Peace & Justice

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Farm bill

Catholic Church leaders have urged Congress to pass a farm bill that reflects American values.
As Congress begins the work of reauthorizing the U.S. farm bill, more than a dozen churches and faith-based organizations have come together as the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill to urge major changes in U.S. agricultural policy aimed at reducing hunger and poverty, and promoting the livelihood of farmers and rural communities, in the U.S. and around the world.

“Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Domestic Policy Committee.

The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, which includes Christian denominations and major faith-based organizations, has developed a statement of legislative principles for farm-bill reform (see below). Members of the group currently are in the process of visiting congressional offices and sharing those principles.

“As people of faith who are also constituents, we must let our members of Congress know that we support broad reforms in the farm bill,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We are advocating for farm policy that strengthens our rural communities and better supports farmers of modest means, people trying to put food on the table in the United States, and struggling farmers in developing countries.”

Members of the Religious Working Group support a farm bill that strengthens investment in communities in rural America; ensures all Americans an adequate and nutritious diet; provides better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means; and conserves the land for present and future generations. Group members also are urging Congress to address the negative impact that current U.S. agricultural and trade policies have on people living in impoverished countries around the world.

A news release on the bill is here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The death penalty in New York

Statement by David Kaczynski, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, on Renewed Calls for the Death Penalty


We join all New Yorkers in mourning the death of State Trooper David C. Brinkerhoff killed this morning in Margaretville, and express our deepest sympathies to his family. We all feel deeply the loss of a man who dedicated his life to the protection of the public, and express our deep concern for the well-being of the other trooper shot today and the continued recovery of the trooper shot on Tuesday.

Similarly, we grieve for the loss of Utica police Officer Thomas Lindsey, killed this month as he worked to protect the people he was sworn to serve.

We hope, however, that calls for the death penalty reflect only the passions of the moment, as we all come to grips with the losses that we, as citizens of this state, have suffered.

Moves by some members of the Legislature to introduce a death penalty bill for those convicted of killing police officers are an empty gesture that diverts attention from criminal justice priorities that would be more effective in curtailing violent crime.

Growing majorities of New Yorkers prefer life without parole as the appropriate maximum sentence for those convicted of committing the most serious crimes. There are many reasons people oppose the death penalty * it is biased in its application, costs far too much and forces families of victims to endure decades of legal maneuvering. Too often, that legal wrangling creates a macabre sense of celebrity around the perpetrator of the crime, instead of allowing us to remember and honor the victim.

In addition, recent years have seen an astonishing number of exonerations of death row inmates freed after post-conviction investigations established their innocence.

For many, at its core, we don't fight murder by resorting to state-sponsored killing done in our name.

As we mourn the deaths of Trooper Brinkerhoff and Officer Lindsey, we pray for some positive response to these unspeakable tragedies. Let us resolve to fight violence through effective and rational means. The futile and wasteful mixed message of capital punishment contributes nothing to making New Yorkers safer.

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The New York State Catholic Conference
opposes the reinstatement of the death penalty. Their position is explained here.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dining Out for Life

Thursday, April 26

The AIDS Council of Northeastern New York and Key Bank invite you to the 4th Annual Dining Out For Life

Simply dine at one of our participating restaurants on Thursday, April 26, 2007 and 25% of your food bill will benefit the AIDS Council of NENY.


Dining Out for Life 2006 was a successful and fun event for the Greater Capital Region and Upper Hudson Valley, raising nearly $23,000 to assist the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York do what it does best – support friends and neighbors affected by this devasting disease and prevent new cases of infection.

For a list of participating restaurants, go here.


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Four Chaplains

The third-worst naval disaster of World War II occurred on February 3, 1943, off the coast of Greenland; it was remembered this past weekend with a monument near the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
More than 600 of the carrier's 904 men would die in a calamity that became legendary for the heroism of four chaplains on board -- heroism commemorated in Albany on Sunday by a monument dedicated in their honor.

The chaplains, one of them pastor of a Schenectady church, remained calm as they guided men to boat stations. They distributed life jackets from a storage locker to soldiers who had forgotten theirs below deck. When the jackets ran out, they removed their own and gave them to four soldiers.

"When I looked, the only thing that was showing was the keel," said [James] Eardley, a private who had reached the safety of a raft. "And there were the four chaplains on top of the keel, arm in arm with each other."

He turned back, and the boat was gone.

Eardley, now 85 and living in Westerlo, told his tale of survival Sunday from a podium on Madison Avenue. He spoke to about 40 people, most of them veterans, many of World War II, all gathered to dedicate a monument to the chaplains who sacrificed their lives to save others.

The entire article by Marc Parry is available here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Those who died in Iraq from April 8 to 14:

Ltn Philip Neel 27 Maryland
Sgt Todd Singleton 24 Muskegon MI
Sgt Harrison Brown 31 Prichard AL
Pvt David Simmons 20 Kokomo IN
Sgt Jesse Williams 25 Santa Rosa CA
Sgt Adam Kennedy 25 Norfolk MA
Spc Clifford Spohn III 21 Albuquerque NM
Pvt Brett Walton 37 Hillsboro OR
Spc Ismael Solorio 21 San Luis AZ
Pvt Brian Holden 20 Claremont NC
Pvt Kyle Bohrnsen 22 Philipsburg MT
Sgt Raymond Sevaaetasi 29 Samoa
Ltn Gwilym Newman 24 Waldorf MD
Cpl Jason Beadles 22 La Porte IN
Spc James Lindsey 20 Florence AL
Pvt John Borbonus 19 Boise ID
Cpl Cody Putnam 22 Lafayette IN
Sgt Larry Bowman 29 Granite Falls NC
Sgt Brandon Wallace 27 Festus MO
Spc Ryan Bishop 32 Euless TX
Cpl Daniel Santee 21 Mission Viejo CA

99 were seriously maimed.
70 wounded were returned to occupation.

338 Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.

Cf: www.icasualties. org

Friday, April 20, 2007

Remembering Romero

Pat Jones, the former deputy director of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, reflects on how the Oscar Romero story of placing trust in God must be treasured, remembered, and re-told for future generations.
Several times in recent months, I have had a small experience which has shaken me; in conversations with young people, and in a workshop about spirituality, I have spoken of Archbishop Romero, and found that quite active Catholics knew little or nothing of his story.

The generation born after his death in particular are now young adults, and many have never heard of him. His life and death, and the struggle of the Salvadoran people for whom he died, have been so much part of my own formation and such an inspiration when all else fails, that I have tended to take for granted that he is known. But this is not the case.
. . .
For those of us who know the story, whose lives have been affected and whose faith has been shaped in part by his example, it is vital both that we remember and re-tell the story; and that we tell others.

The memory of Oscar Romero has been given to us but it is not for us alone. It is for the whole Church and the whole world. And it is not just an honouring of the past; we remember today so that we know the direction to take in the future.

Oscar Romero was a priest and bishop whose love for his people who were suffering violence and oppression led him to take their side and to denounce their oppressors. And so he was killed, whilst saying Mass, on this day, 27 years ago.

We remember him not just because he was a holy man or a humble priest; not even because he is a saint, even while we wait for the Church to recognise this.

It is because he is a martyr that his life and death have lasting significance. And his significance is not only within the Church but beyond it, in the public world of politics and power.

The life and death of a holy person, even of a saint, inspires and encourages us; and draws others to the Gospel by its example; but the life and death of a martyr does something more.

It reveals to the whole world the structures of sin and evil which operate in a particular situation; and at the same time it proclaims something more powerful; that love can overcome any violence and even death; martyrdom could therefore be described as ‘public truth’, truth for the whole world, because it tells the truth about what is happening in the world.

The rest of this article is available here.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bishops & Their Critics

The April 20, 2007 issue of Commonweal contains an informative editorial regarding those who opposed the war in Iraq and those who supported it.
President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq was initially supported by a host of liberals, among them New Republic editor Peter Beinart and New Yorker writer George Packer. These commentators were convinced that Iraq posed an imminent threat to its neighbors and that Saddam Hussein’s regime had to be removed for both security and moral reasons.

As the administration’s case for war was gradually exposed as a fabrication and the botched nature of the occupation became clear, most of these liberals have admitted they were wrong.

No such admissions of error, or even regret, have been issued by outspoken Catholic neoconservatives who, using the most tortured just-war arguments, publicly defended Bush’s war of choice. Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute, even flew to Rome to persuade the Vatican not to oppose the invasion. In First Things, George Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, memorably lectured religious leaders on the “charism of political discernment” enjoyed by those in the White House (“Moral Clarity in a Time of War,” January 2003). It was a charism, Weigel pointedly wrote, “not shared by bishops.” He assured the war’s critics that elected officials “are more fully informed about the relevant facts.”
. . .
It is true that the moral responsibility of statesmen is different from that of bishops and ordinary Christians. Still, looking back at the many nuanced statements issued by the USCCB regarding the war in Iraq, it is hard not to conclude that the bishops’ charism, rather than the president’s, has better served the nation. As early as November 2002, the bishops wrote of their deep concern “about recent proposals to expand dramatically traditional limits on just cause to include preventive uses of military force.” Repeatedly, the conference expressed the gravest doubts about the moral justification for the Iraq invasion. The bishops also reiterated their support for the right of conscientious objection and selective conscientious objection. In a prescient February 2003 statement on the likely consequences of war, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who was then president of the conference, warned that “a postwar Iraq would require a long-term commitment to reconstruction, humanitarian and refugee assistance, and establishment of a stable, democratic government at a time when the U.S. federal budget is overwhelmed by increased defense spending and the costs of war.”

The entire editorial is here.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Justice for Immigrants

Here is a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Catholics from across the country will visit Capitol Hill and urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform as part of an April 17-19 conference that will bring together social justice leaders, diocesan directors and others active in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign.

Mark Franken, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services office, will give the opening presentation. The theme for the gathering is “Offering Hope, Promoting Justice.”

Other speakers will include Kevin Appleby, the director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Policy office; Frank Sherry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum; and Mirna Torres, the director of legalization and advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Participants will share ideas, strategies and best practices for educating the Catholic community about key elements of the bishops’ immigration reform proposals. The conference will be held at the Hilton Washington, located at 1919 Connecticut Ave, NW.

The U.S. bishops have consistently advocated for comprehensive immigration reform that includes the following elements:
• An earned legalization program that allows undocumented persons to earn permanent residency;
• A guest worker program that protects foreign-born workers and safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers;
• Family-based immigration reform that reduces waiting times for family reunification;
• Restoration of due process protections for immigrants; and
• Policies that address the root causes of migration.

The Justice for Immigrants campaign, which began in 2004, is a national movement that seeks to educate the public and public officials about Catholic teaching on immigration. For more information, please visit


Friday, April 13, 2007

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection written by members of a Diocese of a Rochester Public Policy sub-committee that links the Sunday readings to Catholic social teaching. Many parishes publish them as space allows.

For Sunday Bulletins on April 29, 2007
Who is more deserving of God's saving grace? The cradle Catholic or the new convert? The theology scholar, or the soup kitchen volunteer? The beautiful image given to us today in John's Gospel is of God's open hand, holding all of us. Every person has value and is claimed by God. The labels and divisions created by us mean nothing as Jesus gathers his sheep - "I know them and they follow me."

Reflect on a person or group of people whom you feel are less deserving of love and mercy . . . imagine God embracing them. Share in that joy, and pray in gratitude that God counts you, also, as one of His own.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Israel and the Other

From The Capital Region Theological Center:

Israel and the Other: A Biblical Model for Interfaith Dialog
Thursday, April 26, 2007

We live in an ever-changing world surrounded by cultural as well as religious diversity. Relating to each other is an important part of living together, as well as understanding God. As "people of the book", Jews, Christians, and Muslims have a starting place for conversation.

This course will be a study of selected biblical texts in which the relationship to the stranger, the foreigner, and "other" is addressed. We will look at figures like Noah, Hagar, Ishmael, Esau, Joseph, and Jesus, as both part and separate from Israel. We will explore these figures as key to relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims and discuss how the Bible presents the relationship to the "other" as a touchstone for the relationship to God.

Instructors: Dr. Peter Zaas has an A.B. from Oberlin College, and both a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago's Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature. He is a beloved CRTC professor.

Dr. Zaas is the director of the Kievel Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies at Siena College, and a Professor of Religious Studies at Siena. He is nationally and internationally known for his work in interfaith dialogue and Jewish-Christian relations, and an accomplished author and presenter on interfaith dialogue. Dr. Zaas has taught at Siena College and Hamilton College for over 25 years and has lectured at a multitude of other institutions of higher learning around the country, including Yale Divinity School, Duke University, and Lexington Theological Seminary. Dr. Zaas has written numerous publications for Jewish and Christian publications including the Journal of Biblical Literature.

Cost: $35 if registered by March 27, 2007, or $45 thereafter

Location: Siena College, Sarazen Student Union Building

You can learn more, or register, here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Liberals and Conservatives

The editors of U.S. Catholic interview Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. in the latest issue of the magazine, noting, They say it’s lonely at the top, but it’s also lonely in the middle. That’s where Oblate Father Ronald Rolheiser often finds himself, trying to negotiate a peace between liberals and conservatives in the church.
What’s positive about liberal secular culture?
Liberalism is about freedoms, many of which we take for granted. The opposite of secularity is not the church; the opposite of secularity is the Taliban. I don’t think you want to live in Iran, which is a theocracy. Holland, on the other hand, is the most secularized culture in the world, far more secular than the United States. It has very low church attendance, and everything is legal: abortion, euthanasia, prostitution, drugs. You could look at that and say it’s a cesspool of moral relativity.

Those aren’t good things. But Holland takes care of its poor better than any culture in the world, and the status of women is the highest of any place in the world. Those are major moral achievements. And they didn’t come out of conservatism. Those are liberal achievements, which also come out of the gospel. So it’s a complicated thing for some to say the church is a culture of life and secularity is a culture of death. That’s far too simple.

Not only that, people don’t buy it. Young people are not looking at the church and saying, “Ah, that’s life!” and at Hollywood and the Super Bowl and saying, “That’s a culture of death.” That’s not the way they see it at all. They see something in the Jerry Seinfelds, the David Lettermans, the Olympics: There’s life in there, and there’s also something about God in there.

What’s good about conservatism?
They get a very important part of the gospel: intimacy with Jesus. People may say they don’t care about justice. Maybe they don’t, but they get the intimacy part.

Sometimes people in liberal circles don’t get that intimacy with Jesus part. We’re doing the social justice, but we’re not really sure why we’re doing it, like sometimes we don’t know the difference between Christian social doctrine and Greenpeace. The better ones get it—Dorothy Day, Jim Wallis, Daniel Berrigan.

But we all pick and choose; we’re all “cafeteria Catholics.” I was once asked to write a definition of a practicing Catholic. I began by saying that only Jesus does God real well, and the rest of us drop off, either to the left or to the right. Conservatives have major blind spots and liberals have major blind spots.

The rest of the article is here.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection written by members of a Diocese of Rochester Public Policy sub-committee that links the Sunday readings to Catholic social teaching. Many parishes publish them as space allows.
For Sunday Bulletins on April 15, 2007
Love is the outward sign that heralds God’s participation in the world; the apostles cure the sick and Jesus reaches out in love to doubting Thomas.

In 1987, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical reflecting on the church’s commitment to justice, called On Social Concerns. Despite the sin present in the world, he saw in all individuals “a fundamental goodness” and called on each to work for a more just world. “However imperfect and temporary are all things that can and ought to be done in order to make people’s lives ‘more human,’ nothing will be lost or will have been done in vain. It will all serve for the coming of the kingdom of God.”

Reflection: How can I be a sign of God’s love to another today? Do my words reflect my “fundamental goodness” or am I swayed by the language of hate and disrespect that pervades many media sources?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Operation Rice Bowl in Albany

Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) is the official Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, and calls Catholics in the United States to reach out in solidarity with the poor around the world through the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, learning, and giving. By participating in these four activities, we come to understand our call to be a part of one global community. This is from the latest ORB e-mail. By coincidence, it involves Albany.
As we enter Holy Week we are reminded of the needs near at hand as we visit a couple in the Diocese of Albany, New York, whose status changed from care givers to the recipients of care in the matter of a few years. In Albany County, which is part of the diocese, 12,205 people have disabilities about 6.5 percent of the population according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of this number, more than half are unemployed though they are of working age, 16 to 65.


Palm Sunday is filled with ironic acts. We walk into church waving palm leaves to enact a moment when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna. Then we tell the story of his torture and execution. We look down the path of Holy Week, knowing that we must walk with Jesus through the agony of Good Friday and wait beside the tomb on Holy Saturday. Yet in the middle of the story, even as Jesus himself anticipates his end, we celebrate with him a victory meal: the last supper of his life, the first of our lives as disciples. Each time you celebrate Eucharist this week, prayerfully call to mind all who still hunger for Easter hope, who long for something new, who daily walk to a cross erected by injustice. As you walk with Christ, walk with them. As you enter the Easter celebration, ask God to empower you to work even more stridently for justice near at hand and far from home


This is our week of fasting, of putting regular tasks and obligations aside to immerse ourselves in Jesus' walk to the cross. We will recount the story of long waiting. We will light candles, experience darkness, wash feet and walk in silence. On Friday, we will go without our Eucharistic celebration. We will be hungry. With busy schedules and family obligations, with Easter responsibilities looming, it can be hard to find the time to attend all the Holy Week liturgies. As part of your fast this week, resist the temptation to fill the time with other things. Spend part of each day in vigil with the suffering Christ and those he came to save.


In 1998, Michael and Gail Chase were caregivers. They owned a day care center and were foster parents. But that changed when an illness caused Michael to lose the use of his legs. Then Gail became disabled under the strain of Michael's care. Suddenly they were among those who must rely on the care of others. They moved to Albany, NY, where there were more services for people with disabilities, and they found care in the form of the St. John's-St. Anne's Center. An outreach of St. John's-St. Anne's Catholic Church, the center provides food, furniture, outreach, referrals, and holiday and summer programs for neighborhoods in Albany's South End. Through the center the Chases received monthly food deliveries and located a wheelchair-accessible home in a safe neighborhood. The center's staff also guided them to a local program that provided part-time work and a college education. Now Michael is working to finish the degree he began in the late1990s and Gail plans to begin a degree program in liberal arts.


For the last six weeks you have been urged to collect money in your cardboard Rice Bowl as a Lenten act of almsgiving. Seventy-five percent of the money collected through this Lenten Program goes to support CRS sponsored hunger programs worldwide. Twenty-five percent will stay in your diocese to fight hunger there. During Holy Week consider dropping a dollar a day into your Rice Bowl.

You can learn more here.

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"Totally immoral"

Catholic News Service reports on an Archbishop who calls U.S. policy on Haitian migrants 'totally immoral.'
Calling U.S. immigration policy toward Haitians "totally immoral," Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami has urged "the powers that be" to grant temporary protected status to all Haitian migrants until the political and economic situation in their island nation stabilizes.

He also pleaded for the immediate release from detention of 101 Haitians -- including 13 children -- whose homemade sailboat washed up on Hallandale Beach March 28. One man died during the trip, which the migrants said took 22 days at sea, the last 12 without food or water. A U.S. Coast Guard official estimated the trip took about 12 days.

The migrants, some of them suffering from dehydration, are being held by the U.S. Border Patrol at several detention centers in south Florida.

Refugee advocates and immigration attorneys fear they will be moved elsewhere, far from relatives and a network of attorneys who could help them with their asylum claims.

"The church stands ready to make sure that these people have a place to go and people to take care of them while they make their claim," Archbishop Favalora said during a press conference at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center March 30.

The entire article is here.

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