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30 year mortgage rates drop below 5%

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Since last year as the economic crisis spread many working poor and middle class families have lost their homes due to forclosure and bankruptcy. Many parishes and dioceses have responded with job search efforts and counseling activities.

Finding ways for families to avoid foreclosure and to remain in their homes is largely dependent on low mortgage rates, and importantly, a bank's willingness to lend. So when I read today's story on low mortgage rates, I think of all the folks whose lives have been upended due to job loss, higher mortgage costs and bankruptcy.

"Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed U.S. home loans fell for the second consecutive week, pushing borrowing costs to near record lows.

The average U.S. 30-year rate dropped to 4.87 percent from 4.94 percent last week. The 15-year rate was 4.33 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia, said today in a statement.

NCR blogger bound of desert journey

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Tom Gallagher began writing regularly for NCR this past spring as his Mission Management column (See for example, Making the Grade) was introduced. He is our lead writer for the column and identifies examples of best practices found in Catholic organizations. He also is one of the "NCR Today" bloggers.

Like other NCR writers, Gallagher actually has a life outside of the paper.

He has spent most of his professional energies in the practice of law on Wall Street, before moving to an investment banking and securities firm. In 2004, he spent the next three years helping the Missionaries of Charity create and administer the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Center, a New York state not-for-profit organization. He did this on a pro bono basis and traveled to Calcutta, India, and Tijuana, Mexico, on several occasions as part of the effort.

The conservative half of the African soul finds its voice

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThough this is perhaps a terrible over-generalization, Catholics in the United States and Europe sometimes fall into the trap of listening to only half of what the African church has to say. When African Catholic leaders condemn poverty, war, and racial injustice, Western liberals cheer; when those same Africans decry abortion and homosexuality, conservatives feel validated.

tThe hard truth for both left and right, however, is that African Catholics often don’t fit into Western ideological categories. They can be ferociously traditional on matters such as sexual ethics, and yet remarkably progressive in areas such as economic policy and ecology.

tIf a label is needed for all that, one might it call “a consistent ethic of life, Africa-style.”

tSo far during the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Bishops, much of the talk has been congenial to the Western left – protesting the injustice of trading relationships and exploitation of natural resources by multi-national corporations, lamenting the continent’s wars, praising ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and calling for various sorts of internal church reforms.

2009 State of the Birds report

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Birds are a priceless part of America’s heritage. They are beautiful, they are economically important — and they reflect the health of our environment. The 2009 State of the Birds report reveals troubling declines of bird populations during the past 40 years — a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. At the same time, we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds. This report calls attention to the collective efforts needed to protect nature’s resources for the benefit of people and wildlife.

It's available at www.stateofthebirds.org

Wuerl Writes to Gay & Lesbian Catholics

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Washington’s Archbishop Donald Wuerl has published a letter in his diocesan newspaper, and sent a copy of the statement to all pastors for them to use, stating that his opposition to same-sex union is not rooted in anti-gay prejudices. “Our support for marriage is not meant to discriminate against any individual or family,” Archbishop Wuerl wrote. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church upholds the dignity of every person and condemns any form of unjust discrimination (2358).”

The statement articulates the Church’s teaching on the traditional marriage but goes on to say: “For our parishioners who are homosexual, I recognize that the teaching on marriage established by our Lord may be difficult. Please know that you have my pastoral care and prayers, and the support of this local Church, as you live out your journey of faith and seek a closer relationship with Christ and the eternal life promised through him. It is my prayer that you continue to draw closer to the Lord through participation in the sacramental life of the Church.”

World's bishops can't seem to agree on Obama

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Catholic News Service is reporting that:

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver has taken issue with a retired Vatican official's positive assessment of President Barack Obama's speech last May at the University of Notre Dame.

In an essay published by the Italian newspaper Il Foglio Oct. 6, Chaput said Swiss Cardinal Georges Cottier, the papal theologian under Pope John Paul II, had been overly generous in his appraisal of the president's words.

Read more about it here: Chaput rejects cardinal's upbeat appraisal of Obama

Our senior correspondent, John L Allen Jr, reported yesterday that the prelates from Africa are much taken with the American president: Without even showing up, Obama's a force at African Synod.

Catholic News Service reported a similar story yesterday titled "President Obama being cited at African synod." The story was first posted early in the morning (by our time zone), and CNS updated the story later in the day, adding this as a second paragraph:

No sale yet on GMOs from African bishops

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tLast May, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Sciences hosted a study week on Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, which coincidentally took place around the same time that a preparatory document for the Synod of Bishops for Africa was released. That document took a skeptical line on GMOs, which set off alarms within the Pontifical Academy, whose roster of scientific consultants tends to reflect a strongly pro-GMO view.

tAs a result, the academy decided to invite an African bishop to join them during the study week, perhaps hoping to “seed” the Synod for Africa with a more GMO-friendly perspective: Bishop George Nkuo of the Kumbo diocese in Cameroon.

tTo extend that botanical metaphor, it would seem from Nkuo’s remarks yesterday that the pro-GMO conclusion organizers of the study week might have anticipated has yet to fully bloom.

tNkuo, the first speaker at the synod to treat GMOs at any length, offered this bottom line:

An African package for church reform emerges at Synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tGenerally speaking, Catholic debate outside of Europe and the United States is usually distinguished by its ad extra orientation, meaning that the focus is not so much insider Catholic baseball but rather the burning challenges of the broader society, and how the Catholic church can be an agent for change.

tWhat seems to be emerging at the Oct. 4-25 Synod for Africa, however, is a conviction that for the Catholic church to be helpful in Africa ad extra, it first has some ad intra business to resolve.

Read the full story here: African bishops examine 'practice of power, authority'

Fr. Thomas Berry's memorial service in New York City

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Vic Hummert, environmental activist and author from Lafayette, La. reports on the memorial service held at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.

"Fr. Thomas Berry (1914-2009), the wisest person I ever met, was honored and remembered in the last of four major funeral/memorial services on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, in one of the largest churches in North America.

Rev. James Kowalski, Dean of New York's Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, estimated attendance at 1,200, including his North Carolina relatives, former students, friends and associates from far and wide, assembling for the final major memorial service honoring Berry.

With the departure of Thomas Berry on June 1, 2009, we were deprived of one of the most stratospheric minds since Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) tried to convince humankind that we are Earth coming to consciousness. A long-time president of the Teilhard Society, Berry had in his academic career the distinct advantage of seeing photographs of Earth from space and evaluating the universe's evolution from perspectives not available to Teilhard.

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