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Peace & Justice

Americans say religious messages fuel negative views of gays

Most Americans believe messages about homosexuality coming from religious institutions contribute to negative views of gays and lesbians, and higher rates of suicide among gay youths, a new poll reports.

While split on whether same-sex relations are sinful, Americans are more than twice as likely to give houses of worship low marks on handling the issue of homosexuality, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Oct. 21.

A plurality (45 percent) of Americans, however, give their own house of worship a `A’ or `B’ grade on how it handles homosexuality.

After a recent spate of teen suicides prompted by anti-gay harassment and bullying, the poll indicates a strong concern among Americans about how religious messages are impacting public discussions of homosexuality.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) say religious messages about homosexuality contribute to “negative views” of gays and lesbians, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) see a connection to higher rates of suicide among gay youths.

A place that waits to comfort

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A few minutes drive from the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline is the Convent of Mercy. The imposing brick edifice, constructed in 1862, until recently served as the motherhouse of the Brooklyn Sisters of Mercy. Two years ago the wonderful old Brooklyn convent with its enclosed garden and still thriving Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center bade farewell to the sisters who lived there.

Opposing nuclear weapons plant, activists arrested at city meeting

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Yelling that they were “calling an alarm” in the tradition of the prophet Isaiah, two peace activists were arrested here Oct. 7 for interrupting a city council meeting as they called attention to the construction of a major new nuclear weapons facility on the outskirts of town.

Their acts of civil disobedience were the fourth in five months by protesters opposed to the building of the new weapons plant. They came just moments after the two had been found guilty, along with 12 others, for illegal trespassing last August at the construction site at which they stood in front of an earth moving vehicle and shut down work for more than hour.
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The new plant, which will make nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the nation’s first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese released a statement Sept. 2 asking officials to reconsider the facility’s construction.

Minn. pastor challenges Nienstedt's DVD campaign

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A Minnesota pastor, in a letter to the editor of a major newspaper, has sharply criticized the campaign against same-sex marriage spearheaded by his archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Fr. Michael Tegeder, 62, pastor of St. Edward Parish, Bloomington, took issue with the content of a 18-minute DVD sent by Minnesota bishops to more than 400,000 Catholics throughout the state. "The premise of the DVD," wrote Tegeder, in a letter published Oct. 2 by the Star-Tribune, "is that same-sex couples and their committed relationships are a grave threat to marriage."

The real threat to marriage, the pastor argued, is poverty, citing an earlier report on the effects of the economic downturn on marriage.

IVF opened 'wrong door' to treat infertility: Vatican official

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[Editor's Note: This updates and expands on a story posted Oct. 4, 2010.]

VATICAN CITY -- While honoring one of the inventors of in vitro fertilization with the Nobel Prize for Medicine recognizes his contribution to human reproduction, it ignores the ethical consequences of his opening "the wrong door" in the fight against infertility, said the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

British scientist Robert Edwards, a retired professor at the University of Cambridge, England, was named the Nobel winner Oct. 4 for the development of in vitro fertilization.

His work led to the birth in 1978 of Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby."

Catholics face 'mutiny' over teachings on gay marriage

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WASHINGTON -- For 13 years, Fr. Joseph Palacios lived, prayed, and studied with the Jesuits. But he left the Roman Catholic order in 2005 because he would not profess a vow of obedience to the pope.

“I felt that I could still be a Catholic priest,” Palacios said, “but I could not deal with that kind of scrutiny and command from the top.”

Now, the 59-year-old priest and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic university, is again at odds with the church’s hierarchy, this time on one of its signature issues: the definition of marriage.

In recent years, Catholic bishops have used their moral influence and deep pockets to push for bans on same-sex unions in states from California to Maine.

But a new corps of increasingly vocal Catholics is urging a “mutiny” against the hierarchy, in the words of one activist, particularly on gay marriage and related matters.

For example, on Sept. 14, Palacios and other advocates launched Catholics for Equality, a group that aims to persuade believers in the “movable middle” to defy the bishops and support civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

State Department official: Think about nuclear arms

WASHINGTON -- Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state and lead U.S. negotiator of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, has been spending time on Catholic university campuses lately.

In September, she spoke at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and her alma mater, Georgetown University in Washington, about recently completed negotiations between Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear weapons.

It's important to discuss the topic with students, she said, because so many of them do not see it as "a burning issue," said Gottemoeller, who is Catholic.

"When I was growing up, nuclear weapons were more of a reality," she told Catholic News Service Sept. 30, referring to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the potential nuclear deployment by the Soviet Union that was averted. "Since the Cold War, these issues have faded," she said, but she also was quick to point out that nuclear weapons are hardly relics of the past.

Vatican rep tells UN dialogue only path to peace

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UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations might not be perfect, but it has helped humanity move toward a world marked by dialogue, peace and development, the Vatican's foreign minister told the U.N. General Assembly.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states, said that for the United Nations and its various agencies to continue being effective, its actions and deliberations must make "constant reference to the dignity of all men and women," to the right to life of all people, including the terminally ill and the unborn, and to religious freedom.

Putting a face on poverty

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WASHINGTON – When some 700 Catholic Charities leaders from across the country were preparing to visit their senators and representatives Sept. 28 to urge passage of legislation that would take a new approach to poverty, they were told one effective approach is to bring to the meetings a story from their own local experiences. They could put a human face on poverty by showing the legislators how it is affecting some of their own constituents.

Catholic Charities lobbies for innovative anti-poverty program

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WASHINGTON -- Catholic Charities leaders from across the nation flooded the offices of U.S. senators and representatives Sept. 28 to push for a major new U.S. approach to drawing Americans out of poverty.

More than 700 Catholic Charities delegates from nearly all U.S. states swarmed through congressional offices asking members of Congress to become co-sponsors of their National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act, a bill that could transform the way federal, state and local poverty relief programs operate.

The key to transformation would be flexible combining of existing programs, tailored to the specific needs and capacities of clients, to enable them not only to survive in poverty but to lift themselves out of poverty's vicious cycle or downward spiral.

"With this legislation, today we tell the tens of millions of Americans living in poverty that there is a new hope. That they are not destined to live in poverty for their entire lives," said Catholic Charities USA president and CEO, Fr. Larry Snyder.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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