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Peace & Justice

Supreme Court losing strongest death penalty critic

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The retirement this spring of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens leaves the court without its strongest critic of the death penalty.

Just 10 days before his 90th birthday, Stevens announced April 9 that he would step down at the end of the term this summer. His departure will provide President Barack Obama with his second opportunity to name a Supreme Court justice. Justice Sonia Sotomayor replaced Justice David Souter when he retired last June.

Our Matthew 25 duty on the US-Mexico border

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It was Holy Week, and we walked for miles through the desert. We hiked along ribbons of dirt paths, over parched rocky hills near the U.S.-Mexico border. The closest U.S. city was Tucson, Ariz., some 30 miles to the north.

Ours was an uncomplicated mission -- to place some 40 gallons of water where some of the thousands of sisters and brothers who cross the border at this "sector" can find them. It is a great risk for them to make this trek. Especially in the desert heat.

The attempt has killed 86 people since the first of October in the "Tucson sector" alone. In 2005, 216 died. Some froze to death, some died from injuries, others by thirst. And the death rate, according to authorities, has been dramatically rising. Even those who make it endure a harrowing, violent journey -- and face uncertainty thereafter wherever they land.

After years of struggle, churches cheer anti-nuke pact

When President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Prague today a new agreement on nuclear weapons, it marks one more step in the religious community's long campaign to reduce, if not end, the threat of nuclear war.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, aims to reduce each country's deployed strategic warheads to about 1,550 each, and cut the number of launchers from the currently permitted 1,600 to 800. It would also cap nuclear-armed missiles and bombers.

For Christian denominations both at home and abroad, it will represent a major victory in a campaign that has waxed and waned since the first atomic bombs were dropped at the end of World War II.

On August 20, 1945, just days after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Protestant leaders issued a statement expressing their "unmitigated condemnation" of the attacks.

Less than a year later, a commission that included theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and John C. Bennett issued a full-bodied report that declared, "We have sinned grievously against the laws of God" in using nuclear weapons.

Homless center loses CCHD funds over gay marriage

WASHINGTON -- A Maine social service center that runs an advocacy program for homeless people has been asked to return $17,400 in Catholic Campaign for Human Development funding because of its support for same-sex marriage.

Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, Maine, violated the funding contract for its Homeless Voice for Justice advocacy program by joining a 2009 campaign that urged voters to defeat a ballot measure calling for the repeal of the state's same-sex marriage law, Ralph McCloud, CCHD executive director, told Catholic News Service.

Pacified

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Commentary

If the U.S. public looked long and hard into a mirror reflecting the civilian atrocities that have occurred in Afghanistan, over the past ten months, we would see ourselves as people who have collaborated with and paid for war crimes committed against innocent civilians who meant us no harm.

Two reporters, Jerome Starkey of The Times of London and David Lindorff, of Counterpunch, have persistently drawn attention to U.S. war crimes committed in Afghanistan. Makers of the film “Rethinking Afghanistan” have steadily provided updates about the suffering endured by Afghan civilians. Here is a short list of atrocities that have occurred in the months since General McChrystal assumed his post in Afghanistan.

Matthiesen, antinuclear activist-bishop, dies at 88

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Leroy T. Matthiesen, the retired bishop of Amarillo, Texas, who in the 1980s counseled Catholics to leave their jobs in a local factory that assembled nuclear weapons, died March 22. He was 88.

Matthiesen received the Teacher of Peace Award last year from Pax Christi USA, the Catholic peace group, for his 30-year opposition to nuclear arms.

At a time when the nation's Catholic bishops were preparing "The Challenge of Peace," their 1983 document on the immorality of nuclear war, Matthiesen emerged as one of the nation's most outspoken opponents of the nuclear arms buildup.

The urgent need to return to being the church of the poor

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[Editor's Note: This article was written in 2009 for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bishop Helder Camara, and it is published here with permission from the author. It was translated from the Spanish by Jesuit Fr. Joseph Owens]

Today, March 24, marks the 30th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador. Read the full report by

Celebration

editor Pat Marrin here.

Envisioning the Church as "poor and powerless" has never prospered much among us. Not even Vatican II, as important and decisive as it was in other matters, made it a central concern. The Latin American bishops' conference at Medellín (1968) did indeed make it a key issue, and the Puebla conference (1979) also stressed it, even in the face of serious opposition. For the last three decades, however, the abandonment of the vision has been only too apparent. As Fr. José Comblin says: "After Puebla there began the Church of silence. The Church began to have nothing to say." Although the Aparecida conference (2007) slowed down the decline a bit, the Church has still not experienced that "turning around of history" that Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría said was needed in order to heal a society that is gravely ill. The conclusion is that we need to return to being a Church of the poor and to work hard for that. In El Salvador, since the death of Archbishop Romero, the erosion has been clear, as has been the need for ecclesiastical regeneration.

Lent in a warmaking empire

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Commentary

We live in a warmaking empire, where war is being waged indiscriminately in order to control and acquire resources -- namely oil in Iraq, and natural gas and oil in Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea. The U.S. continues to create mass violence in Afghanistan, bringing death to countless innocent Afghan civilians and nearly 1,000 U.S. soldiers.

The United States has also increased its military intervention in Pakistan and Yemen. According to the Pakistani newspaper, The News (Feb. 2, 2010), U.S. drone attacks killed 123 civilians in January 2010.

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September 12-25, 2014

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