Jesuits sued over sex abuse bankruptcy

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Lawyers representing a group of people who accuse Jesuit priests of sexual abuse filed 37 lawsuits Thursday in bankruptcy court, asking for about $3 million. The lawsuits claim that the Roman Catholic order paid money to various entities before declaring bankruptcy two years ago, and that that money should actually be part of the order’s assets. Some of money went towards training priests and other funds were spent on faculty and student tuition at a time when abuse victims were seeking millions in dollars in damages against the order, said James Stang, the attorney for creditor’s committee that brought the lawsuits. Stang said the suits do not contend that the Jesuits were trying to protect their assets from abuse claims. The Jesuits’ Northwest Province filed for bankruptcy in 2009 in the face of sex-abuse lawsuits.

In Italian sex scandal, Vatican caught in a bind

VATICAN CITY (RNS) No major Western European leader in recent years has been a more stalwart ally of the Roman Catholic Church than Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi’s stands against euthanasia, living wills, in-vitro fertilization and domestic partnerships have put his country in line with Catholic teaching, and out of sync with all other major countries in the region, including traditionally Catholic Spain. His government has also granted large financial subsidies to Catholic schools, and expanded tax breaks for church-owned businesses. Yet in Berlusconi’s increasingly public personal life, the billionaire businessman-turned-politician is not exactly a model of Catholic values. After months of ever more graphic reports of wild parties and sex with young women, including several alleged prostitutes, a judge on Tuesday (Feb.

Marriage seminar sparks Chick-fil-A boycott

HARRISBURG, Pa. (RNS) Amy Goropoulos’ stomach and her ethics do not agree on Chick-fil-A. She used to visit the restaurant with her husband and coworkers, but she recently quit the chicken cold turkey. The Christian-owned fast-food chain has become the center of a national maelstrom for supporting a recent (Feb. 11-12) marriage seminar in central Pennsylvania sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative research and education organization associated with Focus on the Family.

Friday’s Religion News Roundup

Here’s how it’s looking out there as we slide into the weekend … From the Dept. of Oops They Did It Again, the Archdiocese of Louisville says a defrocked priest who was on probation for abuse shouldn’t have held a seat on a parish council. Up in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley is launching a month-long “consultation” with disgruntled parishioners over the fate of shuttered churches. Out in Oregon, sex abuse victims are suing various groups who got money from the Jesuits, essentially arguing that they skipped the line and prevented the Jesuits from being able to pay to settle abuse lawsuits.

Quebec mayor vows to fight order to remove crucifix

TORONTO (RNS) The mayor of a Quebec town says he will appeal a decision by a human rights tribunal that bans prayer at city council and ordered him to remove a crucifix from the council’s chambers. Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay said he will refuse to heed the judgment from the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that also ordered him to remove a Sacred Heart statue. The tribunal ordered the town to pay $30,000 in damages to the local resident who complained about the religious symbols, ruling they infringed on his freedom of conscience. The town is roughly 90 percent Catholic. Tremblay has set up a toll-free telephone line and posted a link on the town’s website to solicit donations for his legal battle.

Grassroots group pressure King on Muslim hearings

WASHINGTON (RNS) House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King is facing grassroots pressure to cancel his planned hearings on the “radicalization” of U.S. Muslims. “He is doing precisely what President George Washington promised would not happen: he is sanctioning bigotry and assisting persecution toward the Muslim community,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center. Waskow’s progressive activists on Thursday (Feb. 17) launched a “Let Freedom Ring; Phone Congressman King” campaign urging the Long Island Republican to focus on the “real gaps in protecting homeland security.” King says the hearings are necessary because law enforcement officials have complained that Muslims often do no cooperate in investigations. He has largely brushed off the critics, saying he is “too busy preparing for the hearings” to respond to campaigns launched by Muslim groups, Amnesty International, the Interfaith Alliance and others.

Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

NCR’s John Allen reports that dissatisfaction is growing among U.S. Catholic leaders over the church’s zero-tolerance approach to accused priests; victims’ advocates slap down New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s perception that most new accusations turn out to be false. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is reopening the cases of 37 accused priests at the center of a scathing grand jury report. Up in Massachusetts, there’s a lot of confusion over the Vatican’s recent directive to re-open three closed churches, and that order is sowing seeds of hope for similar appeals in Cleveland. Out in Green Bay, the bishop doesn’t want his parishes to belong to social justice organizations that aren’t church-run. House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King says he doesn’t want his upcoming hearings on Muslim radicalization to turn into a circus, and doesn’t want people’s eyes to “glaze over” so he’s bringing in new faces.

At 89, civil rights icon reflects on faith, activism

(RNS) The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights activist who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has always combined his work on secular causes with a sacred message. At age 89, the retired United Methodist pastor has written his first book, “Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land,” in which he shares sermons and memories of his work on race relations and human rights. Q: As one of the more well-known living leaders of the civil rights movement, do you feel you have a particular responsibility to continue its message with those who come after you? A: Every generation ought to take the fight just a little closer to the goal. And I think I have a responsibility to do all I can to make it clear and to facilitate their witness.

Egypt’s Christians keep wary eye on Muslim Brotherhood

CAIRO (RNS) In Magdi Shnouda’s cafe in Cairo, pictures of Jesus and the saints hang on the shabby walls, and the men playing backgammon and dominoes are a mixture of Christians and Muslims. Sucking down glasses of sweet tea and strong coffee, they drape arms around one another and talk of how well they get along. They live in a neighborhood dotted with mosques and churches, and grew up like brothers, they say. Another thing they agree on is the toppling of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, who left office after 17 days of anti-government protests. The country is now being run by the military, which has dissolved a parliament full of Mubarak cronies. “It’s excellent what’s happening,” said Nasraddin Mustafa, 55, a decorator and friend of Shnouda’s.

Bill would codify `mother’ and `father’ on documents

WASHINGTON (RNS) A proposed House bill will require the use of “mother” and “father” by all federal agencies and contractors when describing parents, pushing back on a move by the State Department to use “parent” instead. The Parental Title Protection Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., would mandate the use of these words instead of the terms “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” “These subtle, but nonetheless significant, changes undermine the traditional American family relationships that have served as the bedrock of our nation since its inception,” Forbes said in a statement. Forbes introduced the bill just weeks after the State Department tried to remove the terms “mother” and “father” from records of oversea births. The use of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” was intended to “provide a gender-neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families,” the department said at the time.

Vatican allows three Mass. churches to stay open

CHICOPEE, Mass. (RNS) In what one expert is calling a landmark decision, three closed Catholic churches in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., have been given at least a partial reprieve. St. Patrick’s and St. George churches in Chicopee and St.

India woos Sri Lanka with Buddha’s bones

NEW DELHI (RNS) India plans to lend rare fragments of the Buddha’s bones to Sri Lanka for the 2600th anniversary of Buddha’s Enlightenment in May, and some see it as part of India’s strategy to gain a regional edge over neighboring China. Indranil Banerjie, head of New Delhi-based think tank Security and Political Risk Analysis, said India’s move to enhance its “existential bond” with a Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage could have a powerful influence. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa “personally requested” the favor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan when he visited New Delhi last June, the Indian mission in Colombo said in a statement. India will also organize an international conference on Buddhism in Sri Lanka’s Central Province in March, and install a 16-foot tall statue of the Buddha there, it added. New Delhi’s Buddhist overtures are significant given China’s growing influence in Sri Lanka, strategically located off India’s southern coast and a key naval link between western Asia and southeast Asia.

Marching down J Street

What to make of J Street, the Israel Lobby of the Left that has created such heartburn in the American Jewish Establishment? Jim Besser, the Jewish Week’s veteran Washington correspondent, offers a fine, well-balanced guide for the perplexed in advance of the organization’s upcoming national conference.That J-Street has sometimes been its own worst enemy can hardly be doubted. Well, OK, there are enemies–yo, Bibi!–that are probably worse. But it has got one big thing going for it: Most American Jews are closer to its take on Israel policy than they are to the Establishment’s. Whence the heartburn.If the Establishment really wanted to undermine J-Street, it would find a way to appeal to the American Jewish lumpen-liberal-laity.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

As our friend Nicole mentioned, yesterday marked an interesting calendrical convergence. Feb. 15 is both the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and Nirvana Day, which commemorates the Awakened One’s escape from the surly bonds of earth. Must have been an especially auspicious day for all you MuBus out there. The National Council of Church’s 2011 church stats are out, bringing more unhappy news to mainline Protestants and Southern Baptists.