National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Court limits church's authority over workers

BERLIN -- The European Court of Human Rights ruled Sept. 23 that a church organist's employment rights were ignored when he was fired by a Catholic church for remarrying outside the church.

The court said German churches have some latitude in firing staff who violate the faith's moral tenets, but said it must be weighed against the prominence of the job and the worker's own rights.

The case involved Bernhard Schuth, the longtime organist at St. Lambert parish in Essent, who separated from his wife in 1994 and started a relationship with another woman in 1995.

The new relationship might have gone unnoticed until Schuth's child mentioned a new sibling at school in 1997. Schuth was fired in 1998 because, the church said, an extramarital relationship violated basic Catholic teaching.

Beside adultery, the church also accused Schuth of bigamy since his first marriage was never annulled.

The course worked its way through Germany's courts before heading to the European court in Stasbourg, France, where judges ruled that German courts had weighed the church's interests more heavily than Schuth's.

Catholic Worker groups part of faulty FBI probe

WASHINGTON -- A handful of Catholic Worker groups across the country were among the anti-war activists, environmentalists and animal-rights groups wrongly investigated by the FBI, according to a lengthy report released Sept. 20 by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.

According to Inspector General Glenn Fine, there was "little or no basis" for the investigations.

Catholic Charities writes, pushes legislation to end poverty

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WASHINGTON – In an unprecedented action, Catholic Charities USA has drafted federal legislation that would take a new approach to ending poverty in America.

At its centenary convention in Washington CCUSA unveiled its dramatic – and possibly transformative – national legislative proposal to change the way federal, state and local governments help poor Americans get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and become self-sufficient and productive.

Some 1,000 Catholic Charities delegates from across the country got first news of the legislative initiative Sept. 26, the second day of their Sept. 25-28 national meeting.

Antiwar defendants get unexpected hearing

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Fourteen antiwar activists claimed a victory of sorts Sept. 14 when a county judge in Las Vegas helped them turn a misdemeanor trespassing case into a wider hearing on the legality of the use of unmanned military drones by the U.S. military abroad.

Surprising both the activists and prosecutors, Clark County, Nev., Judge William Jansen said he needed “at least three months” to look into witness testimony and study applicable international law regarding the activists’ allegedly illegal April 2009 prayer vigil on Creech Air Force Base.

The activists, who are known together as the “Creech 14,” walked on to the base outside Las Vegas on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2009. Once there, they offered Air Force personnel bread and water and started a prayer vigil for the end of the military’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles. After about an hour at prayer they were arrested and taken into custody.

Activist arrested for disrupting lecture at Georgetown

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An activist disrupted a lecture by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe at Georgetown University in Washington, Sept. 13, to call attention to the former leader's human rights record.

Nicholas Udu-gama, a field organizer for School of Americas Watch, stood up and began applauding in the middle of a question and answer session with Uribe, who began his appointment as a “Distinguished Scholar” at Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service Sept. 8.

Udu-gama was removed from the room by campus security and then arrested by District of Columbia metropolitan police.

Uribe is giving seminars and lectures at Jesuit-run Georgetown University. He is expected to teach for four weeks during the fall semester.

Though Uribe, who was president of Colombia from 2002 until this July, remains popular at home, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called him an “essential partner to the United States” in June, he has been the target of investigations by human rights organizations for alleged crimes committed during his administration.

Negative reactions to his appointment to the Georgetown post have been mounting.

Mo. lawmakers answer when life begins

It’s a question that has perplexed philosophers, theologians and scientists for thousands of years.

Pythagorean Greeks, early Christian church fathers, Talmudic rabbis, Sunni and Shia scholars, Hindu Brahmin and modern bioethicists have grappled with the fundamental, ultimately unknowable, mystery: At what point in our biological development are we infused with a soul?

At what point do we become human?

Missouri lawmakers have declared their answer. By withholding both his signature and his veto, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signaled that he agreed and recently allowed the legislative answer to become state law.

“The life of each human being begins at conception,” according to Senate Bill 793, which adds new regulations to the state’s 24-hour informed consent law for abortions. “Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

The bill makes Missouri the second state to adopt such language after a similar provision became law in South Dakota in 2005, and then survived a legal challenge in federal court in 2008.

Black Muslims hear echoes of Jim Crow

WASHINGTON -- Imam Mahdi Bray is feeling a sense of deja vu these days, with threats and attacks on Muslims reviving memories of his younger days working and marching alongside civil rights activists.

"For me and for America, these types of things have happened over and over again," said Bray, of the Muslim American Society.

He and other African-American Muslim leaders say the recent verbal and physical attacks against Muslims because of their faith are painful reminders of past discrimination felt by blacks because of their skin color.

Threats to burn Qurans recall the bombings of black churches, they say, and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller's crusade against the proposed Park51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero summons memories of Bull Connor's orders to aim fire hoses at civil rights marchers in Alabama.

"When people are talking about exclusionary zones where Muslims cannot build houses of worship or cannot freely assemble, then it evokes memories of those exclusionary politics and exclusionary laws African-Americans had to deal with," said Imam Zaid Shakir, a professor at Zaytuna College, the nation's first Muslim college, in Berkeley, Calif.

A thank you to peace advocates

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We continue to remember fondly the clarity with which former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen spoke out against nuclear weapons and the U.S. system of nuclear deterrence. It was in 1981 that Hunthausen termed the Trident nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Wash., “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” These days the protests of these weapons by our church’s prelates have become more muted and nuanced. That said, we welcome and commend Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert W. Finn’s timely statement questioning the wisdom of a new $673 million ($1.2 billion over 20 years) nuclear weapons plant, which was dedicated Sept. 8 in Kansas City (see story here).

It is nothing less than outrageous that when our nation’s leaders are attempting to renegotiate a new global nuclear proliferation treaty, pressuring other nations (especially sworn enemies Iran and North Korea) from expanding their nuclear weapons programs, we move forward updating our own nuclear weapons systems even as we hide plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons from the general public.

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July 18-31, 2014

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