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Report: Vatican Investigation Ends with Praise of U.S. Nuns

The much anticipated final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. nuns was released today without controversy. The report ends a process launched six years ago under Pope Benedict XVI through the leadership of Cardinal Franc Rodé, the former head of the Vatican office of religious life, who raised concerns of “secular mentality" and a "feminist spirit" among U.S. women religious communities. 

The report marks a more conciliatory approach under Pope Francis who celebrated Mass today with some of the women and men religious involved in the probe. The report affirms women religious in the U.S. for adhering to "Pope Francis’ insistence that ‘none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.’”

The report also expresses praise and "the profound gratitude of the Apostolic See and the Church in the United States for the dedicated and selfless service of women religious in all the essential areas of the life of the Church and society."

However, the new report has no effect on the ongoing doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a membership organization with about 1400 leaders of women’s orders in the U.S., which remains under scrutiny for its Catholic teaching on abortion, homosexuality, and women’s ordination.

Read the full report here.  

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REPORT: Bob Jones University Failed to Support Sexual Abuse Victims for 40 Years

Rolling Stone is not the only one throwing sexual abuse victims under the bus these days. An alarming report released today reveals that Bob Jones University, a historically fundamentalist Christian college, failed to support nearly 40 victims of sexual abuse over four decades.

In January 2013, Bob Jones University hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to conduct an independent investigation of the college’s response to sexual abuse allegations.

The report states that BJU officials were not adequately prepared or trained to counsel victims appropriately, often treating victims as blameworthy for their abuse or sexual assault experienced during childhood or adulthood.

In a video statement recorded yesterday, BJU President Steve Pettit issued an apology to students and faculty:

On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault. We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values. We are deeply saddened to hear that we added to their pain and suffering.

The GRACE report outlines a series of recommendations, including recovery assistance, tuition support, and a public apology to victims of sexual abuse. The university has also taken steps in recent years to revise its policies and procedures:

  • To make every member of the faculty and staff a mandatory reporter which requires each to promptly notify law enforcement officials of child sexual abuse.
     
  • To encourage adult victims of sexual assault to report their experience to the appropriate law enforcement officials.
     
  • To make clear that the biblical lesson of forgiveness does not imply that the victim is in any way responsible for the sexual assault or abuse they experienced.
     
  • To provide more extensive training and access to professional counselors with expertise in sexual abuse for University personnel who interact with victims coming to them for care and compassion.

For a complete look at GRACE’s investigation and recommendations, read the full report here.

Elaina Ramsey is women and girls campaign associate at Sojourners.

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Leaders Across all Faiths Gather for Joint Declaration Against Modern Slavery

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Thirty-five million people are trapped in a form of modern slavery.

35 million. Let that sink in.

Last week, the campaign to end human trafficking took a large step forward. Religious leaders from the Christian Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions joined with Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim leaders to jointly declare their intention to end modern-day slavery. The Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery reads:

We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.

The moral imperative to end human slavery transcends every religious doctrine.

Christian Scripture affirms that “there is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ.” The Qu’ran confirms the divine dignity of each human stating, “God has given dignity to the all children of Adam” (The Noble Qur’an, 17:70). The command to “protect the stranger in our midst” (Exodus 22:21) appears 36 times in the Torah — which according to the Talmud is more often than the laws of the Sabbath or of keeping kosher. Hindu leader, Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi called human enslavement, “an open wound on the body of modern society.”

Each major religious tradition acknowledges the inherent God-given dignity of each being. An excerpt from the declaration affirms that:

In the eyes of God, each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.

An international faith declaration will not change the complex causes, intricate networks and international power structures that run deeply through the roots of modern slavery.

Yet, it is a start.

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N.Y.P.D. Officer Cleared in the Choking of Eric Garner

Just over one week after a grand jury elected not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, a Staten Island grand jury has cleared an NYPD police officer of any criminal charge in the death of Eric Garner.

The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, a white male, choked Mr. Garner to death as other police officers jammed his head into the concrete. Mr. Garner, 43, suffered from asthma and was suspected of illegally selling cigarettes. Along with other evidence, the grand jury viewed a video recorded by bystanders, which fully captured the violent arrest.

The New York Times reports:  

The case exposed lapses in police tactics – chokeholds are banned by the Police Department’s own guidelines – and raised questions about the aggressive policing of minor offenses in a time of historically low crime. The officers, part of a plainclothes unit, suspected Mr. Garner of selling loose cigarettes on the street near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, a complaint among local business owners.

Mr. Garner’s death hastened an effort to retrain all the department’s patrol officers and brought scrutiny on how officers who violate its rules are disciplined. Officer Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and badge.

Stay tuned to Sojourners for continued updates and analysis.

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No Indictment in Ferguson Shooting

A grand jury has found that no probable cause exists to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch on Monday evening.

McCulloch said the grand jury was instructed on the law and presented on five possible indictments. He emphasized that the jurors "are the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence."

Protests throughout the St. Louis metro area — as well as nearly 100 cities across the country — are planned in response to the decision. Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a preemptive state of emergency and activated the National Guard to respond to “any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown.” Rev. Traci Blackmon, a clergy leader in the St. Louis area, recently told Sojourners that while the city and county police departments have amassed weapons and riot gear to react to the protests, local community leaders and faith groups have been stocking up on bandages and first-aid materials. 

Earlier in the day Brown’s family asked for 4.5 minutes of silence this evening before protests begin — a statement on the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body was left in a Ferguson street following the shooting.

The Justice Department is conducting its own federal investigation, however recent reports have indicated that it is not likely to result in civil rights charges against Wilson. 

Stay tuned to Sojourners for continued updates and analysis. 

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Report: Solutions to Hunger, Poverty Must Focus on Empowering Women

Globally, women and girls are disproportionally affected by hunger and poverty. In reference to completing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Bread for the World reported, “We will not end hunger and poverty by 2030 without ending the discrimination that women and girls face day in and day out.”

This morning, Bread for the World, released the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish, We Can End Hunger. The comprehensive analysis focuses on the imperative role the empowerment of women and girls plays in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition.

Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, said:

“Eliminating barriers and empowering women around the world is key to ending hunger in our time. We must not tolerate discrimination against women and instead, [we must] demand a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment that includes applying a gender lens to all programs and policies.”

If there is hope of eliminating poverty, as an international community, we must look holistically at the cultural, economic, social, and religious aspects of the systems that perpetuate poverty. The 2015 Hunger report effectively examines the role of gender in poverty alleviation and prescribes tangible recommendations for international and domestic reform for the common good.

Click here for the full report along with infographics, personal narratives, and a scriptural study guide.

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BREAKING: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel To Resign Under Pressure

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the third Secretary of Defense to serve under President Obama, will resign under pressure from the White House, according to officials.

Former Senator Hagel is the only Republican serving on the president's national security team. Officials report Hagel struggled to be a strong voice at the Pentagon, but his removal may also be related to the recent midterm elections. According to MSNBC

“He often had trouble articulating the details of many of the operations, many of the incantations, of what goes on here at the White House and he had a difficult time expressing those thoughts,” said NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski. “It appeared he sometimes didn’t even have a grasp of them. And quite frankly, according to one senior official, the White House and the DOD leadership pretty much lost confidence in Hagel.”

Pentagon officials and members of the administration have said Hagel struggled to lead at the Pentagon and be a strong voice within the president’s inner circle. Still, he is the not the first defense secretary to lose his job following midterm losses for the president he serves. Donald Rumsfeld also was fired by former President George H.W. Bush following midterm losses to the Republican party in 2006. 

Read more here

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White House Announcement on Executive Action on Immigration Tonight

Yesterday, President Obama released a short video providing more information on a much-anticipated executive action announcement on immigration policy. While the details remain unclear on how many of the 11 million undocumented and aspiring Americans will be covered, relief is rumored to the following:    

  • Temporary legal protection for undocumented parents of children who are legal U.S. citizens.
  • Temporary legal protection for undocumented immigrants with a longstanding presence in the United States.
  • Extension of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The president will address the nation tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the speech live here.  

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Shooting at Florida State University

Early Thursday morning a gunman opened fire in a library at Florida State University, wounding three students before being fatally shot by police officers. Wielding a handgun, the shooter entered the library and forced hundreds of students studying for exams to flee or take cover behind bookshelves. NBC News reports:

FSU Police Department Chief David Perry said the library was “packed with students studying for final exams” and estimated that there were 300 to 400 people in the building. One group of students sought refuge behind rows of bookshelves. “Everyone started running to one side of the library, then to the back,” one 20-year-old communications student who asked not to be identified told NBC News. “People were saying, ‘Gun! There’s a shooter! Go! Go! Go!’" She said her group hid among bookcases for what she said felt like 20 minutes. Once given the all-clear, the group was escorted to a campus building next door where they stayed until 4 a.m.

Although the identity of the shooter is unknown, police officers believe he was acting alone and that there is no further threat to students at FSU.

WATCH the police report:

Read more.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Occupy Wall Street Artist Turns Police Brutality Into Art

As the nation continues to wait for the grand jury’s decision whether or not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown, one artist has connected the violent police acts in Ferguson to a broader narrative of state-sanctioned violence.

Molly Crabapple, known for her artistic contributions to Occupy Wall Street, combines the fast-paced style of dry-erase animation with colorful watercolor illustrations in her new video, ‘How Ferguson showed us the truth about police.’

Apart from its depiction of violent police acts in Ferguson, from tear gassing children to macing older women, Crabapple's video demonstrates a much more terrible truth: This brutality is not the isolated and unfortunate misbehavior of one county's police, but rather the pervasive norm of a racist society.  

WATCH:

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