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Peace & Justice

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.

Learning in community

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MILWAUKEE -- When Leah Todd steps off the elevator in her dorm after a long night of studying at the library, she has only one thing on her mind: sleep.

But before she can drag her feet to her room, Todd sees several of her neighbors sitting in the lounge talking about their day. She breathes a sigh of relief.

She is home at last.

A journalism and philosophy double major, Todd is one of 44 Marquette University sophomores participating in the inaugural Dorothy Day Social Justice Living/Learning Community.

Lessons from Abroad to America on Universal Health Care

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When the President’s extraordinary discussion of health care at Blair House was concluding, it was just beginning here in Malta. For several intensely interesting hours thereafter, the U.S. Embassy engaged in an equally extraordinary bit of reverse public diplomacy; that is, America was the student, and this ancient island civilization was the teacher.

As America’s Ambassador here with a penchant for trying to combine an inquisitive academic mind with newly grafted diplomatic effort, I invited the “best and the brightest” of the Malta medical fraternity (and they are legion, including having one of their own as cardiovascular chair at Mayo) to do a thorough public comparison of the universal health care system in Malta with the President’s far more modest, but important, effort at providing health care to millions of uninsured.

Malta has had universal health care for generations, and the discussion took place in the sprawling and new teaching hospital – Mater Dei. That’s right, in Catholic Malta, the public hospital is not at all bashful about acknowledging the mother of God – in name, and as discussed, medical deed.

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September 12-25, 2014

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