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c. 2000 Religion News Service

Denver Archbishop Orders Priests to Withdraw from Gay Masses

(RNS) Catholic priests in religious orders have been warned by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput not to say Mass or officiate at same-sex ceremonies for the local gay Catholic organization, Dignity.

The warning went out to provincials of men’s religious orders that have members in the Denver Archdiocese because, according to Chaput, Dignity “publicly dissents from Catholic teaching.”

The Denver Dignity chapter has a Mass each Sunday at a local Presbyterian church. About 18 priests _ both those in religious orders and those attached to the diocese, who are called diocesan priests _ say Mass for the group on a rotating basis, said Sheryl Green, chairwoman of the Denver Dignity board.

Chaput wrote that he has received “a number of concerned letters” about the Mass “and some inquiries” about a same-sex commitment ceremony that may have taken place during or before one of the Masses.

He said he regards both of these matters as “serious.”

Dignity leaders said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by Chaput’s letter.

“The 26-year ministry of Dignity Denver to Colorado’s gay, lesbian,bisexual and transgender community, including people in committed relationships, will continue,” said Green, speaking for the Dignity board. She added that Dignity leaders would welcome open dialogue with Chaput on the subject.

Green said priests defying the archbishop’s letter and celebrating the Masses had declined comment.

Chaput’s letter doesn’t mention diocesan priests, but he warned all priests last summer not to participate in a national Dignity convention that was held in Denver.

In his Aug. 4 letter to the provincials, Chaput wrote, “If there are brothers in your community serving in the archdiocese who feel they cannot support church teaching on homosexuality, I ask them to remove themselves from ministry to homosexuals immediately.”

Chaput declined comment on the letter because “it was private correspondence,” said his spokesman, Greg Kail. “The archbishop sees using the newspaper as an intermediary as serving no other purpose than to create confusion,” Kail said.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts “are intrinsically evil” and that gays are “disordered.”

However, the bishops said in 1997 that parents of gay children should continue to love their children and “nothing in the Bible or in Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors” against gays.

Signs of Anti-Semitism Grow After Lieberman Pick

(RNS) The Dallas director of the NAACP stepped down Wednesday (Aug. 9) after making anti-Semitic remarks about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and several Internet companies have banned customers who have made disparaging remarks against Jews and Lieberman.

The statements made by Lee Alcorn of the Dallas NAACP and online slurs directed at Jews have raised fears in some minds that Lieberman’s historic candidacy for the vice presidency may actually hurt the American Jewish community.

Vice President Al Gore tapped Lieberman to be his running mate, making the Connecticut senator the first Jew to be part of a major party national ticket.

Alcorn stepped down after pressure from Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. On a Dallas radio show on Monday (Aug. 7), Alcorn said, “I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between Jews at that kind of level, because we know that their interest primarily has to do with money and these kinds of things.”

Alcorn later apologized for his remarks and resigned his post. His comments prompted a backlash of criticism from Jewish and Christian leaders. “When anyone’s faith is considered to be disqualifying for his participation in public life, then everyone’s religious liberty is put in peril,” said Chuck Colson, a former aide to President Nixon and now president of Prison Fellowship ministries.

At the same time, several Internet providers have noticed an increase in anti-Semitic language following the Lieberman announcement. America Online has banned several customers from its services after they made anti-Semitic remarks, according to the New York Times.

In one Yahoo! chat room following the Lieberman announcement, a person named “Young Nazi Girl” said Jews had “loyalty to no one but the dollar.” People in other chat rooms said Jews controlled the government and the media.

The Anti-Defamation League said it will monitor online comments throughout the campaign. “What they are able to do is piggyback on a news event. And therefore they get a certain legitimacy, a boost,” said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director.

Three Religious Leaders, Holocaust Survivor Earn Freedom Medals

(RNS) Three religious leaders and a Holocaust survivor known for his fight against anti-Semitism were among the 15 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday (Aug. 9).

President Clinton presented the awards to Monsignor George G. Higgins, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor and Simon Wiesenthal. The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Clinton said of Higgins, known for five decades of promoting worker justice, “His faith and his courage have strengthened not only our nation’s labor unions, but our American union.”

The citation presented to Higgins honored him for his “unwavering commitment to fairness and equality.”

Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Wall Street Project, was heralded for his work for civil rights, freedom of hostages and economic opportunity.

“The cause of justice has no greater co-worker than Jesse Jackson,” Clinton said.

Jackson’s citation reads, in part: “A tireless advocate for peace, international understanding and human dignity, Jesse Jackson has kept alive the promise of a better world for people everywhere.”

Clinton honored Taylor, pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, for his preaching ability and his role in founding the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

“For at least 20 years now, if anyone made a list of the five or six greatest preachers in America, Gardner Taylor would always be at the top,” the president said.

The citation for Taylor called him “a man of the people and of God, and a leader of singular courage, humility and compassion.”

Wiesenthal, 91, was unable to attend the ceremony, where Clinton praised him for his “miraculous survival and relentless pursuit of justice.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, accepted the award on behalf of the man for whom the center that fights bigotry was named.

The citation for Wiesenthal noted his work to bring perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust to justice: “His efforts have ensured the arrest of more than 1,000 war criminals, and he continues to inspire others in the fight against racism and intolerance.”

In a statement, Wiesenthal said of the medal, “I accept it, not as a personal honor, but as a custodian of those who perished in whose memory I have dedicated my life.”

Group to Re-Enact Trans-Atlantic Trek of Mormon Converts

(RNS) A group of Mormons has announced plans to re-enact the 150-year-old journey of Mormon converts in Europe to the United States.

“We really are commemorating an era,” said Bill Sadleir, chairman of the Salt Lake City-based Sea Trek Foundation and a participant in the 1997 re-enactment of the Mormons’ trek by wagon across the United States to Utah.

This journey will begin in Esbjerg, Denmark, on Aug. 7, 2001, and make stops in Sweden, Norway, Germany and England before a scheduled Oct. 4 arrival in New York, the Associated Press reported.

It will commemorate the wave of Mormon immigration from northern Europe that started in 1851. Within 15 years, an estimated 85,000 Mormon converts had landed in America.

Sadleir has chartered eight historic ships and replicas to carry passengers from various European ports and make the trip across the Atlantic.

His group is working independently of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints _ although it says it has the church’s blessing _ and not all participants will be Mormons.

Jewish Center Shooting Victims File Suit Against Gun Makers

(RNS) Relatives of the victims of a 1999 shooting at a Jewish center in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit on Wednesday (Aug. 9) against six gun manufacturers, claiming they should be held liable for “public nuisance and negligence.”

Firearms manufactured by Glock Inc., Maadi, China North Industries Corp., Davis Industries, Republic Arms Inc. and Bush Firearms are believed to have been discovered on the property of white supremacist Buford Furrow, who wounded six people in an Aug. 10 attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center. Furrow, 38, also gunned down a postal worker shortly after the shootings.

“This is groundbreaking,” said one of the families’ attorneys, Joshua Horwitz, according to Reuters news agency. Horwitz is also executive director of the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence. “We are alleging that gun manufacturers indiscriminately distribute their products to criminals. The nonchalant manner in which these firearm manufacturers distribute their products has resulted in needless death and injury.”

In the lawsuit, the families of postman Joseph Ileto and three youths injured in the attack accuse gunmakers of providing weapons to firearm dealers who are often linked to guns used in crimes.

The lawsuit also claims gun makers do not adopt measures such as restricting multiple gun purchases that would prevent guns ending up in the wrong hands. A class action provision claiming emotional damage on behalf of those who witnessed the attack is also included in the lawsuit.

The families have not disclosed the amount of damages they are seeking in the lawsuit, but are less concerned with financial rewards than stopping “the indiscriminate use of guns,” Horwitz said.

“There are many ways to prevent people like Furrow taking advantage of this market,” he said. “We think manufacturers have a responsibility and a duty to take more care of who is selling these guns.”

Furrow, whose trial will likely begin in February, faces 16 counts of murder, hate crimes and weapons offenses. He insists he is not guilty.

Catholics Carve Out New South Texas Diocese

(RNS) Some 2,000 Catholics flocked to the Laredo Civic Center in southern Texas on Wednesday (Aug. 9) to celebrate the creation of the Diocese of Laredo and the installation of the Most Rev. James Tamayo as its first bishop.

“It is a historic moment for the church in Texas,” said Pope John Paul II’s U.S. representative, the Most Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, according to the Associated Press. Montalvo initiated Tamayo during a special evening Mass conducted in both English and Spanish.

The new diocese _ composed of an area previously divided between the dioceses in Corpus Christi and San Antonio _ is the 15th diocese of the largest Catholic province in the nation, San Antonio. San Antonio is also the third-largest province in the world.

Tamayo, a bilingual Mexican-American born and raised in Texas, said he wants the new diocese to reach out to border residents. The diocese will combine tradition “with the uniqueness of our Spanish language and culture integrated into the devotions of the church,” he said.

Tamayo, 50, has served as the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston since 1993. From 1990 to 1993 he lead Laredo’s western vicariate of the Corpus Christi diocese. He was ordained in 1976 in Corpus Christi after earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Jewish Leaders Decry Treatment of Philadelphia Protesters

(RNS) A coalition of progressive Jewish leaders gathered in Philadelphia Thursday (Aug. 10) on a Jewish day of mourning to decry the treatment of hundreds of protesters arrested earlier this month during the Republican National Convention.

According to organizers, about 250 of the estimated 400 arrested protesters still face harsh conditions and treatment from police officials. Bail amounts have been set as high as $1 million and police officials are calling for a federal racketeering investigation of the protests.

Organizers say protesters have been denied basic civil rights such as access to attorneys and medications. The protesters’ attorney, Ron McGuire, called the situation “a civil rights catastrophe of the first order,” according to a statement.

Jewish leaders used the day of Tisha B’Av _ a day of fasting that commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples in Jerusalem _ to call for the release of the protesters.

“Whether a call for vigilance against other oppressive powers, or a call to use political power justly, we hear in Tisha B’Av a mandate to speak out against Philadelphia’s treatment of the (Republican National Convention) protesters,” a statement said.

The statement, signed by about two dozen Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish leaders, said the protesters have demonstrated peacefully against the death penalty, global poverty and environmental destruction.

“A society that will not heed its prophetic voices, a city that imprisons them, silences them, beats them, has already shattered its own deepest holy places,” the statement said.

Quote of the Day: Church of the First Born member Leland Bruner

(RNS) “People like to go (to) the best physician they can afford. We have access to the best physician here. He raised people from the dead, caused the blind to see, healed the lepers.”

_ Leland Bruner, 71, member of General Assembly Church of the First Born, a Mesa County, Colo., congregation that believes in praying for sick children and not seeking medical attention. He was quoted by the Associated Press.


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