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Peace & Justice

Drone protesters convicted of trespassing


Fourteen peace activists who oppose the U.S. military’s use of automated attack drones abroad were found guilty of criminal trespass Thursday for a 2009 act of civil disobedience at a Nevada Air Force Base.

The sentencing came four months after activists’ hopes for acquittal had been raised when, during their initial September trial, the judge said he would need “at least three months” to study the issues of international law surrounding their trespass.

Bishop: March for Life participants are pilgrims


WASHINGTON -- Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., likened people coming to Washington to take part in the annual March for Life to pilgrims.

And in that effort, they are linked to "the most blessed of all pilgrims -- the Blessed Virgin Mary," Bishop Lori said in his homily at a Jan. 24 Mass that concluded an overnight National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

"Our journey is not necessarily an easy one," Bishop Lori said. "We got up earlier than we ever thought imaginable to get on a plane to be here" or "had to be cooped up for hours in bus rides" for the march, which is held each year to protest the 1973 Supreme Court decision that permitted abortion virtually on demand.

But Mary's pilgrimage to see her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist, "was not easy," he noted. "She didn't have buses or roads or fast-food franchises. She made her way along narrow paths or mountain roads upon which she walked."

Now, Bishop Lori said, "Mary joins us in this pilgrimage dedicated to the cause of life ... from the moment of conception until natural death."

40,000 at annual West Coast pro-life walk

SAN FRANCISCO -- More than 40,000 people crowded San Francisco's waterfront boulevard for the seventh annual Walk for Life West Coast on the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

"We're here to break the chains of the culture of death," walk co-founder Dolores Meehan told the morning rally Jan. 22, before the 2.5-mile walk along the Embarcadero to Marina Green near the Golden Gate Bridge. "It's awesome to see all of you packed out there," she told the record-breaking crowd.

Speaker Abby Johnson, 30, who walked away from her job as a director of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic in 2009 after assisting with an ultrasound-guided abortion, told the young people in the crowd, "You are the new generation of pro-lifers and let me tell you something friends, Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice movement, they are shaking in their boots.

"They are terrified because there are so many more pro-life young adults than pro-choice young adults," Johnson said. "You know why? Because it makes sense to be pro-life. It doesn't make sense to be pro-choice. ... Technology doesn't back it up.

March for life brings to mind new beginnings


It is 5:45 in the morning and I don't even think the roosters are up. I began the day with reading scripture, meditation and prayer. That was about a half hour ago. We are at the start of a new year. It is an ideal time to reflect on our walk as Christians. I've often used the time leading up to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., as a day of preparation for the upcoming season of Lent.

We can use the time to examine our consciences, as well as to confess and repent of our sins, all of which is good preparation for the season of Lent, a time of self-sacrifice. This time around the March of Life is a also a time when the poor and less fortunate should be close to our hearts. Are not the poor, the disabled, and the elderly alike the "treasures of the church" for which St. Lawrence died? They are indeed!

Gun control: Church firmly, quietly opposes firearms for civilians


VATICAN CITY -- The Catholic Church's position on gun control is not easy to find; there are dozens of speeches and talks and a few documents that call for much tighter regulation of the global arms trade, but what about private gun ownership?

The answer is resoundingly clear: Firearms in the hands of civilians should be strictly limited and eventually completely eliminated.

U.S. executions down by 50 percent in decade


The nation experienced a 12 percent decrease in executions in 2010 compared to 2009 and a more than 50 percent drop compared to 1999, according to a report released today by the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Texas, meanwhile, had 29 percent fewer executions in 2010 than the previous year.

The center projects the number of new death sentences will be 111 for 2010, remaining near last year’s number of 112, which was the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Death sentences declined in all four regions of the country over the past ten years, with a 50 percent decrease nationwide when the current decade is compared to the 1990s.

“Whether it’s concerns about the high costs of the death penalty at a time when budgets are being slashed, the risks of executing the innocent, unfairness, or other reasons, the nation continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010,” said Richard Dieter, the center’s Executive Director and the report’s author.

Caught in the crossfire


You’ve seen the headlines. You would need to have your head stuck deep in sand to have missed the story: migrants streaming across the border, coyotes, drug cartels, the Border Patrol and Minutemen. People dying in the desert and a raging national debate over immigration policy. And, lest we forget, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (recently re-elected) and an anti-immigration law that makes it a crime not to carry immigration documents.

Guatemalan families reunite in Iowa


POSTVILLE, IOWA -- The sign on the bus traveling from the Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Postville on slippery roads Dec. 4 said “SPECIAL.” That was an understatement.

When the bus pulled up in front of St. Bridget Church in Postville at 8:45 a.m., it delivered the best Christmas gift anyone could wish for -- 26 family members from Guatemala coming to be reunited with eight former Agriprocessors workers whom they had not seen in years.

Many of the travelers were children whose mothers left Guatemala several years ago to earn money in Postville to send back to their hungry families. Some were parents or siblings of former underage teen workers.

“It was a very emotional moment,” said Mary McCauley, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was among those who met the bus. “Seeing their faces as they recognized loved ones was indescribable!”

McCauley was pastoral administrator at the Postville parish at the time of the largest immigration raid in U.S. history at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant on May 12, 2008 (NCR, June 13, 2008).

Jury finds activists guilty in Washington state nuclear weapons protest

WASHINGTON -- Five longtime peace activists were found guilty of a series of federal charges stemming from an All Souls' Day demonstration in 2009 at a U.S. Navy nuclear weapons depot in Bangor, Wash.

A 12-member jury convicted Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, 82, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, 61, Sacred Heart Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, Susan Crane, 65, and Lynne Greenwald, 61, of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation and depradation of government property Dec. 13.

The verdict for the defendants, who called themselves the Disarm Now Plowshares, came after a four-day trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma, Wash.

Settle set sentencing for March 28. Each activist faces prison terms of three to five years and fines of $50,000 to $250,000 on each charge.

Crane, a member of the Jonah House Community in Baltimore, told Catholic News Service by phone shortly after the verdict was announced that the group faced an uphill battle in establishing their defense after Settle determined that no witness would be able to discuss whether nuclear weapons existed at the base.



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