National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Presbyterians take half step on gays

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In a whirlwind of activity, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to lift a ban on partnered gay clergy, but turned down a bid to expand its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The more than 700 Presbyterians gathered for their General Assembly in Minneapolis also adopted a 170-page report on the Middle East and denounced Caterpillar Inc. for allowing its machinery to be used for “non-peaceful purposes” in the region.

With just more than 2 million members, the PCUSA is the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination, though like most mainline Protestant churches it has been bleeding members for years. Nearly all of mainline churches have been roiled in recent years by internal debates over gay marriage and gay clergy.

The PCUSA clergy resolution, which passed on Thursday (July 8) by a vote of 373-323, strips any mention of sexuality from ordination requirements.

For the fourth time in nearly a dozen years, the denomination's 173 regional governing bodies, called presbyteries, must now decide whether to ratify the General Assembly's vote to allow partnered gays to serve as elders, deacons, and pastors.

Finding food now in Haiti is not shopping

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The last time my son-in-law, Corey, went to Haiti, I requested a souvenir from the gift shop at the Port-au-Prince airport. I wanted him to bring me a poster of “Les Chefs d’État d’Haiti, 1804-2011.” This display of the pictures of Haiti’s presidents -- individuals, as well as committees that have ruled throughout Haiti’s last 200 years -- tells the length of each person or cadre’s tenure.

Attacks serve a separate agenda

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Let’s speak plainly: The effort by right-wing Catholic groups to defund and disband the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has little to do with the small number of grants the program has provided to antipoverty groups that don’t meet funding criteria (See story). In a large program -- the campaign has distributed more than 8,000 grants in the past 40 years -- such small aberrations, while not welcome, are hardly shocking.

Why one bishop dropped out of CCHD

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Reporter's Notebook

WASHINGTON – When you're calling people for a story and writing on deadline, sometimes you don't get a hoped-for call-back until after your paper has gone to press.

After I finished a story July 1 for NCR about dioceses that have decided to stop or suspend their participation in the annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection, Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Ala., called back Friday, July 2, when that week's NCR had already gone to the printer.

See the main story: 10 dioceses quit bishops’ antipoverty campaign

Baker had asked his people to shift last November's CCHD collection to the Church in Latin America, another yearly national collection, and he told me in future years he will replace it with a locally oriented Beacons of Hope collection "to save our center-city schools."

In the story I had only noted that he redirected last year's collection to the Church in Latin America. I didn't know he had a different agenda for the future or why he did.

10 dioceses quit bishops' antipoverty campaign

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Analysis

WASHINGTON -- At least 10 U.S. bishops have decided within the past year to suspend or drop their annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in their dioceses, and another is withholding funds at least for now.

Bishop Bernard Hebda of Gaylord, Mich., said in June that he has decided to delay sending the diocese’s annual donation to the campaign until a review of its grant practices is completed. The U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on the campaign is currently reviewing funding practices and gave a preliminary report to the bishops’ Administrative Committee in March.

Several of the bishops who have decided to suspend or drop the collection cited concerns about some grant recipients. Some recipients have had to return grants when church officials learned they were directly involved in some activity not in accord with Catholic moral and social teaching. Grant recipients are required to certify that they do not engage in any such activities.

Immigration law puts town on path with no clear end

WASHINGTON -- When residents of Fremont, Neb., voted June 21 to bar undocumented immigrants from renting housing or getting jobs in their city, they stepped onto a path that other U.S. towns have already blazed, with legal and political results that remain unclear years later.

One thing that is clear, however, is that similar ordinances have been costly, both financially and to relationships within the communities.

Fremont's voter initiative, approved by a vote of 3,900 to 2,900, will require people to get a permit from the city to rent property. The permit application requires proof of legal U.S. residency for anyone who says they are not a U.S. citizen.

Those unable to prove their legal status would lose their occupancy permits and would be subject to a daily fine of $100 if they don't vacate the property, according to an analysis by Jim Cunningham, director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, published in the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Omaha Archdiocese.

Witnessing Against Torture: 'Why We Must Act'

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Commentary

Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
-- U.S. Constitution Amendment I

An old cliché says that anyone who has herself for a lawyer has a fool for a client. Nevertheless, going to trial in Washington, D.C., this past June 14, I and twenty-three other defendants prepared a pro se defense. Acting as our own lawyers in court, we aimed to defend a population that finds little voice in our society at all, and to bring a sort of prosecution against their persecutors.

Protesters question U.S. weapons development

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Kansas City, MO.
The rhythmic clash of a gong set the pace. Scatterings of wooden crosses were planted in the ground, marking a trail. Fingers thrust into the air in desperate peace signs and the words "We Shall Overcome" were sung by peace-seekers of all ages. The somber march was held June 18 at the Kansas City, Mo. Bannister Complex to protest its' manufacturing of non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, and the building of a new complex that will take place next year.

The Kansas City Bannister Complex, home to nine federal agencies, manufactures 85 percent of the non-nuclear components of the U.S. Nuclear bomb arsenal, over 100,000 parts annually, and is the National Nuclear Security Administration's highest-rated production facility.

Through the collaboration of three sponsors: Peace Works, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and East meets West of Troost, “Juneteenth” in Kansas City was celebrated in a unique way. Normally commemorating slave emancipation in the U.S., this holiday was thought by sponsors to parallel the bondage endured under a government, they say, condones the production of nuclear weapons.

A brake on the ongoing destruction

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FRANKLIN, LA. -- In coastal Louisiana, a fierce love of place cuts across lines of class, race and religion.

Steve Landry — Catholic, Cajun, fisherman — lives in Franklin, a town that straddles the Bayou Teche near Vermilion Bay on the Gulf. He shares both his fishing grounds and neighborhood with a gumbo of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, African-American, Native American, Caribbean and Hispanic fishers and boat and dock workers.

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