Peace & Justice

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Good News from Haiti

Father Joseph Philippe, founder of Fonkoze (The Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation, Haiti’s largest microcredit organization) will discuss the current situation in Haiti on Friday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at the Pastoral Center, 40 North Main Avenue in Albany (between Western & Washington avenues).

Fr. Philippe does not see his fellow-Haitians as ‘the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere,’ but as untapped potential for economic and human development, and the capacity to transform their society if the playing field is leveled.

He also is the organizer of the Association of Peasants of Fondwa, which has brought many benefits to their community; and founder of the University of Fondwa, Haiti’s first rural university, committed to improving the lives of Haiti’s peasant majority, so that farmers won’t need to migrate to cities in search of jobs.

The talk is sponsored by the Commission on Peace and Justice of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. For more information, please call 453-6695.


Monday, April 25, 2011


As the Poughkeepsie Journal noted in a recent editorial:
District lines for state and congressional seats have to be redrawn every 10 years based on new census data; the state has an obligation to the public to do this right.

Historically, though, the process has been torturous and fraught with the worst in back-room politics. As a result, the public usually ends up with odd-shaped, bizarre political boundaries drawn, in part, to protect incumbents — and to give both Democrats and Republicans "safe" districts that are counter to fair and competitive elections.
The editorial writers at the Staten Island Advance enlarged on that theme here:
Under politics as usual in the state of New York, lawmakers have been choosing their own voters before voters get a chance to choose them. Members of the Legislature in Albany have been allowed to reshape election districts, including their own, every 10 years to protect themselves and their parties.

Such democracy in reverse recently was dubbed Charlie Sheen-style redistricting: It’s all about winning.

Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to put a stop to the behind-closed-doors wheeling and dealing has become stalled by, of all things, politics.

What a surprise.

The issue of redistricting is an important one for all citizens, which is why the Commission on Peace and Justice is getting involved with it this year. We will be posting more information in coming days. In the meantime, here is a primer on the issues from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on the fundamental issues of democracy and justice. An excerpt:
Why does redistricting matter? Our representatives in local, state, and federal government set the rules by which we live. In ways large and small, they affect the taxes we pay, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the ways in which we make each other safer and more secure. Periodically, we hold elections to make sure that these representatives continue to listen to us. All of our legislators in state government, many of our legislators in local government, and most of our legislators in Congress are elected from districts, which divide a state and its voters into geographical territories. In most of these districts, all of the voters are ultimately represented by the candidate who wins the most votes in the district. The way that voters are grouped into districts therefore has an enormous influence on who our representatives are, and what policies they fight for. For example, a district composed mostly of farmers is likely to elect a representative who will fight for farmers’ interests, but a district composed mostly of city dwellers may elect a representative with different priorities. Similarly, districts drawn with large populations of the same race, or ethnicity, or language, or political party are more likely to elect representatives with the same characteristics.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflection for Good Friday

The good folks at Pax Christi USA have been offering a series of Lenten reflections. The one for Good Friday notes:
The Judeans and the Empire appear to be having their day of victory. As Jesus is arrested by an absurdly large contingent of Temple police and Roman soldiers, the disciples scatter, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is herded, like countless truth-tellers over the centuries, into the backrooms of power to be questioned, beaten, mocked and prepared for execution. Pilate, the imperial representative, supremely confident in the power of Empire to defeat any royal wannabe, hauls Jesus into the palace to mock him and also to mock the Judeans’ captivity to Roman rule. The Judeans are willing to put up with Pilate’s pranks so long as the scapegoat is dispatched.

And, of course, there is an entirely different way to understand what unfolds before us. It is in fact the Empire and the Judeans who are on trial in the court of God’s Messiah. Far from being afraid of the threat of crucifixion, not the slightest bit cowed by mocking and beating, Jesus, the Light of the World, stands in silent judgment of all that dwells in darkness and sin. Before the scene is completed, it is Pilate whose fear is revealed, and the Judeans whose loyalty to Empire rather than to God is “confessed.”
The rest of the reflection is here.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talking about the federal budget

NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, has an interesting blog here, including this entry titled How to Talk About the Federal Budget. Here is an excerpt:
With the 2010 election, a new wave of fiscally conservative members of Congress have entered Washington, bringing with them a desire to make drastic cuts to programs that help marginalized people. It is important that people of faith respond.

Talking about the budget can seem intimidating. The process of funding the government is complicated, and most people do not have the time or the energy to learn about the intricacies of the tax code or appropriations process. But the good news is: you don’t have to! As people of faith, we believe that our values should frame the debate, and our government should care for the common good.

A moral response to this budget crisis prioritizes programs that provide for those who are poor and vulnerable, because our country’s future is dependent on the posterity of our entire nation, not just the wealthy.

There are two ways to decrease the federal debt: reduce spending and increase revenue. In order to keep our communities strong, we need to do both responsibly.

Over the last ten years, our national debt has doubled due to reckless tax cuts for wealthy Americans and corporations, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we deal with trillion dollar deficits today, we need solutions that address the problems, not solutions driven by ideology.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pope and Catholic Action

Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholics to "take the leaven of the Gospel" outside the church and into such as areas as politics. In a message sent on the 80th anniversary of Catholic Action Argentina, the Holy Father encouraged the laypeople to "intensify their formative commitment so that, following Christ on the path of sanctity and in close union with their pastors, they might take the leaven of the Gospel to all hearts and realms of society, of the world of work, of politics, of culture and to families."

The Pope affirmed that "the laity, who through baptism and confirmation participate in the priestly, prophetic and royal function of Christ, are called to contribute in their own original way to the growth and sanctification of the Church and the world, through the transformation of temporal realities according to the values of the Kingdom of God."

You can learn more at

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Be Part of the Solution for Peace

The Oneness in Peace Spiritual Center/Ecumenical House of Prayer, located at 49 Main Street in Germantown, is offering a program titled You Can Make A Difference: Be Part of the Solution for Peace on Wednesday, April 20, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Participants will learn to create a more peace-filled and just environment through contemplative and intercessory prayer for personal and global peace. Everyone is welcome. Registration is not necessary. Free will offering.

For more information, call 537-5678 or e-mail