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Tucson victims were inspirations as Catholics and Americans

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Among the victims of Saturday’s horrific shootings in Arizona were Christina Taylor Green and U.S. District Court Judge John Roll.

As Catholics and Americans, we should pray for all those who died -- Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwin Stoddard, Dorothy Murray, and Phyllis Scheck as well as Green and Roll -- and who were injured, the most well-known being U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Arizona blocks Westboro Church protests

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They can make even the most peace-loving pacifist’s blood boil. And that’s the point.

The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, whose congregation consists primarily of the extended family of Pastor Fred Phelps, is notorious for feeding off of the deepest and most painful wounds of mourners. They are known for protesting the funerals or soldiers hoisting signs that declaring all of the things that God apparently “hates.”

Poem memorializes women and calls us to action

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The catastrophe of Mexico’s current narcotraficante violence has diverted attention away from a travesty that began years ago: the Femicide, as it is known -- the murder and torture of young women, mostly maquiladora factory workers -- near the U.S.-Mexico border. Now an opportunity has arisen to refocus U.S. citizens on the women’s fate, thanks to the work of Valerie Mart'nez, a New Mexico author who gives us a book that is at once a lyric poem in 72 parts and an organizing tool for activists.

The end of the death penalty in Illinois?

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Concluding that the system is broken and cannot be fixed, a majority of elected representatives in Illinois have voted to ban the death penalty in the state. The House passed a death penalty ban bill last week, and the Senate approved it yesterday, in part in reaction to the exoneration of several people on death row in recent years.

But will Gov. Pat Quinn (a Catholic) sign the bill into law? During his campaign last fall, he said he supports "capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly," but also backs the 10-year-old moratorium on executions, according to this Chicago Tribune article.

This is a momentous prolife victory, so I wondered what various prolife groups around the state were saying. After the House vote last week, the Catholic Conference of Illinois released a statement commending the historic vote and urging the Senate to pass it.

On this day: Friendship

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On this day in 1167, Aelred of Rievaulx died. His feast is observed by the Roman Catholic Church and by the Anglican Communion.

"Walter Daniel, a monk of the Yorkshire abbey, who himself tended Aelred and cradled his head in his final hours," recounted "how the day before his death Aelred was unable to speak but nonetheless listened intently to the brother who read to him the story of the Lord's Passion. . . . Walter explains that shortly before his death Aelred, who had not spoken for two days, turned to look up at the wooden cross and recited the words of Luke 23.46: 'You are my God and Lord, my refuge and Saviour. Into your hands I commend my spirit.'"

-- Life in the Medieval Cloister, by Julie Kerr.

Catholic bishops favor gun control - but who knows it?

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The horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, Ariz., has raised a plethora of moral and ethical issues. One of the most significant ones is gun control.

No matter what the motive or ideology of the gunman, he would not have been able to carry this off without a weapon that is classified as an “assault weapon.” His gun had a magazine with 30 bullets. He could shoot for quite a while without re-loading.

Assault weapons were banned under President Bill Clinton, and this ban was repealed under President George W. Bush.

Out of curiosity, I searched the Web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for their position on gun control. And sure enough, their Committee on Social Justice and World Peace issued this statement in 1978:

Bold declarations

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Settlements are the issue for Palestinian farmers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began the New Year with a bold declaration. He was willing to negotiate non-stop with Mahmoud Abbas, if, and only if, the Palestinian President quit harping on a settlement freeze as a precondition for their talks. Settlements. Shmettlements. According to the Israeli leader, the Palestinians should stop obsessing about them and consider the broader issues instead.

Gabrielle Giffords and the DREAM act

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I lived in Tucson, Arizona for almost ten years in the 1990s; my activism included work with Derechos Humanos, a human rights group that monitors border patrol abuses.

One of our founding members, attorney Isabel Garcia, has been a high-profile advocate for the human rights of immigrants. For decades this has earned her the hatred of those who have claimed that she wants the Southwest to be returned to Mexico. This would sound like a joke except that she has long been threatened with violence and even death.

I am more worried than ever for Isabel and others advocating a humane immigration policy. The cold blooded shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last week was almost bound to happen in our current climate of right-wing extremism and its violent rhetoric and imagery -- much of it aimed at immigrants.

It is significant that Giffords voted for the DREAM Act, which would have allowed children of undocumented workers, including those who have served in the military, the opportunity to attend college. The bill passed in the House but failed in the Senate.

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In This Issue

August 28-September 10, 2015

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