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Peace & Justice

USCCB urges no change in federal housing rules

WASHINGTON -- Proposed changes in federal housing regulations to forbid discrimination based on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" could violate existing federal law and force faith-based organizations to end their "long and successful track record in meeting housing needs," according to comments filed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Anthony R. Picarello Jr. and Michael F. Moses, USCCB general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, said the proposal by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to add to the list of protected categories for which discrimination in HUD programs is prohibited "appears at odds" with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which says marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"HUD should not create a new protected classification where there is no statutory policy undergirding it and where the new classification flies in the face of a policy expressly adopted by Congress," they said.

The two attorneys filed the comments on behalf of the USCCB late March 25, the final day of a 60-day comment period on the proposed changes.

Egypt's people show that nonviolence works

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To the legions of skeptics who dismiss nonviolent conflict resolution as an admirable ideal but pathetically useless in the real world where might makes right, now comes a refutation: Egypt and Tunisia.

The throngs who massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for 18 days, stitched together like thread that couldn’t be cut, had no weapons of steel -- only superior ones, weapons of willpower. It was close to laughable that the suddenly enfeebled dictator, Hosni Mubarak, bunkered with a giant arsenal of U.S.- supplied planes, tanks, bombs and bullets, could apply a counterforce of only a gang of camel- and horse-riding thugs wielding machetes and sticks at fleeing demonstrators who quickly reassembled more empowered than before.

Former counterterrorism chief says Muslims cooperate

A former FBI counterterrorism director on Tuesday rejected allegations by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that Muslim Americans don’t cooperate with law enforcement in terror investigations.

Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, will open hearings on Thursday about Muslim radicalization that critics say unfairly singles out Muslims.

“I will tell you in no uncertain terms that the community has on multiple occasions come forward and assisted law enforcement,” said Michael Rolince, who headed the Counterterrorism Division in the FBI’s Washington field office between 2002 and 2005.

Rolince said the hearings and heated “rhetoric” from politicians attacking Muslims undermine that cooperation, and said smart counterterrorism strategy requires engaging with Muslim Americans.

Dolan: Federal marriage law decision 'alarming'

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's decision to no longer support the federal Defense of Marriage Act is an "alarming and grave injustice," said New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as 'discrimination,'" he said in a March 3 statement.

The archbishop's comments were in response to a Feb. 23 announcement that President Barack Obama had instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the federal law passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

The Defense of Marriage Act says the federal government defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and that no state must recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.

A day after Archbishop Dolan's statement, other Catholic bishops joined Protestant and Sikh religious leaders in urging the U.S. House of Representatives to fight for the federal marriage law.

Wisconsin exposes bishops' split on unions

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The fierce budget battle in Wisconsin that’s pitting unions against Republican Gov. Scott Walker has also pitted the state’s top Roman Catholic bishops against each other in a series of public exchanges over the church’s historic support for unions.

The war of words—however polite—has exposed a longstanding rift between the church’s progressive and conservative wings, reopened in the birthplace of the modern labor movement.

Walker’s budget-repair bill requires public employees to pay more for their pensions and health care, and restricts collective bargaining power for most. The plan has prompted impassioned protests by thousands at the state capitol in Madison, and sent Democratic lawmakers into exile to prevent a vote.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki kicked it off with a statement on Feb. 16 that, quoting Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, said it was “a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth.”

Ohio bishops defend collective bargaining

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As the Ohio General Assembly debated legislation calling for major changes in collective bargaining laws, the state's Catholic bishops urged government, labor and business leaders "to pursue changes that promote the common good without the elimination of collective bargaining."

"We urge continued good faith in ongoing negotiations. Civility, open communication, mutual cooperation and peaceful witness should characterize legislative actions and public discourse," the bishops said in the statement, released by the Ohio Catholic Conference in Columbus.

The Feb. 28 statement was signed by the bishops of the state's 10 Catholic dioceses, including the Romanian Diocese of St. George in Canton and Ukrainian Diocese of St. Josaphat in Parma, which currently has an apostolic administrator.

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr is chairman of the state conference, which represents the Catholic Church on public policy issues.

"In our faith tradition, defending the human dignity of every person, born and unborn, includes promoting economic justice," the bishops said in their statement.

Hawaii, Maryland make moves on gay marriage

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HONOLULU -- Hawaii Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same-sex civil unions into law Feb. 23, a week after the bill passed the state Legislature, calling it a "triumph for everyone."

Civil unions will be legal in the 50th state beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The law extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in marriage to homosexual couples in a civil union.

The Hawaii Catholic Conference said it was disappointed with lawmakers' support for the measure and the governor's endorsement.

"Passage of this legislation is just a step toward the legalization of same-sex marriage," said the conference, the church's public policy arm, in a Feb. 23 statement.

"Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter how this Legislature defines it; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a law that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the very core of marriage," it said. "The impact of this legislation on Catholic ministries remains an important and thus far unanswered concern."

A budget message that will be paid by the poor

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With its founding father, Sargent Shriver, new to the afterlife by just a week, the nation’s $700 million community action program received an unexpected eulogy from President Obama.

“I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs,” the world’s most famous former community organizer told Congress in his Jan. 25 State of the Union address. Community action was the sole domestic program specifically targeted for reduction during the hourlong address. Obama’s budget slashes the program by a whopping 50 percent.

US bishops add voice to Wisc. union struggle

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WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development gave his support Feb. 24 to views on the rights of workers caught in the midst of Wisconsin's budget battle earlier articulated by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki on behalf of the state's bishops.

"I write to express support for and solidarity with your clear statement," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., the committee chairman, in a letter to Archbishop Listecki.

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