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\"Truth itself was the victim\"

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As a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, Anne Burke sifts through facts to look for the truth. Sadly, truth was in short supply when she served on the bishops' National Review Board investigating sex abuse.

"Truthfulness was always one virtue that was the hardest to wring out of the institution during our investigation," she told the national conference of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests this morning in Chicago. "Truth itself was the victim everywhere we turned."

While Burke is well known in the U.S. church for speaking out about the ineffectiveness of the church response to sex abuse, apparently she is not as well known in the Vatican. When the recent scandals erupted in Ireland, Burke wrote to Pope Benedict XVI offering her assistance. She recently received a response from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, saying he had forwarded her name to the attorney defending the Vatican in the U.S. civil trial.

"That was not the kind of help I was offering!" she told the SNAP members, many of whom are victims of clergy sexual abuse themselves.

Sex abuse survivors meeting in Chicago

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Some 300 survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters are meeting this weekend in Chicago for a national conference sponsored by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The names on the conference schedule are familiar to Catholics who have been following the sex abuse crisis: Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP; David Clohessy, SNAP's executive director; victims' attorney Jeff Anderson; Justice Anne Burke of Illinois, who served on the bishops' National Review Board; and Father Tom Doyle, one of the few priests to publicly support victims throughout the scandal.

But there are lots of other speakers and panelists whose names you may not recognize. This weekend they will tell their stories of abuse by clergy, nuns, bishops or seminarians--abuse that was followed by the equally or even more painful treatment by church authorities when they reported their abuse or sought justice.

I will be there all weekend and reporting on the "NCR Today" blog.

The new Islamophobia

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In case you haven't heard, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Fla., has announced that his church will host a "Qur'an burning" on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to warn Americans about the dangers of Islam. (So much for associating the word "dove" with "peace.")

Virtual tour of St. Peter's Basilica now online

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A team of faculty and students from Pennsylvania’s Villanova University has completed a virtual tour of St. Peter's Basilica, Catholic News Service reports.

The team spent hours shooting hundreds of photos of the basilica and months digitally stitching them together so the Vatican could put a virtual tour of the world’s largest Christian church online.

The virtual tour of St. Peter’s is the fifth Villanova project released by the Vatican. You can also use your computer to tour the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Sistine Chapel.

There tours are the best alternative to being on the scene and, as CNS points out, you don't need to fight the crowds.

EPA denies petition from climate deniers

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On Jul 29 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied petitions from a gallery of climate deniers who had asked the agency to reconsider its scientific finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and the environment, according to the daily blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The list of petitioners:

Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Commonwealth of Virginia, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ohio Coal Association, Pacific Legal Foundation, Peabody Energy Company, Southeastern Legal Foundation, State of Texas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and one private citizen.

Back in the black: Focus on the Family

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Kudos to reporter John Hazlehurst of the Colorado Springs Business Journal for his analysis of the Federal tax information form called the IRS Form 990 of Focus on the Family. The form is required to be filed by U.S. not-for-profit organizations. U.S. religious organizations such as Catholic parishes and dioceses have secured an exemption from a generous Congress, although there is no First Amendment right to secrecy of a faith-based charity's finances.

In other words, that silly exemption should be undone in favor of honesty, truth, transparency and accountability. If the U.S. bishops wanted to put transparency where there vigorous 'claims of transparency' are, they themselves would seek a reversal of that unnecessary cloak of secrecy - or voluntarily file the IRS Form 990. It's that simple. Moreover, the National Roundtable on Church Management should be demanding such a change in this pointless IRS regulation exemption. Don't hold your breadth that either the U.S. bishops or the 'table will do so.

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