VATICAN CITY - The Vatican forcefully denied it undermined the Irish bishops’ efforts to protect children from sexual abuse and characterized as “unfounded” claims the Vatican tried to interfere in government investigations regarding Church handling of sex abuse cases.

The Vatican recognizes “the seriousness of the crimes” detailed in a government report about cases in the diocese of Cloyne, Ireland, and “has sought to respond comprehensively,” said a communique released by the Vatican Sept. 3.

The communique accompanied a 19-page formal response to the Irish government’s Cloyne Report on the diocese and to statements made by the Irish prime minister and motions passed by both houses of the Irish Parliament concerning the report and the Vatican’s involvement in how cases were handled. The Vatican said the report “brought to light very serious and disturbing failings in the handling of accusations of sexual abuse by children and young people by clerics in the diocese of Cloyne,” but it said the local bishop and his vicar general were to blame.

The formal “Response of the Holy See” was hand-delivered Sept. 3 by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, undersecretary for relations with states, to Helena Keleher, charge d’affaires at the Irish Embassy to the Holy See in Rome, the Vatican said.

Oil mining process fuels drive to stop pipeline across central U.S.


WASHINGTON - Maryknoll Father Jim Noonan hopes the five or so hours he spent in jail recently will be noticed by U.S. President Barack Obama.

A staff associate in the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, Noonan, 77, was among 65 people arrested Aug. 20 during the first day of a planned two-week protest to call attention to the environmental dangers he believes are posed by a proposed-mile pipeline to carry Canadian crude oil to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. Through Aug. 30, nearly 600 people had been arrested.

"I wanted to do anything I possibly could to be a voice," Noonan told Catholic News Service after his arrest for participating in the first sit-in. "I wanted to ask the president please do not authorize this pipeline because your children and your grandchildren will rue the day that this was authorized."

Noonan's angst is aimed at preventing Obama from signing a permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL Project by TransCanada Corp., from Montana to Texas. The pipeline expansion, opponents believe, would open the door to a rapid increase in oil mining in northern Alberta, endangering a fragile ecosystem and escalating the release of greenhouse gases.

Vatican newspaper says mandatory sex ed programs don't work


VATICAN CITY - When it comes to sex education programs, the Catholic Church is painted as old-fashioned and callous about teen pregnancy and disease. But governments that mandate sex education in the schools are fooling themselves about its effectiveness, the Vatican newspaper said.

Writing on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano Aug. 30, Lucetta Scaraffia looked specifically at New York City, where students in middle school and high school will be required to attend a semester-long course in sex education. She said that "to avoid religious controversy, chastity will be cited among birth control methods and teachers will have to speak about sex with some caution" in the New York courses.

Still, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York criticized the mandatory program as usurping the rights of parents to educate their children in line with their beliefs and values, she said.

Parishes challenged to raise $10 million for Africa


EDMONTON - As the famine in the Horn of Africa deepens, an Edmonton parish has been challenging Catholics nationwide to raise $10 million for famine relief.

St. Michael-Resurrection itself has raised $23,428, enough to buy almost 47 tonnes of rice to feed nearly 84,600 people for one day.

“It seems like such a little drop in the bucket, but we figure if every person can do a little bit, we can make a big difference,” said spokesperson Bernadette Gasslein.

So far, three other parishes from across Canada have responded, two in Ontario and one in Saint John, N.B.

Relief for the people of Somalia has been slow, and makeshift refugee camps are still overflowing. Some estimates suggest about 12.4 million people are affected by the food crisis. It’s the biggest food crisis in a generation, according to the United Nations.

Cardinal names Boston clergy accused of abuse


BOSTON - Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has released the names of 159 of the 250 Boston archdiocesan priests or deacons accused of sexually abusing a minor, including 22 whose cases have not been resolved canonically.

In a six-page letter to the people of his archdiocese Aug. 25, the cardinal said the decision represented “one more step forward in our efforts to assume responsibility for our past failures and reaffirm our commitment to assure that our present-day standards protect the children of our community.”

The list of names is published at

Cardinal O'Malley also released a separate list of Boston archdiocesan priests who had been publicly accused of sexual abuse where the allegations have been found unsubstantiated by the archdiocesan Review Board or who were acquitted of charges in a canonical process.

Parishes fare well though many areas hard hit by Irene


WASHINGTON - From the Carolinas up the Atlantic Coast into Canada, the trail of Hurricane Irene was one of dramatic floods, wind damage and other disruptions.

More than 40 people in various states were reported to have been killed by floodwaters, falling trees, car accidents and powerful waves. Irene hit the Carolina coast Aug. 27 and skirted the coastline, causing destruction in a dozen states before dumping inches of rain and causing at least two deaths in Canada.

A survey of some of the dioceses where the worst effects were felt found few significant problems at church properties, though the communities around them suffered serious losses.

In Vermont, where raging floodwaters from what was by then Tropical Storm Irene damaged or destroyed hundreds of roads, JoAnne Prouty, bookkeeper at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington said the rushing water and the damage it caused were amazing.

Pope sends condolences after death of Cardinal Ambrozic


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has offered condolences to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Toronto following the death of retired archbishop, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, who died Aug. 26 at the age of 81.

"I recall with gratitude the cardinal's dedication and service to the church in his adopted country," the Pope said in a telegram to Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto.

"I join you and all who mourn him, including the members of the late cardinal's family, in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercy of God, our loving father."

The late cardinal was a priest for 56 years, bishop for 35 years and served as archbishop of Toronto from 1990 to 2006.

Mexican church officials condemn casino attack that killed more than 50


MEXICO CITY - Mexican church officials have condemned an arson attack on a casino in Monterrey, Mexico, which killed more than 50 bettors and employees and left the nation horrified as a city once considered a crown jewel of industrial development and progress descends deeper into organized crime violence.

"In terms of the criminal groups, we believed that we had seen everything. However, what happened today surprised us," said Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey in a message issued late Aug. 25.

"Hopefully our authorities surprise us with a definite solution to this serious scourge. We join in prayer for those who lost their lives, for their families and so that peace is restored," the cardinal said.

A statement released late Aug. 25 by the Archdiocese of Mexico City labeled the attacks as "cowardly and abominable," and said the deaths "add to the innumerable victims of the cruelty and evil of organized crime."

Damage from Virginia quake appears to hit churches hard


WASHINGTON - Historic churches in Washington, Maryland and Virginia were among buildings with the most serious damage after the unusual Aug. 23 magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the region.

The temblor could be felt as far away as Detroit, north of Toronto and into Florida.

The archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore each reported damage to several churches. But in the Diocese of Richmond, Va., where the quake was centered near the town of Mineral, that town's St. Jude Church had the only reported damage in the diocese, and that was relatively minor, according to its pastor, Father Michael Duffy.

He told Catholic News Service a couple of hours after the quake that some pictures fell off the walls and smashed and holy oils fell out of the ambry. He said also said there were cracks in the plaster, a broken water pipe and some damaged light fixtures.

More people facing religious restrictions worldwide


WASHINGTON - Close to one-third of the world’s citizens have faced increased restrictions on religious practice and expression imposed on them by their respective nations’ governments, according to a study issued Aug. 9 by the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Public Life.

The report, “Rising Restrictions on Religion,” noted that such limitations are on the upswing in 23 of the world’s 198 nations, and that many of those countries are among the world’s most populous and fastest-growing in population.

By contrast, 12 nations were judged to have eased restrictions on religion. But the Pew report suggested that those countries “already scored low” in previous studies, while nations imposing greater restrictions “already had high or very high levels of restrictions or hostilities.” No changes were reported in 163 countries.

Christians faced harassment in more nations than any other religious adherents — 130 nations, followed by 117 nations for harassment of Muslims, 75 for Jews, 27 for Hindus and 16 for Buddhists. Christians and Muslims account for about half of the world’s population.

Libya’s rebel leader denies claims of Islamic extremists in group


TRIPOLI, Libya - The head of Libya’s rebel forces, on the verge of taking the capital city of Tripoli, said dictator Moammar Gadhafi had tried to scare people by saying that Islamic extremists were part of the rebel movement.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil called on all Libyans to respect the lives of others and urged the rebels to show the world that Libya is a country of “religiously moderate” people.

“Moammar Gadhafi will be remembered and his period of rule through the acts that he committed against the rebels and the world,” he said Aug. 22.

“But God has chosen that Gadhafi’s end should be at the hands of these youths, so that they can join the Arab Spring that is going around the Arab nations. And now I say with all transparency that the era of Gadhafi is over,” he said.