Page 5, 10th January 2003

10th January 2003
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Page 5, 10th January 2003 — Americas
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Americas

Cuba detainees `well-treated'

THE SENIOR Catholic chaplain to Camp-X in Cuba has reported that all the detainees are being well-treated.

Fr Raymond Tetreault returned to the United States at Christmas after spending five months serving soldiers and inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

The priest, a lieutenant colonel in the 43rd Military Police Brigade of the Rhode Island Army National Guard. was in charge of all the chaplains on the base.

He served Catholics among the 5.000 troops, their families, and support staff at the base and 600 detainees from the campaign in Afghanistan who come from 34 countries.

Fr Tetreault said that contrary to media reports the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being treated very well.

Detention conditions meet all the provisions of international treaties for prisoners of war, and detainees are permitted to practise their religion, which in most cases is Islam.

He said detainees at Guantanamo Bay were given copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam; kaffiyehs, the head coverings worn by traditional Muslims; and prayer beads. They also had mats used for prayer and sleeping.

When he first arrived in May, there were only 300 detainees, Fr Tetreault said. Then in June 300 more were flown in from the Middle East. In the seven months he spent there, four were released three Afghans and one Pakistani. "The United States government, to its credit. takes very good care of them." he said. "It's the humanitarian thing to do."

Accused priest found dead

POLICE in America are investigating the suspected suicide of a priest accused of sexu

ally abusing a child 30 years ago.

Fr Richard Lower, 57, a priest at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New London, New England, was found dead in some woods at the end of last month, just two days after he was accused.

Police said his body showed no sign of trauma but declined to give a cause of death before medical tests were concluded.

If his death was found to be a suicide, Fr Lower would be the third American priest in 2002 to kill himself following an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor.

Last April, Fr Don Rooney, 48, shot himself after being accused of molesting a girl 22 years earlier. A curate of St Anthony of Padua Church in Parma, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, he was found dead in his car several days after he was accused.

In May, Fr Alfred Bietighofer. 64, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, hanged himself in his room at St Luke Institute in Silver Spring. He had been sent there for evaluation after being removed from ministry in late April following allegations that he had sexually molested boys between 1976 and 1982.

Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, New Hampshire, said he was "deeply saddened and shocked" at Fr Lower's death. "The circumstances of his death indicate that he may have taken his own life," he added.

Doomed office gets cash boost

A PHILANTHROPIST has stepped in to save an ecumenical office in America from closure.

The Los Angeles archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs office was to be shut down as part of an attempt to address a $4.3 million budget deficit but it has been salvaged by the generosity of an anonymous donor.

"Fortunately, an anonymous benefactor — a non-Catholic, interestingly enough — has stepped forward and offered to fund the office," said director Fr Alexei Smith.

He said the day the downsizing was announced, someone invited him to lunch. When they sat down at the table, he said, "this person looked me right in the eye and asked if (the news) were true. And when I answered affirmatively, this person was very disappointed, then point-blank asked me how much I would need to continue operations".

When he gave the amount, he said, "this person again looked me straight in the eye and said, 'That's no problem. I'll give that to you'''.

He added: "It was a gift from heaven, certainly. This person apparently had been monitoring what I've been doing and what the archdiocese has been doing and wanted to see this continue."

The gift will support the office for the remainder of Fr Smith's term, ending in 2005.

Dozens of US bishops to retire

As MANY as 35 American bishops could retire in 2003 because they are at or beyond the normal retirement age of 75 years.

It would represent the largest number in US history, eight more than last year and 18 more than two years ago.

The retirement rule was introduced in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council and was incorporated into church law for the Latin Church in 1983 and for the Eastern Catholic churches in 1991.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, who turned 79 years last June, is the oldest of all the serving cardinals, archbishops and bishops in the United States.

The only other serving American cardinal over 75 is Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State since 1997.

Life campaign wins support

THE CATHOLIC Church in the US is co-sponsoring an advertising campaign to argue that abortion represents a failure by society to meet women's needs.

The Women Deserve Better campaign is being sponsored by the pro-life secretariat of the US conference of Catholic bishops and the Knights of Columbus to mark the 30th anniversary of Roe v Wade the US supreme court decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion.

Advertisements will appear throughout Washington DC this month bearing the message: "Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women. Women deserve better than abortion."

Cardinal pleads for land deal

A MEXICAN cardinal is urging his government to forge an agreement with peasant farmers working in the country's ailing agricultural sector.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said: "It's going to be difficult, but I believe that if the government and peasant farmers come to an agreement they can put programmes into action that will soften the crisis."

The situation in the countryside is so tense that some observers fear violence could break out when Mexico drops a tax on agricultural imports from the United States, a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed more than a decade ago.

Last year, Mexico's farming sector was ravaged by plummeting food prices, fierce foreign competition and a soaring agricultural trade deficit. The human costs are unemployment. malnutrition and migration from the countryside.

Furthermore, tariffs were eliminated effective January 1 on nearly all food products imported from the United States — an action Mexican farmers fear will open the floodgates to heavily subsidised US goods.

Cardinal Rivera said the solution to the problems lies in cooperation, not confrontation. "It is crucial that the government and peasant workers talk. Only through dialogue can we find a way out of this crisis," he said.

Cancer institute `covered-up'

AN AMERICAN cancer research organisation has been criticised for deliberately failing to link abortion to breast cancer.

The US-based Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer reported that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) had published new statements about research examining the relationship between abortion and breast cancer on a web page. Called "Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer", it was produced after about 30 members of Congress and six medical experts levelled serious accusations of scientific misconduct at the agency during a four-year period.

After reviewing the NCI's new statements, Karen Malec, president of the women's organisation, said: "The NCI's failure to identify abortion among its list of risk factors for breast cancer and its continued omission of critical facts represent a form of gross scientific misconduct designed to mislead women about the safety of abortion."

Bishops to fight alcopop scourge

THE AMERICAN Catholic bishops are planning to launch a campaign against "alcopops", the fruity alcoholic drinks some people claim are cynically aimed at children and young teenagers.

It is one of the items on their agenda at this month's 108th Congress, along with homeland security, President George W Bush's economic stimulus package and a possible war with Iraq.

The issue of television advertising for "alcopops" has brought together a coalition of 38 health, consumer, family and religious groups, including the Catholic Bishops, in a call for congressional hearings in 2002.

"Television broadcasters operating on the public airwaves have a statutory obligation to serve the public interest," the bishops' communications committee said in a report in November.

"USCCB [bishops' conference] is urging Congress to examine, in hearings, how a television broadcaster's decision to air distilled spirits ads (and ads for products with distilled spirits brand names) during prime time when underage children are in the audience reflects its understanding and execution of that obligation," the report added.

The conference "will continue to pursue" the call for congressional hearings in 2003, said David Early, a spokesman for the bishops.




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