National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Peace & Justice

Same-sex marriage gains in D.C.

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WASHINGTON -- Last July, Cynthia Nordone and Helen Schietinger took a number at the District of Columbia Department of Health, waited in line and walked away with a document that bound them to one another as domestic partners. But there were no gifts or greeting cards to mark the occasion -- just the seal of a government institution and a few legal benefits.

“It’s very statistical,” said Nordone, as she and Schietinger prepared dinner at home on a recent evening. “It’s not any kind of communal recognition of the commitment that we’re making to the one and only.”

What the couple are looking for -- beyond the meaning and implications of terms like domestic partnership, civil union and civil marriage -- is a sense that their relationship is real to the greater community, outside the walls of the Northwest D.C. home they have shared for nearly 10 years.

“What I think is important is the public witness to the relationship,” said Nordone, 49, a lawyer and lifetime Catholic. “It happens every time I say, ‘This is my partner, Helen’ -- I’m giving witness to what’s important to me.”

Economy for the common good

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Wealth & Responsibility

Catholic social teachings, grounded in principles aimed at providing guidance to moral decision-making, played little, if any, role in preparing the nation for the 2008 economic meltdown, according Catholic educators, some of whom are calling for an examination of the teachings’ place in Catholic educational institutions.

Reclaiming kids who have fallen by the wayside

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WASHINGTON -- Sloane, 16, has a firm handshake and a polite smile. “Nice to meet you,” he says, opening the door to the brick house that sits in a well-tended cul-de-sac behind the office of Boys Town of Washinggon, D.C. Jazz plays softly inside the living room, and the air carries a fresh floral scent.

For Sloane and 15-year-old Kevon -- a soft-spoken boy who also extends a polite greeting -- the arrival of a visitor to the house is a chance to practice new skills.

Communication. Self-expression. Respect. The boys said they always knew the basic rules of good behavior, but before entering the juvenile justice program at Boys Town and moving in with family teachers Payton and Yadelska Wynne, no one had expected them to act accordingly.

Escalating piracy has roots in fishing encroachment

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NEW ORLEANS -- The rampant piracy in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia’s coast has its roots in the encroachment into fishing zones by large fishing vessels from other countries, says a priest who has a ministry to seafarers.

According to Fr. Sinclair Oubre, president of the Apostleship of the Sea USA, port chaplains first began hearing reports of piracy in the Gulf of Aden five to seven years ago. Those disputes mostly involved encroachment on fishing territories, but “because no big Western ships were getting hit, it was no big deal,” he said.

Incomprehensible violence, loss on Mexican border

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El Paso, Texas
I am a teacher at a Catholic school, Our Lady of the Valley, in the border city of El Paso Texas. The sixteen students in my class, mostly 12 and 13-year-olds, arrive daily from Cuidad Juarez, a dense metropolis of about 1.5 million in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The sister cities are divided by the Rio Grande River, but bound together by the growing terror of drug cartel violence and daily murder. This violence has become part and parcel of our school life, most dramatically in my English as a second Language class.

Today, my student Miguel’s desk is empty. He is one of some 69 students in our school who are U.S. citizens but reside in Juarez with their Mexican parents. These are primarily middle-class parents who work hard to send their kids to Catholic school. The youngsters cross the international bridge on foot daily to meet a bus that drops them off at Our Lady of the Valley three miles away.

Study: Universal coverage could reduce health disparities

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Medicare for all -- not only for those 65 years old and older -- appears to be the answer to dramatically reducing the level of poorer health among African-American, Latino and low-income Americans, say researchers at Harvard University.

A research team, led by Dr. J. Michael McWilliams, sifted through medical data for 6,000 people ages 40 to 85 with diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They tracked their conditions from 1999 to 2006.

Morality and the meltdown

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An NCR interview

What’s a Catholic to think? Americans, Catholic and otherwise, look at the economic meltdown, at Madoff, at bonus bandits, get-rich-quick-bankers and subprime mortgage packagers and ask: Where’s morality? Where are ethics, when everything appears corrupt and crooked? NCR put these and other questions to Christopher Lowney, an author with an unusual background whose latest book, Heroic Living: Discover Your Purpose and Change the World (Loyola Press), leads toward some answers. Lowney was a Jesuit for seven years, then for 17 years a J.P. Morgan banker and managing director in New York, Singapore, London and Tokyo. He left the corporate world to volunteer and write.

Trapped in a cycle of debt

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The loan cycle can be triggered by a sudden expense, like an emergency visit to the doctor, a car repair or an electric bill that must be paid before power is disconnected. Once at the lender’s office, the cash-strapped borrower tacks on a little more debt to cover gas and groceries, and leaves behind a signed check postdated for the next payday.

But other expenses always come up, said Bobbie Lison, manager of the budget counseling program at Catholic Charities in Green Bay, Wis., so instead of paying off the loan, many borrowers end up rolling it over as the interest continues to accrue.

“They just get into the cycle of not being able to pay the premium and they’re just paying the interest,” Lison said. “Before you know it, they’re paying multiple payday loans.”

Some payday loan customers who end up in Lison’s office are dealing with as many as eight loans at one time, for amounts that range from $175 to $1,500. The interest, calculated on a yearly rate, averages between 400 and 800 percent.

'Peace Team' faces minor setbacks in trip to Gaza

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Editor's note: The following is a first person account of a trip by a Catholic Worker "Peace Team" to the Gaza Strip where it hopes to distribute toys, letters and medical supplies.

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy

We prepared last night to get an early start this morning. Our Catholic Worker Peace team – Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Brenna Cussen, Mark Coleville, Colin Gilbert, Beth Brockman, and Jenny Thomas – had a common goal of proceeding to the Rafah border, crossing into Gaza, traveling to the Rachel Corrie Center to give out toys and letters brought with us from American children, and delivering six large suitcases of medical supplies to the al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Before we slept, we met with our Egyptian contact, who had arranged drivers and logistics for us, and who told us of the difficulties we may encounter in our attempt to cross the border.

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