June 1989 Print

News Briefs


Arrest in Priory Reopens Debate on Catholic Aid to Nazis

(RNS)  — The arrest of a pro-Nazi French militia leader in a priory operated by followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has touched off new debate about the role of Roman Catholic clergy in protecting war criminals.

Paul Touvier, 74, was head of intelligence for a pro-Nazi militia in Lyons during World War II. He was arrested when France was liberated in 1944, but he escaped. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death for war crimes in Lyons in 1945 and in Chambery in 1947 but managed to hide out until those sentences expired in 1967.

French President Georges Pompidou pardoned Mr. Touvier in November, 1971, but the public outcry was so great that the alleged war criminal again dropped out of sight. He was formally charged in 1973 with crimes against humanity, an offense to which the statute of limitations does not apply in France. The search for Mr. Touvier began again, and he was arrested May 24th at the St. Francis Priory in Nice.

Charges of Catholic collaboration to protect Mr. Touvier were aired at the time of his presidential pardon in 1971. Several prominent French people, including Christian existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel, had signed petitions for Mr. Touvier's pardon as a result of a nearly 20-year campaign coordinated by Monsignor Charles Duquaire of Lyons.

Pierre Merindol, a journalist who has specialized in the history of the Lyons Resistance, has alleged that Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier, the wartime archbishop of Lyons, may have been involved in hiding Mr. Touvier. According to the journalist, the cardinal helped to shelter Mr. Touvier in fulfillment of a promise to aid anyone who helped to prevent the shooting of 42 French hostages by Nazi soldiers who wanted to retaliate against a Resistance attack.

Today's hierarchy has claimed no involvement with Mr. Touvier or with the priory where he was being sheltered. Cardinal Albert Decourtray of Lyons said the matter "is not within my purview but within that of my country's judicial system, in which I have confidence."

Comment: Despite the fact that most newspapers made a link between Mr. Touvier and the Society, there was in fact no connection. It is true he was taken prisoner at our priory, but he was merely let in by the prior as an act of charity to a homeless man. Since Archbishop Lefebvre's father died at the hands of the Nazis in a prison camp, that should be evidence enough that the Society does not and has not ever condoned the practices of the Nazis.

On the other side of the question, I for one am tired of this Jewish conspiracy to wipe every living former Nazi off the face of the earth. Why don't they just leave them to die in peace? It's been about 45 years since World War II and still they hunt them down, as if they were guilty of ongoing crimes for all those years.


Vatican Orders Suspension of Married Ukrainian Catholic Priests

Edmonton, Alberta (RNS) — The Vatican has ordered the suspension of about 10 Ukrainian Catholic priests in Canada on the grounds that they were improperly ordained.

The action opens an old wound in Roman Catholic-Ukrainian Catholic relations—the compulsory celibacy required of Ukrainian Catholic priests in North America—and could prompt a schism in the church, a leading Ukrainian Catholic bishop has warned.

The Vatican's action, outlined in a letter to Ukrainian Catholic bishops in North America from the Vatican's representatives in Canada and the United States, is directed at married North American men who have gone to Ukraine to be ordained and now serve parishes in Canada and the United States.

Although priests in Eastern-rite churches are traditionally married, the Vatican has forbidden the ordination of married men in Eastern-rite churches under its control in North America since 1929. Eastern-rite churches subject to the pope, such as Ukrainian Catholics, are expected to follow Roman Catholic rules for celibacy. The priests in question were ordained in Ukraine, where the rules do not apply. But the Vatican is calling into question the validity of the bishops who performed the ordinations.

According to the Union of Brest of 1596, by which many Ukrainian Orthodox believers recognized the pope as head of the church, the Ukrainians could retain their Eastern liturgy and traditions, including married priests. But since the 1800's, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has attempted to impose Roman-style celibacy on Ukrainian Catholic clergy.

Bishop Borecky argued against designation of the Ukrainian Catholic bishops as "clandestine" or irregular. The Ukrainian Catholic church is illegal in the Soviet Union, and many of its bishops and priests have been imprisoned since 1946, when the church was forced by Stalin to join the Russian Orthodox Church.

Still, the bishops have carried out their tasks faithfully, and no one has questioned their validity until now, Bishop Borecky said in his letter to the pope.

Bishop Borecky's secretary, Father Serge Kelleher, said the suspensions would cause great difficulty for the church in Western Canada. The church has sufficient celibate clergy to serve parishes in Toronto, but most Ukrainian Catholic dioceses in Western Canada face a severe shortage of priests.


Polish Government Gives Full Legal Rights to Catholic Church

(RNS)  — The Polish Parliament has formally ended four decades of struggle with the Catholic Church by adopting legislation to give it legal status and restore property and privileges that were taken away after World War II.

The legislation, adopted in Warsaw May 17th, paves the way for formal diplomatic ties with the Vatican. Such an agreement would make Poland the first Eastern-bloc country to have such relations with the Holy See.

Although the Catholic Church claims a constituency of 90 percent of Poland's 38 million people, it has been in a legal void since the Communist Party took control of the nation after World War II. During the 1950's, Communist authorities expropriated church property, restricted religious education, drafted seminarians into the army, and arrested priests and nuns. Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski was held prisoner from 1953 to 1956.

Relations between the church and the government began to improve following the election of Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow to the papacy in 1978. But they dipped again in late 1984 after government security forces were implicated in the murder of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest who had been an outspoken supporter of the then-outlawed Solidarity Trade Union.


Catholics and Lutherans Sign Covenant in Chicago

(RNS)  — Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin joined with Bishop Sherman Hicks of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in signing a covenant in Chicago May 13th pledging that the two churches will plan, study, talk, and pray together in efforts to reconcile differences.

The agreement represents the first such bilateral document signed by the ELCA, which was formed in 1988. Two years ago, Cardinal Bernardin signed a similar agreement with leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

While the ceremony was taking place inside St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, a group of demonstrators protested because the ELCA's official position permits abortion under certain circumstances.

During a press conference before the service, Cardinal Bernardin commented, "The idea that the covenant is an endorsement of another religion is totally incorrect. The covenant makes it possible for us to talk about areas of disagreement and agreement. It does not imply that our position on abortion has changed."

Bishop Hicks acknowledged that "many things do divide us," but he added that "many common things unite us. This is just the first step. To get to where we are going, we have to take at least a few steps."

The covenant stresses that Catholics and Lutherans have a common faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, recognition that Jesus desired unity among his followers across all lines of race, gender, language and culture, belief in the power and importance of prayer, and shared respect for Scripture and a common lectionary of Scripture readings for Sunday worship.


Boston Catholics Told to Withdraw Children From AIDS Program

Boston (RNS)  — Cardinal Bernard F. Law has urged parents to remove their children from a federally funded AIDS education program in schools here.

Instead, the city's Catholic archbishop offered all parents an alternative program based on a sex-education curriculum developed over the last eight years in Boston's Catholic schools.

The prelate's objections to the presentation of information about condoms and adolescent sexual activity drew only mild opposition from other religious leaders in Boston. Some community leaders issued pointed criticisms of the archbishop, however.

His letter—read in Boston parishes May 20th and 21st—labeled the city's AIDS curriculum for grades six to twelve "valueless" and "amoral," arguing that it "could place our children in danger, both moral and physical."

Parents should write to school principals to ask that their children be exempted from the program, he said.

The curriculum "admits of a permissiveness in sexual behavior which is not acceptable to a great many citizens of this city, is certainly unacceptable for Catholics, and which increases the children's risk of getting AIDS," Cardinal Law said.

Cardinal Law insisted that by giving explicit instruction in the use of condoms to children as young as 13, "the values which parents want for their children and which alone can protect their children are being undercut.

"Only abstinence provides a sure means of avoiding HIV (the AIDS virus) infection," he said. But this fact "is given only minimum attention."


Cardinal Siri Dies; Known as Italy's 'Old Lion'

Genoa, Italy (RNS)  — Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, 82, the "old lion" of Italian Catholicism, died May 2nd at his villa outside Genoa, where he retired in 1987.

A prodigy who at the time of his appointment was the Church's youngest cardinal, Cardinal Siri was a defender of workers' rights and was dedicated to the port city where he was born and where he served as archbishop for 41 years. But the onetime papal candidate was also an outspoken defender of traditional Catholicism and a critic of many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Portrait of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri
Cardinal Siri
defender of workers' rights

According to medical reports, the cardinal had been suffering from heart and circulatory problems and had been physically declining in recent months.

The Italian Catholic daily Avenire reported May 3rd that he died after having prayed and recited the Creed with his secretary, his confessor, and various religious, priests, and relatives in the room.

His successor as head of the Archdiocese of Genoa-Bobbia, Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, ordered all of Genoa's churches to toll their bells at 11 a.m. May 3rd in tribute to the late cardinal.

The funeral was celebrated May 5th, with Cardinal Canestri presiding.

His death leaves 154 members of the College of Cardinals, including one "in pectore" who is known only to Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Siri, born May 20th, 1906, into a working class family in Genoa, was ordained at age 22. He became a theology professor at Genoa's seminary at age 23 while also working with youth, students, and others involved in Catholic Action. As a scholar he was fluent in several ancient and modern languages and wrote numerous manuals and books of theology.

In 1944 at age 37 he was named auxiliary bishop of Genoa. In 1946 he was named archbishop of Genoa, and was made a cardinal in 1953 at age 46.