FaithWorld

Gambling Catholic nun accused of embezzling $850,000 (updated)

atlantic city poker (Photo: A poker table in Atlantic City, New Jersey, March 14, 2009/Tim Shaffer)

A nun with a fondness for gambling trips to Atlantic City was accused of embezzling more than $850,000 from a suburban Catholic college where she oversaw the school’s finances, officials said on Friday.

Sister Marie Thornton, former vice president of finance at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, is charged with sending phony invoices to the school to pay off personal credit card bills and expenses, the Attorney’s office said.

The thefts occurred between 1999 and 2009, when Thornton resigned, court documents said. She entered a plea of not guilty to a federal embezzlement charge.

Iona officials issued a statement saying the school has taken action, implemented new financial oversight controls and recovered most of the missing funds.

The U.S. Attorney’s office originally said the theft was more than $1.2 million but on Friday revised the amount to more than $850,000, saying it had originally miscalculated.

Inquiry cites almost 2,000 Dutch Catholic sex abuse reports

deetmanAlmost 2,000 people have declared themselves this year victims of sexual and physical abuse while they were minors in the care of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, an independent commission said on Thursday. (Photo: Wim Deetman, 1 Jan 2006/Roel Wijnants)

The investigation into abuses dating back to 1945 shows that the Netherlands ranks second worst behind Ireland for known cases in scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and the United States. The church-appointed commission’s findings were requested by the Dutch bishops’ conference after cases surfaced involving paedophile priests in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany and other countries.

“I am very respectful of the people who came forward because declaring yourself a victim is a big step,” said Wim Deetman, a Protestant former education minister and former mayor of The Hague who heads the commission, of the 1,975 reported cases.

U.S. atheists and Catholics in holiday billboard fight

atheist billboard (Image: Atheist holiday billboard/American Atheists)

U.S. Catholics and atheists are doing battle over the holiday season with dueling billboards on opposite sides of the Hudson River separating New York and New Jersey.

The American Atheists organization fired the opening shot the Monday before Thanksgiving with its billboard on Route 495 in North Bergen, New Jersey. It tells drivers: “You Know It’s a MYTH,” a slogan set against a traditional nativity scene with three wise men and two figures in a manger.

The Catholic League fired back with its own billboard on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel saying: “You Know it’s Real. This Season, Celebrate Jesus,” set against a picture of the infant Christ with his parents, Mary and Joseph. The league, a Catholic civil rights organization, said it responded to the atheists’ billboard because it wanted to counteract what it sees as a negative view of Christmas.

Russian Orthodox Church’s Kirill on ecumenism, via Wikileaks

kirillSome interesting comments on Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, back in April 2008 when he was still Metropolitan Kirill, in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow published by Wikileaks:

8. (C) Kirill seemed to be in good health was preoccupied as always with the, in his view, excessive emphasis on the individual in the West, and stressed the need to harmonize traditional human rights concerns with “morality and ethics.” Economic progress had been a two-edged sword for Russia, Kirill thought. With prosperity, Russians had “lost something” and Kirill, who is Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, pointed to less prosperous Smolensk as “better preserved” than Moscow or St. Petersburg.

9. (C) Kirill spoke highly of a UN-sponsored effort to bridge the gap between East and West by seeking an alliance of civilizations. Kirill was attempting to interest the UN in his efforts to sponsor ecumenical dialogue especially, he said, in the Middle East. As he has in past conversations, Kirill contrasted Roman Catholic Pope Benedict favourably with his predecessor John Paul II, and again held out the prospect of significant improvement in Russian Orthodox – Roman Catholic relations. Also on the ecumenical front, Kirill reported to the Ambassador efforts, via the Russian Orthodox Church of America and the National Council of Churches, to reach out to Protestant denominations in the U.S.

Filipinos back contraception bill despite Catholic Church-poll

philippines 1 (Photo: A reproductive health advocate dressed as a condom distributes condoms to jeepney passengers in Manila March 1, 2010/Romeo Ranoco)

Seven in 10 Filipinos support a reproductive health bill permitting education on contraception which would also help check population growth, despite opposition from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Church, a major social and political force in the poor Southeast Asian nation of about 95 million, has blocked similar bills since the 1990s and earlier this year denounced President Benigno Aquino’s support for contraception.

The bill is in the early stages of consideration by Congress, and proponents are confident it can be enacted into law given it has the backing of Aquino, who says slowing population growth will help fight poverty.

Lively debate among Catholics interpreting pope’s condom remarks

papaPope Benedict’s surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.

His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church’s rejection of condoms to avoid disease. (Photo: Pope Benedict at his weekly audience 24 November 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

But the format of his remarks — in a book of interviews with a German journalist rather than an official Vatican document — and some confusion over translations have opened a gap allowing divergent interpretations.

Vatican broadens case for condoms to fight AIDS

licht 1Pope Benedict’s landmark acknowledgement that the use of condoms is sometimes morally justifiable to stop AIDS is valid not only for gay male prostitutes but for heterosexuals and transsexuals too, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The clarification, which some moral theologians called “groundbreaking,” was the latest step in what is already seen as a significant shift in Catholic Church policy. (Photo: The pope’s book in German (r) and Italian (l) displayed at a Vatican news conference, November 23, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi)

It came at a news conference to launch the pope’s new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times.”

Guestview: Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances?

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of San Francisco-based Ignatius Press, the North American publisher of “Light of the World.”

popebook 1By Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances?

No. And there was absolutely no change in Church teaching either. Not only because an interview by the Pope does not constitute Church teaching, but because nothing that he said differs from previous Church teaching. (Photo: Pope Benedict with his new book, 23 November 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Then why all the headlines saying that he “approves” or “permits” or “justifies” condom use in certain cases?

Hungary’s communist leader Kádár summoned priest before dying

kadarHungary’s last communist leader János Kádár met a priest at his own request shortly before he died, former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh revealed on Tuesday, two decades after Kadar’s death.

“Aunt Mariska (Kádár‘s wife) called me: ‘My husband wants a priest’ she said,” Németh, who headed the country’s last Communist-era government in 1988-1990, told Reuters. (Photo: Hungarian leader János Kádár in London, November 1, 1985/B. Smith)

“I still remember the Catholic priest whom I found, he was a short man called Bíró, I think,” he added.

Pope words on condoms bolster AIDS fight in Africa

pope lichtPope Benedict’s qualified backing of condom use to help prevent AIDS marks a small breakthrough for efforts to fight the scourge in Africa, giving health workers and clergy more scope to broach a still-taboo subject.

News of the pontiff’s comments in a book came days before a U.N. report on Tuesday showed that even Africa was making inroads into the epidemic, with a fall in infection rates over the past decade coinciding with greater availability of condoms. (Photo: Pope Benedict with book, 23 Nov 2010/Osservatore Romano)

“It does open the opportunity for discussion,” Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said of the pope’s statement, citing past confusion among many African Catholics over the Church’s approach to AIDS.