Peace & Justice

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Class warfare?

In 1980, the average large company CEO only received 42 times the average worker's pay. In 2011, the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay between CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies and U.S. workers was 380.

The average level of CEO pay in the S&P 500 Index increased 13.9 percent in 2011, following a 22.8 percent increase in CEO pay in 2010.  The average CEO pay of companies in the S&P 500 Index rose to $12.94 million in 2011.

In 2011, average wages increased just 2.8 percent and average worker pay totaled $34,053. 

These and other interesting facts are available here. We think you might find them of interest.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Georgetown faculty members write to Rep. Ryan

In advance of Rep. Paul Ryan’s visit to Georgetown University today, more than 80 faculty members and priests sent him a copy of the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by John Paul II, to help “deepen your understanding of Catholic social teaching.” The Compendium, accompanied by a letter, criticized Mr. Ryan for saying that Catholic social teachings underpinned his proposed budget. From the letter:
Welcome to Georgetown University. We appreciate your willingness to talk about how Catholic social teaching can help inform effective policy in dealing with the urgent challenges facing our country. As members of an academic community at a Catholic university, we see your visit on April 26 for the Whittington Lecture as an opportunity to discuss Catholic social teaching and its role in public policy.
However, we would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress – “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.” Catholic bishops recently wrote that “the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.  
Cuts to anti-hunger programs have devastating consequences. Last year, one in six Americans lived below the official poverty level and over 46 million Americans – almost half of them children – used food stamps for basic nutrition. We also know how cuts in Pell Grants will make it difficult for low-income students to pursue their educations at colleges across the nation, including Georgetown. At a time when charities are strained to the breaking point and local governments have a hard time paying for essential services, the federal government must not walk away from the most vulnerable.
The entire letter is available here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Liberal, Conservative, or Just Catholic

Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal magazine, will speak on the topic of "Liberal, Conservative, or Just Catholic: Religious Identity in a Pluralistic Age" on Thursday, May 3 at 6 p.m. in the Nott Memorial at Union College. Commonweal, established in 1924, describes itself as a “review of Public Affairs, Religion, Literature, and the Arts.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rev. Rich Broderick Criticizes Supreme Court Ruling

Rev. Rich Broderick of Cambridge has a letter to the editor in today’s Times Union regarding the Supreme Court decision that "has given permission to strip-search anyone who has been charged even with minor crimes and even when no evidence suggests the person may be concealing something."

Should you be stopped for not wearing your seat belt, for using a cellphone while driving or failing to use a turn signal, should you be subject to the humiliation of a strip search and be treated like a terrorist? The Supreme Court seems to think yes.

This case centered on a man, Albert Florence, who was in a car pulled over by the New Jersey state police.

His wife had been driving and was pulled over for speeding. He was charged with failing to pay a fine that, as it turned out, actually had been paid. A bureaucratic bungle failed to show that. He was put in a prison and strip-searched.

Justice Stephen Breyer argued: Being forced to get naked and examined by strangers is inherently "humiliating and degrading." He spoke of a case involving a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years who was stripped and searched after being arrested during an anti-war protest.

The entire letter is here.

Bishop to address issue of civility in society

The Consultation Center of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and the College of Saint Rose are sponsoring a program about polarity and civility in society on Thursday, April 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, 959 Madison Avenue in Albany.

Speakers are Bishop Howard Hubbard, Sr. Lynn Levo, CSJ, Alice Green and Luke Schmonsky.

Registration is not required but it is appreciated. To register, or for more information, call 489-4431.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rev. Peter Young on the Rachael Ray Show Monday

Leigh Hornbeck of the Times Union wrote an interesting story about Father Peter Young, the indomitable Albany priest who efforts on behalf of "the least among us" have now earned him an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show tomorrow. The show appears on WNYT NewsChannel 13 at 3 p.m.

The Rev. Peter Young, an advocate for ex-convicts, the homeless and the addicted in Albany and throughout the state for more than 50 years, will appear on the Rachael Ray Show Monday.

Young, 81, founded the Peter Young Housing, Industries & Treatment Center in 1959 with the mission of "restorative justice." His work shows that when people with problems are given "restorative opportunities, they can do great things," he said.

Rachael Ray's mother, Elsa Scuderi, was aware of Young's work and urged her daughter to invite him on the show. The taping was Thursday, Young said, speaking from a train on his way home from Buffalo, where he opened a new center and met with alumni of his program on Friday.

"I've talked with a lot of people over the years, but I've never had my hair and makeup done," Young said, laughing.

Young said Ray demonstrated her usual enthusiasm and made a personal donation to the cause. The segment will include Ray's interview with Young and footage shot in Albany where Young's foundation provides preparation classes for the GED, computer skills and job training for students in culinary arts, hospitality and retail sales.

. . .

Times are tougher than ever for people with problems, Young said. Donations are fewer, forcing Young to choose between funding his efforts to provide housing for the people who come to him for help, and continue the cost of running a clothing bank in New York City. The clothing bank will close, Young said.

Young said when he started his work, he encountered more sympathy for troubled men and women than he does now. Today, he sees a dog-eat-dog atmosphere, especially for people with a felony on their records. It was easier in the 1950s to find housing for the homeless and recovering.

"I opened 14 halfway houses in 1959. Now because of code requirements, it would be impossible today," he said.

The lack of job opportunities drove Young to create his own industries to put people to work. The training puts people to work creating a taxpayer instead of someone who is the taxpayers' responsibility to support, Young said.

The rest of the article is here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prominent Catholics comment on the budget

Nearly 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns and national Catholic social justice leaders have released a statement today refuting Rep. Paul Ryan’s claim that his GOP budget proposal reflects Catholic teaching on care for the poor, which he made in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. They called on Mr. Ryan to “reconsider his radical budget proposal and refrain from distorting Church teaching.”
“If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and healthcare away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder,” said John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life. “This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”  
The leaders wrote: “Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”  
Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released an analysis last month that found the Ryan budget would “likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).” Mr. Greenstein described the budget proposal as making “extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”
You can read more here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bishop Hubbard supports hike in minimum wage

Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard told a panel of Senate Democrats that the growing gap between rich and poor runs the risk of undoing decades of social justice gains.
"We are currently witnessing a massive transfer of wealth from a once-vast working middle class to very few rich," said Hubbard, speaking in his role as co-chair of the New York Labor-Religion Coalition.

The bishop joined other progressive faith leaders as the first set of witnesses at a forum Wednesday for supporters of a state minimum wage hike.

You can read more here.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do conservatives and liberals think differently?

The Washington Post has an interesting article about why conservatives and liberals may have such incompatible views.
Liberals and conservatives have access to the same information, yet they hold wildly incompatible views on issues ranging from global warming to whether the president was born in the United States to whether his stimulus package created any jobs. But it’s not just that: Partisanship creates stunning intellectual contortions and inconsistencies. Republicans today can denounce a health-care reform plan that’s pretty similar to one passed in Massachusetts by a Republican — and the only apparent reason is that this one came from a Democrat.

None of these things make sense — unless you view them through the lens of political psychology. There’s now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits.

Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called “openness to experience,” one of the “Big Five” personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots — and new ideas.

“Open people everywhere tend to have more liberal values,” said psychologist Robert McCrae, who conducted voluminous studies on personality while at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open — less exploratory, less in need of change — and more “conscientious,” a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change — in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’?”
The rest of the article is here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A "circle of protection"

The United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today reported that, as Congress began working on the FY 2013 budget and spending bills this week, the USCCB wrote several letters that reiterated the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and the programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity. The bishops’ message calls on Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to oppose measures that reduce resources for essential safety net programs.

The bishops reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in a previous letter:
1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…

Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.
You can read more here.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Higher taxes on the rich?

Whitney Tilson, a hedge fund manager and a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, recently wrote in The Washington Post about the need to raise his taxes.
I am part of the 1 percent of the 1 percent. I mean, I am fortunate to be a wealthy American and I say, "It's OK to raise my taxes."

I was at the White House last Wednesday supporting President Barack Obama in his call for Congress to pass the "Buffett rule." This legislation — inspired in part by Warren Buffett's exasperation upon learning that his assistant paid a greater percentage of her income in federal taxes than he did — would require anyone whose income exceeds $1 million a year to pay a minimum 30 percent in taxes.

It would hit me hard. I haven't finished my taxes for 2011, but in 2010, my federal tax rate was 21 percent; if the Buffett rule had been in effect, my federal tax bill would have been 40 percent higher. Some years, my taxes would probably be more than 50 percent higher.

Why am I OK with this? Simple math, and basic fairness.

This country is running enormous and unsustainable budget deficits that will bankrupt us all if they are not narrowed. There is no way to do that without both cutting spending and raising revenue.

Everyone is going to have to make sacrifices as part of a comprehensive budget deal along the lines of Simpson-Bowles, with tens of millions of people getting smaller entitlement benefits, for example, and tens of millions of people paying higher taxes.

It's not class warfare to say that people like me — who aren't suffering at all in these tough economic times, who are in many cases doing the best we've ever done — should be the first to make a small sacrifice.

You can read more here. In addition, you might be interested in this survey that shows the majority of Americans support the "Buffett rule."
Seven-in-ten (70%) Americans favor “the Buffett rule,” a proposal to increase the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million per year, compared to only 27% who oppose it.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bearing witness

Earlier this month, Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester wrote a column for his diocesan newspaper on the ways that each of us can bear witness to Christ and proclaim the Easter message of hope and love.
So we can bear witness to Christ through the way we live our lives -- by practicing the virtues of Christ so that others see his radiance in our lives. We can bear witness to Christ through our attitude of hope: by trying to see the hallelujahs in the music of life rather than in the sour notes.

We can bear witness to Christ by our daily behavior, by treating, as Christ did, our children, our family members and people we meet truly as the precious jewels that they are; by daily committing ourselves to treat each other with compassion, respect and, yes, forgiveness.

We can bear witness to Christ through tolerance of those different from us, seeking not to judge others but looking for the Christ in them.

We can witness by acts of faith and belief both public and private, through our prayers for others in need, and by attending Mass every week to be part of the community of believers that Christ wants us to be. "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I shall also be," he said.

Jesus reached out to the downtrodden among us, those in the throes of poverty, those mourning over a loss, those incapacitated and disheartened by illness, and those enslaved by addiction.

Do we reach out to people in need as Christ would?

The rest of the column is here.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Moral and Social Teachings

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry is a Roman Catholic graduate and professional school of theology that educates and assists women and men in academic, ministerial, interpersonal, and spiritual formation for the purpose of serving the Church through diverse forms of lay and ordained ministries, theological scholarship, and Christian service in society.

St. Bernard's offers three masters degrees in theology and continuing education opportunities for those seeking professional training, personal enrichment or a deeper understanding of their faith. St. Bernard's classes are held primarily in the evenings in order to accommodate the needs of part-time adult students.

St. Bernard's extension site in Albany is located at 40 North Main Avenue. One of the course offerings for the summer semester, which begins in May, is Moral and Social Teachings:
Introduction to the fields of moral theology and Catholic Social Thought: their purpose in the life of the Church; their methods, their problems. The content of the course is a thorough treatment of methodological issues rather than analysis of specific moral or social dilemmas, though specific issues and cases are used for purposes of illustration and assisting students in developing skills of application to practical situations. Among the topics to be addressed: sin and conversion, moral growth and development, sources of moral wisdom, methods of moral decision making, conscience and discernment, and the development of Catholic Social Thought.

Thursdays, 6-10 p.m.
May 3 - June 28, 2012

More information about St. Bernard’s and its courses is here.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can business lead to holiness?

Catholic News Service reports that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has released a handbook for business educators and entrepreneurs to help businesses stay strong and healthy, and avoid the occupational hazards of greed, overwork and exploitation.
"Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection" is a 30-page primer from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace that spells out the risks of unethical economic strategies and the principles needed for running a sound, moral business.

It seeks to heal the so-called "divided life" of Catholic employers, who may practice their Christian values at home and church, but not in the company they manage or run.

"Dividing the demands of one's faith from one's work in business is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today, including overwork to the detriment of family or spiritual life, an unhealthy attachment to power to the detriment of one's own good, and the abuse of economic power in order to make even greater economic gains," the booklet says.

The ethical principles of the church's social teaching are presented not as hindrances to the smooth functioning of a market economy but as tools for its repair.

"Without guiding principles and virtuous leadership, businesses can be places in which expediency overcomes justice, power corrupts wisdom, technical instruments are detached from human dignity, and self-interest marginalizes the common good," it says.

The reflection was issued with zero fanfare in Rome: just a simple communique in French noting it was available online through the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

The real unveiling came in Lyon, France, where about 2,000 people gathered for a world congress of Christian business leaders March 30 to April 1.

The council's president, Cardinal Peter Turkson, presented the guidebook at the congress, saying the church wanted to help business people excel in their field and their faith.

Far from portraying business as a bogeyman, the text acknowledges that "businesses produce many of the important conditions which contribute to the common good of the larger society" and support the well-being of individuals.

But when the common good and human dignity are neglected in an exclusive pursuit of profits and dividends, the authors warn, an otherwise noble vocation has been hijacked.

The handbook offers a renewed vision of what successful businesses are meant to be and do.

You rest of the article and a link to the booklet can be found here.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Retreat opportunity

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are presenting a weekend of Inspiration and Enrichment Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29, 2012 at the Carondelet Hospitality Center, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road, Latham.

Saturday’s program is 8:30 a.m – 3 p.m. The topic is Experiencing God with Sisters Katie Eiffe, CSJ, Linda Neil CSJ, Liz Cruger, CSJ, and Charla Whimple, CSJ. Sunday’s program is from 10:00 a.m. – 3:15 p.m. Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream will be presented by Sister Kathleen Pritty, RSM. We will explore ways to be environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually uplifting. The fee for each program is $20 with lunch included.

Registration deadline is April 15 to Sister Francis Anne Gilchrist, CSJ, St. Joseph’s Provincial House, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road, Latham, NY 12110. Please make checks payable to St. Joseph’s Provincial House.

More information is available here.