Peace & Justice

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Renewing the Earth

St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Delmar invites you to dinner and an evening with Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Congressman Paul Tonko, and Riobart E. (Rob) Breen, Director of the Franciscan Ecology Center at Siena College on Monday, October 17, at 6 p.m. in the School Cafeteria, 42 Adams Place in Delmar.

The evening's topic is "Renewing the Earth".

For more information or to make reservations, please call the Church Office at 439-4951.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who Pays for Redistricting?

In the American political system, there is perhaps no better way of measuring the importance of an issue than by looking at how much money is being spent on it, except, perhaps, the lengths that people will go to insure that no one knows who is contributing that money. By that measurement, redistricting must be a very important issue.

An investigation by ProPublica, a Pulitzer prize-winning, independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, reveals the money and the contributors in redistricting fights across the nation. For example:
Skillful redistricting can, of course, help create Republican or Democratic districts, but it can also grace incumbents with virtually guaranteed re-election or leave them with nearly no chance at all. In the process, it can also create seats almost certain to be held by minorities or break those same groups apart, ensuring that they have almost no voice.

But it’s not cheap, and that’s where corporations and other outside interests come in. They can provide the cash for voter data, mapping consultants and lobbyists to influence state legislators, who are in charge of redistricting in most states. Outside interests can also fund the inevitable lawsuits that contest nearly every state's redistricting plan after it is unveiled.

In Minnesota, for instance, the Republicans’ legal efforts to influence redistricting are being financed through a group called Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting.

Fair Redistricting describes itself as independent, but it has much of its leadership in common with the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a group with ties to the political empire of the Koch brothers, industrialists from Kansas who’ve spent millions funding conservative causes. The head of the Freedom Foundation, Annette Meeks, told ProPublica she has “no involvement” with Fair Redistricting. But both organizations’ tax filings list the same address: Meeks’ home address.

Fair Redistricting is registered under the name of her husband, Jack Meeks, who is also on the board of the Freedom Foundation. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Who is actually paying for Fair Redistricting’s lawsuit and lawyers? And what district lines are they pushing for? The group doesn’t have to say and has so far kept its finances and plans under wraps. Annette Meeks did not respond to questions about the group’s donors or its ties to the Koch brothers, but she said the group complies with all legal filing requirements. But the group’s public tax filings contain no information on its contributors.

The rest of the article is here.


Friday, September 23, 2011

A spike for Albany’s poverty rate

Today’s Times Union has a front-page story by Chris Churchill about the fact that, from 2009 to 2010, the share of Albany residents living below the federal poverty line increased from 22.9 percent to 28.2 percent. The article, available here, also noted:
“Albany is hardly the only place with more poor people. The economic downturn has delivered rising poverty -- and declining incomes -- in most areas, locally and nationally. But the poverty jump in Albany easily outpaced the regionwide increase. Poverty in the Capital Region metropolitan area, the census said, increased from 9.9 percent to 11.5 percent.”

Earlier this week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following news release about how the Church can respond to news such as this:
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged bishops and other Catholic clergy nationwide to bring the issue of poverty into their homilies.

He also underscored the need for educational and advocacy efforts on behalf of the poor and jobless.

Archbishop Dolan made the appeal in a September 15 letter to the nation’s bishops at the urging of the USCCB Administrative Committee. The Committee oversees USCCB work between plenary sessions and met in Washington, September 13-14.

“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” he wrote. “I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.” The entire letter can be found here.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Living Out Our Eucharistic Mission

Through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholics and friends of CCHD across the country help poor and low income Americans to help themselves and their communities out of poverty.

Since 1970, the Catholic Campaign has contributed over $280 million to more than 7,800 low-income–led, community-based projects that strengthen families, create jobs, build affordable housing, fight crime, and improve schools and neighborhoods. CCHD requires that projects develop community leadership and participation so that their solutions to poverty will be long-lasting and effective, and so that CCHD’s investment in people will help break the cycle of poverty. CCHD also educates Catholics about the causes of poverty and seeks to build solidarity between impoverished and affluent persons.

In the newsletter of the CCHD, Jill Rauh, a staff member of the Peace and Human Development Office of the USCCB, writes an article entitled Living Out Our Eucharistic Mission:
In the new edition of the Roman Missal that will be used in English-speaking parishes starting in late November, we will hear two new phrases that may be used at the Dismissal: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” and “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

For Catholics involved in the good work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), these words will describe what many already experience: after gathering and being transformed, we are then sent out to announce the Gospel!

What does it mean to announce the Gospel? Luke 4:18 describes the work that is central to Jesus’ life and ministry, and that continues to inspire Christians: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, / because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. / He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives / and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, / and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

This is the same verse that CCHD often uses to describe its own mission for transformation of communities—communities where children are captive, oppressed, or burdened by weak education systems, unsafe neighborhoods, absent fathers, inadequate nutrition, and systemic racism. Announcing the Gospel involves spiritual transformation; it also involves addressing poverty, overcoming oppression, and working for social transformation.

Celebrating the Eucharist with spiritual sincerity transforms us individually and as members of a community called to bring love and hope to the person living in poverty, the stranger, the unborn—all those whose dignity is threatened. Participating in the eucharistic celebration also reminds us of the God-given dignity of all people; it inspires people who have been marginalized to reclaim their dignity and empowers them to fight poverty and injustice.

In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the “food of truth”—the Eucharist—“demands that we denounce inhumane situations” such as poverty, inequality, and violence (no. 90). The Eucharist also spurs us to imitate Christ’s sacrifice through our own “self-gift” to others (no. 14). But the idea that the Eucharist propels us to social mission is not new. In the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom reflected on Matthew 25:31-46: “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked” (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 50:3-4: PG 58, 508-509), and St. Augustine urged us, “Become what you receive” (Sermon 272). More recently, Blessed John Paul II called the Eucharist “the school of active love for neighbor” (Dominicae Cenae, no. 6) and that which “increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today” (Address, June 26, 2003).
The rest of the article is available here.

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Monday, September 19, 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, September 21, 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


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forgiveness in an age of terrorism

Deacon Walter Ayres, who serves as Chair of the Commission on Peace and Justice, used today's Gospel on forgiveness as a basis for a homily on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. You can send your comments to him at
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was getting off an Amtrak train at Penn Station with several co-workers when we received a call from the office. We learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

A few minutes later we received another call from the office, telling us about the second plane.

My boss decided it was time to get out of town. He cancelled the meeting and we all bought tickets on the next train to Albany.

There was a lot of confusion on that train ride back home. One of the passengers said that he had been at the World Trade Center earlier and left after someone came running out of the building shouting, “Go back, go back. They’ve got guns.”

Another told how he had heard there was a third plane in Washington, and that it had hit the White House.

Of course, neither of those stories was true, but we did not know it at the time.

As I said, there was much confusion.

Today, 10 years later, there still is confusion, some of which may come from today’s Gospel.

That confusion is about forgiveness.

Who we forgive and when we forgive.

I believe in a forgiving God. In a loving God. In a God who wants us to live in a world of peace and justice.

I also believe in a God who wants us to see the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.

As we worship today, our nation is in a state of high alert for another potential terrorist threat. Do the people who may be carrying out this threat need to be forgiven?

Yes. At the appropriate time.

But right now what they need . . . is to be stopped.

And so we pray for all those brave men and women who are trying to do just that; who are risking their lives for our safety.

. . .

True faith recognizes the reality of evil in the world, and the need to stop it, not by any means possible, but by any means compatible with Christ’s teachings.

One can fight out of a sense of justice and the need to defend one’s family.

We do it with love for those we defend, not hatred for those we fight.

And while we forgive sin, we also punish crime.

In a sinful world, there often is a need to fight evil.

But true faith does not just recognize the evil in others. True faith recognizes the evil in our own lives.

All of us have done things for which we need to be forgiven. None of us is perfect.

It is this imperfection in our own hearts that should lead us to forgive the sins and faults of others, and to seek forgiveness from those we have harmed.

A recognition of our own weaknesses should allow us to apply one standard of forgiveness when we need to forgive. There should not be separate standards for those we love and those we may despise.

Who among us finds it possible to forgive the acts of people in other countries, but refuses to forgive mistakes or improper acts by our own leaders?

Or, who among us excuses whatever is done by our leaders, but cannot forgive the actions of those in other countries who may have been harmed by our efforts to prop up petty dictators for our own narrow economic interests?

As Christians, we are called to forgive our enemies as well as our friends.

That does not mean we ignore unjust or immoral acts, that we allow bullies to push us around or that we stay in toxic relationships when it may be time to leave.

After all, God wants us to be forgiving, not foolish.

We can forgive without having to forget.

We can forgive and still be angry.

Anger can be a normal and healthy emotion. What we do with that anger is what is important.

We can channel it into activities that help spare others from the sorrow we have endured, or we can stew in it as we become resentful and hateful people ourselves.

To help make sure that we end up as the former and not the latter, I want to leave you today with some homework.

For the next month, until the 11th of October, let’s pray for our enemies every day.

Those may be our enemies in other lands or in our neighborhood or even in our own families.

Let us pray that God will soften their hearts, as well as our own, to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Let us pray not that they be converted to our way of thinking, but that all of us be open to the stirrings of God’s Word.

Let us pray that the will of God becomes our own desire, and that we have the courage and strength to do whatever it is that God is asking us to do to bring his peace, mercy and justice to a broken world.

Let us also pray that if our prayers do not change our enemies, that they at least change us, and help us to become the people we are meant to be, a people compassionate and caring, and, not least of all, forgiving.

And let us do this with a sense of love, and a sure knowledge that God will forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

St. Bernard’s Annual Convocation


A conversation with Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, PhD and Katherine Hanley, CSJ, PhD.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, 900 Madison Avenue in Albany.

All are welcome to the St. Bernard’s at Albany 22nd Annual Convocation.

Theology and ministry move in a circle, each challenging and changing the other. We respond to Jesus’ call to discipleship and we search out Jesus in Scripture and in our lives. Theology helps the community of disciples wrestle with the big questions and reflect on them in the light of experience. Why? And how? These questions will be the focus of our evening.

Sister Pat Schoelles is President of St. Bernard’s School of Theology & Ministry and teaches Moral Theology.

Sister Kitty Hanley is Associate Dean of St. Bernard’s at Albany and teaches Spirituality.


Monday, September 05, 2011

Bishop Hubbard's Labor Day Message

In his Labor Day message, published in The Evangelist, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard writes about the debt ceiling debate in Congress and how it might affect Americans. He writes:
On this Labor Day weekend, we are particularly concerned about how the action already taken last month and under consideration between now and Nov. 23 will affect America's workforce.

With the economy faltering and 25 million people in need of full-time work, almost everyone wants Washington and other governmental entities focused on how to create jobs and to get the economy going, not on slashing spending for the rising number of poor children and homeless, while sheltering tax havens for millionaires and billionaires.

More than four million Americans have been out of work for more than a year, the largest number of long-term unemployed since World War II; yet Congress has gone on a summer recess without extending unemployment benefits to their out-of-work constituents.

What is particularly distressing is the growing disparity of wealth in our country. In their new book, "How Washington made the Rich Richer - And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class," John Hacker, a political scientist at Yale University, and Paul Pierson, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, posit that we have experienced a "30-year war" in which the long, slow struggle through the 20th century for greater equality of income and wealth has been reversed.

They note that, from 1979 until the eve of our current great recession, the top one percent have held 35 percent of our nation's wealth. Between 2001 and 2006, the top one percent amassed more than half the gains, while the median income of non-elderly households actually fell.

In fact, the top one-tenth of that one percent "received over 20 percent of all after-tax income gains between 1970 and 2005, compared with the 13.5 percent enjoyed by the bottom 60 percent of households."

In other words, the total of new income going to roughly 300,000 people was one and a half percent the size of the total going to roughly 180 million people.

In the last four decades, these authors conclude that our democracy has become the most economically unequal nation in the advanced world. Meanwhile, the working and middle classes have either fallen behind or kept up by going into debt and having more family members work longer hours.
. . .

Every Pope from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI has underscored that economic injustice, not economic growth, is the cornerstone of our Church's teaching. The Church condemns the social and personal damage done when employees and their families are treated as voiceless underlings or disposable parts.

Just last month, during his travels to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict denounced "the profit-at-all-costs mentality" that has contributed to our current economic crisis. He noted that "people must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by the maximization of profit, but rather according to the common good."

That is why Catholic social teaching has upheld the rights of workers to organize and to bargain with employers for a living wage and decent medical, disability and retirement benefits. Therefore, with workers under so much pressure and unions facing open attack - most recently in the state of Wisconsin - it is helpful, this Labor Day, to recall three fundamental themes of Catholic social teaching on labor:

1 Human dignity is achieved through work.

2 In a world of powerful corporations and weak borrowing power on the part of workers, unions are necessary for achieving a fair and decent livelihood for workers and their families.

3 The principal role of the government is to protect the common good by safeguarding and implementing the rights of working men and women.

It is true that unions have sometimes abused their powers, and when this happens they must be held accountable. "But without them," as Commonweal magazine editorializes, "who holds employers accountable?"

The rest of the message is here.

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