 were in conflict with church teaching. Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Ralph McCloud, CCHD executive director, said the charges leveled in an American Life League study against all but one of the agencies were unfounded. McCloud told Catholic News Service Nov. 4 that funding was withdrawn from one organization cited in the report. That case involved the immigrant rights group Centro Campesino in Owatonna, Minn., which was found to be distributing condoms. McCloud acknowledged the league's role in pointing out the organization's practice. McCloud also said the 54 remaining agencies were found in compliance after a follow-up investigation by CCHD staff that involved contacting each named group. The 212-page report --- completed in March but not made public until October when it was posted on the American Life League's website, according to its primary researcher --- accused the grass-roots organizations of promoting abortion, homosexuality and Marxist ideology contrary to church doctrine. Michael Hitchborn, director of the league's Defend the Faith project and the report's author, said his research showed that the organizations violated church doctrine either through specific activities or through coalitions addressing a broad array of social concerns. The agencies in question received nearly $1.9 million in 2010-11, according to CCHD records. Overall, CCHD funded 229 organizations with national grants from a collection that netted about $9.5 million for both national and local diocesan distribution during the period.
Redemptorists urge Hanoi Catholics to remain calm after attacks
HANOI, Vietnam (CNS) --- Redemptorists at a Hanoi parish have urged local Catholics to keep calm after a mob led by government officials attacked a convent and church in early November. The Asian church news agency UCA News reported tens of thousands of people attended 10 special Masses celebrated Nov. 5-6 at Thai Ha Church in the capital. Each Mass was attended by an estimated 3,000-5,000 people. During the Masses, priests told parishioners about the attacks and appealed to them to stay calm. On Nov. 3, around 100 people, accompanied by security officials and members of the press, attacked the convent. They damaged a gate and verbally abused and physically assaulted several Redemptorist priests and laypeople. They fled after the church's bell rang out, bringing many people to the scene, UCA News reported. "We strongly condemn this violent, rude and organized attack," Redemptorist Father Joseph Nguyen Van Phuong, parish pastor, told one congregation. He urged them to "forgive them and avoid retaliation." He said the motive behind the attack probably stems from an ongoing dispute with the government over seized church property. "We are determined to fight for church property in a peaceful way and urge the government to punish the rioters," he added.
Pope condemns violence in Nigeria, prays for victims
VATICAN CITY (CNS) --- Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria and prayed for victims of the most recent wave of civil conflict there. "I am following with concern the tragic incidents that have occurred in recent days in Nigeria. As I pray for the victims, I call for an end to all violence, which never solves problems, but only increases them, sowing hatred and division even among believers," the pope said. The pope made the comments at his noon blessing Nov. 6, two days after attacks in Nigeria's northeastern states of Yobe and Borno left more than 100 people dead. The attacks targeted churches, police stations and military barracks, Vatican Radio reported. Officials blamed the violence on Boko Haram, a radical Muslim group responsible for previous attacks in the region. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, vice president of the Nigerian bishops' conference, condemned the attacks, saying that the radical group targets both Muslims and Christians. "They attack Christians and Muslims indiscriminately. Our police are Christian and Muslim, they are even targeting other Muslim leaders. Boko Haram are not anti-Christian, they are anti-civil society," Archbishop Kaigama told Vatican Radio.
Pope says prostitution, pornography threaten human dignity of women
VATICAN CITY (CNS) --- Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to prostitution and pornography, saying the practices denigrate women and represent "a serious lack of humanity." The pope made the remarks as he welcomed Reinhard Schweppe as Germany's ambassador to the Holy See Nov. 7. The pope's talk focused on the church's role in defending human dignity. "A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity," the pope said. With the "materialistic and hedonistic tendencies" that seem to be gaining space in the West, there is a growing form of discrimination against women, the pope said. "The moment has come to energetically halt prostitution as well as the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the Internet in particular," he said.
Turret at Catholic university falls as rare earthquake hits Oklahoma
WASHINGTON (CNS) --- A turret fell from the main building at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla., during a rare earthquake the night of Nov. 5. The 5.6-magnitude quake also damaged the other three turrets that sat atop the 98-year-old building. All of the turrets will have to be taken down, said university president D. Gregory Main. Classes were canceled Nov. 7, as most of the classrooms at the 500-student school are in that building, Main added. The building also houses the college's library, administrative offices, president's office, and admissions and registrar offices. Classes were to resume Nov. 8. "We are scrambling to find other places on campus" to conduct classes, Main told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 7 phone interview. Main was calling from outside the university's cafeteria because the building was closed to protect students and staff from getting injured. "Any of those (turrets) could fall down at any time," Main said. He added the turrets stand 24 feet in height from the roofline. "And they are masonry construction. There's no reinforcement. That's why it fell," Main said. The building at the Benedictine-sponsored university had originally been used to house a Benedictine monastery and an art museum. Both now have separate buildings on the campus. Main said the only other damage sustained by St. Gregory's in the quake were of "a few broken windows, exterior windows when a few (turret) bricks bounced after hitting the ground." While there was no cost estimate for the damage, Main said he expected it to be low. However, removing the turrets "needs to be started in the next couple of days. I've got to put this building back in service," he said.