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Peace & Justice

At Offutt, activists call for nuclear weapons cuts

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In this time of economic hardship, with unemployment near historic highs and with budgets stretched tight at all levels from the federal government down to the local school boards, it is not right to be spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons.

That was the message some 150 Catholic activists carried Oct. 2 to the gates of Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Neb., home of U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for the planning and targeting of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Three of the activists, including a Franciscan sister and a member of the Des Moines, Iowa, Catholic Worker community, were arrested after crossing onto the property of the base in a symbolic act of civil resistance.

The event was sponsored by the Dubuque, Iowa, Sisters of St. Francis.

The timing, said Sr. Pat Farrell, vice-president of the Dubuque Franciscan community and president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, “expressed our own commitment to peacemaking as Franciscans.”

Death penalty missing in 'seamless garment'?

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Is Catholic opposition to the death penalty losing traction as opposition to abortion, gay marriage, contraception and other causes become the defining “pro-life” issues for the American hierarchy?

That’s what some Catholics are asking after the bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee Sept. 26 released its message for October’s “Respect Life Month” campaign, which kicks off in thousands of U.S. parishes on Oct. 2.

Pentagon: Chaplains can celebrate gay marriages

WASHINGTON -- Military chaplains can lead same-sex marriage ceremonies on and off military bases, the Pentagon announced Friday (Sept. 30), in a move that closely followed the repeal of a ban on openly gay service members.

“A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law,” wrote Undersecretary of Defense Clifford L. Stanley.

The capital punishment conundrum of Catholic politicians

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Judging by many Catholic public officials' record on capital punishment, you would think that Catholicism has no problem with injecting lethal chemicals into the veins of human beings. Just last week Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia erroneously claimed current Catholic teaching does not view the death penalty as "immoral."

I wonder how many of the faithful at this Sunday's Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. agree. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl, is often attended by political luminaries such as Scalia.

Dead wrong: Catholics must no longer support capital punishment

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VATICAN CITY -- The Catholic Church's position on capital punishment has evolved considerably over the centuries.

And as a result, "it is not a message that is immediately understood -- that there is no room for supporting the death penalty in today's world," said a Vatican's expert on capital punishment and arms control.

Conversation on sexuality begins

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NEW YORK -- One night during Holy Week last year, Kate Henley Averett was too upset to sleep, so she sat at her computer and wrote what she calls her “breakup letter with the Catholic church.” It began: “My heart is so heavy right now I’d swear it was causing serious damage to my other internal organs. I feel like I can’t quite catch my breath. It’s not quite that I can’t breathe, but that I can’t seem to be able to breathe deeply enough -- like if I could just get one giant gulp of air in my body, it would feel better, normal, not so tight, not so heavy. Do Catholics who leave the church always feel like this?”

Over 150 theologians call for abolition of death penalty

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More than 150 Catholic theologians have signed a statement calling on the United States to abolish capital punishment, and asking the church to work "unwaveringly" toward that goal.

The statement, issued this morning on the Catholic Moral Theology blog, comes five days after the controversial Sept. 21 execution in Georgia of Troy Davis. Amnesty International, along with a number of faith and justice groups, had said that “serious doubts” remained over Davis’ guilt in the 1989 murder of a police officer.

'Machine Gun Preacher': What would Jesus do?

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As I watched director Marc Forster's new film, based on a true story, memories of other movies about men of faith caught in extreme moral dilemmas made my memory, moral imagination and conscience collide. It also evoked contemporary documentaries and feature films about Sudan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and other countries in conflict where kidnapped children become soldiers.

"Machine Gun Preacher" is the story of reformed alcoholic, drug addict and felon, Sam Childers (born 1962), who has lived as a Christian mercenary-like fighter in conflict areas of Africa since 1998. This is a powerful, raw experience of a preacher who is comfortable saying, "I am a soldier for Christ."

Sister, just freed from custody, speaks with civil disobedience

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Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch’s voice is soft, with a little bit of a nasal tone. To hear her, you have to learn forward in your chair, and turn your ear in her direction.

Yet, Lentsch, a member of the Presentation Sisters of Dubuque, has for many years spoken loudly against nuclear weapons. Set to be freed from custody after three months in prison today for an act of civil disobedience, she has spent much of the past 22 years opposing the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn.

When the federal government started to put together plans for a new $7.5 billion nuclear weapons manufacturing facility at the site, Lentsch joined 12 others in July, 2010, to witness opposition for the plans. Climbing over a barbed-wire fence onto the property of the current facility, they were immediately arrested and found guilty of trespass in federal court this May.

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July 4-17, 2014

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