Thursday, December 28, 2006

Presiding Bishop gives thanks for President Ford, his 'care-filled ministry'

Services pending at Episcopal parishes, Washington National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] Expressing gratitude for President Gerald R. Ford's "care-filled ministry over many decades," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that she and fellow Episcopalians will uphold his family in prayer following his death on December 26 at age 93.

In a December 27 statement, Jefferts Schori said: "We are both saddened at the death of this good and faithful servant and enormously grateful for his care-filled ministry over many decades. We give thanks for his life of service in government leadership as well as in the several parishes to which he belonged. His leadership in assisting with the completion of Washington National Cathedral and supporting the work of Episcopal Relief and Development will be long remembered. His family, especially Mrs. Ford, will continue in our prayers as they grieve this loss. May he rest in peace and rise in glory."

Funeral services are pending in Episcopal parishes in Palm Desert, California, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and at Washington National Cathedral, where arrangements for all state funerals are coordinated with the Military District of Washington.

Announcement of service dates and times will be forthcoming in the next few days, said spokespersons at each church site.

St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Palm Desert, California, has been the Fords' parish congregation during the years they have resided in Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles. Part of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, the congregation is led by its rector, the Rev. Robert Certain, who has been a pastor to the former President and is assisting the family with funeral arrangements.

Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is meant to host a service after the casket leaves the Gerald Ford Museum. Gerald and Betty Ford were married in Grace Church in 1948. The congregation is currently served by an interim rector, the Rev. Nixon McMillan. Burial is expected to follow in Grand Rapids.

In Washington, Bishop John Bryson Chane, who shares in the oversight of Cathedral service arrangements, issued the following statement on December 27: "Early this morning I was awakened with the news that President Gerald R. Ford had died in California after several years of deteriorating health.

"The former President, a faithful Episcopalian, was a man known for his great integrity and his firm belief in God. He never sought the Presidency, yet when it was thrust upon him he led wisely, guiding our nation well during a time of high inflation, fuel shortages, and the complex foreign policy challenges presented by the Cold War. A kind man who worked hard at building bridges and shaping consensus, he will be remembered for his dignity, his humility and his devotion to healing a divided nation.

"On behalf of the Diocese of Washington, I extend our prayers to his wife, Betty, and his family during this time of sadness, and I ask God's blessing upon our former President as he enters the land of light and joy where there is no more sorrow or pain, but only life everlasting."

Chane presided at the 2004 Washington National Cathedral funeral service for President Ronald Reagan. At that time, Chane said: "it is very satisfying to be here and to be able to provide that ministry not only to a nation, but really the global community."

Thanks to our readers for a great year!

The editors and staff of The World Monitor extend our heartfelt best wishes to our loyal readers.

We hope that the coming year brings the very best for you and your families.

We will continue, after a brief year-end hiatus, to bring you the latest news, features, and comment, from a progressive center viewpoint.

Our readers come from every part of the world, and we always keep this in mind when searching for news of relevance.

May God shed his abundant blessings on you now, and throughout the coming year.

Thank you again, for your loyal readership and support.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Officials prepare for Ford to lie in state, Funeral Services planned to take place at The National Cathedral (Episcopal)

The AP reported today that:

WASHINGTON - Officials were preparing tentative plans for President Gerald Ford's body to lie in state this weekend and expected a funeral service after New Year's at National Cathedral capping days of mourning in the capital.

U.S. Capitol Police officers said they were told to prepare for Ford's body to come to the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday, and congressional officials who have been briefed on plans said a public viewing would begin after an arrival ceremony. The cathedral service was expected Tuesday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the Ford family had not yet signed off on that schedule.

The hallmarks of a presidential state funeral began falling into place a day after the 38th president died at his Rancho Mirage Calif., home, at age 93.

The public was expected to get a first chance to pay respects at a church near Ford's California home, then at the U.S. Capitol and finally in Grand Rapids, Mich., home of his presidential museum and his anticipated place of interment. But funeral plans were not complete.

A senior Republican leadership official said all events related to Ford's funeral in Washington would be finished by Jan. 4, opening day of the 110th Congress, meaning no delay was anticipated in the hand-over of congressional control to Democrats. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because funeral plans were not complete.

Planners are guided by the wishes of the family and any instructions from the president himself on how elaborate the events will be, how much of it takes place in Washington and more. Ford's collegial character and unassuming style in the White House are expected to be reflected in his presidential funeral arrangements.

Taiwan quake disrupts phone, Web service throughout Southeast Asia, could take weeks to repair

Wed Dec 27, 9:33 AM ET

The AP reported today that:

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Telephone lines and Internet service went dead across much of Asia on Wednesday after two powerful earthquakes damaged undersea cables used by several countries to route calls and online traffic.

Repairing the cables could take weeks because crews have to pull them up and transfer them to a ship for repair, said Lin Jen-hung, vice general manager of Chunghwa Telecom Co., Taiwan's largest phone company.

The quakes jolted Taiwan late Tuesday, setting off a tsunami alert on the second anniversary of the Dec. 26, 2004, waves and quake that killed 230,000 in nine countries from the Indonesian islands to east Africa.

No large waves materialized this time but two people were killed when their home collapsed.

Two cables were damaged, both off Taiwan's coast, Chunghwa said.

The company reported a 50 percent loss of overall telephone capacity, with connections to China, Japan and Southeast Asia most affected.

Chunghwa also said almost all of Taiwan's communications capacity with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong was disrupted. Also hard hit was telephone service to the U.S., where 60 percent of capacity was lost, the company said.

Internet access in Beijing was cut or extremely slow, while Japanese customers were having trouble calling India and the Middle East. In
South Korea, dozens of companies and institutions were affected, including the country's Foreign Ministry.

Hong Kong telephone company PCCW Ltd., which also provides Internet service, said the quake cut its data capacity in half. Many Internet users were unable to access Web sites in parts of America, Taiwan and South Korea. Calls to Taiwan weren't connecting.

Internet access was cut or extremely slow in Beijing, said an official from China Netcom, China's No. 2 phone company. The official, who would not give his name, said the cause was thought to be the earthquake, but he had no further details.

Businesses in various parts of the city also said they were experiencing Internet access problems.

CCTV, the state-run television network, said China Telecom Corp., China's biggest phone company, was contacting counterparts in the U.S. and Europe about using satellites to make up for the shortfall.

KDDI Corp., Japan's major carrier for international calls, said its fixed-line telephone service was affected by the quake. Company spokesman Haruhiko Maeda said customers were having trouble calling India and the Middle East, which are usually use the cables near Taiwan.

Maeda said the company was rerouting calls to go through the U.S. and Europe and the company did not know how long it will take to repair the cables.

Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that international roaming service provided by Japan's major three telecommunications — NTT DoCoMO, KDDI, and Softbank, was affected. Ministry official Akira Yamanaka said that some customers were unable to make calls using their cell phones in countries including Taiwan.

South Korea's largest telecom company, KT, said that lines it uses were damaged, affecting dozens of companies and institutions, including South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

However, the quake didn't cause problems for ordinary people using Internet and telephone service, according to Ku Ja-hong, a KT spokesman.

The quake, which hit offshore from the southern town of Hengchun, was felt throughout Taiwan. It shook buildings and knocked objects off the shelves in the capital, Taipei, in the northern part of the island.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated its magnitude at 7.1, while Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau measured it at 6.7. It was followed eight minutes later by 7.0 magnitude aftershock, the USGS said. A 5.9-magnitude aftershock struck early Wednesday, the Central Weather Bureau said.

The complete story can be found here:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bush Administration Preparing for New Scrutiny and Subpoenas by Congress

The Baltimore Sun Reported today that:

President Bush is bracing for what could be an onslaught of investigations by the new Democratic-led Congress by hiring lawyers to fill key White House posts and preparing to play defense on countless document requests and possible subpoenas.

Bush is moving quickly to fill vacancies within his stable of lawyers, though White House officials say there are no plans to drastically expand the legal staff to deal with a flood of oversight.

"No, at this point, no," Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said recently. "We'll have to see what happens."

Snow rebutted the notion that Bush is casting about for legal advice in the wake of his party's loss of control of the Congress.

"We don't have a war room set up where we're ... dialing the 800 numbers of law firms," he said.

Still, in the days after the elections, the White House announced that Bush had hired two replacements to plug holes in his counsel's office, including one lawyer, Christopher G. Oprison, who is a specialist in handling white-collar investigations. A third hire was securities law specialist Paul R. Eckert, whose duties include dealing with the Office of the Special Counsel. Bush is in the process of hiring a fourth associate counsel, said Emily A. Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.

"Obviously, if we do have investigations, we'll have to make sure we have enough people to be prepared to answer questions that come our way," Lawrimore said. "As of right now, I wouldn't say it's anything special."

Republicans close to Bush say any such moves would not come until the White House sees how aggressive Democrats are in trying to pry the lid off the inner workings of the administration.

"They just think it's inevitable that there will be some investigations that will tie up some time and attention," said Charles Black, a strategist with close ties to the White House. But there's no panic in the ranks of Bush's team, he added. "They don't think they have anything to hide."

Bush still must do what he can now -- before Democrats take over the majority in Congress next month -- to prepare, legal specialists say.

The complete story can be found here:,0,7071390.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

Monday, December 25, 2006

Health Crisis in Los Angeles Jail System-Inmates Die Without Treatment

LOS ANGELES - The deaths of at least 14 inmates since 1999 in the nation's largest county jail system came after treatment errors and other breakdowns in their medical care, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The jail system lacks enough doctors, nurses and other medical workers, resulting in long delays in treatment for conditions ranging from hernias to heart disease, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times found.

Inmates have waited weeks for exams they were supposed to receive within 24 hours of making a request, the newspaper said.

Officials acknowledge that 20 percent of inmates who ask to see a doctor are released from jail without ever being examined, according to the Times.

Jody Kent, a court-sanctioned monitor who for three years walked the county's cellblocks documenting complaints for the
American Civil Liberties Union, said inmates showed her gaping wounds from infections, broken bones and bulging hernias.

"I basically saw grown men crying because they were in such pain," Kent said.

Sheriff's Lt. Stephen Smith, who oversees the jail system's medical services bureau, said treating prisoners is difficult because some conceal a medical condition while others feign illness or are mentally ill.

"We face unique challenges, and we do the best we can," Smith said. "These are difficult, angry, messed-up people. We try to treat people with the respect, not that they necessarily deserve, but that human decency demands."

A large problem is understaffing.

In a confidential 2004 report, a consultant said an additional 720 jail medical workers were needed to meet minimum state treatment standards. At the time, the work force stood at about 980.

"The county incurs significant liability for continuing a system of care that clearly is not working," the consultant said in the report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Spurred by those findings, officials began to bolster the ranks of doctors and nurses, but several hundred medical workers are still lacking.

An average of 200,000 people enter the county jails each year. On most nights, the population hovers around 18,000, with more than a third requiring medical care.

The county sheriff's department, which runs the jails, is required by law to provide basic medical care to all inmates.

When inmates are booked, they are questioned to determine if they are physically or mentally ill. About half require additional screening or treatment before being assigned to a cell.

If inmates later develop medical problems, there are daily "sick calls" in which they can sign up to see a nurse.

The volume of inmates, coupled with a shortage of doctors and nurses, has resulted in a backlog of hundreds of inmates waiting to be examined.

"I could have every doctor in the county of Los Angeles here, and it still wouldn't be enough," said Sander Peck, chief physician in the jail system. "I don't know what 'enough' would be."

Among the deaths reported in the Times' investigation was that of Pamela Wimberley, 38, who awoke one morning with a headache and fever, and a nurse who examined her found her blood pressure was elevated. A doctor over the phone ordered blood and urine tests for Wimberley, who was diabetic, to determine if she was developing a respiratory infection.

Wimberley was given a pain reliever and sent back to her cell; the tests were never done and the doctor never followed up. She died a week later after developing bacterial pneumonia.

The county settled the case for $150,000 and the doctor was suspended for three days.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Governor's aides stymied prison reform, ex-prison chiefs say

Top Schwarzegger staffers blocked reform by giving the guards union veto power over hiring, two former corrections leaders say.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that:

Two former prison chiefs handpicked by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday that election-year politics had thwarted their efforts to fix the crisis gripping California's correctional system, prompting them to resign in frustration earlier this year.

Testifying in federal court, the two corrections secretaries singled out the prison guards union and a pair of Schwarzenegger's top aides for most of the blame, saying the aides had given the union veto power over candidates for top jobs and a say in other key decisions.

One of the aides, Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy, said she planned to play a role this year in negotiating a new labor contract for the union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., according to testimony from Jeanne Woodford, who resigned as corrections secretary in April.

Woodford said she was surprised to hear that because negotiations typically are conducted by the Department of Personnel Administration.

A longtime critic of the state's prison system called Kennedy's potential involvement alarming.

"Nothing could be a clearer example of politics than a chief of staff handling contract negotiations" with a special-interest group, said Don Specter of the Prison Law Office, which has sued the state repeatedly over prison conditions.

Wednesday's hearing, before U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, was prompted by a report last summer from John Hagar, a special master appointed by the judge to oversee certain functions of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In the report, Hagar said that after launching "one of the most productive periods of prison reform" in California history, Schwarzenegger was guilty of backpedaling and giving a "disturbing" level of clout to the guards union.

The union is a powerful player in gubernatorial elections because of its hefty campaign war chest.

Its leaders have been harshly critical of Schwarzenegger, and his aides have acknowledged that they reached out to the group — and to other labor organizations — to mend fences early this year.

But Woodford and her predecessor as corrections secretary, Roderick Q. Hickman, said the aides did more than reach out. They said Kennedy and Cabinet Secretary Fred Aguiar — who has since resigned — met privately with union leaders and gave them undue influence over management decisions.

One episode, Woodford said, involved the rejection of her candidates for two top posts in the corrections department. Woodford said she was told by an official in the governor's appointments office that one candidate, Susan Hubbard, was turned down because three top union officials opposed her.

The second candidate, Tim Virga, was set to fill a slot in the department's labor division, which is crucial this year because of negotiations with the union over a new contract.

Virga was widely disliked by union officials because he had accused some leaders of misusing vacation and sick time. Woodford said she was told, one day after Kennedy and Aguiar met privately with top union officials, not to give him the labor post.

Beyond such events, Woodford said she thought her agenda for the department — one that included reform of the parole system, more education and drug treatment programs for inmates, and a fresh look at who goes to prison and for how long — clearly was not popular with Schwarzenegger aides consumed with his reelection.

In April, Woodford said, she laid out her plan for sentencing reform and other changes to the governor, recalling that he responded, "That sounds reasonable." But, according to Woodford's testimony, Kennedy and Aguiar told him, "Governor, it's an election year."

The complete story may be found here:,1,5121369.story

Overtime Gives About 6,000 California Prison Guards 6-Figure Salaries; 1 Earns $253,000 !!

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- About 6,000 California corrections officers earned more than $100,000 in the last fiscal year thanks to overtime work in the strained prison system, and one brought in more than a quarter of a million.

Overtime added $220 million to the $453 million base pay for those prison workers, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. More than 900 of them earned $50,000 or more in overtime alone.

Overtime costs have soared since the officers' current labor contract took effect five years ago, rising 24 percent in the third quarter of this year compared to the same point last year, the newspaper reported.

"This business of overtime is just out of control," said Lew Uhler, president of the Sacramento-based National Tax Limitation Committee. "If you had a comparable situation in the private sector, the management would have been fired long ago."

Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said a shortage of officers makes the overtime necessary.

"I can't have a control booth vacant," Alexander said. "We have to fill our positions."

The biggest payout to a corrections officer for the fiscal year that ended in June was $252,570, which went to a lieutenant. That's more than the salaries of the corrections chief, who makes $225,000, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declined what would be a $206,500 paycheck this year.

Editors Note....what are the requirements for this job? A high school diploma and age 21? I hope that the legislators in Sacramento feel the heat on this one....the prison guards are one of the most prolific contributors to politicians campaigns in California.........This kind of salary overinflation SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Church of England Parishes follow cathedrals with bigger Christmas congregations

Parish churches are following the trend set by cathedrals in attracting more Christmas worshippers, according to counts taken in 2005. New figures released today by the Church of England show a six per cent increase in the Church of England’s overall Christmas Eve/Christmas Day congregations last year.

The first figures to come out of the 2005 collection of Church of England attendance data show the 2005 Christmas congregation at 2,785,800, an increase of 156,500 over 2004. It is the highest figure since Millennium celebrations drew in 2.85 million in 2000. Cathedrals saw their Christmas congregations grow by 14,000 last year, to 121,000. Parish congregations increased by more than 142,000. Christmas communicants also increased strongly, by four percent to 1,207,800

Cathedrals have seen a 28 per cent increase in Christmas Eve/Christmas Day congregations since 2000.

The figures do not include worshippers attending carol services held during Advent. Nearly three-quarters of a million people, for example, attend cathedral services over the whole Christmas period.

A survey in 2005 by Opinion Research Business found that 43 percent of people expected to attend a church service of one sort or another over the Christmas period. The figure has been steadily rising since the turn of the millennium from the 33 per cent found by ORB in 2001 and 39 per cent in 2003.

The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester,(pictured above,left) said: "These increases in attendance continue to show that the Church of England is uniquely placed to welcome people back to church. There is clearly a desire for people to consider the spiritual aspects of life at key times throughout the year, times like Harvest, Remembrance Sunday and Christmas."

The Revd Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics, commented: "This encouraging news shows that churches across the country continue to be in touch with their local communities at this key time of year. A third of dioceses across the north and south, in both urban and rural areas, saw increases of 10 per cent or greater in attendance over the Christmas 24 hours last year. The increasing popularity of carol, nativity and other services underlines the evident importance of this Christian festival in the lifeblood of the nation."

Cathedrals are gearing up to welcome even more worshippers this Christmas. Last year saw a number, including Portsmouth, Southwell, Hereford and Lichfield, putting on extra services. This year, with more than 120,000 expected at cathedrals for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and nearly three-quarters of a million over the whole Christmas period, sees even more services announced, with Canterbury and St Paul’s leading the way.

In previous years, many more people than could be accommodated wanted to be part of the Christmas Eve Carol Service at St Paul’s. This year, there will be two, both sung by the Cathedral Choir, at 1.00pm and 4.00pm. Similarly, Canterbury Cathedral, concerned for the safety of the growing numbers of people attending, has arranged an extra Carol Service on December 23.

More than 20,000 are expected to visit the Church of England’s first online Advent Calendar – - with 17,200 having entered the calendar since it went live on Advent Sunday, December 3.

Sack China's bishops, cardinal tells Vatican

The Telegraph reported today that:

The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholics has called on the Pope to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops, as relations between Beijing and the Holy See plunge to new lows.

China's state-run Church has ordained bishops in defiance of Rome, despite negotiations since the death of John-Paul II aimed at restoring diplomatic ties after more than half a century.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong and one of the Church's key voices on Chinese issues, said that the time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance.

In the most recent case, at the end of November, the ordination went ahead despite a clear warning from the Holy See that it would be in breach of Canon Law.

"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

Canon law calls for the excommunication of both those ordaining and being ordained if it is without Church approval. Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican had acted quickly to excommunicate Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former archbishop of Lusaka who married and then conducted four ordinations of rebel bishops.

Mainland China has six million people worshipping in the state-backed Catholic Church, but the same number again or even more worship in underground churches loyal to Rome. They are frequently repressed, and a number of bishops remain in prison.

Until recently, a compromise held whereby the official Church would only elevate bishops after receiving an indication from Rome that the candidate had the Vatican's approval. But Cardinal Zen said this compromise had run its course.

Excommunicating bishops would mark a major break between the Vatican and the Chinese Church, which is regarded as estranged from but still "in communion" with the mainstream.

The complete story may be found here:

ACLU and Public Health Groups Urge Appeals Court to Reject Bush Global AIDS Gag

WASHINGTON - December 21 - The federal government is illegally restricting the ability of U.S. health organizations to end the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, charged the American Civil Liberties Union and more than 25 public health and human rights organizations in a legal brief filed today.

The groups are urging a federal appeals court to reject a U.S. policy known as the "AIDS Leadership Act," which requires organizations that receive U.S. federal funding-regardless of their mission-to explicitly pledge to oppose commercial sex work. Two federal courts have already ruled that the policy violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. organizations, but the government is appealing those decisions.

"It is shameful that the Bush administration would value its political agenda over human lives," said Claudia Flores, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and counsel on today’s brief. "Rather than saving lives, this global gag rule will put women and girls at serious risk of infection and death. This policy is completely at odds with efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to treat its victims."

The groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in U.S. Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International. In the brief, the groups emphasize the damaging impact the policy would have on public health worldwide. The groups also argue that the policy violates the free speech rights of U.S. organizations by restricting use of their private funds.

Many organizations that work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS often reach out to commercial sex workers to distribute condoms and offer education on safer-sex measures. Signing an official pledge to oppose prostitution could lead to further stigmatization of this high risk population, say the groups, and would undermine prevention and treatment efforts. Those already infected will be discouraged from acknowledging their condition and seeking treatment because of a fear of being shunned or abused. Others will not seek out information or medical care or may fail to take precautions that stem the spread of HIV/AIDS for fear of stigmatization.

The groups say that this policy is at odds with the United States’ own HIV/AIDS policies. The premier federal agencies working to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have found that isolating vulnerable groups like sex workers profoundly affects prevention efforts. Denying all funds from the USAID to organizations that do not make the pledge is in direct contradiction to this long held public health practice, said the ACLU.

While the Alliance for Open Society International and Pathfinder International, the organizations represented in the legal challenge, do not endorse prostitution, the groups say it is essential that they maintain their ability to engage in proven, effective HIV prevention methods with at-risk populations. In a landmark opinion, Judge Victor Marrero ruled in this case that the pledge requirement violated the First Amendment rights of the two organizations by restricting their privately funded speech and by forcing them to adopt the government’s viewpoint in order to remain eligible for funds. Today’s ACLU brief urges the appeals court to uphold Judge Marrero’s opinion.

The ACLU also filed a brief in a related case, USAID v. DKT International, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. DKT International, a U.S.-based organization, was denied federal funding when it refused to adopt the policy because it would hamper its HIV/AIDS services worldwide. On May 18, 2006, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that the application of the pledge requirement to DKT International violated the organization’s constitutional rights.

Both opinions are now on appeal by the government. Though the outcome of both cases will affect only the obligations of the plaintiff organizations under the pledge requirement, the decisions will likely have a broad impact on the other U.S.-based organizations that have been forced to limit their speech in exchange for government funding.

In addition to the ACLU, the organizations that signed onto today’s brief are: AIDS Action, American Foundation for AIDS Research, American Humanist Organization, American Jewish World Service, Center for Health and Gender Equity, Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for Women Policy Studies, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Global AIDS Alliance, Global Health Council, Global Justice, Guttmacher Institute, Human Rights Watch, Institute of Human Rights of Emory University, International Planned Parenthood Federation of the Western Hemisphere Region, International Women’s Health Coalition, National Council of Jewish Women, Partners in Health, Physicians for Human Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Action International, Population Council, Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Chair of the Harvard Medical School Department of Social Medicine.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Catholic university's leaders call same-sex attraction a curable disorder reported that:

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ave Maria University leaders spoke out about same-sex attraction recently, calling it a disorder that can be corrected or suppressed.

Provost Joseph Fessio and President Nick Healy participated in the crafting of a statement outlining the Catholic church's teachings against same-sex attraction and sexual promiscuity during a leadership conference in Denver in October.

The participating group, called the Cardinal Newman Society, encouraged leaders on Catholic college campuses, like Ave Maria, to promote abstinence from sex before marriage. College officials also should urge students experiencing same-sex attractions to seek guidance from school leaders, or, for students who cannot fight their gay urges, to live a chaste life.

"There is a problem that has arisen on many Catholic university campuses on which the roles of marriage and men and women are being confused, and that can be damaging to young people," Fessio said. "God created us male and female, so we might be help mates, support for each other and multiply the Earth.

"That is the meaning of sexuality. Anything other than that is a disorder, and will lead to bad consequences."

The Cardinal Newman Society is comprised of Catholic school leaders, pro-life group representatives and other prominent Catholic leaders throughout the country, Fessio said. The group meets annually to discuss issues involving Catholic life and teachings.

Although the Catholic church has maintained a strict opposition to the homosexual lifestyle throughout history, Healy said refreshing the issue is important.

"The overall message is that Catholic universities have the responsibility not to give in to the intellectual fashion today, but that they stay with the teachings of the Catholic church," Healy said. "The church teaches that (same-sex attraction) is an objective disorder, and should be discouraged."

The statement contradicts many scientists' beliefs that same-sex attraction is a genetic trait, and cannot be reversed.

"There is no valid scientific evidence for a biological origin of same-sex attraction," according to the statement. "However, there is evidence that persons with same-sex attractions can and do change."

Kathleen Korb, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples, disagreed, citing scientific and social research stating same-sex attractions cannot be eliminated.

"It has been shown again and again and again that people think someone is 'cured,' which is a ridiculous word, but the next thing you know, they are back to the same attractions," she said. "You cannot change people's sexual orientation."

Fessio recognized same-sex attraction exists. But, he said, it is against God's plan for the human race.

"This is a fact of history that there are people who have same-sex attractions," he said. "The church does not speak authoritatively on science and psychology, but it does speak on God's plan and what the Bible teaches us."

Korb, who also teaches from the Bible, among other religious documents, said calling homosexuality a disorder is ludicrous.

"I think if people love one another and respect one another, what does it matter what sex they are? What business is it of mine?" she asked. "I just don't understand how people can get so upset about something that doesn't affect them one way or the other."

The statement also encourages Catholic university leaders to offer spiritual and psychological assistance, as well as medical guidance, to students, faculty and staff members struggling with chastity and same-sex attraction.

"We ask everyone to be chaste, whether they are heterosexual or not," Healy said. "If people are struggling with issues of chastity, we certainly have resources to deal with that."

Fessio said there are six or eight priests on the Ave Maria campus who have experience dealing with struggling parishioners.

But, he added, their assistance at the school hasn't yet been necessary.

"The people that come here are generally committed to leading a life in accordance with the church," Fessio said. "We've all got disorders and temptations toward evil. That comes from original sin. If we were to find people having difficulty living a moral life, we would try to help."

The statement also addresses school-hiring policies, stating those who promote a lifestyle contradicting Catholic teachings shouldn't be hired.

"We don't require (staff members) to accept our teachings, but they have to be willing not to publicly discredit them," Fessio said. "Being gay isn't only living a homosexual lifestyle, but promoting it as well.

"That kind of public position in what the church has said is a disorder obviously contradicts what we teach."

American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Brandon Hensler said refusing to hire openly gay people could be a civil rights violation. Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states religious organizations can discriminate in their hiring, but only if the job applicant's religious beliefs are directly related to the job.

The complete story may be found here:

Long U.S. Work Hours Are Bad for the Environment, Study Shows

WASHINGTON - December 20 - If the world works as many hours as Americans currently do, it would consume 15 to 30 percent more energy by 2050 than it would by following Europe's model, according to a paper by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption, by researcher David Rosnick and economist Mark Weisbrot, looks at the potential environmental effects of European and other countries adopting the U.S. norm of longer work hours. The authors find that the implications for global climate change could be significant. To read the report, see:

"Old Europe" currently consumes about half as much energy per person as does the United States. If Europe were to adopt U.S. practices and increase annual work hours to American levels, the paper shows, they could consume some 30 percent more energy than they do at present. Not only could that impact fuel prices worldwide, but the resulting carbon emissions would make it far more difficult for the EU to meet its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol.

"The implications of adopting the U.S. model of longer work hours and more energy usage extend beyond Europe," said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and co-author of the paper. "There could be an even greater environmental impact since, as the economies of developing countries grow, those nations look to either the U.S. or to European economic models."

The report outlines how worldwide energy patterns could be dependent on which model developing countries choose in the next few decades. If all countries worked as many hours per week as U.S. workers do, the additional carbon emissions could substantially increase the pace of global warming.

Alternately, there is the possibility of the reverse outcome: that the United States could move more in the direction of Europe's fewer work hours, which would significantly reduce energy consumption.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chilean leader sees "emergency contraception" as justice issue

Dec. 19, 2006 ( - Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has called her government’s program to distribute abortion-causing emergency contraception as a matter of social justice, despite the outcry from Chile’s political and Church leaders who say the program violates parental rights and is the first step to overturning Chile‘s constitutional protections of unborn life. The New York Times reports that Bachelet, “a feminist physician who used to practice pediatric medicine at public clinics in poor neighborhoods,” has argued for the distribution of free abortifacient contraceptives because “not everyone is equal and not everyone has the same possibilities.” She claims her duty is “to guarantee that all Chileans have real options in this area, as in others.” The coalition government under Bachelet has legalized the “morning-after pill”, also known as Plan B, and has ordered state hospitals to provide these high-dosage contraceptives free on demand to girls and women over 14 years old. The government has pushed ahead despite objections from the Catholic nation’s conservative and religious leaders who point out the high-level hormones in emergency contraceptives cause an abortion by making the womb inhospitable to a newly conceived human embryo, and thus would violate Chile’s constitutional ban on abortion.

Calls for New Election in Florida Voting Machine Meltdown-18,000 Votes “Lost” by Paperless Machines in 13th District

Full-Page New York Times Ad Runs Tuesday“Welcome To Florida: Where Only Some Votes Count”

WASHINGTON - December 19 - Political Action will run a full-page ad in the New York Times on Tuesday, calling for a re-vote in Florida's 13th Congressional District race. Electronic voting machines appear to have lost 18,000 votes—votes almost certain to change the outcome of this close House race. The voting machines used in Florida don’t keep paper records, so there’s no way to recount the votes short of a new election.

MoveOn is also circulating a petition urging the House of Representatives to call for a re-vote. Nearly 200,000 people have signed the petition which will be delivered to the new House leadership this week.

The ad's tagline reads: "Welcome to Florida: Where Only Some Votes Count."

“Paperless voting machines don't work, so people across the country are asking Congress to call for a re-vote before seating anyone from Florida's 13th District,” said Noah T. Winer, Election Integrity Campaign Director, Political Action. “This petition is just the first step in fixing a flawed election system.”

In just three hours, MoveOn members contributed enough money to pay for a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Democratic Committee Chair Howard Dean has declared support for a re-vote. Currently the two candidates in FL-13 are separated by 369 votes. The U.S. Constitution grants the House of Representatives the authority to call for a re-vote. The House intervened in a similar case as recently as 1985. The last re-vote in a congressional election was in 1975.

Lawsuit Demands Answers About Government's Secret 'Risk Assessment' Scores

Millions of U.S. Travelers Affected by Giant Data-Mining Program

WASHINGTON - December 19 - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in federal court today, demanding immediate answers about an invasive and unprecedented data-mining system deployed on American travelers.

The Automated Targeting System (ATS) creates and assigns "risk assessments" to tens of millions of citizens as they enter and leave the country. In November, DHS announced that the program would launch on December 4, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff later admitted that the program had already been in operation for several years.

"The news of this secret program sparked a nationwide uproar. DHS needs to provide answers, and provide them quickly, to the millions of law-abiding citizens who are worried about this 'risk assessment' score that will follow them throughout their lives," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel.

Under ATS, individuals have no way to access information about their "risk assessment" scores or to correct any false information about them. But while you cannot see your score, it will be made readily available to untold numbers of federal, state, local, and foreign agencies. The government will retain the data for 40 years.

While the publicly available information about ATS is disturbing enough, there are many critical details the government did not disclose. For example, DHS has not announced what the consequences might be of a "risk assessment" score that indicates an individual might be a threat. EFF's suit demands an urgent and expedited response to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed earlier this month, including all Privacy Impact Assessments for the ATS, all records that describe redress for individuals who believe the system includes inaccurate information, and all records that discuss potential consequences for travelers as a result of the system.

"ATS is precisely the sort of system that Congress sought to prohibit with the Privacy Act of 1974," said Sobel. "DHS needs to abide by the law and give Americans the information they deserve about this dangerous program."

Congressional leaders have indicated that they are likely to convene hearings on ATS when the new Congress convenes in January. Today's lawsuit cites that pending oversight as an additional reason why DHS must release details about the system on an expedited basis.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Virginia diocese promises 'every encouragement' to Episcopalians remaining in disaffected congregations

Presiding Bishop pledges partnership, urges entire church to pray and work for healing

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia said December 18 that it has the agreement of people who voted December 17 to leave the Episcopal Church that they will not attempt to transfer church property to their ownership for 30 days.

In return, the diocese promised not to initiate any litigation concerning the departures for the same amount of time, according to a statement issued after Bishop Peter Lee, the diocese's Executive Board and Standing Committee met in an emergency joint session the afternoon of December 18.

"The Episcopal Church is going to be there in partnership with the Diocese of Virginia to help bring healing in any way that we can, and to continue to remind everybody that we are engaged in larger mission," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told ENS.

"If some people decide they need to go then our best recourse is to bless their journey and to remind people that the door will remain open and the porch light on," she said.

Eight of Virginia's 195 congregations announced December 17 that their members had voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church of Uganda or the Anglican Church of Nigeria by way of the Anglican District of Virginia, part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

The Anglican Communion's secretary general, Kenneth Kearon, said in a December 15 statement that CANA had "not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion's structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment."

The members of the eight congregations amount to about 8,000 of the diocese's roughly 90,000 Episcopalians. The Episcopal Church includes some 7,200 congregations in its 100 domestic dioceses, and about 150 in its 10 overseas dioceses and one convocation.

The eight congregations are "a very, very small percentage of the church and the vast bulk of the church is healthy, is engaged in mission and ministry, and that is going to continue," Jefferts Schori said. "It will continue to bless the communities where those churches are."

Jefferts Schori called on the rest of the Episcopal Church to "remember to pray for everybody involved – those who feel a need to leave and those who remain – to pray that those people and their families can find some peace and remember that communities can reach beyond this kind of division"

She said that Episcopal Church members everywhere ought to "continue to be involved in mission and ministry in their own congregations" as these issues are being resolved.

"There's plenty to heal in this world of ours," she said. "Most of us are concerned about that and are working to follow Jesus' call to love our neighbor."

"At this time of year it's appropriate to remember that Jesus came among us and he wasn't welcomed everywhere he went. If some people feel some rejection in these actions, it's not unlike that which Jesus experienced. That's part of the Christian journey. It is what it means to pick up your cross."

Lee said in the diocese's statement that "our primary concern is for the membership of the Diocese of Virginia."

"In some of our churches where that membership has now been significantly reduced, there are faithful Episcopalians who need to be given every encouragement to establish structures necessary for their continuity as the Episcopal Church," he said.

The Executive Board and Standing Committee said that they had "authorized the bishop to explore all options with the Episcopalians who remain and to take appropriate actions for their support and full participation in the life of the diocese."

The Executive Board, Standing Committee and bishop also established a seven-member property commission to meet with departing members to discuss real and personal property matters on a case-by-case basis. It will make recommendations to Lee, the Standing Committee, and the Executive Board, according to the statement.

"As I have said previously, our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese," said Lee. "As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the church's canonical and legal rights over these properties. The members of the property commission are charged with addressing those matters on behalf of the diocese on a case by case basis."

According to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, dioceses are created or dissolved only by acts of General Convention (Articles V and VI) and dioceses create or dissolve Episcopal congregations in their midst. Congregational property is held in trust for the diocese, and the diocese holds property in trust for the wider church (Canon I.7.4 of the Episcopal Church). Canon 15.1 of Virginia's diocesan canons concurs with the national canons.

The full text of the diocesan statement is available here.

According to a statement of the diocese's website, the congregations that announced their vote tallies on December 17 were Christ the Redeemer, Centreville; Church of the Apostles (, Fairfax; Church of the Word, Gainesville; Potomac Falls Episcopal Church, Sterling; St. Margaret's, Woodbridge; St. Stephen's, Heathsville; The Falls Church, Falls Church; and Truro Church, Fairfax.

The status of St. Paul's, Haymarket, which was due to announce its decision December 17, remained unclear, according to the diocesan list.

Four Virginia congregations had previously announced their disaffiliation with the diocese. They are All Saints, Dale City; Christ Our Lord Anglican Church, Lake Ridge; Church of the Holy Spirit, Ashburn; and South Riding Episcopal Church, Fairfax.

Two other congregations have announced their intentions to put Episcopal membership to a future vote, the statement said. They are Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, and Our Saviour, Oatlands.-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Use of Death Penalty Declines in 2006

Public Now Favors Life Without Parole
Lethal Injection Challenges Lead to Fewest Executions in a Decade Death Sentences at 30-Year Low

WASHINGTON - December 14 - For the first time in two decades, the Gallup Poll this year revealed that more Americans support the alternative sentence of life without parole over the death penalty as the proper punishment for murder. This result is in-step with the Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) 2006 Year End Report detailing a continuing trend away from capital punishment in the United States. In its report, DPIC notes that U.S. death sentences are now at an historic 30-year low, executions have sharply declined, and the size of death row has been dropping since 2000.

In the states this year, New Jersey became the first jurisdiction to enact a moratorium on executions through legislation and joined a lengthy list of states, including California and North Carolina, in forming a study commission to review the fairness and accuracy of the death penalty. New York legislators chose not to reinstate that jurisdiction’s defunct death penalty. More changes may emerge in the coming years as a growing number of candidates who are opposed to the death penalty were elected to public office in 2006.

“The American public has turned an important corner in this debate. Support for the death penalty is on the decline and more people are embracing the alternative sentence of life without parole, which is now available in almost every state,” said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Capital punishment is risky, expensive, and could result in irreversible error. Fewer people are now willing to put their faith in such a flawed policy.”

In its report, DPIC noted that the number of executions in 2006 reached a 10-year low of 53, down 46% since its highpoint in 1999. Evidence that lethal injections could be causing needless and excruciating pain delayed a number of executions and led to a series of court hearings this year. Individual executions in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, and in the federal system were halted because of this issue.

The number of people sentenced to death annually has dropped by nearly 60% since 1999, falling from nearly 300 death sentences annually in the 1990s to a projected 114 death sentences this year. The size of death row decreased for the fifth consecutive year after 25 years of increases, declining from 3,415 last year to 3,366 in 2006.

The issue of innocence remained an important cornerstone of the death penalty debate in 2006 as an expanding list of judges, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and other new voices joined in challenging capital punishment’s implementation and accuracy. Former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher Jack Fuller echoed the concerns of many when he wrote: “[N]o government is good enough to entrust with the absolute power that capital punishment entails.”

In August, the American Bar Association unanimously passed a resolution calling for an exemption from the death penalty for the severely mentally ill. An almost identical resolution had been endorsed earlier by such mental health groups as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Groups Charge Big Oil With More Than $2 Billion in Consumer Fraud: Hot Motor Fuel Pumps Less Energy

Petroleum Retailers Overcharge Motorists for Overheated Fuel and Pocket Taxes Paid by Consumers

WASHINGTON - December 14 - Truck drivers and motorists in seven states filed a complaint Wednesday against seventeen oil companies and gasoline and diesel retailers for overcharging at the pump for fuel heated above the industry standard. This “hot fuel” provides less energy than a standard gallon and bilks consumers of more than two billion dollars nationwide, according to information released at a telephone press conference held today to announce the lawsuit.

“Automobile travel and small truck traffic will be heavy during this holiday season,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, who participated in the press conference. “This lawsuit comes at a particularly appropriate time to expose a system that has been quietly picking money from the pockets of citizens throughout the country.”

For decades, fuel retailers have been overcharging drivers by selling gasoline or diesel that is warmer than the industry standard of 60 degrees. Like all liquids, the volume of fuel expands and contracts when the temperature changes. Hotter fuel has less energy in each gallon than cooler fuel. Regardless of whether fuel temperature rises due to radiant heat from the sun or the refinery process, the results are the same: consumers pay more for less energy.

Those who buy fuel in bulk, such as the U.S. armed forces, have temperature-adjusted purchase agreements with the oil industry. In fact, fuel is adjusted for temperature all along the distribution line except at the end point, when it is delivered to individual consumers. With U.S. retail pumps, motorists never know how much energy they will receive from a gallon of motor fuel. By some estimates, retailers are shortchanging drivers 760 million gallons per year.

The class-action lawsuit charges the petroleum retailers with breach of sales contract and consumer fraud and seeks relief for motor fuel consumers in the states of California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. It calls for remedies in the form of restitution and the installation of temperature correction equipment for pumps that dispense gasoline and diesel fuel. The seventeen companies charged in the suit are Alon USA, Inc., Ambest, Inc., Chevron USA, Inc., Circle K Corporation, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, ConocoPhilips LLC, Costco Wholesale Corporation, Flying J., Inc., Petro Stopping Centers, L.P., Pilot Travel Centers LLC, Inc., 7-Eleven, Inc., Shell Oil Products Company, LLC, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, The Kroger Company, TravelCenters of America, Inc., Valero Marketing and Supply Company and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

For Big Oil, hot fuel overcharges add up to huge, ill-gotten windfalls. To add insult to injury, the oil industry also benefits from state and federal tax loopholes related to overheated fuel. Gasoline and diesel fuel is measured and taxed at the time it is bought at wholesale. Any additional amount of taxes paid by motorists at the pump buying hot fuel does not go to federal and state governments to repair our highways, roads and bridges – it goes straight into the pockets of the oil companies and retailers.

But the oil industry’s opinion about temperature-adjusted motor fuel pumps at the point of retail sale depends on where it is standing. While it opposes temperature compensation in the United States, it embraces it in Canada, where it stands to lose money from selling “cold fuel” that has more energy than the standard gallon. The industry has voluntarily implemented the use of temperature control equipment at retail pumps in Canada and supported legislation there to make the technology mandatory at the point of sale.

“Although the industry claims that the cost of hot fuel amounts to pennies for individual consumers, it really adds up to a $50 tax on every car in the country,” said John Siebert, project manager of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) Foundation and a participant in today’s conference call.

“We joined this lawsuit because it’s hard enough to make a living out here,” said Becky Rushing, who along with her husband Mark is part of an owner-operator trucking team that represents two of the millions of motorists that constitute the class in this case. “We see truck drivers every day who have to give up their trucks and get off the road without these oil companies taking advantage of us, too.”

“Ultimately, Congress needs to protect U.S. consumers against the industry-wide practice of hot fuel overcharges – but in the absence of government protections, the only solution is for consumers to band together and force a remedy through the legal system,” said Claybrook.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

San Juan Capistrano California Mission puts a price on prayer

The Orange County Register reported today that:

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Susan Hibbert wanted to light a candle and say a prayer Sunday at the Mission San Juan Capistrano's Serra Chapel for her husband, a U.S. Army medic soon to be deployed in Iraq.

But she was stunned when at the ticket window she was asked to pony up $7, the same entry fee the mission charges tourists who visit the historic landmark.

"I was totally shocked," said Hibbert, 41, of Mission Viejo, who has prayed at the chapel without being charged and has been part of the parish at the basilica next door for years.

"I just turned around and walked out. I was like, 'How can you charge somebody for just praying?' I thought it was ridiculous."

Reversing a longstanding policy, the mission earlier this year began charging $7 to those who want to pray at its intimate Serra Chapel.

The management says the mission is a unique entity, one that needs to be preserved for generations and not just a place of worship. While part of the Catholic Diocese of Orange, the mission does not get any money from it and has been trying to raise funds for preservation.

Officials say that auditors saw the old policy as problematic. Previously, a worshipper would be given a time-stamped slip, which they would return upon leaving. If they exceeded about 15 minutes allotted to pray, they could then be charged the full $7 entry fee.

But the old policy left the cash register prone to employee theft and it was tough to enforce, said Mechelle Lawrence, mission executive director. Tourists in line also asked to get in for free and many who said they were going simply to pray would linger or never return the entry slip, she said.

"Does Disneyland let everybody come in because everyone wants to shop at their stores?" Lawrence asked. "It's a hard thing to implement … The mission is at a crossroads: It has one foot stuck in the past but it lives in a modern world and living in the modern world puts pressure on people who want to save it."

Last week, a meeting between the management and about a dozen Juaneño members – some of whom sought access to the mission grounds for free because their ancestors helped build it – on Monday resulted in a new program granting the Juaneño Indians free access.

"There never has been any program to recognize the Juaneños in that way," Lawrence said. "Seems like a very simple, kind gesture to implement."

The policy affecting other members of the public, however, still stands.

The complete story may be found here:

Former Los Angeles priest to appear in court-Cardinal Mahony "Troubled"

The Los Angeles Times reported today that:

Less than two weeks after Cardinal Roger M. Mahony (pictured left) announced a landmark deal to settle lawsuits brought by 45 people who said they were molested by Catholic priests, the focus of the Southern California clergy sex scandal moves back to the criminal courts.

Former priest Michael Stephen Baker is due in court today for a hearing; he has been charged with molesting a boy after he had confessed to the cardinal that he was an abuser. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment earlier this year.

Baker, whose case Mahony has said "troubles me the most," is one of the most reviled ex-priests in a scandal that has implicated dozens of clergy in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, generated 562 claims of abuse and touched three out of every four parishes in the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the nation.

Mahony has acknowledged leaving 16 priests in the ministry after parishioners complained about inappropriate behavior with children. Baker is one of five who went on to molest.

Baker's association with Mahony plus his return to court have fueled speculation about where the criminal investigation might be headed.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley accused the archdiocese of "a pattern of obstruction" when his office and the church fought over whether the archdiocese officials had to turn over documents to prosecutors.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before Mahony, who maintained he could not turn over the priests' files to a county grand jury without their consent, lost his bid in April.

The district attorney's office, which has had the files on Baker and another priest since then, declined to comment. Across the country, despite five years of investigations that have resulted in scores of priests being charged with molestation, no high church officials have been charged.

Grand juries have issued stinging reports in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Arizona, accusing high-level clergy of actively covering up sexual misconduct. In two of those cases, prosecutors said they declined to bring criminal charges when the local church agreed to compensate victims and submit to oversight of church functions by law enforcement.

In Cincinnati, officials did not charge any individuals, but the church pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor of failing to report sexually abusive priests. The case was settled without a trial, and remains the only instance in which an abuse investigation reached farther than individual molesters.

In Los Angeles, some victims and their advocates would like to see church officials held accountable.

"No one who is familiar with the facts really believes that Cardinal Roger Mahony is innocent," said John Manley, an attorney for several people who said they were abused by priests. "The question is, does the D.A.'s office have the moral courage to … do the right thing if the evidence leads him there?"

Church officials, on the other hand, say there is no basis for such prosecutions to even be considered.

"I have reviewed numerous files and I see no evidence of a chargeable case against any individual in the hierarchy of the Los Angeles Archdiocese," said Donald Steier, the lawyer for Baker and other priests accused of molestations.

J. Michael Hennigan, the attorney for Mahony and the archdiocese, agreed. "Accuse people of naivete. Accuse people of optimism. Accuse people of believing the acts of contrition of a bad guy. But complicity, not a chance."

Conspiracy has a high bar.

"The mental state is very high; you have to enter into an agreement that you will commit a crime," said N. William Delker, the senior assistant attorney general in New Hampshire who directed the grand jury investigation there. "The reality is, I don't think any of the hierarchy in New Hampshire … went into this wanting priests to abuse children. They knew there was a problem that priests couldn't control their behavior. But it was not their purpose to have the priests go back and re-offend."

No bishop was called before a grand jury in New Hampshire — in contrast to Philadelphia, where the church says its former cardinal was called 10 times. Despite a report stating that two cardinals acted to protect abusive priests, a combination of legal hurdles, including expired statutes of limitations, meant the prelates "will never face the penalties they deserve," Philadelphia Dist. Atty. Lynne Abraham said last year.

Charles F. Gallagher, a homicide prosecutor who ran the Philadelphia grand jury, said his investigation was also hampered by the statute of limitations.

In Phoenix, the facts could have "possibly" supported an obstruction of justice charge, but Richard Romley, the prosecutor, said he decided instead to make a deal under which the church agreed to reform and submit to civil oversight.

The complete story may be found here:,0,4400480.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

Iran: Prosecute Torturers, Not Bloggers

NEW YORK - December 12 - The Iranian Judiciary should prosecute officials responsible for the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of several bloggers in 2004, instead of prosecuting the bloggers for expressing their opinions, Human Rights Watch said today.
On December 3, branch 1059 of Tehran’s Judiciary commenced a trial against four men, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Omid Memarian, and Javad Gholam Tamimi, on charges of “participation in formation of groups to disturb national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “dissemination of disinformation to disturb public opinion by writing articles for newspapers and illegal internet sites,” and “interviews with foreign radio broadcasts.” The court has held one closed-door session, and the trial is scheduled to resume on December 17.
“The Iranian judiciary is trying to prosecute government critics using vague, overbroad laws whose very terms restrict free expression,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. “Iran should be prosecuting the officials accused of torture, not the bloggers accused of holding opinions.”

Human Rights Watch said the laws on which the government has based its case are themselves incompatible with international human rights law. The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (1995) provide that “no one may be punished for criticizing or insulting the nation, the state or its symbols, the government, its agencies, or public officials, or a foreign nation, state or its symbols, government [or] agency.” Compiled by experts in international law, national security and human rights, the Principles are based on international law and standards and have come to be widely recognized as an authoritative interpretation of the relationship between legitimate national security interests and the rights of free expression and to information.

The detention of the men by Iranian security forces has been fraught with allegations of serious abuse. In September and October 2004, Tehran’s prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi, orchestrated the secret detentions and alleged torture of 21 bloggers and staff of internet news sites known to be critical of the government. Following domestic and international protests, the authorities ordered the release of all the detainees. But the release order came only after Mortazavi had personally coerced the four bloggers now on trial to sign written confessions as a condition for their release, they said. While the Judiciary dropped the charges against the 17 others, it prosecuted those four.

According to the bloggers and their lawyers, the prosecution’s evidence for the most serious charges – conspiring with others to disturb national security – rests primarily on their false coerced confessions. In their confession letters, made public shortly after their release, the bloggers stated that they were part of a “dreadful network operating inside and directed from outside the country” that instructed them to write articles aimed at “sabotaging the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran” by portraying government actions as “anti-human rights.”

Tamimi remains in Iran, but the other three men currently reside outside Iran, represented in absentia by their lawyers.

Immediately after their release in 2004, the bloggers renounced their confessions as false and forced, and gave public statements about the conditions of their detention. On January 1, 2005, Mirebrahimi and Memarian appeared before a presidential commission set up by the former president Mohammad Khatami to investigate their detention. They detailed their arrest, solitary confinement in a secret prison, and torture at the hands of their interrogators.

Mirebrahimi, Memarian and Rafizadeh also met with the head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahrudi, on January 10, 2005 and briefed him on the conditions of their detention. Two days later, the Judiciary’s spokesperson, Jamal Karimirad, said: “Ayatollah Shahrudi has issued a special order to investigate and probe these [detentions]. If any of the detainees’ allegations, at any level, are true then we will prosecute the violators.”

On April 20, 2005, Karimirad announced that, “following our investigation, it has been established that the interrogators and prosecutors committed a series of negligent and careless acts in this case that led to the abuse of the detainees’ words and writings in producing the confession letters.” The Judiciary did not release a report on its findings and has not held anyone accountable. Human Rights Watch called on the government to make the full findings of its investigation public.

“The Judiciary has no business prosecuting writers based on confessions it admits were coerced,” said Whitson. “Its first task should be to bring to justice those men responsible for the torture and abuse of these bloggers.”


Human Rights Watch recently collected detailed testimonies from three of the bloggers who are currently on trial.

“I was held in solitary confinement in a secret prison for 86 days,” Rafizadeh told Human Rights Watch. “My cell measured barely 5 feet by 6 feet. The magistrate, Mr. Mehdipoor, was present in the detention center. He threatened me with execution if I didn’t confess to what he dictated. He told the interrogator, known as Mr. Keshavarz, he can do whatever he wants to me, such as ‘peeling the skin off my head.’ The interrogator beat me mercilessly while I was handcuffed and blindfolded. Interrogations continued under these circumstances for more than 40 days.”

Another former detainee, Mirebrahimi, told Human Rights Watch: “After 60 days of solitary confinement and ill-treatment, the interrogator informed me that I will be released if I sign a confession letter and publicly release it. One day after my release, I was summoned by Mr. Mortazavi’s office and he told me: ‘The release of your friends is dependent on publishing your confession letter. If you don’t do it, not only will they not be released, but we will put you back in prison.’ I was forced to send the confession letter, which Mortazavi dictated, to the news agencies.”

Memarian told Human Rights Watch that during their meeting with the head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi told them “confessions in prison without the presence of your lawyers are not valid.”

“In any other country, we could file a law suit against the violators. Despite the admission by the head of the Judiciary that our detention and treatment was against the law, we are being prosecuted, not the violators,” Memarian added.

Friday, December 08, 2006

California Episcopal Bishop arrested during San Francisco war protest

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California was arrested December 7 for blocking the front door of the San Francisco federal building to protest the deaths caused by the Iraq war.

His participation in the protest and his arrest are "just one piece of a sustained effort" to work for peace, Andrus told ENS December 8.

Other parts of the effort include other liturgical events, diocesan participation in the upcoming release of a documentary about four soldiers who sought conscientious objector status, and the possibility of having Episcopalians participate in a Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) trip to Iran.

Andrus said that his protest sprang not just from his own convictions about the war but "from a base of considered opinion by the House of Bishops and the Episcopal Church about this war."

"It's not a capricious act, but it is my conviction that while there's widespread opposition to this war, that the elected leaders need to know that we continue to want concerted and active moves towards peace," he said.

Andrus, carrying his crozier and singing "Down by the Riverside,'' was among 250 protesters, including members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and people of other faiths, who had marched from Grace Cathedral, on Nob Hill, to join the weekly "die-in" at on Golden Gate Avenue near City Hall.

The protest was meant to "to memorialize all who have died as a result of U.S. led hostilities in Iraq," according to a November 29 invitation to the protest posted on the diocese's website.

The bishop celebrated a requiem Holy Eucharist at the plaza in front of the building. After participants received communion they went one by one to lie down in front of the federal building's two main doors. Andrus was the first protestor to do so. Federal Protective Service officers began arresting protesters for lying down and blocking the building's two main doors.

Officers placed Andrus in handcuffs–as one said, "How are you?'' and shook the bishop's hand—according to a December 7 article on the San Francisco Chronicle's website.

Protesters applauded, cheered and sang as Andrus was photographed by another officer and led inside the building.

He and 11 other protesters were detained in a room inside the federal building for about two hours, according to diocesan spokesman Sean McConnell. They were cited for unlawful assembly and told they could either pay the charge's $125 fine or appear in court at a later date. All 12 decided to appear in court, McConnell said.

Andrus said the decision was made as a way for the group to continue its protest by pleading not guilty "because of our sense that international law and the unjust nature of this war required civil disobedience."

In the November 29 invitation, Andrus wrote that "at the Eucharistic table we become aware of this divine reality, that while humans may forget the dead — and may indeed willfully forget them — God remembers them. In the Iraq war the numbers of those who have died mounts, and is staggering. While even the numbers of the dead are unknown to many of us, our faith teaches us that God does not forget them."

A small group of protesters led by Quakers have gathered once a week outside the federal building to hold a silent vigil. Once a month the vigil is followed by the "die-in." Andrus has attended a number of the weekly vigils, but this was the first "die-in" he has been able to attend, according to McConnell.

McConnell said "a handful of people were upset that the bishop was going to do this," after the invitation was issued for people to join the protest.

Andrus said one man, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told him that the protest summoned up for him all the feelings he had about fighting in Vietnam while hearing of angry war protests at home. The bishop said he told the man that he believes that protests of the Iraq war can be and have been "completely respectful of all the soldiers."

"The Bishop of California has been called to lead all the people in our diocese and beyond on the path of peace, and this was the first and visible step on that journey," McConnell said. "As we continue on this journey, we will invite all people of all faiths to join us."

Andrus became the eighth Bishop of California in July. The Diocese of California comprises about 30,580 Episcopalians worshipping in 80 congregations in the greater San Francisco area.

In Torture Case Against Rumsfeld, Lawyers Cite “Widespread Pattern” of Abuse, Need for Accountability

WASHINGTON - December 8 - The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First today argued before a federal court that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.

Today’s hearing marked the first time a federal court has considered whether top U.S. officials can be held legally accountable for the torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There must be legal accountability in a court of law for high-ranking government officials who order or allow torture in violation of the most fundamental legal norms that govern our society,” said ACLU attorney Lucas Guttentag, who is lead counsel in the case. “Torture is universally prohibited but Secretary Rumsfeld and the other defendants have not been held responsible for the orders they gave and the abuse they permitted.”

The ACLU and Human Rights First filed the lawsuit in March 2005 on behalf of nine innocent civilians who were detained by the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. While in U.S. custody, the men were subjected to abuse, torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions. All of the men were released without charge.

“Our clients’ case is about ensuring that there’s meaningful accountability, to create an effective deterrent against future violations and to ensure the courts’ ongoing role in enforcing the law against torture,” said Deborah Pearlstein, director of Human Rights First’s Law and Security program. “The Supreme Court has made it clear that wartime does not create a law-free zone.”

The ACLU also brought three related lawsuits against Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Colonel Thomas Pappas. The four cases were consolidated and transferred to Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. All of the defendants have moved to dismiss the suits in their entirety. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages for the plaintiffs and a court order declaring that the actions of Secretary Rumsfeld and the other officers violated the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and international law.

Today’s hearing addressed the defendants’ claim that they cannot be held legally liable for the torture of civilians in U.S. custody. The ACLU and Human Rights First argued that the Constitution and international law clearly prohibit torture and require commanders to act when they know or should have known of abuses. In addition to the orders they gave directly, Secretary Rumsfeld and the other defendants were repeatedly notified of abuse and torture at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan by military reports, the International Red Cross and other reports and complaints by human rights organizations.

The groups further charge in the lawsuit that Secretary Rumsfeld personally approved brutal and illegal interrogation techniques in December 2002. Those techniques included the use of “stress positions,” the removal of clothing, the use of dogs, and isolation and sensory deprivation.

Retired military officers and military legal experts have filed a legal brief in support of the lawsuit. According to the military law experts, “It was the essence of Secretary Rumsfeld and other defendants’ scope of employment to educate and train those within their command responsibility to adhere to domestic and international standards and to do everything within their power to prevent and punish deviations from them.” The experts urged that allowing the federal case to proceed would not intrude into matters of military decision-making, but would reinforce the military’s interest in command responsibility.

Additional attorneys in the case, Ali et al v. Rumsfeld, are Steven R. Shapiro, Cecillia Wang, Jennifer Chang, Monica Ramirez, Amrit Singh, Steven Watt and Omar Jadwat of the ACLU; Michael Posner, Hina Shamsi and Priti Patel of Human Rights First; Bill Lann Lee of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP; Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP; Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke University School of Law; David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Epstein & Messing LLP; and Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.

Legal briefs filed in the case, as well as information on the former detainees, are online at and

Official government reports have documented many horrific abuses inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody. The ACLU and other advocacy groups have obtained more than 100,000 pages of documents concerning abuses through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, online at As these documents indicate, the FBI began to complain about the interrogation techniques used by the military on detainees in Guantánamo as early as 2002, techniques that spread to Afghanistan and Iraq. Media reports have also brought many disturbing incidents to light, including the deaths of detainees in custody.

Americans Believe U.S. International Strategy Has Backfired, Undermining U.S. Security Says

Many See World More Fearful of U.S. Force, Making Nations More Apt to Pursue WMD; Public Opposes Regime Change in Problem Countries

WASHINGTON - December 8 - A new poll finds that a majority of Americans believe that the way the United States has been using the threat of military force has diminished U.S. security.

Sixty-three percent believe that countries around the world have grown more afraid that the United States will use force against them and the same number thinks this is bad for U.S. security. Eighty percent believe that fear of the United States has increased "the likelihood that countries will try to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

The poll included interviews with a nationwide sample of 1,326 Americans conducted Nov. 21 to 29. It was developed in conjunction with the conference, "Leveraging U.S. Strength in an Uncertain World," held by the Stanley Foundation Dec. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C. The study was fielded by Knowledge Networks using its probability-based online panel; for information about this methodology, go to

Sixty-one percent believe that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has increased the likelihood that Iran will build weapons of mass destruction. This is a sharp shift from 2003 when only 24 percent believed that the invasion increased the likelihood of Iran acquiring WMD while 68 percent thought it decreased that possibility.

Steven Kull, editor of, comments, "Most Americans now believe that the recent thrust of U.S. foreign policy has backfired: As the U.S. has provoked greater fear of U.S. military force, countries have reacted in ways that have reduced U.S. security."

When asked how the United States should deal with Iran, a large majority (75 percent) prefers trying "to build better relations" with Iran, rather than "pressuring it with implied threats that the U.S. may use military force against it," (22 percent). Eight in 10 believe that threatening to bomb Iran's uranium enrichment facilities would not deter the Iranians from continuing their nuclear program.

A large majority (72 percent) does not think the United States should announce it is pursuing regime change in countries, such as Iran, which the United States sees as a problem. Eight in 10 also reject the policy of isolating, rather than talking to, problem countries.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Canada upholds law allowing same-sex marriage

Reuters reported today that:

OTTAWA - Canada's Parliament upheld a 2005 law allowing same-sex marriage on Thursday when it threw out a bid by the minority Conservative government to revisit the contentious issue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward the motion after promising his socially conservative backers that he would do so, but most observers had expected it to fail.

The Conservatives are set to fight an election next year and had legislators backed the idea of revisiting the law it would have become a campaign issue.

"We made a promise to hold a free vote and we kept that promise. The result was decisive and we'll accept the democratic result," Harper told reporters.

Legislators voted 175 to 123 to reject a motion by the right-leaning Conservatives to re-examine the law, which some religious groups and critics say undermines society.

The law was passed by the previous Liberal government after a number of courts ruled that banning gay marriage contravened Canada's charter of rights.

Some Liberal legislators shouted "Shame!" as the Conservatives voted.

Harper seemed to reject the idea of looking again at gay marriage, even if he won a majority government.

"I don't see (us) reopening this question ... It's not our plan," he told reporters. Six of his cabinet voted against the motion on Thursday.

Canada was the fourth country, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, to legalize homosexual marriage.

Last year's vote was 158-133 in favor of the new law, but the Conservatives said it had not truly reflected the will of Parliament because the Liberals had forced cabinet ministers to vote in favor. Both parties allowed their members to vote according to their consciences on Thursday.

The signs were clear from the beginning that the motion was likely to fail. Even some parliamentarians who voted against the law last year said the matter had been settled and did not need to be reopened.

Asked whether the issue was now resolved once and for all, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion replied: "It will be, especially if we win the next election ... This prime minister tried and he failed."

Groups opposed to the law vowed to continue the fight and warned Harper that the affair would cost him votes.

The Canada Family Action Coalition said the Conservatives who voted against the motion "have just set a tone that could result in a Conservative loss in the next election. When a party abandons the values of its core base, it loses support."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who backed the idea of reopening the debate, said that when he was attorney general of the province of Ontario he had fought for the civil rights of all Canadians, including same-sex partners.

"I did that proudly. I think it was the right thing to do. But marriage is something different," he told reporters.

The complete story may be found here:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

San Joaquin convention seeks to sever diocese from Episcopal Church

Presiding Bishop, deputies' president respond to 'extracanonical' actions

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Monday, December 04, 2006

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop and the President of its House of Deputies both said on December 4 they deplore the action taken two days earlier by the Diocese of San Joaquin, effectively repudiating its membership in the Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement that she "laments" the move and is working with others to respond to "these extracanonical actions."

"Our task as the Episcopal Church is God's mission of reconciling the world, and actions such as this distract and detract from that mission," she said.

Jefferts Schori said in her statement that she also "deeply" laments the "pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin," and wants them "to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others."

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson expressed similar concerns.

"I am saddened by the actions of the bishop and the convention in the Diocese of San Joaquin," she said. "In my mind's eye, I can see the faces of the deputies from the diocese and I wonder how they must be feeling. In the diocese there must be a mix of emotions present. Surely the people are not all of one mind."

Anderson -- elected in 2006 to lead the church's clergy and lay deputies representing each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses -- said that those who claim "I have no need of you" bear "a huge burden."

"I pray that Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin know they are held closely in prayer by me and many of their brothers and sisters across the Episcopal Church," she said.

Meeting during its 47th annual Convention December 1-2, the diocese approved the first reading of four constitutional amendments which would remove references to the Episcopal Church, make the Standing Committee the ecclesiastical authority in the absence of any sitting bishops, put all diocesan trust funds under the control of the bishop, and permit the diocese unilaterally to extend itself beyond its current geographic boundaries.

The constitutional amendments will not take effect until a second vote is taken at another annual convention meeting, scheduled for October 2007. The second reading will require a two-thirds majority in order for the amendments to pass, according to the release.

Jefferts Schori noted in her statement that if the amendments pass their second reading, they effectively violate the requirements of the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. Article V, Section 1 says that a diocese's constitution must include "an unqualified accession" to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church.

The convention also passed a resolution directing the bishop, council, and standing committee "to assess the means of our affiliation with a recognized Ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion," and bring the next convention a "detailed plan for the preservation of our relationship with the Anglican Communion."

The only constitutional amendment described in a diocesan news release issued December 2 and posted on the diocese's website was a change to Article II of its constitution. The change would identify the diocese specifically as a "constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury."

In a vote by orders, 68 of the clergy voted in favor of the amendment, while 16 were opposed. The lay delegates voted 108 in favor, with 12 opposed to the amendment to Article II, according to the news release.

The other three proposed amendments passed by similar margins.

"Official observers" were present from dissident congregations in other California dioceses, including St. John's Anglican Church, Fallbrook; St. Anne's Church, Oceanside; St. James' Church, Newport Beach; St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church in La Crescenta; St. Jude's Church, Burbank; and the Western Convocation of the Anglican Communion Network, based in Long Beach. The observers stood applauding when the constitutional amendment expanding the boundaries of the diocese passed.

"This amending process is the first step in the removal from our Constitution of any reference to the Episcopal Church because – in our opinion – they have decided to walk apart from the Anglican Communion," Schofield said in his convention address.

Schofield said that since the 1974 irregular ordinations of 11 women deacons as Episcopal priests, "many voices familiar to you [have] withstood the erosion of faith, the lowering of the standards of morality, and the unilateral action of the Episcopal Church." Schofield is one of only three remaining diocesan bishops who oppose the ordination of women as priests and bishops in the Episcopal Church. He also opposes the 2003 election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

But not all agreed with the convention's action. In a written message to the gathering, Maria Rivera, daughter of the late Bishop Victor M. Rivera, third bishop of San Joaquin, told the convention that "wrenching this Diocese from its mother church accomplishes no spiritual goal that cannot be achieved in less violent and more Christian ways."

The Rev. Rick Matters, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Lodi, California, said that members of the diocese who disagree with the convention's choices are "optimistic and prayerful and wearied by the spiritual violence, and the spiritual battle we've undertaken."

"We are remaining faithful to Jesus Christ from within the Episcopal expression of the faith," Matters said. "The posturing out here is a false choice: you choose Jesus or you choose the Episcopal Church, you choose scriptural witness or you abandon that and go with the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops. We deny that false dichotomy."

The group Remain Episcopal is making plans as well, he said. "We're going to have a plan of how to maintain this diocese – those of us who want to continue in the Episcopal Church," Matters said.

Matters said that in pre-convention meetings Schofield told the diocese's deaneries that in November he signed a "pledge of allegiance" to six Anglican Communion bishops, including Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South America), who addressed the convention Eucharist by an internet downlink.

"He is now taking orders from them in terms of how to leave and separate from the Episcopal Church and how to realign," Matters said, adding that Schofield told the meetings that those bishops were setting the timetable for such a move and determining who would be involved.

The convention's actions occurred just after an exchange of letters between Jefferts Schori and Schofield. On November 20, the Presiding Bishop sent Schofield a letter, telling him that if he disagrees with the policy of the church "the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere."

She warned in the letter that his public assertion that he must violate his vows "puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence."

On November 28, Schofield replied that, because she had not issued him an ultimatum but instead offered "further discussion which could possibly lead to some degree of reconciliation," he would not move up the date of the 2007—unless she or anyone else charges him with violating his ordination vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, he told Jefferts Schori, he believes "the Episcopal Church, as an institution, is walking a path of apostasy and those faithful to God's Word are forced to make painful choices."

The Diocese of San Joaquin comprises about 10,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 48 congregations


-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.