Peace & Justice

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

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Franciscan Blessing

May God Bless You with discomfort: at easy answers, at half-truths, and superficial relationships-so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God Bless You with anger: at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God Bless You with tears to shed: for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And May God Bless You with enough foolishness to believe thay you can make a difference in this workd, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Work of Human Hands

Work of Human Hands, fair-trade sale of goods from developing nations, will be held after weekend Masses at St. Catherine of Siena, St, Teresa of Avila and St. James parishes in Albany. This is a program of Catholic Relief Services and the diocesan Commission on Peace and Justice. The sales offer you the chance to buy high quality, fairly traded handcrafts and gourmet food items from disadvantaged producers all over the world. This program is a popular and easy way for you to act in solidarity with Fair Trade producers around the world.

Call 453-6695 for more information. To learn more on-line, go here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Faithful Citizenship

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this overwhelmingly approved a statement called Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. The statement, approved at the bishops’ general meeting in Baltimore, November 12-15, urges Catholics to be involved in public life and to use the values of their faith to shape their political choice. The following is from the news release announcing the statement:
“In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote,” the bishops explain. “Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth. We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.”

The church’s role in helping Catholics to form their consciences is a central theme of the document. “With this foundation,” the bishops explain, “Catholics are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and action in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world.”

The bishops affirm their legitimate role in public life. “The obligation to teach about moral values that should shape our lives, including our public lives, is central to [our] mission,” they state. “Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life.”

Respect for the dignity of every human being is a foundation for Catholic teaching about “faithful citizenship.” The statement explains the necessity of opposing actions that are intrinsically wrong, such as abortion and euthanasia, because these actions involve directly and intentionally ending an innocent human life. It also affirms the obligation to promote the common good by combating such threats to human life and dignity as hunger, poverty, racism, unjust immigration policies, and unjust war. “Both opposing evil and doing good are essential obligations.”

The bishops warn of two temptations for Catholics in public life. “The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life…is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” A second temptation involves “dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, torture, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or lack health care, or unjust immigration policies are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.”

The bishops call Catholics to a different kind of political engagement shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.” They add, “Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will.”

The bishops also acknowledge the challenges faced by Catholic voters. “Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the Church’s comprehensive commitment to the dignity of the human person.” They add, “As Catholics we are not single issues voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

Despite these challenges, the statement urges Catholics “to become more involved: running for office, working within political parties, and communicating concerns to elected officials.” It suggests that Catholics should be “guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group.” As they prepare for the elections, the statement says “Catholic voters should use Catholic teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues and should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy, and performance.”

According to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop of Brooklyn who led a broad consultation process to develop the new statement, an extensive effort will be undertaken to distribute the statement as well as a bulletin insert summarizing the statement that was also approved by the bishops. Also planned are a DVD on Faithful Citizenship” and a Web site offering resources for parishes, schools, religious education programs, youth groups, young adult groups, and many others. “But the most important next step will be what we bishops do to teach and lead our people in our dioceses,” DiMarzio stated.

The Faithful Citizenship statement concludes with a “call for a renewed kind of politics:

o Focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls;

o Focused more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong;

o Focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests.

“This kind of political participation,” the bishops claim, “reflects the social teaching of our Church and the best traditions of our nation.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kentucky student wins social justice award

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports that David Golemboski, 22, a student leader in the social justice community of Louisville, Kentucky, is the 2007 recipient of the annual Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. The award honors Catholics ages 18-30, who demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It was established in 1998 by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a national program of the USCCB.

CCHD Interim Executive Director John Carr praised the choice.

“David has used his considerable gifts to bring diverse communities together in Louisville. His ability to express his Catholic faith through leadership and action inspires us at CCHD and I congratulate David and his supportive family as he receives the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award,” Carr said.

Golemboski is in his first year at Harvard Divinity School, pursuing a master’s degree in religion, ethics and politics and is a Thomas Merton scholar. In his last two years as an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, he was the associate director of CrossRoads Ministry, a group he had earlier served as a volunteer. CrossRoads is an inner-city retreat center that engages high school and college-aged youths in peacemaking through urban experiences.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is one of the nation’s largest supporters of self-help, community-based programs initiated and led by the poor. Funded by an annual collection in Catholic parishes across the country, CCHD has distributed more than $300 million to more than 7,800 self-help projects over its 37 years. This year, CCHD announced more than $9.5 million in grants to support 314 local projects, selected without regard to religious affiliation, in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More information about CCHD is here.

To learn more about the social justice award, go here.

Driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

Following is a statement from Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, regarding Governor Spitzer’s plan to allow undocumented immigrants to access to New York State driver’s licenses:
“For the past several years, the Catholic Church has been involved in the area of comprehensive reform of our national immigration policies. In his executive action regarding identification requirements for state driver’s licenses, Governor Spitzer has addressed a problem that is in actuality a symptom of a larger problem that should be resolved ultimately by the federal government. Clearly, a balance must be struck between important homeland security concerns and certain economic realities. But the federal government has not instituted a comprehensive immigration policy; therefore these issues end up being addressed piecemeal by state and local governments. Given that reality, we believe that Governor Spitzer’s action was appropriate.

“While this matter is partially one of economic justice for the immigrants themselves, the state also has an economic interest at play. In certain sections of our state, we see labor market shortages, which are being filled by this population. In order to fill these positions, which are of critical importance to our state’s economic well being, the immigrant community needs valid licenses in order to get to the jobs.

“While the Church’s role is to speak to issues of human dignity and economic justice, the government’s role is to balance all of these needs, including the legitimate security issues that have been raised by others. We leave it to the Governor and other state officials to resolve these matters as they deem necessary to protect our citizenry, to ensure economic justice, and to meet the labor needs of business and industry.”

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Building Peace with Justice

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

For Sunday Bulletins on November 18
As the church year comes to an end, the readings bring end-time visions meant to awaken us from our complacency and remind us of our dependence on God. In his book, The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs tells us that every day 20,000 people die from extreme poverty “in hospital wards that lack drugs, in villages that lack anti-malarial bed nets, in houses that lack safe drinking water.” Sachs believes that extreme poverty could end by the year 2025 if people in the developed nations choose to make it a priority.

Pope Benedict XVI recently preached, “Love is the essence of Christianity, which makes the believer and the Christian community a leaven of hope and peace -- especially attentive to the needs of the poor and needy.” He goes on to say that it is necessary “to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action, and the logic of sharing and solidarity. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and solidarity, and ultimately, between God and Satan.”

Reflection: How will you commit to being a leaven of hope and peace for our world’s poor?

For Sunday Bulletins on November 25
The pressure to go along with the crowd can be intense and can tempt us to act contrary to the way of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, we hear how the crowd followed their leaders to jeer and mock Jesus as he hung in crucifixion. “In all of his suffering, as in all his life and ministry, Jesus refused to defend himself with force or violence. Most characteristic of Jesus’ actions are those in which he shows his love” (The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 1983).

Reflection: How difficult is it today to stand out from the crowd to follow the way of Jesus? How does our faith community strengthen us to show our love and reject violence?