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In Memoriam

Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler died February 12, 2002, at age 77. A School Sister of Notre Dame, Traxler marched next to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. In 1969, she co-founded the National Coalition of American Nuns. She was one of the first to call for women’s ordination in 1971, and in 1974 she
founded the Institute of Women Today to empower, mentor and support women. She also founded Sisterhouse, a rehab facility in Chicago for women prisoners preparing to enter the job market and two homeless shelters for Chicago women and children, Maria’s Shelter and Casa Notre Dame. Learning of her death, Sr. Joan Chittister said: “If we really want to honor her memory, we’ll all need to do more now to fill so huge a gap.” (From an article by Patricia LeFevere, NCR 3/1/2002)



USCCB expresses profound sorrow

In a two-page statement issued February 14, 2002, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president Bishop Wilton D. Gregory expressed “profound sorrow” for the sexual abuse of children by priests. He stated: “I am very heartened by the professionals who work with both victims and abusers who encourage us in this work because, they tell us, there is not another institution in the United States that is doing more to understand and address the horror of sexual abuse of minors.” Gregory also thanked “the more than 40,000 wonderful priests in our country” and expressed his sadness that “the crimes of a few have cast a shadow over the grace filled and necessary work that they do day in and day out for society and for the church.” Gregory also highlighted some of the efforts the bishops conference has made in the last 20 years: “Our conference has encouraged the development of policies in every diocese to address this issue. Bishops have developed procedures whereby priests moving from one diocese to another must have certification of their good standing. Bishops have also revised seminary screening and have mandated in-service programs for priests, teachers, parish ministers and volunteers...Dioceses have implemented programs to ensure safe environments in parishes and schools.” (Origins 2/28/2002)



Vatican Comments on Gay Priests: “Narrow, Misguided”

Commenting on clergy sexual abuse, Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro Valls suggested that gay men should not be ordained as priests and that the ordinations of gay men might also be made invalid. In response, A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying sexuality and the priesthood for 25 years, said “If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do the same damage to the church’s operation....It would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world. And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints had a gay orientation, and many popes had gay orientations.”

David Clohenssy of St. Louis, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the Vatican comment “a narrow, misguided statement.” Experts in the field say they do not believe there is a link between the high number of gay priests and clergy sexual abuse. According to David Finkelnor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, “There is no research that indicates that a person who says he is gay, or who is sexually attracted to an adult person of the same gender, is more likely to be sexually interested in children.” (Boston Globe 3/4/2002)

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Spring 2002


Thanks to the careful Focus readers who called our attention to errors in the Winter 2002 issue. Mea culpa

• An article about the U.S. bishops November 2001 meetings should have read: “Cardinal Dulles
noted that Liturgiam Authenticam had a number of internal inconsistencies.”

• A report on the priest shortage in the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, should have stated:
“One parish is 125 miles long and sits in two time zones.”


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