Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Regional Report

from Catholic News Service

(From the Jan. 15, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Diocese of Helena

HELENA — Bishop George L. Thomas of Helena has pledged the church’s help in overturning a Montana judge’s recent decision that physician-assisted suicide is legal in the state.

“Legalizing assisted suicide is a social experiment that we will work to prevent,” he said in a column for the December issue of The Montana Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Helena.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath has said the state will appeal the Dec. 5 ruling of Judge Dorothy McCarter, who said “the Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity” gave terminally ill patients who were mentally competent the right to “die with dignity.”

Bishop Thomas said he found McCarter’s decision “extremely disappointing” and said it “echoes disturbing actions taken in the states of Oregon and Washington, introducing this blatant disregard for human life into our own state.”

“We are now being told that death by suicide is ‘death with dignity,’ in seeming contradiction to the stated goal of reduction,” the bishop said. “When we cheapen life by allowing people to end it when and how they choose, we send a message to others struggling with suicidal ideations.”

Bishop Thomas also took issue with McCarter’s comments comparing physician-assisted suicide to the actions taken to “put to sleep” sick or injured pets.

“Is the judge intimating that there is no clear difference between animals and people?” he asked. “Does the court ruling not recognize the dignity and inherent worth of every person, a worth that is neither conferred nor removed by the state? If this is the court’s intended meaning, then we criticize in harshest terms attempts to degrade the God-given value of every human being.”

Bishop Thomas said the diocese would file a friend-of-the-court brief when the Montana attorney general appealed McCarter’s decision and would work with the Legislature to keep physician-assisted suicide from becoming the law in the state.

Diocese of Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS — The number of people claiming to have been sexually abused by Catholic priests and other church workers in the Fairbanks Diocese over the past six decades more than doubled after the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

The diocese said 288 people have made abuse claims against more than 40 individuals, with most of the cases relating to childhood sexual abuse. Because of the bankruptcy, victims had faced a Dec. 2 deadline to be included in the group that will be compensated by the diocese for the abuse.

When the diocese announced in February that it would seek bankruptcy protection, it said it was unable to reach a financial settlement with 140 people who had filed about 150 claims against the diocese. The most recent abuse asserted in a claim took place in the 1980s, although some cases go back to the 1950s.

Filing for bankruptcy is “the best way to bring all parties together and to provide for fair and equitable treatment of all who have been harmed,” said Fairbanks Bishop Donald J. Kettler in announcing the decision. “I am legally and morally bound to both fulfill our mission and to pursue healing for those injured.”

The bankruptcy court had set the Dec. 2 deadline for claimants of alleged abuse to file claims against the Fairbanks Diocese. Ads were placed by the diocese on Alaska public radio and in newspapers throughout Alaska, Washington state, Oregon and in USA Today to notify people about the deadline.

Ronnie Rosenberg, human resources director for the Fairbanks Diocese, said more than half of the claims were against one man, Joseph Lundowski, who has been described in lawsuits as a deacon and a Trappist or Jesuit “monk” but was actually a lay volunteer, according to Rosenberg.

Lundowski, who was believed to be from Chicago, worked in several parishes in the Fairbanks Diocese from about 1959 to 1975. It is not known whether he is living or dead.

The nation’s largest diocese geographically, Fairbanks covers more than 400,000 square miles.

Inland Register archives

Home | Bishop | Communications | Parishes | Catholic Charities

© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved