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Pastor's remarks not church policy



Published: Tue, September 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Father Witt's comments about terrorist attacks do not reflect Catholicism, the diocese chancellor says.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- When the Rev. William Witt said God allowed terrorists to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he wasn't speaking for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

Father Witt was speaking for himself, said Chancellor Nancy Yuhasz.

"What he said was not church teaching on that subject," Yuhasz said.

Father Witt, a pastor emeritus at St. Brendan Church in Youngstown, said Saturday that God allowed the terrrorists to attack because many Americans have rejected the Ten Commandments.

Yuhasz said the diocese's position on the attacks comes from a written statement by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.

In his statement, the head of the diocese said, "someday we will learn that we cannot solve our problems or meet our agendas by acts of violence and the taking of human life.

"We resolve again to work for peace and justice, beginning with our own words and deeds."

Yuhasz also noted that pastor emeritus is an "honorary title" given to all retired priests.

"It carries no administrative responsibilities," she said.

Outspoken temperament: Father Witt talked about the terrorist attacks after an anti-abortion prayer service Saturday morning on Market Street across from the Mahoning Women's Center, which provides abortion services. About 20 people attended.

The priest is known as an outspoken critic of abortion. He is the founder of two local anti-abortion groups: Friends of Life and Mahoning Valley Right to Life.

"There's an enormous war going on between the culture of life and the culture of death," Father Witt said Saturday. He added that in his work he tries to "echo the thoughts and words of Pope John Paul II."

In 1989, Father Witt denounced former Ohio Attorney General Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. for changing to an abortion-rights position.

"As Christ has Judas, so the church has ever had its traitors," he said, adding that he feels Celebrezze, "is no leader, he is a follower."

Celebrezze campaigned for governor a few days later in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church hall in Youngstown.

Extreme measures: In 1992, Father Witt was among those arrested for protesting in Fowler Township, Trumbull County, outside the home of a doctor who performs abortions.

Some protesters asked the doctors' teen-age daughters, "did you know that your daddy kills babies to feed you?"

The priest and another activist were later convicted of a charge of failure to disperse.

Yuhasz said that local residents who wish to speak with Father Witt about his remarks should contact him using his phone number, which is listed in the diocese directory.




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