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After religious violence, Indian archbishop holds peace summit

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A Catholic professor in India recently had his hand chopped off by Islamic radicals for allegedly insulting Islam in an exam question paper.

The archbishop's response?

A peace summit. Here's the inspiring story from UCA News.

An archbishop in southern India has brought together Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders in a meeting to promote peace in Kerala state.

This comes in response to a recent incident in which Islamic radicals chopped off the hand of a Catholic professor, T.J. Joseph, for allegedly insulting Islam in an exam question paper.

“It’s our duty to maintain harmony and mutual respect. That’s why we organized this meeting,” said Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis, head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malankara Church.

A statement issued after the meeting, which was held in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram on July 31, appealed to leaders of all religions to fight the “divisive forces” that aim to destabilize society.

Are Faith and Philosophy at odds?

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For more than 2500 years, philosophers have tried to settle the big question: can man prove God exits? A leading philosopher from Nore Dame says, no, we can't - and that's just fine.

Notre Dame philosophy professor Gary Gutting writes his striking account online in The New York Times. He describes debates with his students, seeking to answer life's main mysteries. Gutting says many of these arguments end with one student or another simply asking: what about faith? Can't we just take these things on faith?

For philosophers, Gutting writes, this is a source of exasperation. No, they say, we shouldn't take the big questions on faith. The job of a philosopher is to find the answers, to strip away the mystery.

But he admits, when it comes to God at least, philosophy hasn't done a good job. The real winners in those debate have been the agnostics - seeing little merit in arguments presented for or against God's existence.

A real-life Jack McCoy

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A Law & Order fan, like myself, would feel right at home at the national conference of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), held last weekend here in Chicago. Among the 300 or so attendees and speakers were judges, district attorneys and lawyers--lots of lawyers--and plenty of talk about statutes of limitations, corroborative evidence, and discovery hearings.

There was Victor Vieth, a former prosecutor who now trains law enforcement professionals about child sexual abuse and its spiritual implications; Michael Dolce, the Florida attorney who led the successful drive to eliminate that state's statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors; and of course Jeff Anderson, the famed Minnesota attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse.

But the legal professional who most impressed me was Phillip A. Koss, the district attorney of Walworth Couty, Wisconsin. Koss prosecuted Donald McGuire, the Chicago Jesuit a local newspaper called, "the most dangerous priest in America."

Among his more chilling revelations about the case:

Catholic parishioners fund stem cell research

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Professor Neil Scolding of the University of Bristol Institute of Clinical Neurosciences has just received received a grant of £25,000 from Catholic parishioners to help his work into 'ethical stem cell research'. Scolding is studying the use of adult stem cells in the battle against multiple sclerosis (MS) at Frenchay Hospital.

"We are absolutely delighted with this splendid contribution to our bone marrow stem cell research program relating to MS. Not only is it an extremely substantial help in funding our work, but an inspiring expression of confidence and optimism in what we are doing." says Scolding.

Catholic parishioners throughout the Bristol diocese collected grants and donations on the annual Day for Life on July 25. Bristol Catholic priest, Father Michael McAndrew says his parishioners raised £500,000 worth of grants that have been distributed nationwide

"The grants also benefit pregnancy counseling, mental health projects, and dementia sufferers thanks to the donations of Catholic parishioners in Bristol and throughout our diocese." McAndrew explained saying the Day of Life "celebrates the dignity of life from conception to natural death."

I'm proud that Catholics are on the side of the undocumented

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The decision last week by a federal judge in Arizona declaring most of SB1070 -- the immigration law passed by the Arizona state legislature and signed by Governor Janet Brewer -- to be unconstitutional came as no surprise for me since it is clear that according to constitutional law the federal government is responsible for immigration issues.

Still, the decision came as a relief for those who have expressed alarm about the continued dehumanization of immigrants and in particular undocumented Mexican workers.

CRS in Pakistan

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Press Release from Catholic Relief Services:

Baltimore, MD, August 2, 2010 -- Catholic Relief Services teams are hiking through mudslide areas to reach survivors of massive floods that have killed more than 1,200 people and affected an estimated 1 million people in Pakistan.

"For tens of thousands of people, these floods have been a catastrophe,"says Carolyn Fanelli, Head of Programming and Acting Country Representative for CRS Pakistan. "In some areas, whole villages have been wiped off the map. Others are now cut off from main roads and markets."

Read more about it here: CRS Pakistan Teams Brave Floodwaters to Reach Survivors

Immigration myths; church activism

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U.S. Catholic has an immigration lawyer (and practicing Catholic) "clear[ing] up some common misconception about immigration." Read the full story: Uncertain status: 15 myths about immigration

NPR's Weekend Edition yesterday morning had a story about the faith community's work to repeal Arizona's immigration law. Here is the opening of the transcript, which you read, or you can listen to that portion of the show.

Fight for the soul of the church

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A local Madison, Wis., newspaper has a story about the local Madison, Wis., church. The headline is Taking on Bishop Morlino and the teaser is "Robert Morlino claims to represent the true church of Jesus Christ. Some local Catholics aren't buying it."

And this is what we call "the nut paragraph":

When historians of the Catholic Church look back at the early 21st century, they may identify Madison as an important battleground. The fight here is between laypeople and the church's hierarchy; at stake, arguably, is the soul of the church.

West coast seminary: vocations are up

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Maybe this should be filed in the 'knock on wood' folder.

The San Mateo County Times reports this morning that St. Patrick's Seminary & University in Menlo Park, Calif. has been experiencing a slow, but steady rise in the number of seminarians over the past few years.

"It's a national thing we're experiencing," the Rev. James McKearney, St. Patrick's president, said of the upward trend in those pursuing priesthood.

"There's been a lot of anxiety in light of the fact that the church has been getting a lot of bad press," McKearney said, "but the vast majority of priests are good men. (St. Patrick's seminarians) want to be good priests as opposed to those who haven't lived their vows. They are not dissuaded by the bad press."

In the coming academic year, St. Patrick's is expected to have more than 100 seminarians following a steady rise since 2006 when it served 88 students.

The projected enrollment includes 34 new students, according to the school.

"We haven't seen that in many years," McKearney said. "It's an exciting time."

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