Peace & Justice

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. Here are two reflections for October.

October 11
In our gospel reading today, the disciples are astonished that the rich man’s successful personal life and good behavior are not enough to grant him eternal life. Jesus loves the rich man but reminds him and the disciples that eternal life is granted by God alone.

Reflection: Catholic social teaching reminds us that our basic human dignity is derived from our status as sons and daughters of God, created in God’s image. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as our own church leaders, consider health care to be a basic human right, not a benefit given only to people who have achieved worldly success or fit other narrow criteria. Are we willing to work towards more universal healthcare coverage even if it means some sacrifice on our part? Or, like the rich man, are we afraid of what we might have to give up?

October 18

Jesus reminds us through Mark’s Gospel that “whoever wants to be great will be the servant of all.” In today’s world we are reminded often of the wide disparity between the rich and the poor. In his New Years 2009 Address, Fighting Poverty to Build Peace, Pope Benedict XVI states that “every form of externally imposed poverty has at its root a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person.”

Action: Get to know the poor in your midst. What are their needs? What are their names? Pray for them. Look for ways to serve those in need around you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Illegal immigrants and health care

One of the issues bubbling to the surface in the health care debate is the question of providing care for illegal aliens. A group of religious conservatives who gathered at the annual Values Voter Summit this month believes that the issue of illegal immigration is the more important issue. As reported by Kevin Eckstrom at Religion News Service:

WASHINGTON -- Health care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered here for the annual Values Voter Summit over the weekend, the subject was barely on their radar screen.

"To me, there are so many more important issues than health care right now," said John Leaman, a retired yacht builder from Lancaster, Pa. Added his wife Linda, a waitress: "I don't think it's as urgent as Obama's making it out to be." The real problem, she said, is illegal immigrants "cluttering up our emergency rooms."

Indeed, among the dozen issues that attendees cited in casting their votes in a straw poll for possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, health care never made the list. The top three issues were abortion, protecting religious liberty and opposing same-sex marriage.

The entire story is here.

Meanwhile, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, believes health reform should include all immigrants, legal or not. As reported by Chaz Muth of Catholic News Service:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Though Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., concedes there's no political will in Washington to include illegal immigrants in health care reform, he believes it's the country's moral obligation to ensure that everyone in the nation receives proper medical care.

That includes those who enter the country illegally, he told Catholic News Service in mid-September.

"I agree that there is a special problem with those who have entered here without the permission of the United States, and that has to be looked at," said Bishop Murphy, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. "But that's a problem unto itself."

Most U.S. Catholic bishops who have spoken publicly about health care reform have expressed the opinion that one of the richest countries in the world should find a way to guarantee that everyone within its borders has access to medical care, from conception to natural death.

The rest of that article is here.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Is Socialism in 2009?

The New York Times has a blog, Room for Debate, in which they pose that question to numerous individuals and post the responses, including from the progressive magazine The Nation and the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It makes for interesting reading here.
It seems that whatever President Obama talks about — whether it’s overhauling health care, or regulating Wall Street, or telling schoolchildren to study hard — his opponents have called him a socialist. “Socialism” was an epithet on many placards at protests in Washington over the weekend. What does the word mean today, nearly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? What role has the label played in American political history?

This is an interesting read.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Love, Respect and Justice for All

What does it mean to be an American Catholic in the 21st century? The answer might be found in the 637-page United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. But what if you lack the time to read it? Not to worry. The good Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.Org offer a series of pamphlets that serve as a companion to the catechism. Here is an excerpt from Love, Respect and Justice for All:
Most sins are rooted not in generosity but in selfishness—a concern about my wants over another’s needs, a focus on my will over God’s. Emphasis on getting and having is rampant in our culture. “The one with the most toys wins” is the way we’re often encouraged to gauge our own worth and that of others.

God is the most generous of lovers—the giver of life, blessings and salvation. All of us have dignity and worth simply because we are God’s loved creation. We must acknowledge God’s gifts to us and recognize the value and rights of all others.

We are called to be Christian stewards, to “receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 450). Under the umbrella of our stewardship are life, possessions, truth and justice.

You can read more here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bishops welcome President Obama's address on health care reform

Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated:
"We agree that 'no one should go broke because they get sick. That's why the U.S. Bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all. The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system, and has a long tradition of teaching on ethics in health care. Health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority. We welcome the President's speech as an important contribution to this essential national debate and task."

Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB, said:
"We especially welcome the President's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care. We believe that incorporating essential and longstanding federal laws on these issues into any new proposal will strengthen support for health care reform. We will work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that these protections are clearly reflected in new legislation, so no one is required to pay for or take part in abortion as a result of health care reform."

You can read more here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. Here are two reflections for September:

September 20, 2009

Today’s Gospel invites us to journey with Jesus in a spirit of humility and service to all. with special care for the most vulnerable. Children suffer most from war and conflict in our world. The UN reports that 1/3 of those killed or injured during the conflict in Gaza last year were children; many lost caregivers and siblings. Palestinian and Israeli children’s well being and mental health have been severely affected by the continuing conflict in the Holy Land. In his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI teaches, “Peacebuilding requires the constant interplay of diplomatic contacts, economic, technological and cultural exchanges, agreements on common projects, as well as joint strategies to curb the threat of military conflict.”

Learn more about the underlying causes of the conflict in the Holy Land and how the U.S. Catholic community helps build peace through the work of Catholic Relief Services.

September 27, 2009

Underneath the somewhat gruesome remedies for sin and wrongdoing presented in this week’s readings, there is a powerful and simple message. Evil cannot prevail over good in any way whatsoever. There is no greater force than good. There is no more powerful way to act than through Jesus and the Spirit. Put no trust in anything else, it is of no use in the end.

Reflection: Take an inventory of what and who you are trusting in and depending on. Make sure your priorities and actions are rightly aligned with the mission of Jesus and your place as a conduit of God’s grace is secure.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Catholics must be heard on healthcare reform

That is the headline of Bishop Howard Hubbard's column in last week's Evangelist. We could not agree more. As the Bishop notes:
The bishops of the United States have advocated on behalf of universal, affordable and accessible health care for decades. We believe that every person created in the image and likeness of God has a basic human right to those things necessary to sustain life.

The fact that more than 46 million Americans lack healthcare insurance is morally unacceptable. Thus, we support healthcare reform that respects the life and dignity of every person from conception until natural death.

That means the unborn, the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicted, the single mother, the preschooler, the cancer sufferer, the person with HIV/AIDS disease, the immigrant, the frail elderly and the dying.

While the bishops of our country have not proposed a specific reform package or taken a position for or against a public sector option, we have articulated some guiding principles.

He lists those principles in his column, here. Bishop Hubbard also addresses the manner in which we conduct this discussion:
That people have a strong interest in this issue and intense feelings about something that potentially would affect every American in some way is understandable.

Indeed, in our pluralistic democracy, it is imperative that there be extensive consultation and vigorous debate about such a vital concern.

However, what has been disturbing about many of the town hall meetings and other forums for comment is the intemperate rhetoric and threatening behavior which seemed omnipresent.

The shouting over others, the disruptive tactics and the deliberate misrepresentation of opposing perspectives that have been all too frequent are unacceptable in a society committed to mutual respect, tolerance and civil discourse.

It is imperative, then, as the healthcare debate unfolds in Congress, the media, the internet and other public forums that we seek to address this issue in a dignified way that relies on facts, rational analysis and persuasion, not manipulative distortions, fear and intimidation.

These are good principles that we not only should follow ourselves, but share with others.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Bishops’ Labor Day Statement

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Social Development, reflected on economic challenges and the dignity of work in U.S. bishops’ labor day statement:
“This Labor Day, we should take a moment to pray for all workers and all those without work” said Bishop William F. Murphy in “The Value of Work; the Dignity of the Human Person,” the annual Labor Day statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He added, “We should also ask God’s help in living out the Church’s call to defend human life and dignity, to protect workers and their rights and to stand with the poor and vulnerable in difficult economic times.”

Bishop Murphy, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Social Development, said this Labor Day comes at a challenging economic time. He highlighted Pope Benedict XVI’s assertion in his new encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) that the dignity of the worker should be the top concern of any economy. According to Pope Benedict, “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is…the human person in his or her integrity: Man is the source, the form and the aim of all economic and social life.” (#25)

Bishop Murphy also drew on the recent agreement between leaders in Catholic health care, the labor movement and the Catholic bishops to develop practical guidelines on how leaders of hospitals, unions and others might apply Catholic principles in reaching agreements in their own situations.

“This project achieved a significant accomplishment: a consensus among all the parties on a set of principles, processes, and guidelines for a respectful and harmonious approach to let workers in Catholic health care facilities make free choices about unionization,” said Bishop Murphy of the dialogue, which resulted in a consensus document, Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions.

The annual Labor Day Statement also touched on the continuing principles of the Church’s social teaching, and isues of health care and immigration. The full text of the Labor Day statement can be found here.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Holy Father’s Missionary Intention for August

That the Christians who work in areas where the conditions of the poor, the weak, and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Building Peace with Justice

Building Peace with Justice is a brief, weekly bulletin reflection on Catholic social teaching written by members of a Rochester Diocese Public Policy sub-committee. Here are two reflections for September:

September 6, 2009

In today’s reading from Isaiah we hear reassuring words for those whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not!” In July, Baltimore Archbishop Edmund O’Brien, previously Archbishop for the U.S. Military Diocese, spoke on nuclear disarmament at the 2009 Deterrence Symposium sponsored by the U.S. Strategic Command. “It will not be easy. Nuclear weapons can be dismantled, but both the human knowledge and the technical capability to build weapons cannot be undone. A world with zero nuclear weapons will need robust measures to monitor, enforce and verify compliance. The path to zero will be long and treacherous. But humanity must walk this path with both care and courage in order to build a future free of the nuclear threat.”

Respecting the life and dignity of all human beings requires the courage to defend life even when we fear for ourselves. Can you be a defender of life by working for nuclear disarmament?

September 13, 2009
The readings from Isaiah and Mark mention that conflict and resistance are part of the prophet’s and Jesus’ ministry. Why are God’s prophets resisted? Why do the followers of Jesus have a “cross” to bear? Could it be that those who announce God’s word and follow Jesus have to stand up to the “powers that be” as they defend the dignity of the poor and vulnerable? Jesus and
prophets confronted injustice in concrete terms and because of that they had enemies who resisted them.

Reflection: Are we willing to challenge the status quo and the “powers that be” when we see injustice? How does this relate to the conflict over health care reform that we are witnessing?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

St. Bernard's Convocation

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry will have its opening convocation on Wednesday, September 9 at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Madison Avenue, Albany, at 7:30 pm. The convocation speaker will be Father Anthony Chiaramonte, a psychologist and Executive Director of the Diocesan Consultation Center. Fr Tony has been part of the St. Bernard’s faculty since the first semester. Fr. Tony’s topic will be “Choosing Life, Every Day.”

Please join us for this evening of prayer, music, and rich insights from one of the school's charter faculty members. Feel free to invite your friends.

You can learn more about St. Bernard's here.