Peace & Justice

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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Building Faithful Citizenship

Building Faithful Citizenship is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."

For Sunday Bulletins on April 13
“I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10) At the heart of the message on this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus promotes a fuller life for all people. Our challenge is to hear Christ’s voice and follow it in order to embrace that life.

In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” The US Bishops remind us that this goal of abundant life is very similar to a founding principle of our country: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (#2) When we follow our conscience and work to be citizens of faith, we are obligated to be people who promote an abundant life for all God’s people.

Reflection: What does an “abundant life” look like? Is it something other than material wealth? What blocks our society from promoting a fuller life for all? What can I do now to promote this fuller life for all?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Remembering Romero

On the anniversary of the martyrdom of the great prophet of the Americas, Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered by an assassin's bullet on March 24, 1980, let us ponder his words as he calls our churches to conversion, repentance and prophecy:
"A PREACHING THAT DOES NOT POINT OUT SIN is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call. A preaching that does not discomfit sinners but lulls them in their sin leaves Zebulun and Naphtali in the shadow of death"—(Jan. 22, 1978).

"TO TRY TO PREACH without referring to the history one preaches in is not to preach the gospel. Many would like a preaching so spiritualistic that it leaves sinners unbothered and does not term idolaters those who kneel before money and power. A preaching that says nothing of the sinful environment in which the gospel is reflected upon is not the gospel"—(Feb. 18, 1979).

You can learn more here.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Building Faithful Citizenship

Building Faithful Citizenship is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

For Sunday Bulletins on April 6

Today's readings make clear that the days following Jesus' death were troubling for his disciples. They had believed that Jesus would lead a revolution to overthrow Rome and free Jerusalem. Instead, it seemed as if those in power had won.

When Jesus broke bread with them, their hearts filled with insight. They returned to Jerusalem with a new understanding of God's redemptive love, compassion and justice.

Bringing that understanding to public life requires us to be guided by moral convictions, rather than attachment to political goals or interests. The US bishops tell us that our actions in the public sphere should be, "focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable." (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship)

Reflection: How are you called to work for a just society?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Poverty in the Diocese of Albany

The following is a brief interview by a member of the Commission on Peace and Justice with Sr. Marianne Comfort, Public Policy Analyst at Catholic Charities of Albany and principal author of the recent paper “Poverty in the Diocese of Albany”. The Poverty Paper can be viewed here.

Can you briefly describe to us the impetus behind the Poverty Paper? Why it’s an important document and resource for anyone living in the Diocese of Albany?

There are actually two reasons behind the Poverty Paper 1) the 2005 Diocesan report on poverty was important and we wanted to update the data and 2) Catholic Charities USA came out with “Poverty in the USA” at the end of 2006 so we wanted a local response regarding how poverty looks in our diocese to accompany their campaign. We see this not only as a document but as a resource for public policy and as part of a larger CCUSA campaign to reduce poverty. The Poverty Paper shows what poverty looks like here in the Diocese and also some policy principles that could be implemented to ease that poverty.

What were some of the findings in your research that might be surprising to readers?

I think something that is shocking and that we should all be aware of is childhood poverty. Childhood poverty is more substantial than overall. Most shockingly is that in the city of Albany 41.6% of children live in poverty. That is incredibly distressing. For me personally, being a city person, the poverty in rural areas counties is also very disturbing. For example, in places like Delaware and Otsego it can cost up $60 in cab fare for a low-income family just to access things like medical services or a grocery store. We need to pay attention to fuel needs. Catholic Charities agencies are reporting increasing requests for gas and home heating bills.

Are you familiar with “the Davos Question”? The Davos Question was an initiative between the World Economic Forum, held in January in Davos, Switzerland, and YouTube and it asked the public to upload videos responding to the following question: “What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?” I’m wondering, based on the research done for this paper, what one thing do you think that public officials, companies or individuals must do to make the 14 counties of the Diocese of Albany a better place in 2008?

Personally I believe in the power of volunteerism & involvement. Mobilizing businesses, churches and individuals, and people getting involved on different levels, is so important. We talked about education being key to lifting people out of poverty. I think tutoring and mentoring are important there: mentoring in schools, tutoring children whose own parents can’t help them academically, mentoring adults, ESL classes. Even just providing children the opportunity to see beyond the realm of their own backyards, like bringing them to a college or a professional workplace, can give them a glimpse of what they can aspire to and help address the gap between people of means and those in poverty.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Explaining "Faithful Citizenship"

Last month, John L. Allen Jr. of National Catholic Reporter wrote about a conversation with Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta before he addressed the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, offering a “send-off” to participants heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress.

The archbishop, a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that it was not the intent of the U.S. bishops in their recent “Faithful Citizenship” document to suggest that Catholics who vote for a pro-choice candidate are automatically placing their salvation in jeopardy. Here is a portion of the article:
Issued last November, "Faithful Citizenship" has been the object of a flurry of competing interpretations in recent days, as it has seemingly become clear that once again Americans will be faced with a choice at the presidential level between a pro-life Republican and a pro-choice Democrat.

In a Feb. 23 op/ed piece in the Washington Post, former [National Catholic Reporter] Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd summarized the message of “Faithful Citizenship” this way: “Tap the touch screen for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, and you’re probably punching your ticket to Hell.”

Gregory, however, said that’s not what “Faithful Citizenship” teaches.

“Defending the right to life is obviously a primary concern,” Gregory said. “It’s the point of departure for everything else.”

Nonetheless, Gregory said, it is “at least possible” that a Catholic who carefully weighs the issues could decide that, on balance, a candidate who is not explicitly pro-life is preferable to one who opposes the legalization of abortion but who does not share Catholic positions on other matters of moral importance. Gregory was speaking in the abstract, without reference to any specific candidate.

In that sense, Gregory said, “Faithful Citizenship” cannot be reduced to an absolute obligation to vote for a pro-life candidate, regardless of his or her stances on anything else.

“It’s a complicated document,” Gregory said. “It suggests that people have to think hard about their choices.”

The entire article is available here.