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Reaction mixed to Episcopal Church's approval of same-sex rites

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Gay and lesbian Episcopalians are celebrating their church’s approval on Tuesday (July 10) of liturgical rites for blessing same-sex couples. But conservatives are threatening to take “drastic” steps to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians meeting at their triennial General Convention in Indianapolis overwhelmingly approved the new rites. Lay members and priests voted 171-41 in favor of the same-sex blessings. Bishops voted 111-41, with three abstentions.

Episcopal church approves ame-sex blessings liturgy

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INDIANAPOLIS -- In a decision that could strain relations with the Catholic Church and within its own Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has approved liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 July 9 in favor of provisional use of the resources until the next General Convention, held every three years. About 80 percent of the church's House of Deputies gave their approval July 10.

Opus Dei's first prelate praised as sainthood cause moves forward

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NEW YORK -- The late Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the first prelate of Opus Dei who has been declared "venerable" by the Vatican, offered "an example of faithfulness" as a layman, priest and bishop, according to the postulator for his sainthood cause.

"Many people all over the world were convinced that he was a saintly man and invoked his intercession with a view to obtaining favors from heaven," said Msgr. Flavio Capucci in an interview after the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes said in a June 28 decree signed by Pope Benedict XVI that del Portillo heroically lived Christian virtues and should be considered venerable.

Before the Spanish-born bishop can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession. A possible miracle has been submitted to the Vatican for study by theological and medical experts.

In general, the church must confirm two miracles before sainthood is declared, the first for beatification and the second for canonization.

Religious group praises action to stop student loan interest rate hike

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WASHINGTON -- A coalition of religious groups praised passage of a measure to extend the low interest rate on student loans, calling it a "true bipartisanship" effort.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation Friday. For a one-year period, it keeps the interest rate at 3.4 percent on new loans for millions of college students.

"We are grateful to President Obama's leadership and to all of the Republicans and Democrats who reached across the aisle and got this done," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network.

The group is a coalition of more than 75 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental and labor organizations focusing on the biblical concept of debt forgiveness.

Just days before the vote in Congress, members of Jubilee USA Network delivered petitions urging action to prevent rising student loan interest rates.

Bishop lived teachings of 'Lumen Gentium' for 37 years

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Last year marked a 10th anniversary that many of us Minnesota Catholics observed. On Sept, 19, 2001, Bishop Raymond Lucker died in Our Lady of Good Counsel Cancer Home in St. Paul.

The year 2001 had been a fast-moving journey for Lucker. Having retired at the turn of the new year after serving 25 years as bishop of the rural diocese of New Ulm, Lucker planned to write a book on what he called the "beauty and challenge of divine revelation." But quickly he suffered a recurrence of the malignant melanoma that was first diagnosed in 1999. By summer 2001 he was living in the hospice, though still thinking about his book.

Since I had filled in for him at a teaching engagement at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul when he first became sick, he invited me to twice-weekly conversations all summer -- conversations that ultimately shaped the book worked on by 15 Minnesota Catholic theologians and with an introduction comprised of Lucker's taped words of that summer, brought together and edited. The book was titled Revelation and the Church: Vatican II in the Twenty-First Century, published by Orbis in 2003.

Nuns join with Chicago neighbors in efforts to keep new strip club out

CHICAGO -- The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and scores of their neighbors in Chicago are really hoping that the owners of a nearby soon-to-open strip club will "get it": They don't want that kind of business in their backyard, and they are not going to be quiet about it.

The Scalabrini sisters and more than 100 neighbors in Stone Park and Melrose Park and their supporters gathered Monday to pray that the club -- to be called Get It -- will not open.

The bar backs up to the convent's property line, looming over the sisters' vegetable garden. An adjoining block of neat, modest single-family homes runs along its side.

The club will feature alcohol and partially nude dancers on a site that was formerly a factory.

The sisters say the club will degrade the community, depress property values and create dangerous situations for children who sometimes play in the alley that runs along the property.

It will also further harm the reputation of the community of about 5,000 people, which already has at least five adult entertainment venues, according to a community group calling itself United for a Better Stone Park.

Volunteer house carries on student's legacy of service

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CHICAGO -- "We have to do something." A simple message spoken by a young woman, recalled by her father, was honored with the dedication of the Lizzy Seeberg Volunteer House at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory High School in Chicago.

It's been nearly two years since Lizzy died by suicide, nine days after she reported a sexual assault at the University of Notre Dame campus in Indiana. In the midst of grief and mourning, her family's efforts to remember how she lived was achieved on May 6 this year as the house dedicated in her name will shelter a volunteer team for the high school she passionately raised money for during her short life.

"She had a special ability to see need in others. She asked the tough questions at such a young age," said Tom Seeberg, Lizzy's father.

The three-flat in Chicago's Austin neighborhood will house a team of seven Jesuit Alumni Volunteers, a group of graduates from Catholic universities who work as teachers, coaches, chaperons and mentors. They currently reside miles away in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Colorado wildfire displaces women religious but finds them support, sisterhood

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Sr. Jeannette Kneifel was in the convent house chapel June 26 when she saw the fire that would drive the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, St. Joseph Province, from their home high in the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I saw it burst," she said. "I saw it come over the ridge and just explode."

12 Catholic women under 40 making a difference

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To highlight the work of young women in the church, we asked contributors and readers to nominate Catholic women in the U.S. under the age of 40 whose work has greatly impressed them. Here are 12 women our judges selected that you may not have heard of, but are making a difference in the church by the work they are doing.

Alison McCrary, 30
Religious sister, lawyer

Death sparked the flame of social justice in the life of Sr. Alison McCrary. She was providing litigation support on death penalty cases in Louisiana in 2006 when her eyes were opened to the interconnectedness of societal problems. When she looked at the people on death row, she saw how the systems -- education, judicial and so much more -- had failed them.

She started thinking: How are we called to help change these root causes of different poverties? And instead of waiting for an answer, she went out there and searched for it.

Late Jesuit and ex-congressman Robert Drinan accused of attempted sex assault

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A popular online advice columnist has said that the late Fr. Robert Drinan, a famed Jesuit priest and onetime Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, tried to kiss and fondle her in the 1970s when she was 18 or 19 years old.

Emily Yoffe, who writes Slate's "Dear Prudence" column, said she was prompted to write her first-person account after reading coverage of the trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who is charged with raping and molesting 10 boys.

In the column, published Thursday, Yoffe said she was sexually assaulted three times before she turned 20.

She said the first episode took place was when she was 9 years old and a 15-year-old cousin tried to fondle her; the second was at age 15 when the father of a school friend drove her home and tried to kiss and grope her before she fled the car.

The third attack, she said, allegedly occurred when Drinan, who died in 2007, drove her home after a fundraiser for his re-election campaign. Drinan was first elected to Congress in 1970 on an anti-war platform and served five terms until then-Pope John Paul II said priests could not run for elected office.

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