Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Open Letter to Catholics: We and our (male) Bishops Are Failing Our Sisters in Africa

Faithful wives are needlessly being infected by their HIV-positive husbands as a result of the Vatican ignoring established Catholic principles of pastoral moral theology in addressing the HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, which has a Catholic population of over 158 million, 1.9 million Africans were newly-infected in 2008 with HIV largely as a result of heterosexual relations. Women represented 60% of those suffering from HIV & AIDS. This is 150% of the rate of infection among adult males. The year before, more than 1.6 million, mostly women and their children infected with HIV in the womb, during childbirth or thru breast feeding, died from AIDS. AIDS orphans at the end of 2007 totaled 11.6 million. An estimated 22.4 million adults and children were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2008.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) cares for one-quarter of all HIV/AIDS victims regardless of their religious affiliation but is powerless to help prevent HIV and the suffering and deaths from AIDS because the Vatican has yet to demonstrate the compassion of Christ for these innocent women by allowing CRS to provide condoms to HIV-positive husbands who are unwilling to forego sexual relations with their spouses. Thus CRS is guaranteed an inexhaustible supply of women suffering and dying from AIDS to care for – a morally indefensible scenario. Sadly, availability to the millions of at-risk women of an effective microbicide to prevent transmission of HIV during sex is years off and antiretroviral medicine to prevent HIV from developing into AIDS must be taken lifelong.

HIV prevention programs typically promote ABC – (1) Abstinence before marriage. (2) Be Faithful in Marriage and (3) Condoms if A & B are not feasible. The Vatican supports A & B and rejects C when using condoms where one partner is HIV-positive is clearly PRO-LIFE.\

Unfortunately, African women are victims of their male-dominated cultures. A married woman living in sub- Saharan Africa in all likelihood is already monogamous. It is her husband who is likely to have HIV. Yet refusing a husband’s sexual overtures risks ostracism, violence, and destitution for herself and her children. Women are physiologically more susceptible to becoming infected with HIV than men.

The African national conferences of Catholic bishops and the United States Conference Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have failed to stand up to the Vatican on this life and death issue. Thus these women, Catholic and non-Catholic, under the care of CRS, are also the victims of our male-dominated Catholic Church.

On the other hand, representatives of several national conferences of bishops of non-African nations and a number of individual cardinals and bishops, relying on established principles of pastoral moral theology, viz. double effect, the right to self-defense and lesser evil, have urged the use of condoms to save lives. Here is what some of these Catholic prelates have publicly stated:

In 2006, Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, pledged his support for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers' recent decision to conduct and release a study on condom use to fight AIDS and contended that using condoms to stop transmission of the disease from one spouse to another is "common sense”. (Sadly, that study was aborted and since then several million more women have been infected)

In 2006 Bishop Antonio Moreira, vice president of the Portuguese Episcopal conference, said "In a context of marriage where one or both are infected, the use of a condom is a clear case of a lesser evil."

Bishop Gilles Cote of the Diocese in Papua New Guinea, speaking to the Vatican’s ban on contraception, said, “We also have a law—you should not kill…so there is a moral responsibility that those with a partner who is infected are protected.”

One of less than a handful of bishops in Africa who have spoken out in favor of condom use is white South African Bishop Kevin Dowling who in 2005 said he considers using condoms to be "a pro-life option in the widest sense." "For me, the issue is simply this: How do you preserve and protect life? Under church doctrine, that is "not only allowable, it's a moral imperative,"

Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi in January 2005 argued that condoms may be appropriate for those who cannot abstain. "They should use whatever is necessary in order not to infect others and not to infect themselves. There is no other alternative."

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, a Mexican who heads the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, said he finds the use of condoms acceptable when abstinence is not an option. He said "If an infected husband wants to have sex with his wife who isn't infected, then she must defend herself by whatever means necessary. This position is consistent with the tenets of Catholic moral theology, which teaches that acts of self-defense can extend to killing in order to not be killed”.

Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the pontifical household in February 2005 stated that while condoms cannot be condoned as a contraceptive, "the use of condoms in some situations can be considered morally legitimate to prevent the spread of HIV. That is where the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' is valid."

The German Bishops Conference in 1997 noted “We must make people understand that sexual intercourse has its legitimate place within the space of lasting partnership that is protected by faithfulness and confidence. In the face of the effective life threat that results from HIV/AIDS, everything needs to be done to avoid an infection.”

Following Pope Benedict’s controversial statements regarding condoms during his visit to Africa in 2009, three Portuguese bishops took issue with Pope Benedict’s comments. Military Bishop Januário Torgal Mendes Ferreira said that “to ban condom use was equivalent to consenting to the death of many people,” adding that the Pope’s advisors should give him “more learned advice.” Bishop Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente of Porto said that the use of condoms by persons with AIDS is “not only recommendable” but also “can be ethically obligatory.” Bishop Ilídio Pinto Leandro of Viseu said that those “who cannot avoid having sexual relations are morally obliged to avoid passing on the disease by using a condom.”

The World Health Organization has stated "The correct and consistent use of good quality condoms confers a level of protection as high as 85 to 95 percent against HIV transmission. Male and female condoms, when properly kept, stored, handled, and used, are the only scientifically proven barrier products currently available against HIV and other STDs". The USCCB, by not urging the Vatican to ease up its hard line on condoms, has failed to demonstrate pastoral compassion for these women.


We must strongly urge the USCCB to join the other national conferences of bishops who have had the courage to stand up for the victims of HIV and AIDS notwithstanding the morally-unsupportable position of the Vatican against the use of condoms in battle against AIDS. Christ in his brief time on earth preached what is now characterized as “the preferential option for the poor” and urged his disciples and those who would follow to emulate his compassion for the poor. What more fundamental preferential option for the poor could there be than saving of the lives of these innocent women? We as true Christians need to speak up in loud and certain terms to our U.S. Catholic Bishops. They need to understand that following their cover-up of the clergy sexual abuse of children, their failure to insist that the Vatican be guided by the Church’s pastoral principles of moral theology to protect these innocent women makes them complicit in the horrendous HIV/AIDS holocaust in Africa and calls into question their moral capacity to lead their flocks.

We urge all who profess to be Catholic to phone, fax or e-mail Bishop Dewane at the diocesan chancery and urge him to prevail on his fellow bishops in the USCCB (1) to authorize Catholic Relief Services to provide condoms to couples where one spouse is HIV-positive and to instruct them that their proper and consistent use is a moral imperative and (2) to insist that the Vatican be guided by established principles of Catholic pastoral moral theology and relax its prohibition on the use of condoms where one spouse is HIV-positive. Request that he publish in the next issue of the diocesan newspaper his commitment to actively lobby his fellow bishops for support of this initiative. Then deposit this flyer in the collection plate plus your next regular Sunday offering. Your pastor should be pleased that you care about these innocent women and were moved to speak to the Bishop about their plight.

CONTINUE TO CONTACT BISHOP DEWANE until his commitment appears in the diocesan newspaper.

Bishop Dewane’s contact information : Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, 1000 Pinebrook Rd. Venice, FL 34285

Phone: (941) 484 9543 Fax: (941) 484 1121; Email:

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Pope on Condoms & AIDS

The Pope on Condoms & AIDS

by Bill Schuch

Here is some background for fellow Catholics who know not what to make of the Pope's recent comments on using condoms to prevent HIV transmission.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa began on Pope John Paul II's watch. Sadly, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have ignored the plight of monogamous women at the mercy of their HIV-positive spouses and partners by forbidding Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to provide condoms to such couples with instructions as to their consistent proper use if the infected male demands sex.

Millions of African women have died of AIDS over the last several decades - the bitter harvest of the birth control encyclical which was issued over the objections of 90 percent of the cardinals, bishops, theologians, medical professionals and lay experts on the papal commission studying birth control.

Preaching abstinence and fidelity did not help them - they were already faithful to their partners. Yet refusing a husband's sexual overtures risked ostracism, violence, and destitution for them and their children.

Since1989 and citing long-standing principles of Catholic moral theology, 7 national conferences of Catholic Bishops and 25 cardinals and bishops have publicly urged the use of condoms to protect monogamous African women from their HIV-positive husbands and partners.

Will Benedict finally show some real compassion for these innocent women by authorizing Catholic relief agencies to provide condoms and guidance to these couples? Otherwise these agencies will be guaranteed an inexhaustible supply of dying women for which to care. Not a very Christ-like scenario.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiness Sister Anne

Holiness is a state of my mind, heart and soul

where throughout life

I become so empty of myself

that I become subsumed by the Divine Love;

on fire,

completely energized

in constant union

with the One Who formed me from the cosmic dust.

Holiness -

The union of a soul with God such that the soul

is immersed totally in God’s presence

is filled to overflowing with joy, love, compassion for others

is as a drop in the fathomless Being

is able to center easily on God during daily duties and activities

is able to ponder at ever deepening levels the Divine will and wishes

is able to be empty of selfish desires and distractions

is able to see through God’s eyes

is able to touch with God’s hands

is able to hug with the immensity of God’s grace

Holiness is to be utterly consumed by God

Holiness is when my Beloved God and I are one;

It is when I am always giving God to others

Holiness is when I am in endless contemplation and union with the Love of my life,

Deeply imbedded in the Divine Presence

Holiness is to be transparent,

such that those seeing me

speaking with me

sitting with me

being with me can experience the presence of God

the ineffable Beauty

the infinite Energy of life

the immeasurable Goodness

the irrepressible Love

the sheer majesty of God

Holiness is when I melt into the arms of my Creator

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'A Large Proportion of Catholic Clerics and Trainee Priests Are Homosexual'

'A Large Proportion of Catholic Clerics and Trainee Priests Are Homosexual',1518,730520-2,00.html

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, RCWP and Fr. Jerry Zawada preside at Progressive Catholic Coalition Liturgy at SOA Watch

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, RCWP and Fr. Jerry Zawada,
a Franciscan priest
preside at Progressive
Catholic Coalition Liturgy at SOA Watch
at Ft. Benning, GA.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, RCWP, Witness to Justice, Shares Story of Liturgy and Civil Disobedience at SOA Vigil/Photos

With Jesuit Bill Brennan and supporters
on Monday morning after court hearing
and reading of public statement in court

With Jesuit Bill Brennan on Ft. Benning Rd.
before the Sunday Vigil

With Fr. Jerry celebrating liturgy

On Ft. Benning Road Janice holds banner
depicting ordained women in the early church

On Fort Benning Road: November 19-21, 2010 I got in from Ft. Benning at 10 p.m. last night. It was a joy to be with friends from all over the country to shut down the U.S. Army School of the Americas and vigil in remembrance of the dead. The Spirit's movement was palpable.

My friends from Indiana picked me up and we arrived in Columbus, GA on Thursday evening, had supper with other former Prisoners of Conscience, chatted with Roy and SOA Watch staff from D.C. and gave out flyers announcing our Progressive Catholic Coalition Liturgy set for Friday night. Our liturgy was sponsored by CTA, CORPUS, FCM, RCWP-South and WOC.

On Friday morning we handed out more flyers at hotels and headed for the Convention Center where workshops and other events were taking place. We took part in conversation presented by the Latin American Solidarity Coalition: Building a Movement Against U.S. Militarism.

Then I dropped in at the end of the first showing of “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” which Erin Hanna and Aileen Hayes of WOC were showing. The packed room was filled with hopeful faces. It was evident the movie inspired them.

Afterwards people asked questions.
On Friday night at 6 p.m. Jerry Zawada, Franciscan priest of 50 years, and I led a Eucharist Concelebration of the Priesthood of the People.

We were remembering Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and Oscar Romero who were murdered 30 years ago as well as the hundreds of thousands of other innocents killed by those trained at the SOA.

We also recalled Sister Dorothy Stang who worked with the poor settlers in the Amazon Rain Forest and who quoted the Beatitudes from her Bible when her murderers asked what weapon she was carrying.

It is the fifth anniversary of her death.
Our inclusive liturgy was filled with moving and poetic grassroots songs led by Charlie King and Karen Brandow. The First Reading was a quote from Ita Ford read by Aileen Hayes. The Second Reading was from Oscar Romero’s last sermon and was first read in Spanish by Karen, then sung by Charlie. The Beatitudes Gospel was read by Kay Akers, WOC woman and RCWP supporter from Los Angeles. Before our liturgy began Jerry spoke of his support for women priests. In his reflection he recalled friends who worked in Central America who were killed by military trained at SOA.

In my reflection I addressed the Spirit of the four churchwomen, Dorothy Stang and Oscar Romero and others and how they may have come to their “Yes” to cross the line to become Kin-dom-makers. We invited all present to share with their partners about the lines they cross for the Kin-dom. Jerry and I danced the polka to the closing song at the end of the Mass:
"How Beautiful Upon the Mountain (Are the Steps of Those Who Walk in Peace").

On Saturday Franciscan Louis Vitale, 78, and a woman, 78, crossed onto the Federal property. They were released and will be in court next Monday. Louis's ministry for peace and justice also includes prison ministry as he has been arrested more than 250 times. Our affinity group had met a couple of times to discuss our CD action.

On Saturday afternoon on my way to participate in civil disobedience I came upon Bill Brennan, a 90-year-old Jesuit priest from Milwaukee (and friend of Alice Iaquinta’s) who had come to our Friday night liturgy.

He expressed a desire to participate in the action and asked for my help to get there as he was in a portable wheelchair-walker. I told him we were prepared to face city and state charges which would mean an unspecified time in jail and a fine which might reach $1,000 or more. I wanted him to be clear about the consequences of our action. He agreed.
As we made our way off of Ft. Benning Road and to the meeting place of our affinity group, I saw police with hundreds of plastic handcuffs on the side of the road.

When we met our group, someone took my place to hold the banner as I helped Bill make it to our action. It was a difficult walk for him over a bumpy road and he was out of breath. Then I put on my Hispanic stole in solidarity with our Latin American sisters and brothers.

Some in our affinity group held banners as we momentarily blocked traffic on Victory Drive which leads to Ft. Benning and the SOA.

We called out to the people in their cars telling them about the SOA and why it needs to be shut down.

Bill and I sang “Ubi caritas,” “Shepherd Me Oh God” and Peace, Shalom, Shalom” as the police gathered up members of our group, processed them and took them away in squad cars.

Bill and I were next. A very kind police sergeant processed us. When I asked him when he was taking us to the jail, he told us we would have to appear in municipal court on Monday morning and handed us a summons.

I told him I wanted – we wanted -- to be in jail with the rest of our group. He told me we had the same charges but he couldn’t fit Bill’s walking/riding device in the squad car.

Later, we realized it was probably because of Bill’s age and fragility. Then a woman with a film camera interviewed Bill who was dressed in black and was recognizable as a priest.

At that time I realized that maybe I was supposed to have met Bill again on Ft. Benning Rd.
Bill was unable to make the walk back so we signaled the taxi that was at the stoplight.

He drove us to Ft. Benning Rd. where another bus was waiting for Bill.

When I got to Ft. Benning Rd., I saw Atty. Bill Quigley and told him what had happened. He said to be at the Muscogee County Court with Bill Brennan on Sunday at 2 p.m. Some of us, including a couple of legal advisors were walking on the road and said the police were arresting people at random, including some who were walking to their cars. When the woman, Charity Ryerson (a second year law student at Georgetown) turned around, they arrested her.

The police yelled at us to keep moving.
I found my ride and we rode to the Convention Center for Bishop Tom Gumbleton’s Mass. Since I had a few minutes, I caught the end of the second showing of “Pink Smoke.” It was so crowded that people sat in the aisles. They cheered during the movie. As it ended, I saw that Jules Hart, the movie’s film-maker, was standing next to me. She expressed her delight with the people’s response.

After Mass I met a priest from Latin America. His translator had been to our liturgy and wanted this priest to meet with me. When I returned to the hotel I gathered my belongings from my friends’ room (who were going to hold them when I was in jail).

On Sunday morning we gathered at Ft. Benning for the vigil, remembering the 900 people, many who were infants and children, who were slaughtered in the El Mozote massacre and more recent killings. I solemnly carried the RCWP banner with another friend of Alice’s. Many people nodded and took photos.

Shortly after we placed our crosses on the fence, two young men scaled it and crossed the line onto federal property. We all cheered and chanted: “Shut it down!”
That afternoon we were in the court room as the 22 who had been held in jail overnight were brought out.

The judged appeared angry as he listened to the testimony of the police and the defendants as well as to the questioning by SOA Watch lawyers. Videos were brought in which the judge wanted to watch and we recessed. A couple of men from New York bought pizzas and we sat outside the courtroom building under a Columbus, GA full moon and ate and shared stories as people moved out of the courtroom for a break.
One of the 22 defendants was a black barber who had walked out of the barber shop to take a photo of the police arresting people in the parking lot. He, too, was arrested.

The police told the judge they had made a mistake in arresting him. Still, the judge did not dismiss his three charges. I talked with his wife in the bathroom and she was crying. I was made aware by another attorney of the racism that still exists in Columbus.

We also learned that there were up to five undercover agents in our affinity group. One police woman revealed this information in court and sat next to a police man who we also recognized. We felt the police went overboard and wasted taxpayers’ money on our nonviolent actions.

Later that night the judge found 21 of the defendants guilty of all three charges, including the black barber. Bonds up to $5,500 were set by the judge for each SOA Watch defendant.

These were outrageously high. Support groups worked into the wee hours of the morning to raise thousands of dollars to get people bailed out on bond. My roommate returned to the motel after midnight and she was one of the first to be bonded. She had to reschedule her airline flight and make other arrangements immediately.
On Monday morning my friends and I were up by 6:30 to check out and be at court by 9 a.m. Supporters gathered.

Jesuit Bill Brennan and I had a judge who told the courtroom that he understood our movement. Years ago as an attorney he had defended the first group that Roy Bourgeois gathered together at Ft. Benning back in 1990.

I asked if we could make a statement and it was granted. Bill was fined $50 for the two stage charges; I was fined $500...the difference being our age. We were both put on six months probation.
I told Atty. Bill Quigley about the kindness of the police sergeant who processed us and he had it entered into the court record. I brought out my envelope with the $500 that I had brought along to put toward any fines.

Afterwards Bill Quigley said this was a positive note to a previous negative day in court on Sunday. SOA Watch support people were joyful.

Hendrik Voss from SOA Watch arranged for an interview by an NBC affiliate and reporter from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. During each of the interviews Jesuit Bill Brennan mentioned that we were both priests.

What was important about our case according to attorneys was that it could set a precedent for the 21 SOA Watch defendants who will eventually have to appear in state court with the same charges.

As Kay said Monday morning, “The three days here felt like we had lived twenty glorious years.” =

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Undercover Police Among Arrested at SOA Vigil/ NCR Story

"Twenty-two of the 24 people who were charged with crimes Nov. 20 went before Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Michael Cielinski Nov. 21. Cielinski found 21 of those in that group guilty and ordered them to pay fines between $1,300 and $5,500..."

"The other two people who were charged Nov. 20 -- Jesuit Fr. Bill Brennan and Janice Sevre-Duszynska -- faced trial separately. They went before Georgia State Judge Stephen Smith Nov. 22 and were also found guilty."

Brennan was ordered to pay $50 in fines; Sevre-Duszynska $500. Both also received six months probation.

"The two faced trial separately because Brennan uses a wheelchair and could not be arrested by police officers at the scene. Sevre-Duszynska, an ordained member of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, was accompanying Brennan at the scene."

"Over the weekend four other people were arrested by federal authorities for trespassing onto the Fort Benning military complex in an act of civil disobedience."...

New Global Network of Support for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests

Survivors Voice Europe Up and Running!

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are finally beginning to be recognized collectively on a global level. We are pleased to announce that we have launched our Survivors Voice Europe website. Survivors . This website is being developed in several languages which will give survivors, supporters & support affiliates the ability to connect on a global level.

The success of our Reformation Day event, has helped us in raising awareness of the continuing needs of adult survivors around the globe. We've received thousands of visits on our website over the last month and we continue to be contacted by survivors from around the world on a daily basis, some of whom are speaking of their own abuse for the first time.

Courage is not defined by telling your story in front of 100 cameras to the world. It's defined by telling one person, that person is the one in the mirror. In admitting to yourself that you were a victim as a child, and then reaching out for help is the bravest step a survivor takes. Yesterday, we received an email from yet another survivor of Rev. Joseph Birmingham, the man who is responsible for our abuse, as well as over 100 others that we know of. This survivor was reaching out for the first time. It was a reminder of why we continue to do, what we do.

We are not the voice of all survivors, we hope to be but a vessel to help survivors find their voice. Thank you for helping us all, and have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

Gary Bergeron & Bernie McDaid
Survivors Voice Inc

Pope Benedict Cllarifies Condom Statement: Includes Women and Transsexuals

"Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement on the most recent news from the Vatican on condom use. "

“The Vatican’s acknowledgement that Pope Benedict’s acceptance of condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections relates to everybody shows how significant the pope’s comments are.

“This morning, the Vatican’s spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said:

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. "The problem is this ... It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point."

Bridget Mary's Reflection:

Bravo! Pope Benedict has taken a positive step forward to save women's lives.

Millions of women have lost their lives to HIV AIDS because they were infected by partners who did not use condoms. Now the pope has taken a major step to reflect the compassion of Christ toward all. Condom use saves lives. The next step is a change in the church's teaching on the use of contraceptions for birth control.

Pope Benedict Clarifies Condom Statement: Includes Women and Transsexual

For Immediate Release
23 November 2010

Media Contact:
David J. Nolan
+1 202 986 6093

Pope’s Clarification Reveals Significance
of Condom Statement

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement on the most recent news from the Vatican on condom use.

“The Vatican’s acknowledgement that Pope Benedict’s acceptance of condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections relates to everybody shows how significant the pope’s comments are.

“This morning, the Vatican’s spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said:

I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this ... It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point.

“Conservatives, who immediately raced into action to deny the significance of the pope’s statement – after the text of the interview was published on Saturday – are left clutching at straws. Their attempts to contain condom use to male prostitutes are shown up for what they were – a sham. They have long sought to make the case that church teachings on these issues are unchanging and unchangeable. One can only hope that they will embrace this new position and advocate for condom use whenever necessary.

“Some people have criticized the glacial pace at which the Catholic hierarchy moves. Certainly, this acceptance of condom use is more than two decades too late. But it has now happened, and organizations that have been hesitant to provide condoms to those living with HIV and AIDS must move immediately to put this new teaching into action.

“The first step on any journey is always the hardest, but it is also the most important one because without it change is impossible.”

To view this press release online, click here.


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