National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Florida farmworker coalition hails new agreement with tomato growers

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IMMOKALEE, Fla. -- Silvia Perez, who has survived the worst during her 17 years of working in the tomato fields, said she was overjoyed with recent landmark events aimed at increasing wages and improving working conditions.

"It is the message of my church (Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish) and my faith that has kept me going," she said. "My belief is that if I worked hard for change -- things would change and these images of hope would become reality."

On Oct. 12, Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the country's oldest and largest tomato growers, signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers joining its Campaign for Fair Food. On Oct 21, Six L's Packing Co., Florida's largest tomato grower, followed its lead. Perez has worked for both.

"Underneath the agreements, there are assurances that the workers will be able to speak up regarding both abuses and the conditions," she said. "For example, if there's physical abuse, like the teenage boy who was beaten bloody because he was thirsty and went for a drink of water, or the lack of facilities to use.

CCHD wants to woo back bishops who left campaign

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WASHINGTON – At Tuesday’s teleconference on strengthening the Catholic identity and mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a reporter asked CCHD officials if they intended any direct outreach to the several bishops who have abandoned the annual collection, “to bring them back into the fold, so to speak?”

“We will. And the contact will be personal and direct,” said Bishop Roger Morin of Biloxi, Miss., chairman of the bishops’ subcommittee on the CCHD.

“This is not a program or activity that belongs to one bishop, or a cluster of bishops or dioceses. This is a USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] program that was established by the bishops, and the urging of the bishops is that all of the dioceses take part in this important work of assisting the poor and [addressing] the issue of poverty in our country,” he said.

Gulf Coast food banks still in high demand

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NEW ORLEANS -- Even with the deep sea oil hemorrhage halted and much of the fishing in the Gulf of Mexico reopened, major charity groups say the needs of impacted families remain dire.

Officials from the local affiliates of Second Harvest Food Bank and Catholic Charities said members of the fishing, oil and service industries are still hurting six months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Perceptions that the crisis is over and that money from BP is taking care of all the losses have detracted from fundraising, officials said.

Mormon leader weighs in on same-sex attraction

SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormons may not know until the hereafter what causes same-sex attraction, but "God loves all his children" and expects everyone to do the same, a top Mormon leader said Oct. 24.

While the message -- delivered to more than 200,000 Utah Mormons -- may not seem significant, the messenger was.

As second counselor in the governing First Presidency, Dieter F. Uchtdorf is one of the highest-ranking leaders in the hierarchy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the thorny topic of same-sex attraction.

The gentle tone and emphasis of Uchtdorf's remarks came in the wake of a speech by Boyd K. Packer, senior member of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said homosexual "tendencies" can be "overcome." Packer later changed "tendencies" to "temptations" on the church's website.

Packer's speech generated national controversy and protests from church-members and non-Mormons, many of whom saw the apostle's statements as contributing to the self-loathing and suicides of gays.

Bishops defend Catholic Campaign for Human Development

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WASHINGTON -- Quoting Pope Benedict XVI -- "justice is the primary way of charity" -- a bishops' report on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development reaffirms the campaign as "a unique and essential part of the Catholic community's broad commitment to assist low-income people, families and communities."

The report, endorsed in September by the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was released Oct. 26.

The review was prompted by criticisms that the CCHD has funded some organizations which directly or indirectly advocated positions not in accord with basic Catholic teachings.

The CCHD has come under repeated attack by critics, some of whom oppose its work and have sought to kill the campaign.

The criticism over the years has sometimes been overstated or misplaced. In many cases, the accusations from conservative quarters were about organizations that received no direct funding but had become allied over time, often loosely, with CCHD-funded organizations.

Israel a model on gays in the military

JERUSALEM -- Israel, like the United States, is a largely secular society with deep religious roots. And Israel, like the United States, is home to vocal religious conservatives who frown on homosexuality.

But Israel, unlike the United States, has allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military for 17 years. In fact, they are required to.

Americans say religious messages fuel negative views of gays

Most Americans believe messages about homosexuality coming from religious institutions contribute to negative views of gays and lesbians, and higher rates of suicide among gay youths, a new poll reports.

While split on whether same-sex relations are sinful, Americans are more than twice as likely to give houses of worship low marks on handling the issue of homosexuality, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Oct. 21.

A plurality (45 percent) of Americans, however, give their own house of worship a `A’ or `B’ grade on how it handles homosexuality.

After a recent spate of teen suicides prompted by anti-gay harassment and bullying, the poll indicates a strong concern among Americans about how religious messages are impacting public discussions of homosexuality.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) say religious messages about homosexuality contribute to “negative views” of gays and lesbians, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) see a connection to higher rates of suicide among gay youths.

A place that waits to comfort

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A few minutes drive from the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline is the Convent of Mercy. The imposing brick edifice, constructed in 1862, until recently served as the motherhouse of the Brooklyn Sisters of Mercy. Two years ago the wonderful old Brooklyn convent with its enclosed garden and still thriving Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center bade farewell to the sisters who lived there.

Opposing nuclear weapons plant, activists arrested at city meeting

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Yelling that they were “calling an alarm” in the tradition of the prophet Isaiah, two peace activists were arrested here Oct. 7 for interrupting a city council meeting as they called attention to the construction of a major new nuclear weapons facility on the outskirts of town.

Their acts of civil disobedience were the fourth in five months by protesters opposed to the building of the new weapons plant. They came just moments after the two had been found guilty, along with 12 others, for illegal trespassing last August at the construction site at which they stood in front of an earth moving vehicle and shut down work for more than hour.
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The new plant, which will make nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the nation’s first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese released a statement Sept. 2 asking officials to reconsider the facility’s construction.

Minn. pastor challenges Nienstedt's DVD campaign

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A Minnesota pastor, in a letter to the editor of a major newspaper, has sharply criticized the campaign against same-sex marriage spearheaded by his archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Fr. Michael Tegeder, 62, pastor of St. Edward Parish, Bloomington, took issue with the content of a 18-minute DVD sent by Minnesota bishops to more than 400,000 Catholics throughout the state. "The premise of the DVD," wrote Tegeder, in a letter published Oct. 2 by the Star-Tribune, "is that same-sex couples and their committed relationships are a grave threat to marriage."

The real threat to marriage, the pastor argued, is poverty, citing an earlier report on the effects of the economic downturn on marriage.

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September 12-25, 2014

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