Peace & Justice

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The New Sanctuary Movement

The Evangelist has an interesting story about the New Sanctuary Movement:
When Holy Family parish in Albany lost its youth minister six years ago, both the parish and the community suffered. The youth minister’s family had been deported back to Mexico, and the parish had one fewer leader.

But for one parishioner, that loss was a motivation to help other immigrants who found themselves in legal trouble: Two years later, Fred Boehrer started the New Sanctuary Movement.

Last year, Holy Family parish closed, with the church building becoming Our Lady of the Americas shrine church. But the program Mr. Boehrer created continues, located at St. John/St. Ann’s outreach center in Albany.

Mr. Boehrer is also a director of Emmaus House, the Albany Catholic Worker community. The New Sanctuary program is designed to help immigrants and their families find both legal and practical assistance in their new country.
The rest of the article is here.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Labor and Unions

The Catholic Church has a well-documented tradition on labor and unions, rooted in the human right of association. This is highlighted in a new publication from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which excerpts passages that highlight this tradition.

While the document is not comprehensive, it does include links to the complete text of a cited document. Some examples from the publication, which is available here:
Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. . . . The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. (no. 25)
- Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate) Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

Furthermore, society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings. This requires a continuous effort to improve workers' training and capability so that their work will be more skilled and productive, as well as careful controls and adequate legislative measures to block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers, of immigrants and of those on the margins of society. The role of trade unions in negotiating minimum salaries and working conditions is decisive in this area. (no. 15)
- The Hundredth Year (Centesimus Annus) Pope John Paul II, 1991

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Monday, May 09, 2011

First Fridays for Food Security

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that on the first Friday of each month from May 6, 2011 to April 6, 2012, Catholic families and individuals can participate in First Fridays for Food Security, as a way to raise awareness about food insecurity in the U.S. and help Catholics pray and act for those in need. Catholics can take part by limiting meal spending on the first Friday of each month to the amount allotted for a family of their size in the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan.

From the news release:
The event’s page on Facebook provides a forum for Catholics to leave comments about their experiences and access learning and prayer resources. A handout will be posted on Facebook each month, focusing on a different aspect of the issue. These will include: the reality of food insecurity in the U.S., migrant laborers and those who produce food, effects of hunger on pregnant women and their unborn children, and child nutrition and the school lunch program.

“Food insecurity affects vulnerable populations including children, the elderly and the unborn,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “First Fridays for Food Security is an act of prayerful solidarity with those who risk going hungry. As bishops, we seek to educate the faithful on this need and the obligation we have as Catholics to meet it.”

In his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church, as she responds to the teachings of her Founder, the Lord Jesus, concerning solidarity and the sharing of goods.”

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

A Circle of Protection

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard was one of a diverse coalition of Christian leaders, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, Salvation Army, Christian Churches Together in the USA, National Council of Churches and other Evangelical and mainline Protestants, that has called for a priority for the poor in the current budget process through a common statement, “A Circle of Protection.”

The news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states:

“As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice,” said the statement. “We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.”

Bishop Hubbard and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, signed the statement, as did Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. Bishop Hubbard and Bishop Blaire chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on International Justice and Peace and Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.

In the statement, the religious leaders recognize the need to reduce future deficits, “but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.” They said, “These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected.”