Peace & Justice

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Make the Poor a Priority

From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops urged Congress to make poor families and vulnerable workers central priorities as Congress adopts an economic recovery legislation. Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), made the call in a January 28 letter to both houses of Congress.

"Low-income families and individuals are experiencing the greatest hardship and have the least capacity to cope in this time of economic crisis," Bishop Murphy said in the letter, adding that these people are also more likely "to use these new resources quickly to purchase the essentials of life and to help move our economy forward."

Citing the need to avoid partisan or ideological agendas and to focus on the needs of the poor, Bishop Murphy offered the bishops' support for aspects of the proposed recovery legislation. These include increasing funds for nutrition assistance through food stamps and other programs, protecting low-income families from losing Medicaid and social service assistance, and extending Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. He also urged the House to reject measures regarding contraception and immigration as unnecessary and inconsistent with the purposes of the recovery legislation.

Bishop Murphy echoed Pope Benedict XVI's call to bolster the economy by focusing on the dignity of the human person, adding, "This is a time to pursue the common good, beginning with help for the families and communities most hurt by this crisis."

FULL TEXT of the Senate version of the letter is here.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The "SOA 6"

"SOA 6" Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the SOA/ WHINSEC

On January 26, six human rights advocates appeared in a federal courthouse in Georgia. The "SOA 6," ranging in age from 21 to 68, were found "guilty" of carrying the protest against the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning military base. The six were among the thousands who gathered on November 22 and 23, 2008 outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to demand a change in U.S. policy towards Latin America and the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC.

The "SOA 6" spoke out clearly and powerful in court today. They made a compelling case for the closure of the school and creation of a culture of justice and peace, where there is no place for the SOA mindset that promotes military "solutions" to social and economic problems. The six spent the weekend preparing for their trials with a team of lawyers, legal workers and volunteers, and today they stood up for all of us working for a more just world.

The "SOA 6":
Father Luis Barrios, 56, from North Bergen, NJ, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
Theresa Cusimano, 40, Denver, Colorado, found guilty and awaiting sentencing
Kristin Holm, from Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU, 63, from Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
Al Simmons, 64, from Richmond, Virginia, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
Louis Wolf, 68, from Washington, DC, found guilty and awaiting sentencing

To support & learn more about the SOA 6 or how, for several of them, their faith informs their search for peace and justice in our world, visit

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bishops Welcome Obama Executive Order Banning Torture

The Office of Media Relations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement on President Obama’s executive order banning torture. Look who’s talking.
WASHINGTON—An executive order banning torture signed by President Barack Obama was welcomed by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

"Based upon the teachings of the Catholic Church, our Conference of Bishops welcomes the executive order," Bishop Hubbard said. "Together with other religious leaders, we had pressed for this step to protect human dignity and help restore the moral and legal standing of the United States in the world."

He added: "A ban on torture says much about us – who we are, what we believe about human life and dignity, and how we act as a nation."

In their November 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. bishops declared that "direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified" (No. 23). The bishops asserted: "The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism" (No. 81).

In September 2007 Pope Benedict XVI, echoing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, said "[T]he prohibition against torture 'cannot be contravened under any circumstance.'"

Rural & Migrant Ministry

On February 10th, Rural & Migrant Ministry joins others in calling on the Governor, the State Legislature, and State Agencies for action on critical immigrant community issues, including passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would put an end to the shameful exclusion of farmworkers from basic labor rights and protections.


10:30-11:30 Breakfast and Registration
12:00-1:00 March and Rally
1:00 - 2:00 Lunch (on your own)
1:00 - 4:00 Legislative Meetings
2:00 - 3:30 Afternoon Plenary/Cultural Program

For more information, contact Jordan Wells at

Monday, January 26, 2009

Foster care for refugees

Open Your Heart and Your Home to Youth
Who are a Long Way Way from Home

Community Maternity Services, an agency of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, NY, is currently seeking families who will partner with the agency to provide specialized foster homes and case management services for unaccompanied refugee minors up to age 21.

Foster Parent Requirements:
All foster parents must attend Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training (10 weeks) and eligibility screening. In addition to MAPP, foster parents are given training/information on cultural issues specific to the youth being placed in their home.

For more information, please call us at (518) 482-8836, ask for Foster Care Services

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Public Policy Day -- Details

The New York State Catholic Conference sends the following announcement:
Come to the 2009 Public Policy Day March 10!

Make plans now to join with Edward Cardinal Egan and the Bishops of New York State, as well as hundreds of other Catholic New Yorkers, at the state Capitol in Albany for the annual New York State Catholic Conference Public Policy Forum to be held on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

Sign-up online to attend this important Catholic lobby day by going here. (If the link does not work, visit and click the "Public Policy Day" icon to sign up). Training materials will be posted to this same page so please bookmark it and check back often!

Once you register, your name will be forwarded to your local diocese, with whom you will coordinate training and travel. Most dioceses will sponsor buses from various points. There is no cost to attend. You will receive a confirmation e-mail immediately after registering with important contact information for your local coordinator.

Issues for the day are expected to include:

* Oppose the radical state abortion bill known as the "Reproductive Health Act"
* Ensure accessibility to Catholic schools and equity for all school children
* Support health care reform, including expansion of insurance, maintenance of the safety net and investment in the infrastructure
* Maintain supports, particularly affordable housing, to enable low-income families to live in dignity
* Oppose same-sex 'marriage' or 'civil unions'
* Support measures to protect our land, water and air

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m.. Participants will meet with their legislators and hand out materials outside of the Senate and Assembly chambers. A keynote address is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Mass with the Bishops is at 11:45 a.m. Lunch will be provided.

We hope to see you at the 2009 Public Policy Forum on March 10. Remember, sign up here today or go to

Video Reflections

The good people at Paulist Press send along the following:
The Catholic Communication Campaign of the Bishops presents a video reflection on the day's scripture. Visitors to the website can read or listen to the daily readings from the New American Bible.

The Catholic Communication Campaign is an activity of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that develops media programming, projects and resources that promote Gospel values.
The link is here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Public Policy Forum

New York State Public Policy Forum

Save the date: This year's New York State Public Policy Forum will be held at the Empire State Convention Center in Albany on Tuesday, March 10. Watch for more information.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Public Policy Sub-committee in the Diocese of Rochester.

For bulletins on February 1, 2009

Adults may think the fear of nuclear war is past. However, researchers have found that 45% to 50% of youth in America aged 10 to 19 are afraid of the negative impact of nuclear war on their lives. For those who fear they have no future, nuclear war is their second greatest fear.

Our readings today present Jesus as the Prophet of whom Moses foretold. Jesus spoke with authority and revealed a God of love in whose image we are created. As we embrace this self-image, let the statistics sink in and reflect on how we can share in Jesus’ prophetic ministry. How can I gently discover what fears my children have and relieve them with words of peace and hope? How can I show my respect for the dignity of others and myself? What do I hope to convey by my words and actions today?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Centering Prayer

Bruce Gardiner, a member of the Commission on Peace and Justice, also is the local contact person for Contemplative Outreach in the Albany and upper Hudson Valley area. He will present a Centering Prayer Morning Retreat on Saturday, January 17, from 9 a.m. to noon at The Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, 959 Madison Avenue in Albany.

Newcomers and oldcomers, join us this Saturday. We begin a series of videos by Fr. Thomas Keating on the spiritual journey as exemplified and interpreted St, Anthony of the Dessert, St, John of the Cross, Br. Bernie, a Trappist Monk.

The Four Consents

The series begins with “The Four Consents” which occur in the process of life:

1. Consenting to the basic goodness of our being in all its parts

2. Consenting to our capacity for action

3. Consenting to our non-being—old age, sickness and death

4. Consenting to the death of the false self and to be transformed:

Schedule for the Day

8:45 Arrival

9:00 Opening Praying and First Centering Prayer Period
(Overview of Centering Prayer for newcomers)

9:30 Centering Prayer – Second Period

10;00 Break

10:15 Video and Discussion:
The Four Consents by Fr. Thomas Keating

11:30 Centering Prayer – Third Period

12:00 Adjourn


Monday, January 12, 2009

Restorative Justice Luncheon

The Diocesan Restorative Justice Commission is sponsoring a presentation on Victim-Offender dialogues at noon on Tuesday, January 13, at 40 N. Main Ave. in Conference Room 1.

Three crime victims will speak on their efforts to reconcile with offenders who harmed them. Marie Verzulli and Marguerite Marsh will discuss their meeting at Attica with a serial killer who murdered their sister/daughter Cathy. Susan Spang will discuss her meeting in prison with a young man who robbed her at knife point in Albany. David Kaczynski will give a brief introduction to restorative justice principles

This is the kick-off event for the Restorative Justice Commission's new series of educational presentations on Restorative Justice practices.

Please bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vatican News Service Criticizes U.S. Immigration Enforcement

You might find this interesting:

Vatican News Service Criticizes U.S. Immigration Enforcement, Commends U.S. Bishops

A report prepared for the Holy See Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has slammed recent U.S. immigration laws which have made even minor crimes like shoplifting a reason for deportation, splitting families.

"For many years," Fides news agency said, "the Catholic Bishops of America have strenuously fought for migrants and against systems of repression, (and have been) actively involved in promoting immigration reforms which encourage legality and respect for human rights."

The news service, which is run by the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, issued the dossier "The Question of Immigration in the United States of America" in late November.

Fides criticized the failure of immigration laws passed in recent years, such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which toughened border security and made even minor crimes, like shoplifting, a reason for deportation. The law has for many years been the target of criticism by pro-immigrant advocates, who blame it for causing the separation of many immigrant families.
The entire story is available here.

National Migration Week -- Part Two

This atmosphere of welcoming is increasingly necessary in confronting today’s diverse forms of distancing ourselves from others. This is profoundly evidenced in the problem of millions of refugees and exiles, in the phenomenon of racial intolerance as well as intolerance toward the person whose only “fault” is a search for work and better living conditions outside his own country, and in the fear of all who are different and thus seen as a threat.

—John Paul II, “Welcoming the Poor: Reigniting Hope,”

Monday, January 05, 2009

National Migration Week

National Migration Week, January 4-10, 2009

With all the other problems our nation faces, many are forgetting the plight of the immigrant who continues to suffer from the failure to reform our immigration system. National Immigration Week has been set aside by our United States Bishops as an opportunity for Catholics to reflect more deeply on the issues prompting global e/immigration. Issues such as war, poverty, climate change, starvation and life in refugee camps are forcing people to move wherever more life, with dignity, is to be found.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other organizations have signed onto a new Interfaith Immigration Platform. You can view the document here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

World Day of Peace

January 1 is the World Day of Peace. The Holy Father’s message for this day focuses on the call to promote human dignity by fight poverty around the world.

Quotes from the Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for
the Celebration of the World Day of Peace
“Fighting Poverty To Build Peace”
January 1, 2009

Poverty contributes to conflict.
“Back in 1993, my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II, in his Message for the World Day of Peace that year, drew attention to the negative repercussions for peace when entire populations live in poverty. Poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones. In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty. “Our world”, he wrote, “shows increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace: many individuals and indeed whole peoples are living today in conditions of extreme poverty” (no. 1).

Poverty is a threat to human dignity.
“The gap between rich and poor has become more marked, even in the most economically developed nations. This is a problem which the conscience of humanity cannot ignore, since the conditions in which a great number of people are living are an insult to their innate dignity and as a result are a threat to the authentic and harmonious progress of the world community” (no. 1).

Wealthy societies suffer from moral and spiritual poverty.
“Non-material forms of poverty exist which are not the direct and automatic consequence of material deprivation. For example, in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty, seen in people whose interior lives are disoriented and who experience various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity. On the one hand, I have in mind what is known as “moral underdevelopment”, and on the other hand the negative consequences of ‘superdevelopment’” (no. 2).

You can read more here.