NCR Today

Court: Oklahoma ban on Islamic law unconstitutional

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In a decision that should be hailed by the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, a federal appeals court upheld a U.S. district court's decision allowing the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma to sue to prevent a xenophobic state law from implementation.

Time will tell if the U.S. bishops are serious about religious liberty by the way in which they come to the defense of Muslims, whose religious liberty appears most threatened in the United States.

From The Associated Press:

An amendment that would ban Oklahoma courts from considering international or Islamic law discriminates against religions and a Muslim community leader has the right to challenge its constitutionality, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The court in Denver upheld U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange's order blocking implementation of the amendment shortly after it was approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters in November 2010.

Show compassion -- reduce prison sentences

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One of the reasons the United States has a much bigger prison population than the rest of the world is that our prison sentences are longer, and in the last 25 years, they have grown much longer.

In Missouri in 1987, for most men convicted of murder, 12 and a half years was about what they would serve in prison. Today, they would serve 30 years.

That's even a drive-by shooting, a bar fight or shaking a child to stop it from crying, not premeditated murder, shooting a police officer, multiple murders or murder in the process of another felony, like rape or robbery. Those are the crimes that get life with or without parole or the death penalty.

I think it is too much. It is too expensive for society, for one thing. For another, these men and women are rarely a threat to public safety. Murder is the rarest of repeated crimes.

Then there's compassion. Now that's a word I don't use lobbying in the halls of the Missouri legislature.

Morning Briefing

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Los Angeles archdiocese loses a precious resource

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A few days ago, the story broke that Bishop Gabino Zavala of the Los Angeles archdiocese had fathered two children who are now young teenagers and living with their mother in another state.

As a result of this revelation, Bishop Zavala has resigned as auxiliary bishop serving a predominantly Latino area of the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area. This is a real tragedy, especially because Zavala is a highly progressive liberationist who has promoted Catholic social doctrine and social justice issues, including the interests of Latino Catholics and the immigrant community.

He has served as president of Pax Christi USA, which advocates world peace. He has worked against capital punishment and has supported immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to regularize their status. His resignation and forced departure from his position of influence leaves a major gap in church leadership, especially among the majority Latino Catholic population of the L.A. archdiocese.

Hidden in the Same Mystery

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Fifty years ago today – January 9, 1962 – the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton visited the Mother House of the Sisters of Loretto and spoke to a group of second-year novices. He reflected on the presence of Christ in their lives, about not waiting to “encounter Christ in the future,” but rather recognizing the encounter was taking place in the present moment – every moment of their lives.

Apologizing for Iraq

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The end of 2011 marked the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In mid-December, I listened, while I baked Christmas cookies, to the various reports on NPR about a war that wheezed to an end without the signing of a treaty.

Here in my warm kitchen, where heat and electricity are a given, the destruction of Iraq seemed a distant event, a bit of news that I could take in or turn off with the flick of a switch.

Reports about the war's conclusion brought on a flood of memories. I remembered the many demonstrations I attended during the winter of 2002/2003. Worcester. Washington, D.C. New York. It was a time of frenetic peace organizing and hope.

I remembered the first time I cried for what we were doing to Iraqis. It was while watching Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's scathing documentary about the lies that led up to the war. In one scene, the camera lingered on an Iraqi woman undone with grief because a U.S. bomb had killed her loved ones. The woman wailed, prayed and cursed all in the same sentence. Flailing her hands heavenward, she beseeched God to rain fire down on the Americans and show us no mercy.

Cardinal George apologizes

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Cardinal George has apologized for comparing the Chicago gay pride parade to the Ku Klux Klan, saying today that he was "truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused."

I'm not sure what eventually changed his mind--or why it took so long (he made the comments Christmas Day and continued to defend it in the following week)--but I agree this is a step in the right direction.

See full story here.

What's a just cause for a bishop's resignation?

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Like Pax Christi USA, I, too, am sad about the resignation of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop and Pax Christi USA President Gabino Zavala. I did not know him, but if he's associated with Pax Christi, he must be in tune with the justice and peace message of the Gospel, and that's great. So why did he resign? He fathered two children.

I'm sad for two reasons. We have not yet seen the day in the Catholic church that a priest or a bishop can marry and father children without it being some sort of scandal. It's long past time that we move to a priesthood that welcomes and celebrates marriage and fatherhood. (And while we're at it, motherhood as well!)

But I'm also sad because resignations are apparently necessary when a bishop "fathers" children, but not when a bishop fails to deal seriously with the abuse of children. I'm thinking of all those bishops who moved abusing priests from parish to parish, who covered up abuse, who have failed to report abuse to authorities. Most of them are still running dioceses.

If we had our priorities straight as a church, which kind of bishop would be forced to resign?

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June 16-29, 2017

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