Peace & Justice

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Economic Stimulus Package

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued an action alert on the economic stimulus package now in Congress:

The USCCB has contacted Congressional leadership and members of the Administration about the proposed economic stimulus package urging that low-income people be included. Reports indicate that leaders of Congress and the Administration have reached an agreement. We are pleased that low-income people appear to be included in the package through a rebate. However, there is more to do as the final steps are taken on this package. Key goals would be to strengthen the food stamp, unemployment insurance, and low income energy assistance (LIHEAP) programs.


- keep in the stimulus package the rebates that will help low-income families (who don’t pay income taxes but pay other taxes, e.g., social security);

- add to the stimulus package increases in unemployment insurance, food stamps, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)


A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. In a society marred by deepening disparities between rich and poor, Scripture gives us the story of the Last Judgment (see Mt 25:31-46) and reminds us that we will be judged by our response to the “least among us.”
The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 50.


Providing help to low-income families makes practical good sense because these families will most likely use this money short term within the economy. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke told the House Budget Committee, “There is good evidence that cash that goes to low and moderate income people is more likely to be spent in the near term.” Others, including the January 15, 2008, “Options for Responding to Short-term Economic Weakness,” along with analysts and economists from the Department of Labor and the CBO, report that strengthening unemployment insurance, food stamps and LIHEAP can be effective means for stimulating the economy in a timely and efficient manner.

Bishop William Murphy, S.T.D., Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry J. Paulson, Jr. explaining the Church’s position in greater detail. That letter is available here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eating Dirt in Haiti [Updated]

How bad is life for the poor in Haiti? The Associated Press reports:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

The rest of the story is here.

[UPDATE: Fonkoze - Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor - is the largest micro-finance institution offering a full range of financial services to the rural-based poor in Haiti. Fonkoze is a Haitian Creole acronym for Fondasyon Kole Zepòl, which means, "The Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation". The word itself conveys the meaning, "in the midst of sharing". Fonkoze's mission is to build the economic foundations for democracy in Haiti. To learn more, or to send help, go here.]

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Reflection for Today

Both charity and justice are required by our faith. As citizens in the most powerful democracy on earth, we have unique opportunities to use our voices and votes to shape a more caring community, a more just nation, and a more peaceful world.

-U.S. Catholic Bishops, A Place at the Table

Sunday, January 20, 2008

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 Diocese of Rochester. It links the Sunday readings to Catholic social teaching. Many parishes publish them as space allows.

For Sunday Bulletins on February 3
Jesus’ teaching turns the “wisdom of the world” upside down! Today’s Gospel reminds us that those who show mercy are blest and will receive mercy ~ peacemakers shall be called sons and daughters of God ~ the lowly will inherit the earth. This stands in stark contrast to the world’s use of torture, the resort to violence and war to settle conflict, and power used for other than good. In their recently released pastoral statement, Faithful Citizenship, our U.S. Catholic Bishops teach, “The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith, a part of the mission given us by Jesus Christ.”

Reflection: How might I/we encourage presidential candidates to integrate the qualities of mercy, peace, and care for the poor/vulnerable into their campaigns?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who is listening?

The January 18 issue of Commonweal contains a brief article by Rita Ferrone, who has written several books about the liturgy. It has the interesting subtitle When Islamic Moderates Speak, Who Listens? Here is a brief excerpt:

On October 13, 2007, a group of 138 Muslim scholars, religious leaders, and intellectuals published an open letter to all Christian churches, denominations, and individuals. Under the title “A Common Word between Us and You,” it is a lengthy, thoughtful reflection-based on the sacred texts of the Qur’an and the Bible-on the common ground that exists between Muslims and Christians. The goal of the writers was to support dialogue and work for peace at every level. The statement truly speaks with a “moderate voice” that is no less Muslim for being moderate.
. . .
The signatories are drawn from more than forty-two countries, representing a wide diversity of Islamic thought, practice, spirituality, and schools of jurisprudence. Addressed to the pope, leaders of Eastern Christian churches, Anglicans, Protestants, and all Christian leaders, the statement is arguably the boldest Muslim peace initiative ever undertaken. Professor David Ford, director of the Interfaith Program at Cambridge University, has called the effort “unprecedented” and “an astonishing achievement of solidarity.”

The statement is religious in nature. The Prophet Muhammad, in the Qur’an, calls Muslims to “come to a common word” with other “people of the Scriptures” (that is, Christians and Jews). Thus, within the Muslim context, the statement emerges as an act of obedience to Islamic religious imperatives, not merely a political or ideological response to Christians and Jews, or to the West.

The “common word,” as the authors have discerned it, is found in the divine command to love God and to love one’s neighbor, imperatives found in the Qur’an, the Book of Deuteronomy, and the New Testament. Because of the centrality of these commandments to Christians and Muslims alike, the statement carries great weight and urgency. As the authors point out, obedience to God’s commands is a matter on which rest not only our earthly prospects for peace, but also the eternal fate of human souls. The statement concludes with an affirmation from the Qur’an that God made the world in such a way that there is a variety of religious communities, and that those communities should “vie with one another in good works.”

The full article is here. We ask that you read it and share it with others.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Franciscan Resource Book

In 1999 the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the Order of Friars Minor made available a resource book to help Franciscans become more conscious of the fact that the Franciscan commitment to JPIC is an integral part of Franciscan Spirituality. The book has articles on Franciscan Spirituality, on the Franciscan option for the poor, on encouragement for prayer and mediation, on dialogue in common about values and bases of the Franciscan vocation, on incarnated action in concrete situations in the light of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. The book is available on-line


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Interfaith Power and Light

In response to global warming, Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) promotes stewardship of the earth by faith communities through energy conservation and efficiency and through the use of renewable energy. Every congregation or faith-based organization in New York State is welcome to join this interfaith effort, whose latest e-mail tells us:
This promises to be a critical year in the fight against global warming. Thus, we will be working hard to amplify the green interfaith voice in the media and in Congress. To do this, we are forming a special list of IPL activists who would like to receive updates and become rapid responders in contacting their legislators several times this year about getting Congress's priorities right!

Click here to join the online IPL Activist Team (it takes less than a minute).

Monday, January 07, 2008

World Day of Peace

If you have not already read the message Pope Benedict XVI prepared for the celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, the text is available here. Here is an excerpt:
14. Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person. Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons. The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry. In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Building Peace with Justice

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

For Sunday Bulletins on January 13
As the United States faces a seemingly intractable war, an economy in crisis, an imperiled environment, as well as tinderbox situations throughout the world, we crave people who can lead us from this darkness into light.

Today's readings remind us that Jesus came as a light for all nations, proclaiming peace and bringing justice. Just as Jesus submitted to God's will, through our own baptism we have each been called to be light and to use our gifts passionately for the well-being of all. As Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

Reflection: Do I use my gifts in ways that make me a sign of hope to the world?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Predictions (link fixed)

One of our favorite blogs is dotCommonweal, by the editors and contributors to this excellent magazine. At the link here, Peter Steinfels predicts some of the big religion stories of 2008:
January: Retooling his successful Iowa campaign for New Hampshire, former Baptist pastor Michael Huckabee expresses previously unnoticed interest in becoming a Congregationalist. Congregationalist Barack Obama, looking toward a tight race with Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, begins referring to his “inner Baptist.”

February: Controversy swirls around the choice of Ann Coulter as chief speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast. Organizers of the officially nonpartisan event insist they never anticipated her prayer that Democrats be saved from the fire of hell. ”But I only spoke in the spirit of Christian charity,” she says.

March: Two weeks before Easter, CNN broadcasts a special report on a newly unearthed “Gospel of Joseph” revealing that Jesus was a troublesome teenager. Princeton University expert on early Christianity, Elaine Pagels, hails the document for making Jesus appear more human. Other scholars complain that the ancient manuscript appears to be written with a ball-point pen.

April: Pope Benedict XVI, during a brief visit to the United States, stuns reporters and commentators by indicating that he still believes in God, considers Catholic teachings to be true and opposes abortion and same-sex marriages. Consistent with four decades of findings, fresh polls of American Catholics confirm that they still revere the Pope but disagree with him about contraception, ordaining women and other issues. The newsweeklies detect a “deep divide” and “growing rift” between Rome and the American faithful.

The other months of the year provide even more insight.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

A prayer for peace

Blessed John XXIII

Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, "Peace to you," grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples of the earth becomes as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Public Policy Day

Save the date!

The 2008 New York State Catholic Conference Public Policy Day will be held on Tuesday, March 11, at the state Capitol complex in Albany.

Join your bishops and hundreds of Catholics from every diocese across the state to advocate on important issues, like abortion, education tax credits, support for the poor and vulnerable and the preservation of traditional marriage.

Watch for more news.

St. Basil the Great

This is the feast day of St. Basil the Great, a Doctor of the Church, who taught:
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Building Peace with Justice

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

For Sunday Bulletins on January 6

The Magi in today's Gospel reading for Epiphany "come from the east"- presumably from lands where Islam was to arise six centuries later. Did the Magi bring the memory of their encounter with Christ back with them and share it with others? Did this memory over the course of time play a role in the great respect the Qur'an shows for Jesus as son of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit - not as the Son of God but as one of the greatest of prophets, able to cure the sick and raise the dead?

Reflection: Can we allow the Epiphany of Jesus to the world to have a different meaning for Muslims than it does for us? Jesus, in both of our religions, calls us to worship God and God alone and to love the neighbor. Can such common understanding support a common effort to build world peace?

National Migration Week

Bishop John C. Wester, Chair of the Committee on Migration for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, writes about National Migration Week, January 6 - 12, 2008:
I am honored that one of my first responsibilities as the new chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration is to join you in celebrating the 27th annual National Migration Week observance. This year's theme, From Many, One Family of God, reminds us that though we come from many cultures and places, we are all part of one human family and members of the one Body of Christ. Sadly, rather than embracing newcomers to our land whose circumstances have compelled them to seek new lives among us, we too often respond in fear and harbor attitudes of resentment and suspicion.
. . .
When we set aside our concerns and share our resources, God's blessings extend to all of us. United as one family of God, let us commit ourselves during this year's observance of National Migration Week to work together to create a truly welcoming community for migrants and strive to achieve justice for them at all levels of our American society. Then they can take their proper place alongside us at the Lord's banquet that He has prepared for all of His family.

Many resources, including bulletin inserts, posters, and prayers are available here. What will your parish be doing?