In Today's Edition:
- Cardinals Develop Five Point Plan, 'Zero Tolerance' Policy
- Deal to Free NTM Missionaries in Philippines Falls Through
- Moonies Recruit Christian Clergy for Mass "Blessing"
- Ethiopian Beaten at a Funeral
- Other Headlines at a Glance
Cardinals Develop Five Point Plan, 'Zero Tolerance' Policy ... The summit in Rome has ended, and American cardinals are returning home with a new zero tolerance policy towards pedophile priests. U.S. bishops will determine at their June meeting what action to take with priests who have been accused of sexual abuse in the past, according to reports from AP, UPI and CNS.
During the two-day meeting with Pope John Paul II, U.S. Catholic leaders wrestled with how the church should deal with the current sex scandal. After the summit ended yesterday, a spokesman outlined a five-stage plan for dealing with future sex abuse cases. The first stage was support for the victims; the next involved putting an accused priest on administrative leave. The case would be then reported to civil authorities, and the priest would receive therapy before appearing before a board of inquiry consisting of clerics and lay people.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said at a press conference there was "probably the beginning of a real consensus" in the U.S. hierarchy in favor of defrocking priests who abused minors. Pope John Paul re-emphasized there was no place in the priesthood for those who would endanger children. But he also expressed concern about giving bishops too much authority to remove priests, "fearing it would be misused and recalling his own life under communist rule in Poland," according to AP.
Deal to Free US Hostages in Philippines Collapses ... According to a report from Reuters yesterday, the family of Martin and Gracia Burnham, who are being held hostage by Muslim gunmen in the Philippines, accused the rebels of "reneging" on a deal to free their captives. Paul Burnham, Martin's father, said the hostages' families were deeply saddened that the Abu Sayyaf had sent word it would not free the hostages "until additional demands are met." It was not clear if the extra demands involved more money.
Paul Burnham said he had reached an agreement with an Abu Sayyaf spokesman on March 13 for the release of the hostages and on March 26 the family was told "they would be released soon." The U.S. official said the $300,000 in ransom was paid in late March. According to a press release from New Tribes Mission (NTM), who sponsor Gracia and Martin, the ministry was not aware the family members were involved in a deal until they revealed it to mission representatives in confidence Saturday, April 20.
Moonies Recruit Christian Clergy for Mass "Blessing" ... On April 27th, controversial religious figurehead, alleged cult leader and self-proclaimed Messiah Sun Myung Moon, is to officiate over a mass "blessing" of clergy couples at a ceremony in a Washington, D.C. hotel. The event claims to be part of a simultaneous worldwide wedding of 144,000 clergy couples via satellite link.
"The public thinks that the Moonies have gone away. They haven't. They have been quite busy in recent years, focusing their recruitment efforts to Christian clergy, politicians, and business people," says Steven Hassan, former Moonie, author, licensed counselor and mind control expert. "They are still deceptive and quite dangerous," Hassan wrote in a press release.
Moon is an 82-year old Korean billionaire and convicted felon who served 13 months in federal prison for income tax evasion and conspiracy in the mid-1980s. Moon owns the Washington Times newspaper, U.P.I., Insight magazine, The University of Bridgeport (CT) and The New Yorker Hotel.
"I am certain that Christian clergy who are planning to participate in this 'blessing' are not aware of the real theology of Moon, says Hassan. "What people have to understand is that destructive cults use deception and extensive manipulation to achieve their goals - in this case to help legitimize and mainstream Moon."
Ethiopian Beaten at a Funeral ... According to the Voice of the Martyrs "Prayer & Persecution Alert," until recently, most of the persecution facing evangelical Christians in Ethiopia took place in rural areas or in small urban centers. However, recent reports received by The Voice of the Martyrs point to a rise of attacks against evangelicals even in the capital city of Addis Ababa. On April 23, VOM's project coordinator in Ethiopia sent a report from the Christian magazine "Hiwot" of an incident that took place in late March.
That report states that on March 30, Aselefech Debre went to a funeral in an Orthodox Church compound in Addis Ababa. While she was there, deacons and priests got into an argument with a Muslim man who had come for the funeral and they told him to leave the compound. The priests and deacons became suspicious that other non-Orthodox individuals might be there and so they began to interrogate each and every person. Evangelical Christians and Muslims are considered unholy by many leaders of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia and are forbidden to enter their places of worship.
When Aselefech was asked about her faith, she responded saying, "I am an evangelical Christian." When the priests discovered about her faith, they reportedly began to beat her very with their hands and sticks. She was also stoned and fell down on the ground, covered with blood. She could have avoided the hazard situation by simply saying, "I am Orthodox." However, she was not hesitant to hide her faith. Hundreds of people watched the cruel assault, and though she cried out for help, nobody would respond.
Other Headlines at a Glance: