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Peace & Justice

Former death row inmate seeks justice and an apology

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COLUMN

I almost didn't go to the lecture. Ungraded research papers tugged at my conscience, and my kids tugged, literally, at me as I walked out the door. But I had promised the coworker who had organized the event that I'd attend. Besides, how often do you get to hear the firsthand story of someone who almost died?

That someone is Nathson "Nate" Fields, who had been scheduled to be executed for a double murder for which he was later exonerated -- but only after spending 18 years in prison, more than 11 of those years on death row in Illinois.

Fields, now a speaker for the Witness to Innocence project, shared his story on April 19 with criminal justice students and others at Aurora University, where I teach, as part of a discussion about the death penalty and wrongful convictions.

"You guys will be the future judges, the future lawyers, the future presidents," Fields told the audience, citing the "human factor" as the reason he believes the death penalty should be abolished.

DePaul's new social justice archive shows how 'action liberates'

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CHICAGO -- Inside a room on the third floor of the John T. Richardson Library at DePaul University is a display that includes some heavy boots and a thick belt -- not the kind for holding up pants, but rather the kind to which prisoners’ hands are shackled. They’re part of a small representation -- in this most unlikely place -- of the iconography of capital punishment in the United States.

Priests meet in Chicago to discuss labor ministry

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CHICAGO -- Twenty-seven priests from around the country met in Chicago May 21-25 for the first Priest Laborer Social Justice Continuing Formation, a project developed to recruit priests to labor issues and create a network of support for one another and the workers they intend to reach.

“The concerns of workers have always been close to the church,” said Fr. Clete Kiley, director of immigration policy at UNITE HERE and a founder of the labor priests project, which emerged through the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.

NATO summit, protests provide lessons for Catholic school students

CHICAGO -- With world leaders descending on Chicago for the NATO summit May 20-21, some Catholic school teachers were incorporating lessons about the political-military alliance for their students.

And with thousands of people coming to the city to demonstrate and draw attention to focus on issues that include war, the environment and poverty, they included a lesson or two about the history of protests, too.

"Since the time of Christ, people have been protesting," said Mary Lee Calihan, principal of Old St. Mary's School. "What's a useful form of protest? What have people done? What has been effective?"

Calihan's school and a few others were closing for a couple days during the summit, which was to include the leaders of the 28 NATO countries as well as other world leaders. The meeting was taking place at McCormick Place convention center along the lakefront.

Security measures coupled with demonstrations promised to make getting around the downtown area and South Loop a nightmare. Churches in the area planned to stay open, but DePaul University's downtown campus was closing.

Military strategists call for reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons

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An influential panel of U.S. military strategists on Wednesday called for an 80 percent reduction in the number of the nation's nuclear weapons, saying current policy "unnecessarily incurs risks of unintentionally initiating a nuclear conflict," a conclusion many in the Catholic community, including activists and bishops, have supported for decades.

Afghanistan's massacred innocents have names

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COMMENTARY

With opinion polls showing high disapproval of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and in the wake of the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, President Barack Obama's trip last week to Afghanistan was intended to demonstrate to the American people and its allies that the war in Afghanistan will soon end. Instead, Obama's visit, in the dark of night, signaled a continuation of U.S. military involvement into the future and more tragedy for the Afghan people.

The nightmare of unspeakable suffering for the Afghan people caused by the war only seems to worsen with each passing day. On Friday, a mother and her five children were killed by U.S./NATO strikes in the Helmand province. And on Monday, it was reported that eight more civilians died from another U.S./NATO airstrike in the Badghis province.

This Friday marks two months since the massacre in Kandahar province of 17 civilians, including nine children. It was reported that three women and nine children were killed in their sleep, and some of the victims' bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Connecticut repeal thrills longtime death-penalty opponent

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Writer, journalist and well-known death penalty opponent Antoinette Bosco, 83, has been against the death penalty her whole life. When she moved to Connecticut in 1981, she continued her campaign to abolish the death penalty in the state with the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. What makes her commitment even more compelling is that her son and daughter-in-law were murdered in 1993 in Montana. She and her other children wrote to the judge and said they did not want the killer executed.

On April 25, the campaign in Connecticut came to a close -- Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a law to repeal the death penalty. NCR talked to Bosco about the decision. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

NCR: What have you learned from working to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut?

Infiltrators expose the cruelty of meat

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COLUMN

Iowa companies that breed, feed, cage and kill animals for people who savor the taste of the creatures’ flesh are having anxiety attacks. In March, they persuaded the state legislature to pass a law meant to punish anyone who deceptively infiltrates slaughterhouses or factory farms to film or report the grisly goings-on. Utah has a similar law and other states are ready to go.

Protesters, critics greet Rep. Ryan at Georgetown

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WASHINGTON -- Days after receiving a letter signed by 90-plus faculty and administrators rebuking his interpretation of Catholic social teaching, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stepped onto the Georgetown University campus Thursday amid critics of the federal budget he proposed, the House of Representatives has approved and presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed.

The letter from the Jesuit-run university’s scholars followed a series of letters from the U.S. bishops to four committees in the House, where the Ryan budget passed March 29. In their four letters, the bishops voiced their disapproval of the 2013 GOP budget, calling for a “circle of protection” around programs for the poor and vulnerable.

“Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching,” said Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, one of the Georgetown letter’s organizers. “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

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July 18-31, 2014

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