National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

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.

Vatican official: Water access a right for all

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VATICAN CITY -- Reasonable access to clean water is a fundamental human right and its distribution should not be left solely to private companies seeking profit, a top Vatican official said.

Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told participants at a meeting regarding the future of water supplies around the world that water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone.

People have a "universal and inalienable right" to access, a right that is so fundamental that "governments cannot leave its management solely in private hands," he said.

Bishop Toso made his remarks at an international meeting near the Vatican called "Dammi da bere" (give me something to drink), promoted by the Catholic-inspired Italian environmental association Greenaccord.

Bishop Toso cited Colombia, Philippines and Ghana as examples of countries where water management "inspired exclusively by private and economic criteria" has failed to produce adequate distribution for the population and where water costs three to six times that of large cities such as New York or London.

Bishops criticize Obama on marriage law

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops' Office of General Counsel said the Obama administration's decision to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges ahead "represents an abdication" of its "constitutional obligation to ensure that laws of the United States are faithfully executed."

"Marriage has been understood for millennia and across cultures as the union of one man and one woman," the office said in a statement issued Feb. 23 after President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department 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.

"The principal basis for today's decision is that the president considers the law a form of impermissible sexual orientation discrimination," the Office of General Counsel said.

Feds: College can't dodge union organizing

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RYE, N.Y. -- A contested decision by the National Labor Relations Board that Manhattan College does not hold itself out as a religious institution has paved the way for adjunct faculty to organize a union at the 158-year-old Bronx college founded by the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools.

The Jan. 10 decision by Elbert F. Tellem, acting regional director of the NLRB, concluded that the college has a secular purpose. Because adjunct faculty are not required to advance a religious mission, Tellem said exercising NLRB jurisdiction will not lead to an "unconstitutional entanglement" of government and religion.

He later directed that mail ballots to measure support for creating a union be sent to adjunct faculty Feb. 16 and counted March 3.

Brennan O'Donnell, president of the college, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, told Catholic News Service: "We vehemently object to the characterization of us as not holding ourselves out as a religious institution."

Curran: Abortion debate must consider 'freedom of the person'

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In the Nov. 26, 2010 issue of NCR, we published a talk -- "US Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from Within the Church" -- given by Fr. Charles E. Curran, Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Yesterday, Fr. John Yockey, a Wisconsin pastor who taught moral theology as an assistant professor at the Washington Theological Union from 1983-1992, responded to Curran’s remarks -- saying that current abortion law "condones an atrocity."

Below we have a response from Curran to Yockey's criticisms, in which Curran touches on his belief that the freedom of the individual person and the feasibility of anti-abortion legislation should have more consideration in the debate.

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I thank John Yockey for his response that combines courtesy and respect with his disagreement. Would that all our discussions within the Catholic Church could be carried on in the same spirit.

Abortion law 'condones an atrocity,' says theologian

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In the Nov. 26, 2010 issue of NCR, we published a talk -- "US Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from Within the Church" -- given by Fr. Charles E. Curran, Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

In his talk, Curran upheld official church teachings on abortion, but was critical of the way the U.S. bishops have handled the matter as a political issue. Following publication of the talk, Fr. John Yockey, a Wisconsin pastor who taught moral theology as an assistant professor at the Washington Theological Union from 1983-1992, asked to respond to Curran’s remarks.

Expert: If CIA agent in Pakistan not diplomat, not immune

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News that Raymond Davis, the American who sparked a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Pakistan by shooting two men dead in the city of Lahore last month, was working for the CIA means U.S. claims that he is a diplomat with immunity have “no basis,” says one expert.

The revelation also raises questions about how Pakistanis will tolerate the continued American military presence in their country in the midst of unmanned drone attacks and with U.S. troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, say others.

Wisc. archbishop: Don't suspend workers' rights

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MILWAUKEE -- Quoting Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki issued a statement Feb. 16 that came down squarely in favor of workers' rights in the face of efforts by Wisconsin's new governor to restrict those rights.

"Hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers," Archbishop Listecki said.

"Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities," he said.

"However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth."

Archbishop Listecki was responding to efforts by new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, to push through measures restricting the rights of unions in a special session of the state legislature.

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