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Grace on the Margins

Churches seek -- and find -- greater exemptions from employment laws

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They receive millions each year in state and federal aid.

They pay no taxes on their profits or on their houses of worship.

And now they want special exemptions from civil rights laws.

On Thursday, five U.S. bishops, including Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, deepened their union with right-wing religious organizations by signing an open letter titled "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods that Stand or Fall Together."

The missive, which is addressed to religious leaders and "all Americans," is the latest addition to the ongoing push by conservative religious leaders to maintain what they see as their right to discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples.

Pushing away the marginalized to reach out to the fringe

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If Cardinal Francis George has proven anything over these past few weeks, it's not that he can tell the difference between white pride and gay pride.

When the cardinal attempted to make a connection between those fighting for equal rights for LGBT persons and those fighting for the right to assert the supremacy of the white race, he also demonstrated that he needs a history lesson.

In Uganda, sisters see education as key to empowerment

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Part two of a series. Read the first installment here.

In 2002, when Sisters of Mercy Margaret Farley and Eileen Hogan were assisting in the planning the first All Africa Conference: Sister to Sister (AACSS) program in Nairobi, Kenya, they could not have foreseen that, a decade later, they would be as active as ever in 13 countries throughout the continent.

Confronting AIDS in Africa, one sister at a time

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This column is part one of a series.

After a long career in the academy, most scholars look forward to a retirement free of the demands of teaching, writing and traveling.

For Margaret Farley, life as Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale University has meant deepening her commitment to confronting the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent of Africa.

Ten years later, controversial New York church still thrives

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Ten years after her historic ordination, Mary Ramerman rarely makes it into the papers anymore. Watching her minister as a priest today, it may be hard to believe that she was at the center of a highly publicized, painful battle between the diocese of Rochester, N.Y., and the parish then known as Corpus Christi in the late 1990s.

Crossing Borders with the Virgin Mary

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In her book American Madonna: Crossing Borders with the Virgin Mary (Orbis Books, 2010), author Deirdre Cornell chronicles the three years that she, her husband and five children spent as Maryknoll Missioners in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Blending personal reflection, Marian scholarship and social justice advocacy, Cornell deepens our understanding of Mary by allowing us see her through the lens of Latin American people. As she journeys to various sites of pilgrimage in Mexico, we encounter the struggles, hopes and deep faith of those who inspire Cornell along the way. Mary Cornell discovers a universal Mother who invites us to cross the borders of cultural, economic and linguistic difference and to locate our common humanity and spiritual heritage.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Cornell about the ways in which the Latin American church opened her eyes to a new vision of Mary.

Jamie Manson: So much of your book is about pilgrimage. It's remarkable to look at how your own life's journey led you to explore the presence of Mary within Latin American culture. You credit your grandmother with starting you on the path.

Recognizing the church that we already are

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On the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, NCR columnist Jamie L. Manson offered the opening night keynote address at the annual Call to Action national conference. The theme of the conference was “Living the Gospel of Love.” Below is the text of her speech. Read more about the address here.

I want to begin by telling a story because stories, perhaps more than any other element of faith, are vital to sustaining religious communities. Stories pass on insights; they help to give shape to religious traditions; they recall paradigmatic moments or people; they define a community; they are vehicles for revelation; even though they may be ordinary, stories can tell us a lot about the sacred.

This story, I think, does all of those things. It is a true story that happened in a place as ordinary as St. Louis and as recently as 2008. The year that stretched from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2009 was especially bizarre for the Catholic Church in the United States (and, I know there is a lot of competition for that title).

The future of religious life and the plight of young adult Catholic women

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Lately there has been a lot of talk about the future of religious life in the pages of NCR.

In August, Monica Clark reported from the annual meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Facing the challenges of aging sisters and smaller numbers of vocations, the entire conference was dedicated to contemplating what God was calling forth from these communities.

Anthony Ruff: The accidental activist

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The last time Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, came to New York, he was visiting with an editor from First Things, a theologically and politically conservative journal founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus, six years ago.

Ruff recently returned to Manhattan to offer the first presentation sponsored by the newly formed New York City chapter of Call to Action. Since CTA groups are rarely allowed to meet on Roman Catholic property, Ruff gave the lecture in the common room of an Episcopal Church in Greenwich Village.

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