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Peace & Justice

Guatemalan families reunite in Iowa

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POSTVILLE, IOWA -- The sign on the bus traveling from the Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Postville on slippery roads Dec. 4 said “SPECIAL.” That was an understatement.

When the bus pulled up in front of St. Bridget Church in Postville at 8:45 a.m., it delivered the best Christmas gift anyone could wish for -- 26 family members from Guatemala coming to be reunited with eight former Agriprocessors workers whom they had not seen in years.

Many of the travelers were children whose mothers left Guatemala several years ago to earn money in Postville to send back to their hungry families. Some were parents or siblings of former underage teen workers.

“It was a very emotional moment,” said Mary McCauley, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was among those who met the bus. “Seeing their faces as they recognized loved ones was indescribable!”

McCauley was pastoral administrator at the Postville parish at the time of the largest immigration raid in U.S. history at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant on May 12, 2008 (NCR, June 13, 2008).

Jury finds activists guilty in Washington state nuclear weapons protest

WASHINGTON -- Five longtime peace activists were found guilty of a series of federal charges stemming from an All Souls' Day demonstration in 2009 at a U.S. Navy nuclear weapons depot in Bangor, Wash.

A 12-member jury convicted Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, 82, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, 61, Sacred Heart Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, Susan Crane, 65, and Lynne Greenwald, 61, of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation and depradation of government property Dec. 13.

The verdict for the defendants, who called themselves the Disarm Now Plowshares, came after a four-day trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma, Wash.

Settle set sentencing for March 28. Each activist faces prison terms of three to five years and fines of $50,000 to $250,000 on each charge.

Crane, a member of the Jonah House Community in Baltimore, told Catholic News Service by phone shortly after the verdict was announced that the group faced an uphill battle in establishing their defense after Settle determined that no witness would be able to discuss whether nuclear weapons existed at the base.

The check is definitely not in the mail

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COLUMN

Dear Archbishop Timothy Broglio:

I’m not sure who supplied my name and address to you, but I did receive your letter asking for money for the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services, which you head.

“Yes,” you wrote, “faithful, patriotic and generous Catholics like you help make it possible for chaplain priests to be there for our troops serving in harm’s way. ... Donors like you are the sole means of financial support for the archdiocese.”

I certainly understand that times are tough for Catholic chaplains. As you say, only 275 are currently on duty, down from 400 since the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Catholics are 25 percent of the military, while only 8 percent of military chaplains are priests.

Quiet cancer of militarism on the US soul

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Jesuit Fr. Dan Berrigan’s message to peacemakers, delivered Nov. 29 at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House on Staten Island, N.Y., came down to this: Persevere.

“You have no right to tie yourself in knots because you want to know the outcome of what you are doing. Don’t, no, no. Let it go. Let it go into history. Let it go into Christ. Let it go into generations. Let it go into the children. Play it and pray it well,” NCR staff writer Joshua McElwee reported Berrigan saying. (You can see McElwee's story on Berrigan's talk here: Berrigan's message to peacemakers: Persevere.)

Yes, it can be discouraging, and the thought of giving up can be inviting. So it becomes important to ponder the words of a man who has taken the often lonely peace route for some six decades.

Some years back, Berrigan said: “I protest because I cannot not protest.” In his eyes, not to protest, not to stand up against violence and militarism, meant relinquishing part of his humanity, an essential part of what it means to be a Christian.

Arms negotiator: Time to ratify START

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate has already held extensive hearings this year on the country’s New START – Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – with Russia and the time is ripe to ratify it, the treaty’s lead U.S. negotiator told a nationwide group of Catholic social action leaders Nov. 30.

Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, who led the U.S. negotiating team in reaching the new agreement, spoke with about 70 Catholic leaders in a teleconference organized by Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

She warned that if the treaty is not ratified before the end of the current Congress, an entire new set of hearings will have to take place next year, possibly delaying a ratification vote by as much as a full year.

Illinois passes civil unions bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate passed landmark civil unions legislation Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 respectively. Gov. Pat Quinn has pledged to sign the bill. If he does, Illinois would become the 11th state to recognize civil unions or marriages between gay and lesbian couples.

The legislation was harshly criticized by the Illinois bishops and their public policy arm, the Illinois Catholic Conference. “The public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by the passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage,” said Chicago Cardinal Francis George.

The bill passed the Senate 32-24 and the House 61-52.

Quinn, who is Catholic, said his faith led him to support the legislation.

Reflections on an immigration journey

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Thanksgiving, despite its overwhelming identification as a day for feasting and football, remains for most of us a family day of commemoration and gratitude. Many families will count their blessings by helping serve at a community meal or by expanding their family table to include the less fortunate. Those who gather around the eucharistic table will find the holy day in the holiday and be reminded that God is the source of all our blessings.

Undercover police among arrested at SOA vigil

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At least one of the 29 persons taken into custody outside Fort Benning during a rally at the annual School of Americas Watch vigil Nov. 20 in Columbus, Ga. was an undercover police officer.

The revelation came as Lauren Stinson, an undercover narcotics agent with the Muscogee, Ga., county sheriff’s office, testified in court Nov. 21 that she participated in two meetings with SOA Watch protesters and allowed herself to be rounded up with activists during the rally.

SOA Watch organizers, meanwhile, said Nov. 22 they believed that at least four more of those arrested near the alley leading to the gates of the military institution were also undercover agents.

Backing their allegation, they said, is video taken at the scene of the arrests. SOA Watch organizers said that from the video they can see that five of those taken into custody at the rally were never put in jail and never ended up in court.

Several of those tried for Saturday’s action also said they could recognize the missing arrestees on the video as people who attended discussions with organizers before the arrests.

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