Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sr. Dianna Ortiz, presente!

Sister Dianna Ortiz, 62, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph for 43 years, died Friday, February 19 in Washington, D.C., after a brave battle with cancer. 

In 1989, while doing mission work with Mayan children in Guatemala, she was abducted by government forces and tortured. According to the website of her order, “After much prayer and counseling, she became a grassroots organizer for the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C. (1994-2000). In 1998, she founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) International in Washington, to advocate for the abolition of torture and to support its victims. Her book, The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth, was published in 2002. She testified before Congress concerning human rights and torture and received numerous honors for her work from peace and victims advocate organizations.”


At the time of her death, she was serving as deputy director of Pax Christi USA. The organization issued a statement that said, in part, “As anyone who ever encountered Dianna knows, she was an extraordinary person. We have lost a member of our family, the heart at the center of our life together as a staff who lifted all of us with her unceasing encouragement, support, kindness and gentleness. Our heartbreak and grief are only tempered by our gratitude and love for all Dianna has been for us, and for the rest and peace that she now has. The entire Pax Christi USA community mourns with all those who know and love Di, and we give thanks for the time that she was among us.”


The Ignatian Solidarity Network issued a statement that said, in part, “although she endured the darkness of torture in Latin America in the 1980’s and the darkness of recurring cancers in the last decade, Dianna always chose the light, committed to working for peace and justice. From the brokenness and pain of her torture and its aftermath, beauty and joy emerged. She modeled the gentle strength of non-violence and the deep compassion for others reflected in Catholic Social Teaching.”  




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

New York Ecumenical Advocacy Day

There is still time to register for the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Day sponsored by the New York State Council of Churches which, like so much these days will be virtual.

The event begins at 9 a.m. this Thursday, February 25, with a series of presentations. Participants will then be scheduled to meet virtually with their state legislators beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday and in the following week.


The day begins with “Historical Reflections on Congregational Activism” with Dr. Alison Collis Greene, Associate Professor of American Religious History at Emory University and Candler School of Theology in  Atlanta, Georgia and Author of No Depression in Heaven, The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta. In her book, Dr. Greene “demonstrates how the Great Depression and New Deal transformed the relationship between church and state. Grounded in Memphis and the Delta, this book traces the collapse of voluntarism, the link between southern religion and the New Deal, and the gradual alienation of conservative Christianity from the state.


At 10 a.m., Alex Tindal Wiesendanger, National Organizer with the American Musicians Union and author of Seeds of Justice: Organizing Your Church to Transform the World, will discuss faith-based organizing. His book has been described as “a basic guide on how to translate a commitment to social justice into effective action.” It shows “first how to move from charity to justice; how to move from being activists to agents for transformation; how to build power through relationships and congregational listening; how to wield power in the public sphere.


Other sessions include “Theological Reflections on Wealth Inequality and Analysis of State Budget and Revenue Bills,” “Health Care and Covid 19,” “Environmental Justice,” and “Affordable Housing.” In addition, there will be break out legislative sessions.


For more information and to register for this free event, go here.


Monday, February 22, 2021

A COVID relief bill

 Last August, Pope Francis said that the current pandemic “has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world.” 

With that in mind, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued some guidance on what a COVID relief bill should contain. In doing so, they noted that the USCCB “has consistently advocated for Congress to address peoples’ need for food, housing, health care, employment and income support, and safety in prisons and detention facilities.” They said that relief legislation passed by Congress last year has been a lifeline for families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. Still, they say, more is needed to reach all sectors of society and ensure that help lasts for the duration of the economic crisis.

In the area of hunger and nutrition, the bishops praise increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which they say is a proven way to combat this food insecurity, delivering resources directly to low-income households. They also call for continued investments in vital nutrition programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which will also help respond to food insecurity that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.


To help the millions more at risk of losing their homes due to the resulting economic crisis, the bishops are requesting robust investments in Emergency Solutions Grants, emergency rental assistance, housing counseling services, and mortgage payment assistance as well as greater eviction and foreclosure preventions will help address the health and housing needs of America’s lowest-income renters and people experiencing homelessness.


Because millions of people have lost their health insurance coverage during the pandemic, individuals have a need for affordable healthcare coverage. Necessary efforts to provide such coverage should ensure no federal funding goes to health care plans that cover abortion, the bishops said. Expanding Medicaid resources for states and tribes is an important tool to respond to public health needs while avoiding cuts to healthcare or other vital services. We also need to address racial inequities in healthcare, which existed in many forms before the COVID-19 crisis and “have manifested in disturbingly disproportionate rates of coronavirus infection and death in patients of color.” Additional resources to methods of care for low-income and historically marginalized communities are examples of the type of investments needed. The bishops note that, as is even more clear in a pandemic, the exclusion of some from health care threatens the health of all.


To learn more, and to see what other issues should be addressed in any COVID relief bill, go here.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What do you seek?

If you have been following the "Faith in the Public Square" blog at the Albany Times Union, we can tell you that it has a new home in our neighborhood. But before you go, please take a minute to look around our site.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Poverty Awareness Month

 For Catholics, January is Poverty Awareness Month. It is a time when the U.S. Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the Catholic community in the United States take up Pope Francis' challenge to live in solidarity with the poor.


This year, Catholics are called to respond to issues such as the dignity and rights of workers,  human trafficking, and the adverse effects of climate change on poor communities. 


Among the many resources that are available are a daily calendar and longer daily reflections.


People can also sign up for a newsletter here.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

National Migration Week 2021 has moved

Readers of this blog are accustomed to seeing a post regarding National Migration Week about this time every year. Now, however, things have changed.

For nearly forty years, National Migration Week has followed the Epiphany, which we just celebrated on Sunday. One of the primary reasons was due to the timing of the Pope’s Migration Day message, which was celebrated in mid-January. However, Pope Francis has announced that that the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will now be celebrated on the last Sunday of September. To maintain the custom of aligning National Migration Week with the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Catholic Bishops of the United States decided to move National Migration Week to the last week in September.

We will mark the next National Migration Week from September 20 to 26, with the Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees taking place on Sunday, September 26. Resources will be made available later this Spring.

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Thursday, December 31, 2020

COVID and foreign aid

The passage of the COVID-19 relief bill has focused attention on the amount of money that we, as nation, spend on foreign aid each year. Specifically, many are asking how we can spend so much money on aid to other nations when the need in our own country is so great.


Without going into details about how the COVID relief bill came to be tied to the annual omnibus spending bill, it is important to note that latter bill is the one that includes money for foreign aid, including both military and humanitarian aid. 


In the days since the bills were passed, social media has been filled with posts questioning the wisdom of spending any money on foreign aid. Many good and faithful Catholics have argued that we, as a nation, must first take care of our own people before we lavish money on other nations. They seem to believe that the commandment to love our neighbors is limited to helping just our American neighbors.


It is important to note that there is no theological support for such a position.


In a letter to Congress last year, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote:

“The Church views international aid as an essential tool for promoting human life and dignity, reducing poverty, advancing global solidarity, and enhancing peace and security throughout the world. International assistance is a moral responsibility to assist “the least of these” (Matthew 25). Assistance must be an expression of our solidarity with all people living in poverty, not an exercise in self-interest, or self-promotion. Pope Francis asks us to dedicate ourselves to “the integral development of all peoples within a human family committed to dwelling in justice, solidarity and fraternal harmony.”

The bishops also wrote, “In addition, we encourage all people, communities, and countries of goodwill to welcome those in need, contribute resources within their means, and stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. We cannot abdicate our moral or financial position as the global leader in life-saving humanitarian and poverty-reducing development assistance. We can all do more. Lastly, we encourage all actors in society, including the private sector, to be positive agents of change.”

Last week, Pope Francis called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people. According to Catholic News Service: 

“At Christmas, we celebrate the light of Christ that comes into the world, and he comes for all, not just for some,” the pope said. “Today, at this time of darkness and uncertainty because of the pandemic, there appear different lights of hope, such as the discovery of vaccines.” 

“But so these lights may illuminate and bring light to the whole world, they must be available to all,” he said. “I cannot put myself before others, placing the laws of the market and of patents above the law of love and the health of humanity.” 

Also worth noting is the fact that, for fiscal year 2019, foreign assistance was less than one percent of the federal budget. 

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