National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Bishops play defense on anti-poverty initiative

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As the nation's 200 or so Roman Catholic bishops prepare for their annual meeting in Baltimore next week (Nov. 15-18), the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has become yet another battlefield in what some Catholics lament is an increasingly polarized church.

For four decades, the U.S. Catholic bishops have maintained a nationwide program designed to help the poor lift themselves out of poverty. And for just as long, fierce critics have tried to kill it.

Bishops' campaign sets path for reform, renewal

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WASHINGTON -- A renewed Catholic Campaign for Human Development -- never again linked to funding of any organizations that advocate positions contradicting basic Catholic social and moral teachings -- is the goal of a report released Oct. 26.

The campaign has come under repeated attack by critics, some of whom oppose its work and have sought to kill it. 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 campaign-funded organizations.

Death penalty abolitionists gathering in Atlanta

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For the first time in more than decade, faith-based anti-death penalty activists will gather for a national conference in the heart of the South. The conference is sponsored by the North Carolina-based abolition group, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

"The Kairos Conference: Discerning Justice & Taking Action on America’s Death Penalty" runs Nov. 16-17 at Atlanta's Emory University, in the region of the country where the death penalty has always garnered the most popular support.

The southern states, if you include Texas, account for more than 90 percent of the 1,233 US executions carried out since 1977. In May, Georgia carried out the state's 998 execution since records have been maintained.

Reports of torture in Iraq dismay human rights and peace activists

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Peace and human rights activists have expressed anger and dismay in the wake of the leak of a new set of classified Iraq war documents indicating the continued abuse of detainees by both U.S. and Iraqi coalition forces.

The documents -- together known as the “Iraq War Logs,” comprising some 400,000 pages of classified military logs covering coalition forces’ actions during nearly the entire length of the Iraq war -- are the latest to be leaked by the international organization WikiLeaks, which released 90,000 documents on the Afghan war July 25.

Billed by that organization as “the largest classified military leak in history,” the documents in the new leak were given to several international publications, with the first published Oct. 22 and others published since.

While the documents paint a grim picture of life on the ground in Iraq, covering a wide range of events, some of the most chilling reports contained within them concern abuse of detainees.

Obstacles to evangelization

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An NCR Editorial

From the earliest days of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his ardent desire to re-Christianize the West. To this end, earlier this month he unveiled a new Vatican agency, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Headed by Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the council is to present the Catholic faith anew to the world.

India's 'untouchables' ask Obama for a visit

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NEW DELHI -- Comparing their struggle with America's civil rights movement, India's low-caste Dalits are urging President Obama to take note of their suffering during his state visit next week.

Obama's three-day visit beginning Nov. 6 is meant to deepen economic ties with India, but Dalit activists say he "symbolizes the hope of freedom for oppressed people across the world."

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.

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