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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  October 30, 2011 10:00am-10:30am PDT

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coming up -- helping the country's wounded veterans, with their families at their side. and a latino spiritual tradition -- the day of the dead. >> major funding for religion and ethics news weekly is provided by the lily endowment, a private family foundation dedicated to the founders and christian religion, community development and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america designing customized, individual, and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. the estate of william j carter and the jane henson foundation.
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the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. a new vatican document this week called for sweeping changes in the global financial system in order, it said, to put "the common good" at the center of economic activity. one of the most controversial proposals would create an international political authority that would have broad power to regulate financial markets. the document was issued by the pontifical council for justice and peace. it said changes are needed to address the quote "inequalities and distortions of capitalist development." >> meanwhile, in many cities around the world, the occupy movement continues its campaigns for economic justice. here in the u.s., religious leaders raised concerns about how some cities have been cracking down on the protests. the group faithful america launched a petition drive urging
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local authorities to refrain from violence. the faith community has been playing an increasingly visible role in many of the protests. kim lawton reports on some of the religious activities around occupy wall street. >> reporter: for the occupy wall street protesters in new york's zuccotti park, it's become a familiar sight-religious groups offering spiritual and moral support. voices at service we represent. we represent. the new york city communities of faith. the new york city communities of faith. growing numbers of leaders from across the religious spectrum have been supporting occupy wall street's protest against greed and economic inequity. >> this is n just a jobs issue. this is not only a health care issue or a pension issue. this is also a spiritual issue of the nature of what has happened in the united states and how we function as a people together. and that is very, very, much a matter of moral concern, not only to my christian tradition but to islam, and to judaism, to buddhism. >> reporter: there have been
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regular interfaith prayer services at the park. and religious groups are also providing practical help by donating tents, food and money. they've been opening their facilities to the protesters, giving logistical advice and helping to get the message out. >> churches are an excellent place to organize this kind of information because we're under the radar of commerce or of government. >> reporter: many say there is a prominent spiritual dimension to what's been happening. inside zuccotti park is a makeshift community altar, where protestors of all faiths come to pray or meditate. in several cities, protest chaplains, many of them seminary students, minster to the protesters. >> we are here to provide a religious presence. we are here to listen to people, to hear what's on their hearts. and we're here to pray with people. and people do come up to us and ask us to sit with them in prayer, because people are in crisis and that's why we are all here. >> reporter: on this sunday, united methodists led a
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communion service. participants said concern for economic justice is a core teaching of their faith. >> the bible is all about just a fairer shake for people and god's concern for all of god's children, not just a small segment of the population. >> reporter: some religious conservatives have criticized the faith- based support of occupy wall street calling it a '60s style, leftist effort to redistribute wealth. the family research council urged its members to pray that god would prevent what it called "these radical organizers from stirring revolution." but faith leaders at the wall street protests deny any political agenda. >> it's a broad movement of religious groups to support what's going on and really to support the conversation, not to take a particular side or another side, but just to say these are the things that we need to talk about. and they say it's only going to spread.
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>> what's very, very real is the frustration. and if people don't think that's real, if people don't think that reflects a real existential reality for the majority of americans, the faith communities see it. because we are who they come to when mom can't pay rent, when the immigration officers steal grandma and there's no one home. i mean, we're who they come to. so for us it is an obvious, immediate, moral imperative. i'm kim lawton reporting. meanwhile, in london, the chancellor of st. paul's cathedral resigned, he says, because of the way top church officials have handled the protests there. demonstrators began camping out by st. paul's two weeks ago. although the church initially welcomed the protesters, health and safety concerns grew and the cathedral was forced to close for a time. the anglican bishop of london and other church leaders have asked the protesters to leave. in this week's resignation, canon chancellor giles fraser said he was concerned that
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church actions could lead to violence. in washington, members of the faith community continued lobbying congress to protect a program that helps feed the poor. religious leaders joined lawmakers at a capitol hill grocery store for what they called the food stamp challenge. participants in the challenge shopped for a week's worth of groceries but couldn't spend more than $31.50 -- the average allotment for those receiving food assistance. several commented on how hard it was to stay on budget. new numbers released this week from the congressional budget office show how much income inequality has grown in the u.s. over the last three decades. the report says the incomes of the top 1% of the country grew by 275% between 1979 and 2007. incomes of the lowest 20% grew
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by only 18%. giving to the poor was one of many issues raised in a new survey of u.s. catholics. according to the results, 60% now believe you can be a good catholic without donating time or money to the poor. that number was 44% in 2005. the survey also found that a majority of catholics now believes that individuals, not church authorities, should be the ones to make decisions about abortion, homosexuality and other social issues. joining me now are kim lawton, managing editor of this program and kevin eckstrom editor of religion news service. welcome to you both. kevin, can you explain this astonishing figure that 60% of those surveyed, 60% of catholics in this country say, they can be good catholics without at the same time giving money to the poor or giving time to helping the poor.
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>> it's one of the great sort of paradoxes that this survey picked up. the other figure that was worth mentioning here is that two out of three catholics said that helping the poor and the church's teaching on the poor is important to me as a catholic. so, they see it as core to the catholic identity but it doesn't necessarily mean they're actually going go out and do something about it. and it's sort of broadly reflective of this trend that the survey picked up that i'm a catholic and i'll go to mass because i want the eucharist, i want the liturgy, i think that the core teachings are important but i am not going to do it because some bishop somewhere tells me that i have to. weekly mass attendance is down to like 30% and the number of people who go to church once a month is actually higher than people who go to weekly. so people are doing it on their own terms. >> and, also, in that survey, it did fd that a big majority, 88% of catholics, said that helping the poor, it was meaningful for them that their church had concern for the poor. it's just, again, what the church says and does and how it translates into individuals' lives. as one author of the survey
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said, american catholics like being catholic but they like to do it on their own terms, as well. >> and the confirmation of some other long trends. for instance, making up your own mind about social and moral concerns rather than taking instructions from the hierarchy. >> yeah the big number there was on homosexuality, which is sort of a flashpoint issue but i think it's telling. the number of people who say the church and church leaders should have the final word on the morality of homosexuality or same-sex marriage has dropped by half in the last 25 years. no other issue has seen that sort of shift but i think it's really telling where people say, you know what, i've got gay friends, i've got a gay brother or gay neighbors. there's a disconnect here between what the church is telling me and what my life experience is telling me and so i'm not going to necessarily go along with the church on this one. >> and what are the implications of a third of catholics now being hispanic?
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>> well, within a generation they are likely to be the majority of the catholic church in the united states. and what that means, in practical terms, is that spanish language mass might become the norm and english language mass is going to be sort of what they do on the side, on saturday nights. >> and some of these economic issues may come to the fore, as well. and again, going back to the vatican document, i mean, a lot of the input for that came from outside the united states as church leaders from europe, but also latin america, have contributions about what the church has to say about the poor. and sometimes american catholics weren't, there was a lot of mixed reaction among american catholics to that vatican document. i mean some religious conservatives, catholic conservatives, really tried to dismiss it a little bit and say it didn't have the full force of a papal teaching but it certainly did quote from popes who have raised concerns about the poor. >> and reminded everybody about how very liberal the church teachings are about how the poor
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should be treated. >> catholic social teaching does have what many people consider very liberal values when it comes to the poor. some of the folks this week tried to associate this document with the occupy wall street folks and the vatican officials said this was not a direct response to occupy wall street. but i saw a lot of similar language. the vatican document criticized excessive greed as being sinful and evil. certainly that's a big theme with occupy wall street. talked about social inequities being morally wrong and again, that's in the vatican document. >> many thanks to kim lawton and kevin eckstrom. president obama announced last week that almost all u.s. troops will be out of iraq by the end of this calendar year. for many severely wounded veterans of the wars in iraq and afghanistan, however, there is no end to the medical and social adjustments they are facing, often alone.
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but there's a place in texas where wounded warriors, as they call them, can be treated with their families beside them. lucky severson reports. >> reporter: this is the brooke army medical center in san antonio, the military's largest and most advanced medical facility. it's where doctors send some of the most seriously burned and wounded soldiers to recover, sometimes with artificial limbs. since the beginning of the iraq and afghanistan wars, thousands of soldiers, like private carlos gomez, have suffered injuries like his. he was on a scouting mission and was seriously wounded when his vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in afghanistan earlier this year. >> well, the blast, it shot us straight up in the air so the impact actually broke my left leg. it shattered my heel and my
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bones down my right, left leg, i mean, and my right leg got crushed. they couldn't save it anymore so they had to amputate it here at brookermy medical center. >> reporter: two other soldiers were wounded in the blast. one was killed. at first gomez wasn't sure he wanted to live. >> i woke up, you know, not really knowing that happened still. i didn't know that my leg was amputated, and when i was fully, you know, aware of what's going on, i saw my leg, yeah, i broke down in tears, you know, and i hated my life, and i didn't want nothing to do with it. >> reporter: the first battle many seriously wounded soldiers face is whether they want to go on with their lives and then endure the long, painful process of healing, often alone. doctors have learned that wounded soldiers heal faster and more completely when they have
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family around them. that's what happens here at the warrior and family support center in san antonio. it is the only one of its kind. it was the dream of judith markelz, and now she's the director. >> we attempt to form a home away from home for wounded warriors and their families, to help them feel some kind of connection to each other, things for them to do every day to take them outside of their own world and help them transition back to active duty or to the civilian community where they're going to have to adjust and make a lot of changes. >> reporter: although it's located on an army post, the warrior and family support center is funded entirely from private donations and staffed by about 150 volunteers. families live in apartments close by, so they can help soldiers accept what is called "the new normal," which means their life will never be quite the same again. sometimes family is as important as the medical care.
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>> to know that someone is there, that someone that comes from home to take care of you makes a tremendous difference for our warriors. if you believe in the triad of the healing of the mind, body, and spirit, then we probably fall in the category of the healing of the spirit. >> reporter: bryant casteel is a baptist chaplain at the center. he says the most important part of his job is simply to be there. >> you know, sometimes you want to finthe right words. i found many times when dealing with soldiers there's not a right word. there's no right way to tell someone you're going to be okay. and some say, hey, can you pray for me chaplain? you know, can you let me know things are going to be all right? i can't promise you, but i can promise you i'll be here to support you. >> reporter: one of the favorite nights around here is bingo night. for a while they forget that the war for them is not yet over. for those who think this must be a very sad place, judith markelz says the opposite is true. she says it's a place of hope,
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which is the name of the sculpture hanging in the center which was created by a staff sergeant who had 29 surgeries while he was at brooke. she says the wounded may cry in their beds at night, but never in public. >> these young men and women do not want your sympathy. they want your support and in the help of their healing, because they're going to be okay. they did what they were commanded to do, and they did it with great integrity and honor. >> reporter: and many paid a huge price, like master sergeant doug reed with the ohio national guard, critically wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade in afghanistan in 2010. he's the father of seven kids, here with his wife, jana. >> the angel of death had me in his arms, and jesus said, "no, i'm not done with you." so they fought over me, and my jaw came off. >> he was very close to death, in the fact that i mean with every surgery they didn't know if he would ever wake up or ever become independent.
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and so that's when i just had to say, "okay, god, i am not in control. the doctors are not in control. but you are in control, and you are going to have to fix this, if this is what you want." >> reporter: and when he finally did wake up, for two months he didn't know his wife. he didn't even know who he was. >> but when our kids walked in the door he gave them a hug, and he called them all by their pet names, and so the kids began to cry, not because of what they saw, but because it's dad, he does know me, when the doctors were saying we don't think he'll know you. >> i didn't know what i looked like. it codn't have been good, and they don't see that. they don't care if i have teeth or not or my jaw is out of shape now or anything else. what they cared about is i was still alive. i was still with them. >> reporter: judith markelz says the families themselves need support.
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>> this is not a singular effort. it involved families, children, wives, mothers. an injury or a death is like dropping a rock in the water, and the ripples go forever, and they affect everyone with whom they ever came in contact. >> reporter: private gomez has two children, and he says he knows things will get better when he gets his prosthesis, but in the meantime his 7-year-old son is having a hard time. >> it's affecting him. i know definitely it's affecting him. you know, he has to help out his dad a lot with stuff that i can't do, like picking stuff up for me, you know, putting on my shoes, stuff like that. >> reporter: gomez says he's always been religious, but one of the few times he didn't have time to pray was when he rushed out on a mission in the middle of the night, the mission that cost him his leg. he says the war has not cost him his faith.
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>> i don't question god, not one day, you know, why this happened to me. i thank him actually, because it could have been the opposite, you know. i could have paid the ultimate sacrifice and passed away. it was because of him i'm still sitting here talking to you right now. >> reporter: jana reed says her faith and her husband's are actually stronger. >> because every day we have a miracle that has been answered, and some people might say, oh, it's a coincidence, but we've just had too many coincidences in the pasts 16 months that i do not accept it. it is not a coincidence. >> reporter: chaplain casteel says he has seen how the warrior and family support center has helped soldiers get better quicker. but he worries about what happens when the soldiers go home. >> when you walk around here, you don't feel like you're different. you don't feel like, wow, someone's staring at me or looking at me like i'm strange, and so i think here for a soldier it can be safe. now when they leave this environment, going back to their home of record, then it could be a little more challenging, and i
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think that anxiety rises again for the soldier -- hey, will i be accepted? >> there was a time when wounded soldiers returning from the vietnam war received more hostility than community support. but times have changed. >> whether you agree with what these young men and women did is of, frankly, no concern to me. if you don't like the war, it is not an issue for me. the issue is that we continue to support these young men and women for the rest of our days and theirs, because this doesn't end tomorrow. >> reporter: she says that there are now other warrior and family support centers being built around the country modeled after the one here. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson in san antonio, texas. in other news, jewish chaplains now have a memorial in arlington national cemetery. the new monument, unveiled on monday, honors the 14 jewish chaplains who died on active
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duty in and since world war ii. there were already memorials for catholic chaplains, protestant chaplains and chaplains killed during world war i. pope benedict the 16th welcomed more than 300 representatives from different faith traditions and some non- believers to assisi this week. they gathered to mark the 25th anniversary of a daylong summit for peace held there by pope john paul ii. in his comments, benedict condemned any use of religion to justify violence. at the original meeting in 1986 some catholics objected to members of different faiths praying together. this year's service did not include a joint prayer. on our calendar this week, sunday is reformation day for protestants, recalling the time in 1517 when martin luther
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nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door in wittenberg in germany. the following day, october 31st, is all hallows eve, halloween. and on november 1st, christians celebrate all saints day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. all souls day is celebrated november 2nd by catholics and some protestants. prayers are said for loved ones who have died. many latinos also observe november 2nd as the day of the dead, when they believe the spirits of the departed return to earth. there are different traditions for this across latin america. many hispanics in the u.s. incorporate their roman catholic faith in day of the dead observances. kim lawton has more. >> reporter: in many communities, día de los muertos, the day of the dead, is a joyful public event, with parades celebrating the belief that, for
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this one day every year, the spirits of loved ones have returned. families often hold private observances as well. >> we are in a festive mode right now. it's a party. >> reporter: in rockville maryland, rocio and luis bermudez incorporate their roman catholic faith with their mexican-american traditions, building a special altar in their home. on the altar they place pictures of their deceased family members and a portrait of the virgin of guadalupe. candles are lit to help the spirits find their way down from heaven. water is put out to replenish the thirsty souls after their long journey. and since it's a party, the altar is decorated with colorful papers and treats. >> the mango, the water, the tequila -- it's all an enticement so that they will come, and when they come they'll have their favorite foods that they can celebrate with us.
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>> reporter: when the altar is finished, the family offers prayers for both the living and the dead. >> we then pray to the virgin mary, to the saints, and to the lord so that they're with us, as well as our loved ones, as a sign of respect for god. >> reporter: the bermudez family says the day of the dead ritual reflects thcatholic church's teachings about life and death. >> so the belief is that when we die our body physically isn't here, but our spirit still lives on forever. we actually are reborn. so that's what we celebrate. the spirit doesn't die, it lives on. >> reporter: for the bermudez family, that's something to celebrate every year. >> finally, there is at least one biblical instruction that people all over the world have observed.
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there isality least one biblical instruction that has been observed from genesis. be fruitful and multiply. this monday according to the united nation, the number of human beings on earth will reach seven billion, up from six billion on the way to eight billion around 2023. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and find us on you tube and watch us any time, anywhere on smart phones and iphone. there is much more on our website. you can comment on all our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are available. join us at pbs.org. as we leave you, scenes from celebrations of the hindu holiday, also known as the festival of lights.
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