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Issue Date:  February 8, 2008


14th Amendment defended

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Catholic church’s umbrella organization for immigration services is decrying delays in the naturalization process and rallying support against efforts to repeal or sidestep the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law to all persons.

In the 2007 fiscal year, 1.4 million people applied for U.S. citizenship, double the previous year’s applications, said Don Kerwin, director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known by its acronym, CLINIC. It now takes 18 months to process a naturalization application, up from seven months.

“Politicians should be debating the best ways to improve the citizenship process and achieve immigrant integration, not how to deny citizenship to children born here who will never know another country,” he said.

Gandhi forced to resign

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Arun Gandhi, the grandson of pacifist Mahatma Gandhi, was forced to resign as president of the institute he founded in 1991, the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester, for saying that Israel and Jews are “the biggest players” in a global culture of violence.

Gandhi joined a panel of scholars, writers and clergy in a discussion for the “On Faith” page of The Washington Post. His Jan. 7 comments drew a torrent of complaints.

“My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence,” Gandhi told the Associated Press Jan. 25, a day after he resigned. “Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment. I deeply regret these consequences.”

Gandhi’s resignation “was appropriate” because his remarks “did not reflect the core values” of either the university or the institute, said the school’s president, Joel Seligman. A forum will be held later this year to allow Gandhi to discuss issues he raised with Jewish community leaders and other speakers, Seligman said.

Exhibit offends archbishop

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati’s Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk has barred Catholic schools from visiting a controversial science exhibit on the human body, saying that it “fails to respect the persons involved.”

“Bodies ... The Exhibition,” which displays preserved human cadavers and organs posed to demonstrate how the body works, began a seven-month run at Cincinnati’s Museum Center Feb. 1.

“The public exhibition of plasticized bodies, unclaimed, unreferenced and unidentified ... is unseemly and inappropriate,” he said.

The traveling exhibit, currently on view in 10 cities around the world, has drawn 4 million viewers, according to its organizers. The cadavers are unclaimed or unidentified bodies from a university in China, according to organizer Premier Exhibitions Inc.

The exhibit’s director of education, Cheryl Mure, told reporters that the exhibition “has been seen by more than 350,000 schoolchildren, including those of Catholic schools. This is the first time a diocese has taken this stance.”

Blackwater protesters sentenced

CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. -- After admonishing them for not respecting the law or his authority, a North Carolina Superior Court judge had mercy on seven men and women who protested outside the headquarters of private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide. He opted not to sentence them to prison or to impose fines or court costs.

The seven, collectively parents to 19 children, were convicted by a jury Jan. 23 for trespass stemming from an Oct. 20 demonstration at the Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, N.C.

Six of the activists were convicted of resisting arrest after refusing to walk to police cars. Blackwater has been under intense scrutiny since Sept. 16 when one of its security details fired on civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians, an attack witnesses claim was unprovoked.

The Oct. 20 demonstration drew many Catholic supporters from Virginia and North Carolina. At its center was a reenactment of the Nisour Square shootings. After driving to Blackwater’s gate, the activists, who were splattered with red paint, slumped out of the car and lay on the ground pretending to be dead. A seventh person, Mary Grace, was convicted of trespass only after she knelt in prayer near the others.

Addressing the seven defendants, Judge Russell Duke noted that they claimed to be Christians, but the apostle Paul “admonishes us to obey the law, even the arbitrary law of Rome.” He also quoted from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter: “The rule of law is all that we have standing between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled feelings.”

In his sentencing statement, Steve Baggarly, the primary organizer of the Oct. 20 protest, asked Duke: “What are we to do when the laws of the land are murderous? Laws everywhere that protect militarism in all its guises are a scourge upon the earth and its people. ... We all participate in such atrocities through our votes, our dutiful payment of taxes and our silence. We must repent, disarm, and redistribute the planet’s wealth.”

Convicted with Grace and Baggarly were Mark Colville, Beth Brockman, Peter DeMott, Laura Marks and Bill Streit.

-- Patrick O’Neill

Antiwar Jesuit given probation

ALBUQUERQUE -- Jesuit Fr. John Dear was sentenced Jan. 24 to six months of probation, 40 hours of community service and $510 in fines and fees for actions during an antiwar protest at the Santa Fe office of U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., in September 2006.

Dear said in a statement sent to NCR that he would not pay the fine, do the community service or cooperate with the probation. Dear was told that he could not leave the state without permission and that he will be subject to regular drug testing.

Dear received the harshest sentence of his five codefendants. U.S. Magistrate Don Svet called Dear a “renegade priest” and “a coward,” according to an Associated Press report. “I’m not interested in making a martyr out of you,” he said.

Dear used his time in court Jan. 24 to continue his protest against the Iraq war. “This war is unjust, morally sinful and just downright impractical,” he said.

Dear writes a weekly column on He devotes his Jan. 22 and Jan. 29 columns to his trial.

Dear told NCR that he expects a warrant for his arrest to be issued soon and he expects to do jail time.

-- Dennis Coday

-- CNS/Reuters

The pope on science
Sapienza University students greet Pope Benedict XVI at the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican Jan. 16. Students from the Rome university poured into Vatican City to show support for the pope after protests over his views on science forced him to cancel a speech at the public college. (See NCR Jan. 25.) Benedict addressed a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences Jan. 28. While the sciences may help people live better in many ways, he said, “No science can say who man is, where he came from or where he is going.” He continued: “In our age, when scientific developments attract and seduce because of the possibilities they offer, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries so that science never becomes the criteria of goodness, and so that man is respected as the center of creation.”


Carbon tax on babies panned

PERTH, Australia -- Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney has criticized the Australian Medical Association for publishing a letter by a professor of obstetrics advocating a tax on children for their carbon footprints.

“I am not sure what is more extraordinary -- that an obstetrician could hold such a view or that a leading medical journal could publish such a view,” Pell said.

He said the concern “for the physical ecology of the world is not always matched by a similar concern for the moral ecology of our societies.”

“This is a striking illustration of where a minority, Neo-Pagan, anti-human mentality wants to take us,” he said in South Korea in mid-January, where he accepted an award for his antiabortion work from the Seoul archdiocese.

Pell said such “extreme environmental proposals are expressions of modern society’s deep confusion about the place and value of the human person in the world.”

Dr. Barry Walters had recommended the federal government’s $2,200 “baby bonus” be replaced with a $4,400 tax on third and subsequent children.

Planned polls endangered

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- A leading South African bishop has added his voice to growing concerns that Zimbabwe elections due in a few weeks time will not be free and fair.

Bishop Kevin Dowling, a staunch Mugabe critic -- who last year was barred by immigration officials from entering Zimbabwe -- raised the same concerns that have emerged from the country’s main political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, that President Robert Mugabe has state resources at his disposal, giving him unfair electoral advantage.

Mediation by South African President Thabo Mbeki has failed to break the impasse between Zimbabwe’s two main political parties, and the opposition is threatening to boycott the polls.

Mugabe “has the security forces on his side, and his opposition has no protection under the law, so he doesn’t need to make any concessions,” Dowling said.

Young Christians study Islam

JAKARTA -- The Wahid Institute, founded by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, and the Crisis Center of the Christian Church of Indonesia have developed a course to teach Christian youths about Islam and pluralism.

The course runs over four Friday evenings. The inaugural class was Jan. 18 and about 30 students, writers, broadcasters and social activists attended. The course ends with a three-day live-in program in a pesantren, or Islamic boarding school.

Course coordinator Moqsith Ghazali said the curriculum was set up in consultation with the Protestant School of Theology and the Jesuit-run Driyarkara School of Philosophy.

Bishops agree to truth hearings

TORONTO -- Catholic bishops in Canada have agreed to take part in a commission on abuse that occurred in church-run Indian schools.

The bishops, whose participation was in doubt until now, said the hearings will provide “balance” to a decades-old controversy that pitted Christian churches against the schools.

“Certainly, mistakes were made and we’re open to acknowledging that and being responsible but, most of all, we’re hoping that the story is really ... balanced,” said Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, one of seven northern Canadian bishops who met Jan. 29 in Ottawa with Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

From the 1870s to about the 1970s, Canada’s federal government, together with the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches, removed aboriginal children from their villages and sent them to some 130 residential schools for training in Christianity and Western ways.

Thousands of former students have alleged they were beaten, neglected and sexually abused. They have also charged that their native tongues and cultures were brutally suppressed.

Last year, the government approved a $1.9 billion compensation deal for the estimated 80,000 surviving students of the school system. Compensation would come from the Ottawa government and the churches.

But the Catholic church did not agree to the deal. Instead, it said it would pay $25 million toward a healing and reconciliation fund, open the church’s archives, and provide counseling and other services to survivors.

Part of the out-of-court settlement was the creation of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” which will hold public hearings across Canada.

The bishops made no promises to apologize for wrongdoings or to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Lost bird helps raise funds

LONDON -- A white-crowned North American sparrow blown across the Atlantic Ocean on winter winds is helping raise funds to repair the roof of an ancient church in the tiny English village where it landed.

“Twitchers” -- bird spotters -- are turning up by the thousands to see the seven-inch sparrow in the Norfolk village of Cley-next-the-Sea. They have chipped in more than $6,000 in donations that will be used to mend the 13th-century roof of the village’s Church of St. Margaret of Antioch.

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008

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