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In Maryland, a 21st century church-state exchange

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien recently engaged in an exchange of letters that signifies both how Catholic influence has grown within U.S. culture and the Catholic Church's struggle with that very same culture.

It is a 21st century exchange between a Catholic church leader and a well educated Catholic civic leader in a pluralistic society where matters of justice and rights can look quite different depending on what side of the divide one is standing.

O'Malley is a Catholic (he attended Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda and Gonzaga College High School and graduated from The Catholic University of America), and a regular Mass attender who's sent his children to Catholic schools. He's openly on record as an advocate for a list of issues that match up to the church's social justice agenda. But he's also recently announced plans to sponsor a same-sex marriage bill.

The archbishop, suggesting that O'Malley is motivated "by mere political expediency," urged the governor to reconsider sponsoring the bill that would "deeply conflict" with his faith.

On this day: Edith Stein

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On this day the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Discalced Carmelite. She and her sister, Rosa Stein, were among those sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz, on August 9, 1942.

"Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: 'Come, we are going for our people.'"

Nagasaki commemorates bombing in torrential downpour

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NAGASAKI -- As the city here prepared to mark the 66th anniversary of its destruction by an atomic bomb Aug. 9, a torrential downpour left many soaked. Members of the press could be seen drenched head to toe as they tried to get the perfect picture, and the city's choir, composed entirely of those who had survived the atomic blast, had to perform in full ponchos.

Amidst the rain, many could be seen having fun, smiling as they splashed in the puddles. It seemed a subtle reminder of nature's tendency to carry on, despite whatever we humans do to destroy it.

Here are a few scenes from the Nagasaki commemoration, which culminated with the piercing drone of an air raid siren and the ringing of bells throughout the city at 11:02 a.m -- the exact time the bomb hit the city sixty-six years ago, turning many buildings to nothing more than ash.

The Non-Persons in the Debt Ceiling Talks

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The debt-ceiling fiasco may haunt us for a long time both as an historical event and a unconscious strand of a horror movie.

For me, the most appalling aspect was that it showed how far politicians and the huge cadre of hangers-on in Washington are removed from those who suffer most in America.

The rhetoric was amost entirely about numbers, fictitious "job creation" and America's reputation in the world. The arguments were framed in the abstract: charts, graphs, concept versus concept, but bypassed the people who are already deprived or will be.

In Spain, Portugal, attention to Washington style, not substance

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Thomas Patrick Melady, Senior Diplomat in Residence at The Institute of World Politics and former U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Uganda and the Vatican, was vacationing in Spain and Portugal in recent weeks during the debates in Washington on the U.S. debt. An occasional NCR contributor, Melady sent the following reflection:

While vacationing in Spain and Portugal in July and August, it was interesting to observe the reactions of local people to the public discussion among US leaders on the recent budget—debt ceiling deliberations. Modern instant communications make it possible for the people in Spain, Portugal and other parts of the world to follow how the world’s super power resolves such very critical issues.

Peace activist Jackie Hudson dies at age 76

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Dominican Sister Jackie Hudson, who dedicated her life to the pursuit of peace, died Aug. 3. She was 76. For the past 20 years she worked with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, WA in the pursuit of the abolition of Trident as well as a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons.

Updates and reflections are being posted at the Disarm Now Plowshares blog.

Bourgeois facing expulsion from Maryknoll

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Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois has received a “second canonical warning” and faces expulsion from his U.S.-based mission society if he continues publicly advocating for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church.

In a July 27 letter, Maryknoll Superior General Fr. Edward M. Dougherty, repeated an earlier warning that Bourgeois faced dismissal if he “continued your campaign in favor of women priests and failed to recant publicly your position on the matter.”

Reversing forty year trend, U.S. prison populations in a decline

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As you might know, the United States sadly is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails. Think of that number for a few seconds before continuing.

This is a 500 percent increase in the past thirty years, according to the advocacy group, The Sentencing Project, a national organization that works for a more fair and effective criminal justice system.

These long term trends have resulted in prison overcrowding with state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding for this expanding penal system.

But wait.

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