Peace & Justice

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Religious leaders urge Obama to protect the poor in budget efforts

Catholic News Service reports on last week’s meeting of religious leaders and President Obama:
The 40-minute session with the president "was very enlightening and energizing," said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., a member of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, one of the participants in the White House meeting.

"It was wonderful to see the president so engaged," the bishop told Catholic News Service in a separate interview. "He seems to accept our message."

That message is that political leaders should pay attention to the fundamental moral principle of putting the needs of the poor first in allocating scarce government resources, the bishop said.

He told the president that "as religious leaders, our concern is not which party wins the current political battles," but rather that "if we all don't speak up, who is likely to lose: the families trying to feed their kids, the jobless looking for work, the children who need health care, the hungry and sick and hopeless around the world."

. . .

"The poor have no powerful lobbyists," Bishop Ramirez told Obama. "But they have the most powerful moral claim on this process."

He and the other participants asked the president to "be their voice."

"You are at your best when you echo the Scriptures and remind us we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers," the bishop said he told Obama. "We need more of that from you."

Bishop Ramirez said of his one-day trip to Washington: "It's not every day the U.S. bishops get invited to the White House and get to talk about something as crucial as care for the poor."
The rest of the article is here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Immaculee Ilibagiza, genocide survivor

Here is what you need to know about Immaculee Ilibagiza, who will be honored at a fundraiser for Teresian House on Thursday:
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Immaculee Ilibagiza hid from the Hutus in her pastor's bathroom with seven other women. She emerged 91 days later, emaciated. Most of her family had been killed.

When Ilibagiza's hope faltered, she would pray for salvation on the rosary beads her Catholic father gave her and teach herself English from the Bible.

Ilibagiza is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Left to Tell," her story of faith and survival. She has also hosted a documentary titled "Ready to Forgive, An African Story of Grace," and a movie about her story will be released next year.

On Thursday, she will be the honored guest at the 21st Annual Teresian House Friendraiser Gala at the Saratoga National Golf Course.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Congratulations Father Rutherford

Father Donald Rutherford, a priest of the Diocese of Albany, New York, is the new chief of chaplains of the U.S. Army. He holds the rank of major general and will be officially sworn in July 22.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and Social Justice

Julie Clawson blogs about Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows, and Mobilizing Kids for Social Justice at the blog of Sojourners:
Though the final movie of the Harry Potter series opens this Friday, the Harry Potter Alliance has been operating since 2005, and exists as a nonprofit organization intent on using the weapon of love (and a common affinity for Harry Potter) to combat the dark arts of our world. As their mission statement states, they use “parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Our mission is to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world.” And it’s working. With more than 100,000 members and nearly 60 chapters worldwide, this real world gathering of Dumbledore’s Army is making a difference.

The rest of the blog is here.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A conservative take on budget negotiations

Conservative columnist David Brooks writes about the current budget battle and the clash over lowered spending versus higher taxes.
According to the Gallup Organization, only 20 percent of Americans believe the budget deal should consist of spending cuts only. Even among Republicans, a plurality believes there should be a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts.

Yet the G.O.P. is now oriented around this 20 percent. It is willing to alienate 80 percent of voters and commit political suicide because of its faith in the power of tax policy.

These three groups — bankers, Democratic Keynesians and staunch Republicans — have one thing in common: They all believe they have identified the magic lever. They believe they can control their economic fate.

Some of us do not believe there is a magic lever. Deficit spending stimulates growth, but not by that much. Tax increases are bad, but they are not disastrous. We believe that there are a thousand factors that go into economic growth, and no single one is dispositive.

We look at the tax cuts of 2001 and do not see tremendous gains. We look at the tax increase of 1982 and do not see a ruinous disaster. We look at high deficit eras and low deficit eras and do not see an easy correlation between deficit spending and growth. On the contrary, if you look around the world there’s a slight negative correlation between government size and prosperity.

We believe that if you rest everything on a single lever (Increase deficits! Cut taxes!), you give people a permission slip to be self-indulgent. They will spend or cut to their hearts’ content and soon you’ll be facing national bankruptcy. We believe that even if you are theoretically right, your policies will be distorted by human frailties and special interests.

The people in my group (you might call us conservatives) are more likely to embrace a low and steady approach to fiscal policy. Control debt. Control entitlements. Keep tax levels reasonable and the tax code simple. Work on the economic fundamentals: human capital, productivity, labor market flexibility, open trade, saving and investment. Don’t believe you can use magic levers to manipulate growth month to month.

People in my camp form a silent majority. But we have been astonishingly passive during these budget negotiations. The tax cut brigades and the Medicare/Spending brigades are well organized. The people who believe in balance and the fundamentals sit piously on the sidelines.

The tragedy is that in Barack Obama and John Boehner we have leaders who would like to do something big. They seem to know that you need bipartisan cover if you want to really cut spending. They seem to know circumstances for deficit reduction will only get worse in the years ahead.

But they are bracketed on all sides — by the tax cut and Medicare brigades, by the wonks hatching budget gimmicks that erode trust, by political hacks who don’t want to lose their precious campaign issues: tax cuts forever, Medicare spending without limit.

Mostly, they are buffeted by the proud, by those who think they have a magic lever to control human destiny and who will not compromise it away. This is the oldest story known to man.
The entire column is here.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Update on redistricting

The issue of redistricting remains a hot topic at the Capitol, even if most New Yorkers have little idea about what it entails. The Leader, in Corning, has an editorial here that explains some of the issues:
So, the war of words has begun.

Rhetoric aside, redistricting is important to residents locally and statewide because it ultimately impacts the future political agenda - and possibly the pool of candidates - in any one particular area.

Over the last decade, the shift in the population towards the downstate area will change the Assembly and Senate boundaries which could weaken the political strength of the upstate region.

The state Senate, where Republicans tend to represent upstate interests and hold a narrow majority, could be most impacted by the outcome of redistricting. Conversely, the downstate region has the most to gain.

Congressional boundaries will also have to be reworked because the state is losing two seats in the House. That means our 29th Congressional District will change in some shape or form.

We appreciate Cuomo’s concern that the redistricting process will again be controlled by incumbents bent on maintaining the cores of their political strengths. One look at the current configuration of state and federal districts demonstrates that considerable gerrymandering has taken place in the past.

The state Senate has resisted establishing an independent commission that Cuomo favors and its leaders now claim there simply isn’t enough time to have a panel in place for the 2012 elections. The legislative commission has already started the first of 12 public hearings statewide.

We side with those who feel the Senate is again copping out. An independent commission could be established during a special legislative session that will likely be held later this summer that would give the process enough time to complete redistricting by the end of the year.

The Times Union in Albany has an editorial here that asks, “As the Legislature forges ahead with it’s same old, corrupt redistricting process, how can voters have faith in a system designed by people who openly break their word?”

And Capital, an online publication about how things work in New York, has a Q&A about what might be happening with our political leaders here.


Friday, July 08, 2011

An Important Fundraiser

Since 1959, Father Peter Young has been dedicated to aiding the homeless, the unemployed, veterans and those battling addiction. His "glidepath" philosophy has the components of recovery, housing and employment. On Monday, July 18, he will be holding a fundraiser in Saratoga Springs to raise funds for his important work. The Times Union has an interesting story here with further details:
The 10th annual Father Peter Young's Saratoga Gala, traditionally held on the Monday before the opening of the track at the prestigious golf course, will feature the Nelson Riddle Orchestra with a salute to Frank Sinatra. Last year, the party with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra drew 343 supporters, said Margie Reilly, the events coordinator for Young's foundation.

"Father Young's foundation gets every single cent from the benefit," Reilly said. Peter Young Housing, Industries & Treatment provides services "from Buffalo to Brooklyn. We are statewide."

Young founded the organization in 1959, and through the years he and hundreds of his supporters have helped thousands of men and women, providing guidance and services to make their lives better. Currently, 3,000 people are employed by Young's programs.

Also, The Evangelist has stories here and here.
Here are some details.
Father Peter Young's Saratoga Gala
When: 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday, July 18
Where: Saratoga National Golf Club, Saratoga Springs
Admission: $75 for individuals; $150 for patrons; $1,200 for gold table; $2,500 for platinum table
Information: Call Margie Reilly at 463-8109 or email


A Week of American Unity?

Deacon Walter Ayres, who chairs the Commission on Peace and Justice, has written a column for The Evangelist in which he reflects on what politicians can learn from Christians who work together in such organizatons as the Capital Area Council of Churches.
When Vernon Victorson was a young child being chased down the street by boys from the local Catholic school, he never imagined that he would grow up to be the pastor of a Lutheran church where a Catholic priest would be installed as the first Catholic executive director of the Capital Area Council of Churches.

Yet that is exactly what happened earlier this year during the Week of Christian Unity, when Rev. Victorson welcomed Rev. George Brennan to First Lutheran Church in Albany.

One can only wonder what this nation would be like if our political leaders had made as much progress over the years.

There was a time, back when both of these ministers were boys, that the issue of electing a Catholic president was a cause of much strife between Catholics and Protestants.

A number of factors can account for the subsequent change — not the least of which was the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and the willingness of Catholics to engage Protestants as followers of Jesus rather than as heretics.

Now, we work together as pilgrims on the same journey. We no longer treat each others’ congregations just as sources of potential converts; we work together to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and bring about fair laws regarding immigration.

But we also can disagree on such hot-button social issues as abortion, same-sex marriage and women’s ordination. We join forces when we can and agree to disagree when we must.

It is a shame that many of our politicians cannot do the same. They seem stuck in the same situation that Christians were in decades ago when, too often, we saw each other only as foes and rarely as friends.

The rest of the article is here.

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