Peace & Justice

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bishop Hubbard on the federal budget

In his monthly column in The Evangelist, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard addresses current budget negotiations in Congress, and discusses them in terms of Catholic social teaching:
Congress is presently negotiating deep spending cuts in the federal government’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

Last week, as chairperson for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, I and Bishop Stephen Blaire, who chairs the Episcopal Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, visited key members of Congress to express our concerns that the cries of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad are not being heard.

We realize that times of fiscal restraint demand shared sacrifices. Strategies must be developed to raise adequate revenues, eliminate unnecessary spending, meet defense needs and address the long-term costs of health insurance programs in a fair and just way.

Burden on poor
But the principles of Catholic social teaching insist that cuts be shared so that those who are most vulnerable do not bear the primary burden for reducing the deficit. Indeed, in a time of austerity and fiscal restraint, “the least of these” have a special moral priority.

Unfortunately, in the current debate to date, the poor are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the proposed cuts. The vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget — only about 12 percent of the total budget — which funds the majority of social welfare, education and other anti-poverty programs at home and abroad.

Fiscal responsibility is important and our current budget deficit must be addressed. However, shared sacrifice should guide budget cuts, not reliance on disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons.

Cruelest cuts
Current proposals fail the moral criteria of Catholic teaching to protect the poor and advance the common good. Some of the largest proposed funding cuts include:

• $1.08 billion from Head Start,

• $800 million from International Food Aid,

• $100 million from Emergency Food and Shelter,

• $2.5 billion from affordable housing,

• $875 million from International Disaster Assistance,

• $1 billion from community health centers,

• $2.3 billion from job training programs and

• $904 million from migrants and refugees.

We are very apprehensive about the reductions contained in the present proposals. There is projected to be only about three percent in overall cuts, but 27 percent in poverty cuts for international assistance.
The rest of this article is here.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What would St. Francis do?

Is it time to leash your cat? A new study documents the terrible damage that cats do to the bird population. As reported in The New York Times:
While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.
A new study in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.

Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths, according to the researchers, from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University in Maryland. Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations.

Predation was so serious in some areas that the catbirds could not replace their numbers for the next generation, according to the researchers, who affixed tiny radio transmitters to the birds to follow them. It is the first scientific study to calculate what fraction of bird deaths during the vulnerable fledgling stage can be attributed to cats.
The rest of the article is here. So what it is to be done? Some people in the Capital District have proposed that cats must be on a leash whenever they are outside. Is this an idea who time has come?

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Letter from Japan

Peter Milward, SJ, teaches English literature at Sophia University in Tokyo. In a letter posted on the website of Commonweal magazine, he writes:
The numbers of dead gradually rose from the tens to the hundreds and then to the thousands, with many still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands taking refuge on higher ground. The region hit by the tsunami was largely rural and agricultural: farms, villages, and towns scattered around the growing city of Sendai. I had no friends in that area with whom to communicate or commiserate.

What of the Catholic Church there? One foreign priest had died of heart failure, and one church had been put out of action. But for the most part churches and schools had been wisely built on heights, and so they had suffered little damage. That was a small relief. It’s too early to say how local priests and sisters and laity have been able to respond to the crisis.

You can read the rest of his letter here.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Prayer for Japan

A prayer for the quake victims, from the Catholic Medical Mission Board:
God, Thank You for Being Our Refuge and Strength in Times of Trouble.

God our Father,

In faith we acknowledge your care over us, your sons, daughters and children. In hope we trust in your divine providence of giving us wisdom and courage as we face challenges in life. We invoke your help and guidance during these difficult days of death and destruction.

Grant eternal peace to those who lost their lives. Embrace the children who died in their innocence. Help those who are hurt and cure those who are sick.

Encourage those who suffer the destruction of their homes and properties to once again stand up and rebuild their future.

Bless all those who extend their helping hands to those in need of food, shelter and clothing, who share their time, talents and resources with others.

Inspire more people to be men and women for their neighbors, convinced that the more they are for others, the taller they stand before you.

Keep our hearts, minds, and actions focused on the needs of those affected.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.

For more information, or to donate, go here.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Bishops and unions

Catholic News Service reports:
Amid ongoing battles between Republican governors and organized labor in Midwestern states, U.S. Catholic bishops have echoed the long-standing church tradition of workers' rights. But they have also noted that there are no easy-fix solutions in today's battered economy. They have urged workers and government officials to work for the common good and called on the members of public employee unions to make sacrifices. The bishops' words haven't gone unnoticed. Just as this debate has stirred passions across the country, people have criticized the U.S. bishops for either being too supportive of unions or not supportive enough. Catholics on both sides of the issue also have weighed in on what's best for workers and the country as a whole. "Hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers," Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki said in mid-February, during angry protests in Wisconsin over the Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to curb public employees' collective bargaining power for benefits and increase the premiums they pay for health care and their pension contributions.

You can read more here.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Resources from Pax Christi

Pax Christi USA strives to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence. This work begins in personal life and extends to communities of reflection and action to transform structures of society. Pax Christi USA rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation.

As of today, it has a new website at

The group also offers some excellent Lenten resources here. More will be added as the site develops.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Immigration Reform

This Lent, the Justice for Immigrants campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invites you to pray, fast, learn, give and advocate for just and human immigration reform, in solidarity with immigrants and refugees by committing to various activities on your Lenten journey. Their site includes valuable information here.


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Holy Father’s General Intention

The Holy Father’s General Intention for March

That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and be bountiful in social justice and peace.