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Peace & Justice

Vatican's justice-peace head says what he thinks

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Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana was named the new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in late October, just as his debut on the global Catholic stage as the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod for Africa ended. It was in some ways a baptism by fire for the 61-year-old Ghanian prelate, introducing him among other things to the press climate in Rome. A few fairly innocent comments from Turkson about condoms, and about the prospect of a black pope, briefly became a cause célèbre in the Italian papers and prompted the Vatican to issue a swift "clarification."

As Turkson now puts it, he was forced to realize that in conversation he may say things with a smile, but in print "the smile never comes across."

Still, Turkson said he doesn't want "circumspection" to get in the way of saying what he thinks. He'd rather speak the truth, he said, and run the risk of being misunderstood.

Catholic needle exchange raises moral questions

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In launching its needle-exchange program last week, the Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., said the decision came down to choosing the lesser evil. Illegal drug use is bad, but the spread of deadly diseases is worse.

The medical evidence is clear, the diocese argued on Feb. 1, when it began "Project Safe Point" in two Upstate New York locations through its local branch of Catholic Charities. Public health studies document that exchanging used syringes for new ones can effectively stanch the spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, and even lead drug abusers to treatment and recovery.

New Ways Ministry: 'much to do with peoples' struggle, pain, little about sex'

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“I feel like they have slapped me in the face again.”

That sentence was emailed to me yesterday by a Catholic lesbian woman after she learned that Cardinal Francis George issued a negative “clarification” concerning New Ways Ministry. Like many lesbian/gay Catholics, this woman perceived George’s statement as directed not so much towards the organization which I direct, but towards herself and her lesbian /gay sisters and brothers in the Church.

Panelists connect issues of faith and economics

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NEW YORK
Franciscan Sr. Kathie Uhler has for months been working on a series of panel presentations to the United Nations that will show the damage exploitative mining has had on the indigenous populations of countries like Peru, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

As Uhler has learned in her research, inhabitants of an area are often unaware of mining–for gems, coal, or oil–that is taking place a short distance from their homes, perhaps on a mountaintop, until natural resources have already been polluted. In many cases, she said, the governments of countries where this mining occurs have allowed companies to do the work without alerting area residents or giving them a choice in the matter.

"You have a microcosm, in mining, of what's happening to the whole earth," said Uhler, one of about 400 attendees at the Trinity Institute's recent "Building an Ethical Economy" conference, a three-day event inside the vaulted chapel of the Episcopalian Trinity Church here on Wall Street and included remarks from Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, England, and Kathryn Tanner, theology professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Bolivia: a South American experiment

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Analysis

The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, inaugurated Jan. 21-22 for a second term in office, sets the stage for the latest experiment in the interplay of traditional forces of Latin American Catholicism and recently insurgent indigenous religions and cultures.

It took two days for Morales’ inauguration. The swearing in on Jan. 22 followed a full day of celebrations in the ancient Andean ceremonial ruins of Tiwanaku, about 50 miles outside of La Paz.

Morales was re-elected last December with 64 percent of the vote while gaining a two-thirds majority for his Movement to Socialism Party in the new Congress. Donning ceremonial vestments of the Andean peoples, he made his inauguration the occasion of symbolically stating his party’s principles and his goals. The event underlined the Andean belief that the Pacha Mama, the “Earth Mother” of the native peoples, is the symbol of the union between humankind and nature, joining ecology, ethics and economics.

Palestinian Christians urge nonviolent resistance

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The leaders of the thirteen Christian communities serving in the Palestinian territories -- including Latin and Orthodox patriarchs -- have declared the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories a “sin against God and humanity” and urged Christians everywhere to nonviolently intervene to end its injustices.

“Today, we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people,” wrote the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document, which was issued last month.

“The decision-makers content themselves with managing the crisis rather than committing themselves to the serious task of resolving it," the document says. "The problem is not just a political one. It is a policy in which human beings are destroyed, and this must be of concern to the church.”

Death row survivor tells the real story

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I recently said goodbye to Joseph “Shabaka” Brown, a longtime friend who relocated from Washington to North Carolina. When needing a reminder that overwhelming odds can be defied and despair defeated, or when my law school, college and high school students need reality and not theory-based information on American injustice, it’s been Brown I’ve brought to class.

He belongs to an exclusive club, one of 138 citizens since 1973 who were convicted of capital murder, but after years and years of caged torment on death row were freed on grounds of innocence or dropped charges.

Eating and the culture of death

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All our religious traditions agree that animals must be treated humanely and their suffering minimized. All our traditions agree as well that human workers must be treated fairly, justly and humanely.

One out of every six people in the world works to provide the food we eat -- in the fields and in food processing and transport, in restaurants, and in food stores. We affirm their right to decent incomes, working conditions, and to organize themselves.

Eating is thus a moral act.

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July 18-31, 2014

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