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Ad supporting American nuns

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I have contact with a wide interfaith swath of the population, and just about everyone: Muslim, Jew, Episcopalian, Methodist, Buddhist… you name it… wants to know what I think of the Vatican investigation of American nuns.

People, I find, are scratching their heads trying to figure out what in the world the Vatican is looking for in a group of women whose labor literally built the American church as we know it, and who continue to serve that church, especially the poor, with visible selflessness.

Well, the Quixote Center is offering everyone an opportunity to voice their views about American nuns in an ad that will appear in the National Catholic Reporter when it is complete. It chronicles the legacy and work of American nuns from the days of the frontier to the urban immigrant slums to the extensive work for justice and peace today.

If you want to read it and sign it, here is the link: Support our Sisters campaign

A cry for debt cancellation from Ivory Coast

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tA strong call for the cancellation of Africa’s external debts came yesterday from Cardinal Bernard Agré of Ivory Coast, who insisted that such a move would be “no longer an act of charity, but of justice.”

tAgré, now 83 and retired, spoke yesterday to Vatican Radio on the margins of the Synod of Bishops for Africa. The synod is meeting in the Vatican Oct. 4-25.

tAccording to United Nations statistics, sub-Saharan African nations still owe an estimated $200 billion in external debt, despite spending almost $14 billion annually in debt payments. The UN estimates that sub-Saharan African nations receive some $10 billion annually in foreign aid, meaning that they actually send back $4 billion more each year to affluent nations than they receive in development assistance.

tAgré told Vatican Radio that they synod, currently in its recommendations-crafting phase, “should consider this problem of the cancellation of debts which fall too heavily on many peoples.”

Catholic Answers can't sue IRS

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Courthouse News Service, a news service for lawyers, reports that a federal judge has rule that San Diego-based Catholic Answers can't sue the IRS.

After Catholic Answers posted an e-letter calling 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry a "notorious sinner," the Internal Revenue Service deemed it an "act of political intervention," something prohibited for tax-exempt organizations.

Catholic Answers had to pay $831.41 in tax plus interest. Catholic Answers paid up, but then appealed. The IRS eventually abated the tax and refunded the money, but then Catholic Answers sued.

A federal judge in San Diego today granted the government's motion to dismiss the suit, saying because it had received a full refund, Catholic Answer's claims were moot.

Yes, Faith-Based Hiring with Tax Dollars

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My colleague Maureen Fiedler is correct when she notes that the issue confronting President Obama is whether or not faith-based organizations should be able to discriminate in hiring based on religion with moneys received from the federal government. Otherwise, why would be discussing the matter? And, she raises the issue of such monies being used to proselytize but that is a separate issue.

Proselytizing should not be permitted in social service agencies run by the Church. On the other hand, recall President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame when he spoke about how moved he had been by the witness and the word of Chicago’s Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The President saw a man who lived his humanity differently because of his encounter with Christ. Was that proselytizing? The courts will doubtless have to draw lines here about what is and is not permissible and I suppose they won’t get much more accurate than Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

The Tablet's take on marriage

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The Tablet, the Catholic weekly from London, has this to say about the U.S. bishops' draft pastoral letter on marriage:

The United States bishops are shortly to consider a highly conservative draft statement on marriage that appears to wish contraceptives could be un-invented. The model of family life the document seems to promote would be anathema to most women, including Catholics, for it would force them back into domesticity while men pursued their careers and earned the family’s bread. It is to be hoped that the bishops arrive at a diagnosis that is a little more realistic, and perhaps a little less male-orientated.


The Tablet
's editorial is titled "The problem with men," and the quote above is just a tiny part of the editorial's message about marriage and modern relationships. Read the full piece.

African bishop on Islam, oil , and why selling the Vatican is a stupid idea

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Rome -- Earlier this week, I interviewed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, the lone American member of the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Africa, and asked him how many of the African bishops he already knew. He ticked off several, beginning with Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria -- but at that point Gregory stopped himself, saying, “I guess that doesn’t really count, because everybody knows Onaiyekan!”

tMade a bishop at the tender age of 38, and now in full stride at 65, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan is Africa’s superstar prelate, known around the world as the voice of his continent.

Freedom and teenagers

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It must be because last night I attended my first parent-teacher conference as a parent of a high school, that I felt drawn to this essay by Christopher L. Doyle on the Education Week Web site: Growing Up Scripted: And Losing Freedom Along the Way.

I propose a brief experiment in citizenship: Find a teenager and ask her if she thinks she will grow up to lead a free life. The results might give you pause. When I asked this of my upper-middle-class high school students recently, nearly every one of these 11th and 12th graders said "no."

The problem is that adolescents imagine adulthood as an extension of their own experience, and most see themselves as overworked, overregulated, and overstressed. They have a point. …

No faith-based hiring with tax dollars

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My fellow NCR Today blogger Michael Sean Winters argues that faith-based institutions should be able to show preference for people of their own faith in hiring. But he omitted one very crucial phrase: "with public money."

What The New York Times editorial (with which he disagrees) was discussing was not hiring in general, but hiring people for social service programs funded by public tax dollars under the Faith-based and Community Partnerships Program. These dollars cannot be used for anything that proselytizes, or promotes a religion anyway, or the whole program would run afoul of the First Amendment.

So, if one is hiring a drug counselor, or someone to run a soup kitchen or a job-training office, it’s a neutral job -- religiously speaking -- and there is no reason to discriminate on the basis of religion. In fact, since such salaries are paid with tax dollars, there is every reason not to discriminate.

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