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May God Have Mercy on Their Souls

As Mad Mel's slasher flick The Passion of the Christ did boffo box office, local Catholic officials made the media circuit to spin a pair of disturbing reports commissioned by the church that reveal the extent of child sexual abuse by American Catholic priests. (The Range's invitation to a pow-wow with Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas must have been lost in the mail.) One report, by New York's John Jay School of Criminal Justice, revealed that across the country, more than 4,300 priests have committed some sort of sexual abuse toward more than 10,600 children since 1950, with known cases peaking in the '70s. Tucson Diocese officials told the media that since 1950, 26 priests, one deacon and one nun have been involved locally in the abuse of 96 kids below the age of 18.

The numbers are based on reports from the churches themselves--but surely we can count on them to not cover up any element of these appalling episodes.

Untangling the financial bill was a challenge, but best as the John Jay's research team could determine, the cost of compensation to the victims, legal representation and other expenses has drained more than $572 million from collection plates, not including the $85 million the Diocese of Boston recently shelled out.

The second report, by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, was more damning of church officials who covered up for molesting priests. We quote: "Perhaps even more troubling than the criminal and sinful acts of priests who engaged in abuse of minors was the failure of some bishops to respond to the abuse in an effective manner, consistent with their positions as leaders of the flock with a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us from possible predators."


Shades of Green

A coalition of business, environmental, ranching, development and education groups delivered a long-awaited State Trust Land reform package to Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Legislature last Friday, Feb. 27. The product of more than three years of negotiations, the proposal aims to resolve ongoing problems with more than 9 million acres of land owned by the state in trust for certain beneficiaries, primarily schools. Under the current constitutional mandate, the land must be sold for "highest and best use," meaning lots of crappy stucco homes and strip malls, even it means bulldozing an ironwood forest or two. The new proposal would allow some state trust land, which is scattered across Arizona, to be set aside for conservation, while earmarking other parcels for development.

The proposal must now navigate the currents of the Legislature, with an interesting twist: All the backers of the reform plan have promised to withdraw their support if lawmakers tinker with the package. Since elements of the reform involve amending the state Constitution, the final say would belong to voters if lawmakers agree to put it on the ballot in November.

While some environmental groups have signed on to the proposal, others--including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity--object to a provision that essentially exempts ranchers from having to competitively bid on grazing lands.

Waiting Room

The Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill requiring women who seek abortions to wait 24 hours so they can be properly "educated" about their decision. The bill, already passed by the state Senate, could still end up stillborn if Gov. Janet Napolitano slaps it down with a veto.


Crime Doesn't Pay

Arizona Department of Corrections officers told a committee investigating the recent Buckeye hostage situation that low pay, aging equipment and unsafe working conditions were leading to high turnover and inexperienced staff guarding the state's prison system, according to The Associated Press. The inquiry into the Buckeye hostage incident, in which two inmates held a male guard for a week and a female guard for 15 days before surrendering, comes as state prisons become increasingly crowded and dangerous places. The state now has more than 31,000 prisoners and only 27,178 beds available, according to state officials, meaning some prisoners are kept in tents, and others are double-bunking. The overcrowding is the result of tough-on-crime laws and the elimination of parole, which has increased the number of prisoners tenfold since in the last quarter-century.


Plunked

Baseball's simmering steroid scandal bubbled to a boil when Colorado Rockies pitcher Turk Wendell, training in Tucson, told the Denver Post that you only have to look at Barry Bonds to know he's juiced. "I mean, obviously, he did it," Wendell said. "... It's obvious just seeing his body." Bonds, whose personal trainer, Greg Anderson, has been indicted on charges of distributing illegal steroids, has denied taking the drugs and told The Associated Press that Wendell should quit gossiping behind his back. "Don't talk through the media like you're some tough guy," Bonds said.


Sex o' Peel

The UA women's lacrosse team was put on probation for hazing violations, including forcing a team member to perform a blow job on a banana, eat pudding from a cup on the ground and drink alcohol even though she was not yet 21, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

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