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Women battle bishops over reproductive technology

A feminist group in Australia said it would challenge the nation's Catholic bishops in a High Court battle pitting the rights of the unborn against lesbian and single mothers' rights to reproductive technology.

The bishops' High Court challenge arose after Federal Court Judge Ross Sundberg ruled in July that a single woman, Lisa Meldrum, had the fight to in vitro fertilization treatment in the state of Victoria. Sundberg struck down a state law that had restricted reproductive technology to married women and those in de facto relationships, arguing the law was invalid because it contravened federal anti-discrimination laws.

The head of the Australian Women's Electoral Lobby, Lisa Solomon, said members of her group have used their network of organizations and supporters to build what she described as a "massive" war chest to fight the Catholic bishops in court.

The group claims the bishops' action is a threat to women's rights, would cause social division and would damage the longstanding notion of the separation of church and state.

The head of research at the Australian bishops' conference, Warwick Neville, said the bishops' case was focused on the rights of children, which had never been properly covered in the Australian courts. "Children should never be treated as a commodity," Neville said.

Neville said that when the anti-discrimination laws were drawn up in 1984, they were never intended to deal with reproductive technology.

Sri Lankan bishops condemn massacre

Sri Lanka's Catholic bishops condemned the massacre of 26 youths who once belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The youths were undergoing rehabilitation at a camp in central Sri Lanka Oct. 25 when the massacre occurred.

"We condemn this crime unequivocally and offer our deepest sympathies to the bereaved families of the youth. ... It is a very serious incident that should shock the conscience of the nation," the bishops said in an Oct. 27 statement signed by Bishop Oswald Gomis of Anuradhapura, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka.

The statement reminded the government it is duty bound "to make a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the whole incident and punish accordingly all those who are responsible for perpetuating this crime."

Police said that a village mob broke into the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Camp, killing 26 Tamil youths and injuring 16 others.

Run by the National Youth Services Council, the camp provides counseling and livelihood skills training to youths who surrender or are captured on suspicion of being a cadre of the Tamil rebels. The rebels have waged war against the Sinhalese-led government for the past 17 years.

Media sources reported that an attempt by the detainees, aged 14-25, to take over the facility Oct. 24 triggered the attack.

However, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga was quoted as saying there had been no incident between the detainees and the management nor with neighboring residents, and that the provocation came from "external forces."

On Kumaratunga's order, the massacre is being investigated by a team from the Crime Investigation Bureau. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has launched an independent inquiry into the incident.

Rebels may free priests abducted in Guinea

A church official in Sierra Leone said there is hope for the release of two Italian Xaverian priests abducted Sept. 8 in Pamlap, Guinea.

Fr. Lusuono Pittolinni, administrator of the Makeni diocese, said rebels of the Revolutionary United Front have "communicated with us and ... promised to release them."

However, he said that he did not know how soon they would be released. He attributed the delay in releasing the two abducted priests to a lack of consensus within the leadership of the rebel group. …