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A conversation with Archbishop Wilton Gregory

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Lone U.S. bishop at the Synod for Africa talks about the African experience in America, Barack Obama, health care reform, and the sex abuse crisis

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia, is the lone U.S. bishop taking part in the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Africa in Rome. Gregory, 61, was the first African-American to be elected president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and he led the American church through the peak period of the sexual abuse crisis from 2001 to 2004. A Chicago native, he also knows a thing or two about politics, and therefore how to handicap the dynamics in a setting such as a synod of bishops.

Bishops offer Obama advice on Afghanistan

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The think piece on Afghanistan posted to the front page of our web site this moring, Alternatives to war in Afghanistan by David Cortright of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says:

Demilitarizing U.S. strategy would not mean abandoning the people of Afghanistan. The reduction of military operations should be linked to a greatly increased commitment to development assistance and democracy-building programs for local groups willing to uphold human rights principles.

Deal Hudson's Deceitful Bogeyman

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I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. It is fast becoming obvious that health care reform, in some form, is going to pass Congress and become law. So conservative Republicans, including conservative Catholic Republicans, are mounting last ditch efforts to scuttle the legislation. The most recent was posted by Deal Hudson over at InsideCatholic.com.

Hudson argues that the public option will end up extending federal funding for abortion. He says that the courts will step in even if Congress doesn’t mandate abortion coverage in any such plan. Mind you, the courts have not stepped in to over-rule the Hyde Amendment lo these many years. The federal health insurance coverage that members of Congress enjoy does not include abortion coverage. Federal Medicaid funds do not support abortion. So, why would the federal option, which would be modeled after the insurance that members of Congress get, necessarily end up mandating abortion coverage? Hudson does not say.

The Green triangle

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We've all seen the bumper sticker that reads "Live simply so that others may simply live" -- a ringing call to a sustainable life. Such a life involves, in the words of Mennonite author Doris Janzen Longacre, "cultivating a gentle way of handling the erth, versatility in the face of shortage, inner provision for contentment and, more than all that, commitment to live justly in our world."

A sufficient and sustainable life means being a bright, creative part of the solution rather than one more tired cog in the dreadful turning wheels of the problem.

Sufficiency in involves the old virtues of thrift and frugality. Sustainability comes from innovation and creativity. It looks something like this: A friend reuses her bath and dishwater, hauling it out to the garden for her vegetables. It's a lot of bother, she says, but she doesn't mind. She gets exercise and cuts down on her water bill, while at the same time deriving a rich satisfaction from this way of doing things.

Radio show on seminary training

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"Up to Date," the 11 a.m. talk show on the local NPR station, KCUR, yesterday had a panel of guests discussing clergy training. The guests were Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan., Ron Benefiel, president of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., Rabbi Kenneth Ehrlich, dean of Hebrew Union Collegein Cincinnati, and Benedictine Fr. Samuel Russell, president-rector of Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.

Here’s a link to the whole show. It’s worth a listen.

Fr. Russell comes in about 10 minutes into the program. He reports that Conception -- a college seminary that educates and forms students from 25 U.S. dioceses, according to its Web site http://www.conception.edu/conception-seminary-college/history -- is experience a 40-year high enrollment. About 120 seminarians this year, he said.

UN hunger expert warns of empty cupboard in 21st century

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tA sobering wake-up call about global hunger was heard Monday afternoon in the Synod for Africa, delivered by a special guest invited to address the gathering: Senegalese diplomat Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which is based in Rome.

tDiouf broke away to address the synod from an Oct. 12-13 FAO summit titled, “How to Feed the World in 2050.”

World population is projected to rise to 9.1 billion in 2050 from a current 6.7 billion, Diouf said during the FAO summit, requiring a 70-percent increase in farm production. Increases, he said, would need to come mostly from yield growth and improved cropping intensity rather than from farming more land. Urbanization, desertification, the ever-greater share of land devoted to biofuels and global climate change, Diouf said, all make opening up new cropland increasingly difficult.

Without such significant increases in productivity, he warned, a rising population will find itself staring at an “empty cupboard," with significant increases in global hunger and malnutrition.

Big guns in African church blast corrupt politics

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tTwo of the biggest guns in African Catholicism were locked and loaded in the synod hall on Monday, and both had the same target in their sights: politicians and political parties which they blasted as corrupt and interested only in self-preservation, a problem one of them memorably described as a “cancer eating up our continent.”

tThose big guns were Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa, and Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya. Both are widely considered among the top tier of prelates in Africa, and both have a broad regional influence – Napier especially in Southern Africa, and Njue in East Africa.

tIf the early days of the Synod for Africa have been marked by candor about the church’s own internal challenges, Monday the pendulum swung back in a strongly ad extra direction, focused on the broader political life of the continent. Fox Napier and Njue may not have offered any compelling new cures, but they certainly minced no words about the diagnosis.

tThe Synod for Africa is meeting in the Vatican Oct. 4-25.

Cardinal George congratulates Obama on Nobel

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Catholic News Service reports that USCCB president congratulates Obama on receiving Nobel Peace Prize

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WASHINGTON -- Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 9.

t"As he has graciously said, much of the work of realizing a more peaceful and just world for all persons and nations remains to be done; but the prize was given because, as president of the United States, he has already changed the international conversation," Cardinal George said in a statement released by the USCCB Oct. 12.
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t"In our own country, the remarkable and historic achievement of his election has changed the relationships between men and women of all races," the cardinal said.
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t"The rich diversity of United States society is now more surely anchored in a national unity that is better able to foster the peace we all are challenged to pursue. Our prayer is that almighty God will bless the president and his family," he added.


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