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Hearing the cry of women at the African Synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tAs the Synod of Bishops for Africa reaches its midway point, its key themes seem to include empowering women (both in the broader society and the church), a perceived Western assault on the African family, globalization and it discontents (especially chronic poverty), and dialogue with Islam.

tThe fate of women, in particular, seems a major preoccupation.

t“The synod fathers have heard the cry of women,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana yesterday, noting that cry “has been echoed” by some of the women taking part in the African Synod itself.

t“Women need to be recognized in society as well as in the church as active members,” he said.

tTurkson, who is serving as the general secretary of the synod, yesterday delivered a speech technically known as the relation post disceptationem, or the “report after the discussion.”

When Samples Don't Tell the Story

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A few days ago I expressed the wish that a Sister Survey similar to those conducted by the distinguish sister-sociologist, Marie Augusta Neal, in the years following Vatican II, could be done now to find attitudes of sisters independently in the midst of the investigation crisis.

Meanwhile, word comes that the estimable periodical, U.S. Catholic, is surveying sisters about the investigation and separately inviting readers to post their views of the probe. The general reader survey is described as a "poll." The first wave of responses showed 55 percent sharply critical of the Vatican's initiative, but after a priest filed a entry on his blog highly in favor of the process, together with a link to the magazine's site, the results tilted heavily in the other direction, 80 percent approving the probe.

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.

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