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Peace & Justice

IVF opened 'wrong door' to treat infertility: Vatican official

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[Editor's Note: This updates and expands on a story posted Oct. 4, 2010.]

VATICAN CITY -- While honoring one of the inventors of in vitro fertilization with the Nobel Prize for Medicine recognizes his contribution to human reproduction, it ignores the ethical consequences of his opening "the wrong door" in the fight against infertility, said the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

British scientist Robert Edwards, a retired professor at the University of Cambridge, England, was named the Nobel winner Oct. 4 for the development of in vitro fertilization.

His work led to the birth in 1978 of Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby."

Catholics face 'mutiny' over teachings on gay marriage

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WASHINGTON -- For 13 years, Fr. Joseph Palacios lived, prayed, and studied with the Jesuits. But he left the Roman Catholic order in 2005 because he would not profess a vow of obedience to the pope.

“I felt that I could still be a Catholic priest,” Palacios said, “but I could not deal with that kind of scrutiny and command from the top.”

Now, the 59-year-old priest and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic university, is again at odds with the church’s hierarchy, this time on one of its signature issues: the definition of marriage.

In recent years, Catholic bishops have used their moral influence and deep pockets to push for bans on same-sex unions in states from California to Maine.

But a new corps of increasingly vocal Catholics is urging a “mutiny” against the hierarchy, in the words of one activist, particularly on gay marriage and related matters.

For example, on Sept. 14, Palacios and other advocates launched Catholics for Equality, a group that aims to persuade believers in the “movable middle” to defy the bishops and support civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

State Department official: Think about nuclear arms

WASHINGTON -- Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state and lead U.S. negotiator of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, has been spending time on Catholic university campuses lately.

In September, she spoke at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and her alma mater, Georgetown University in Washington, about recently completed negotiations between Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear weapons.

It's important to discuss the topic with students, she said, because so many of them do not see it as "a burning issue," said Gottemoeller, who is Catholic.

"When I was growing up, nuclear weapons were more of a reality," she told Catholic News Service Sept. 30, referring to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the potential nuclear deployment by the Soviet Union that was averted. "Since the Cold War, these issues have faded," she said, but she also was quick to point out that nuclear weapons are hardly relics of the past.

Vatican rep tells UN dialogue only path to peace

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UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations might not be perfect, but it has helped humanity move toward a world marked by dialogue, peace and development, the Vatican's foreign minister told the U.N. General Assembly.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states, said that for the United Nations and its various agencies to continue being effective, its actions and deliberations must make "constant reference to the dignity of all men and women," to the right to life of all people, including the terminally ill and the unborn, and to religious freedom.

Putting a face on poverty

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WASHINGTON – When some 700 Catholic Charities leaders from across the country were preparing to visit their senators and representatives Sept. 28 to urge passage of legislation that would take a new approach to poverty, they were told one effective approach is to bring to the meetings a story from their own local experiences. They could put a human face on poverty by showing the legislators how it is affecting some of their own constituents.

Catholic Charities lobbies for innovative anti-poverty program

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WASHINGTON -- Catholic Charities leaders from across the nation flooded the offices of U.S. senators and representatives Sept. 28 to push for a major new U.S. approach to drawing Americans out of poverty.

More than 700 Catholic Charities delegates from nearly all U.S. states swarmed through congressional offices asking members of Congress to become co-sponsors of their National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act, a bill that could transform the way federal, state and local poverty relief programs operate.

The key to transformation would be flexible combining of existing programs, tailored to the specific needs and capacities of clients, to enable them not only to survive in poverty but to lift themselves out of poverty's vicious cycle or downward spiral.

"With this legislation, today we tell the tens of millions of Americans living in poverty that there is a new hope. That they are not destined to live in poverty for their entire lives," said Catholic Charities USA president and CEO, Fr. Larry Snyder.

Radical individualism and the poverty rate

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“The tax system should be continually evaluated in terms of its impact on the poor.” -- “Economic Justice for All,” U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986

The U.S. poverty rate reached 14.3 percent, the largest increase in more than 30 years, according to a Census Bureau report released last month. More than 43 million Americans -- the highest number ever recorded -- are officially “poor.” That’s one in seven of us. Forty-two years after Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” it appears poverty is winning.

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.

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