National Catholic Reporter

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Ministering to Japan's immigrant Catholic population

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TOKYO -- Fr. Olmes Milani has been in Japan for eight years. Almost two of those years, he says, were spent studying the Japanese language "full-time."

And for another two, he was spending much of his time after work with language books, trying to become more fluent. Yet, says Milani, a native of Brazil, "I am still learning something I don't know everyday."

Milani, a Scalabrinian priest, says his struggle is just one example of the many facing Japan's estimated 2.2 million immigrants. A staff member at the Tokyo archdiocese's Catholic Tokyo International Center, Milani says "communication continues to be the biggest problem" for immigrants here.

NJ priest gets prison time for stealing $200,000 from his parish

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From Roxbury, N.J., according to the Daily Record:

Suicidal and recovering from alcohol abuse, the former pastor of St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Succasunna was sentenced today to five years in prison for stealing $200,000 from the parish.

After the Rev. Joseph Davis, now 65, fell under suspicion for theft last year, he tried to commit suicide and was in a coma for seven days. He has spent the past 16 months undergoing treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts at a mental health facility in Pennsylvania that is run by the Catholic church.

Davis, pastor of St. Therese for 24 years and a priest for 39 years, pleaded guilty in May in state Superior Court, Morristown, to stealing $200,000 from the parish over a 20-year period though authorities believe the theft is larger.

Uncivil discourse is not good for our country

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The horrific terrorist killings in Oslo, motivated by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment by the terrorist, makes me very worried about the growing anger and hatred expressed in the United States, especially by the extreme right.

We saw something of that in the attempted assassination of the Arizona congresswoman earlier this year (although we don't know the gunman's motives, anger was in the political atmosphere of the country at the time). After that incident, everyone from right and left stated that we needed to restore civility to our politics. Unfortunately, that didn't last very long. The current debate -- if you want to call it that -- over the debt ceiling has seen very acrimonious discourse, again, especially by the Tea Party types.

I'm worried that at some point -- not in Congress, but among the rank and file -- they, like the Oslo terrorist, will cross over a boundary that will lead to irrational behavior, including violence.

Even as a historian, I can't recall such venomous statements against the President of the United States. Some on the extreme right seem to consider President Obama and the Democrats not as political opposition, but as the enemy.

Only 21 years

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Every news report about the Norwegian accused killer, Anders Behring Breivik, includes with astonishment the fact that the longest sentence available to Norway's criminal justice system is 21 years.

There are articles about whether Norway will change its sentencing system, reviews of the death sentences of other mass killers, and even, yesterday, a column in The New York Times praising revenge as a virtue.

All the commentators stress that Breivik will be out on the streets at age 53, omitting the fact that a Norwegian judge has the power to determine that he would be a danger to himself or others and continue to confine him.

Somehow, we can't bear it that Norway sees the criminal justice system differently than we do. It can't be right. We can't get our heads around it. We say that bereaved Norwegian parents will not stand for it.

Getting a B.A. behind bars

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This week, the PBS News Hour offered a moving, two-part series profiling the Bard Prison Initiative. The program was started in 1999 by Max Kenner a student at Bard College in New York State. Kenner sought to restore a college education program for men and women incarcerated in New York State prisons.

Fifteen years ago, state and federal governments stopped supporting college education in prison. Kenner and his team believe that liberal arts education, rather than technical training, has the potential offer a prisoner not only marketable skills, but, more importantly, an opportunity for self-reflection.

On this day: St. Martha

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On this day we remember Martha of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazarus.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

The federal budget is a moral document

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The federal budget is a moral document. Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, has led a campaign the past six years or so to call our elected senators and representatives to be mindful of their moral responsibility to the poor. I got arrested on the steps of one of the House office buildings in one of the Sojourners actions back in 2006.

However, Todd Akin, Missouri congressman and Senate candidate, believes government should be out of the business of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He says it's the responsibility of the churches. Oh, dear. I wish the churches had the will, not to mention the capacity.

Catholic bishops take stand against Boehner budget bill

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Today, at the U.S. Capitol, some friends of mine were arrested because they care a lot about the poor. They sought to give witness to members of Congress that the budget bill drawn up by Speaker John Boehner is travesty, especially for the poor and vulnerable.

Arrested were people like Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause (also a Methodist minister), Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Jim Winkler, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith and Public Life. Sr. Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and director of NETWORK, was an official observer.

Israel forces attack Jenin Freedom Theater

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Early yesterday morning, Israeli soldiers attacked the Jenin Freedom Theater in the northern West Bank city of Jenin and arrested two of its employees.

According to the theater's press release about the incident, Ahmed Nasser Matahen, a night watch guard and technician student at the theater, was awakened by the sound of stones being hurled at the theater's entrance. Matahen said when he opened the door, he found masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces outside.

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