Distrust hinders talks, says Colombian bishop
WASHINGTON (CNS) - Church efforts encouraging dialogue to end Colombia's civil war are stagnant because of distrust between the government and guerrilla groups, said a bishop involved in mediation efforts. Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, said the distrust also has hindered church efforts to arrange exchanges of rebel prisoners for guerrilla-held hostages, he said. Bishop Prieto heads a bishops' committee trying to get the government and the National Liberation Army, one of the two main Colombian guerrilla groups, to negotiate a peace. "Our efforts are low-key now," he told Catholic News Service. A separate bishops' committee is responsible for encouraging dialogue with the other main guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. Bishop Prieto was interviewed Feb. 10 while in Washington as part of a six-member delegation of Andean bishops visiting to discuss free trade issues with U.S. church and government officials.
Zambian bishops warn political tensions rising
LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) - Zambia's bishops have warned that political tensions in the southern African country could lead to civil strife. "We are witnessing wrangles within and across political parties mainly based on power struggles between factions," the Zambian bishops' conference said, noting its concern at "the endemic political tension that has become characteristic" of Zambia. "It is our view that this state of affairs is not healthy for our country and has the potential to degenerate into civil strife with grave consequences," the conference said in a mid-February statement after a plenary meeting in Lusaka. Most members of political groups are "looking for credible leadership, and they surely deserve better," the bishops said. "It is sad that, more than a decade after reverting to multiparty politics, we are yet to see stable and policy-driven political parties which Zambians can look up to," they said.
Wrongful death lawsuit advances against clinic
CHICAGO (CNS) - A Chicago couple can go forward with a lawsuit for wrongful death against a fertility clinic that mistakenly discarded a frozen embryo, Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ruled Feb 4. The opinion, based on a short section of the Illinois wrongful death code, set off a volley of responses from people on all sides of the life issue. Fertility doctors said that it could mean the end of the in vitro fertilization industry, while pro-life activists hailed the judge's comment that the Illinois Legislature intended embryos, from the time of conception, to be considered human beings. "It's a very interesting decision and a very welcome one," said Mary-Louise Kurey, Respect Life director for the Archdiocese of Chicago. "An embryo has its own unique DNA. It is its own unique person." The church has always taught that in vitro fertilization is wrong because it interferes with God's prerogative to create human life, as well as presenting the practical problem of what to do with "excess" embryos.
Violence forces parish to cancel mission trip
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) - Gang violence in Honduras has led an Arkansas parish to cancel an annual mission trip, which was scheduled for March, to that Central American nation. On Dec. 23, a gang attacked a local bus, killing 28 people, including women and children, and injuring more than 20 others. The missionaries from Christ the King Church in Little Rock were scheduled to take a five-hour bus trip down the same road in March. Sandee Haslauer, mission director, told The Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Little Rock Diocese, that the decision was made after much thought and prayer. The missionaries plan to return to Honduras in the near future. Msgr. Francis I. Malone, Christ the King's pastor, was planning to participate in the mission for the first time. During a Mass Jan. 30, he told parishioners, "It's a lose-lose proposition." Haslauer said the mission work would continue as parishioners support Honduras with donations of medicine, supplies and equipment. Two shipping containers were sent to the villages, churches and schools that are supported by the mission.
Hearings begin in California on suicide
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) - California Assemblywoman Patty Berg said she is not trying to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide, but her supporters as well as her opponents at a Feb. 4 hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento understood that her proposed legislation would allow doctors to help terminally ill patients kill themselves. Berg, one of two authors of the measure, said it "is not euthanasia in which a physician or someone else directly administers a medication to end another's life. Neither is it assisted suicide in which someone else assists the patient in hastening their own death." The bill is not in final form and has not been formally introduced, but it follows the lead of Oregon's 7-year-old law, she said, and would give "mentally competent, terminally ill Californians who have less than six months to live the right to control their own death." The bill would have four requirements: The patient must have less than six months to live; the patient must be mentally competent; the first two requirements must both be confirmed by two doctors; and only the patient can administer the death drugs. Opponents, many of them people with disabilities, spoke out against the proposal as being the first step down a slippery slope. At the bottom, they said, are people who doctors help to die but who were never asked if they wanted to die.
Sibling nuns keep visiting former student in prison
DONALDSON, Ind. (CNS) - Every month for the past six years two siblings - Sisters David, 83, and Lorine Huelskamp, 82, both members of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, have made a two-hour journey to visit a former student of theirs who is serving a 45-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter. John Paul Kohn, 32, is an inmate in the Miami Correctional Facility at Bunker Hill. He told Today's Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, that the women "have provided me with a great deal of love, healing and redemption." The sisters first met Kohn in 1984, when he was a 12-year-old student at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne. Sister Lorine was the associate principal and Sister David was his sixth-grade homeroom teacher. Kohn said their commitment has been a major influence in his personal growth. "I have found through their example what true love means," he said. "They have taught me about forgiveness, acceptance, healing and redemption. They have provided a tangible love of God that transcends religious dogma and makes the mercy of Jesus Christ come alive."
James Porter, convicted sex abuser, dead at 70
BOSTON (CNS) - James Porter, a former priest who served 20 years in prison for sexually molesting children in the Fall River Diocese in the 1960s, died of cancer Feb. 11. Porter, 70, was being treated in Boston at the New England Medical Center, where he had been transferred from a Department of Corrections medical clinic. Last year he completed an 18- to 20-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in 1993 to 41 counts of sexual assault involving 28 children. Since his release, Porter had been held by the state pending a civil hearing to decide whether he should be committed as a sexually dangerous person. Porter admitted to molesting more than 100 children in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico and Nevada.