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More arrests, march of solidarity at SOA vigil

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- At least two activists were arrested for trespassing onto Fort Benning here today as thousands more held a vigil outside the gates of the military complex, calling attention to the use of the facility as an international military training school.

Speaking to NCR minutes before he jumped the fence onto the military complex to be arrested, Chris Spicer said he wanted to show love and solidarity for those in Latin America who have been killed by those trained at the facility.

Spicer, a former Jesuit seminarian and member of the White Rose Catholic Worker Community in Chicago, climbed over the barbed wire fence separating the activists from the military base. He was immediately arrested by military personnel.

The arrests came after a morning long vigil and funeral procession outside the gates of the training school, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

The Pope's Rorschach Test

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Catholic theologians have been taken to the woodshed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI for allegedly muddying up doctrinal waters.

Now Benedict has offered some ambiguity of his own on condom use in his interview with the German publication. The fact that the interview took place at all is remarkable and a credit to the pope. The crisis of credibility swirling around the Vatican may have played a large part in his choosing to break precedent (reporters have been clamoring for this for decades) but ultimately it was his own meritorious decision to do so.

Talking to the media without the usual protective filters is tricky business, as the pope undoubtedly realizes now if he didn't before. It tends to make interviewees overly simplify to assert their authority or overly nuance in an effort to satisfy everyone.

This pope's reputation has been as a sophisticated theologian with both style and clarity. In his previous role as John Paul II's doctrinal watchdog, he brooked no deviation from orthodox views, as he and John Paul saw them, and after becoming pope he continued to define issues sharply and firmly.

Vatican statement on Benedict XVI and condoms

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Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement Nov. 21 in response to wide international coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condoms in a new book-length interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald.

In essence, Benedict reiterated the church's broad opposition to artificial birth control, but said that in some exceptional cases, where the intent is to prevent disease rather than pregnancy, the use of a condom could be a "first step" towards a greater sense of moral responsibility.

In his statement, Lombardi insists that Benedict has not changed church teaching on condoms, but rather given papal expression to a position long held by moral theologians and other "ecclesial personalities," including a number of cardinals.

The full text of Lombardi's statement follows, in an NCR translation from Italian.

* * *
Note of Fr. Lombardi on the words of the pope on the question of condoms

Pope talks condoms, sex abuse, resignation ... and movie nights

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tPope Benedict XVI is famously his own best spin doctor. In the old days, the Vatican would dispatch senior officials to try to calm the waters after the pope said or did something controversial; more recently it’s worked the other way, with Benedict himself getting the Vatican back “on message” after one of his aides, or somebody else in officialdom, has put his foot in his mouth.

tBenedict’s chops as a teacher and communicator are once again in evidence this week, with release of the new book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, an interview with German journalist Peter Seewald (published in English by Ignatius Press). Excerpts from the book were published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.

Prior to his election to the papacy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sat down for two such extended interviews with Seewald. This summer, he gave Seewald an hour a day over the course of a week, and the results of those sessions run to some 180 pages covering virtually every major episode and controversy from the first five years of Benedict’s papacy.

Dozens arrested at SOA rally, organizers call police action inappropriate

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Twenty-six activists were arrested here Saturday afternoon during a rally at the gates of the Fort Benning military complex during the annual School of Americas Watch vigil.

The arrests came as the rally was concluding for the afternoon. Hundreds of activists had gathered at the edge of the boundary of the designated area for demonstrations, facing towards a nearby shopping center while chanting slogans.

Pope signals nuance on condoms

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tPope Benedict XVI has signaled that in some limited cases, where the intent is to prevent the transmission of disease rather than to prevent pregnancy, the use of condoms might be morally justified.

tWhile that position is hardly new, in the sense that a large number of Catholic theologians and even a special Vatican commission requested by Benedict XVI have endorsed it, this is the first time the pope himself has publicly espoused such a view.

tThe comments do not yet rise to the level of official church teaching, but they do suggest that Benedict might be open to such a development.

The comments from Benedict come in a book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald titled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, published in English by Ignatius Press.

Excerpts from the Seewald interview were published today by L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.

Leaving designated protest area at SOA, activists to risk arrest today

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- In a change from previous years, organizers told attendees at tbe annual School of Americas Watch vigil here this morning that some activists will be risking arrest today.

This afternoon activists will gather for a rally at the gates of Fort Benning, the army base that houses the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. According to SOA Watch organizers, sometime later this afternoon activists will leave the designated protest area to walk towards town.

It is unclear what the action will provoke from security forces and police at the event, but organizers are telling those who wish to participate that they should know they are risking arrest.

Keep following NCR for live coverage of the event. Stay tuned to NCRToday for updates.

Pax Christi awards teacher of peace, video from event

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- In a room crowded with supporters from across the country, Pax Christi USA awarded its annual Teacher of Peace Award last night at a gathering here during the School of Americas Watch vigil.

Jim Albertini, the recipient of the award, heads the Malu Aina Center, a Hawaiian school and farm which focuses on nonviolence education.

Speaking to those gathered for the event, Albertini, who is also known for creative acts of civil disobedience, offered humorous advice to those considering civil resistance.

Recalling an incident when counter-protest against an action he participated in turned violent, Albertini told the crowd "never to picket with something you would mind getting hit over the head with."

The ceremony took place on the second floor of the conference center where the SOA Watch sessions are occurring. On the floor below the U.S. Army was hosting a gala, named the St. Barbara's Day Ball. St. Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen.

The pope and Palin: Two views on health care

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I just came across a report on Sarah Palin’s new book about the same time I caught up with a CNS report on Pope Benedict’s talk on health care that was read at the 25th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. The conference was held at the Vatican.

One of the brief passages cited from the Palin book was her take on health care and its reform.

The contrasts in the language underlying the two views, create, in my view, a stunning and graphic lesson in the difference between public policy that is based on a kind of religion of individualism and policy that takes into consideration the larger, common good.

(For a deeper consideration of the pope's speech and how it may intersect with health care politics in the United States, I highly recommend looking in on the piece by David Gibson on the Politics Daily Web site.)

SOA vigil opens, organizer calls for 'change in foreign policy'

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Arriving in caravans from across the country, thousands of students and activists are expected to converge here over the next few hours as the annual School of the Americas Watch vigil begins and continues through the weekend.

The vigil, now in it's twentieth year, commemorates the deaths of the Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs and thousands of other Latin Americans with a weekend that is part conference, part prayer meeting, part protest, and part activist reunion.

On Friday and Saturday students and activists will hear from speakers, attend breakout sessions, and party to folk music. On Sunday the weekend culminates with a procession and prayer vigil outside of the gates of the Fort Benning army complex, located here.

NCR will be following the conference throughout the weekend with short story updates, photo slideshows, and video clips from the events. Stay tuned to NCRToday for coverage.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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