Peace & Justice

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Farm bill

The Farm bill comes up in Congress for renewal every five or six years and sets U.S. agriculture policy in a number of key areas. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

Federal farm programs began during the Great Depression when one-quarter of the U.S. population lived on farms. For generations, the federal government has guaranteed minimum prices to farmers and allowed farmers to sell some crops to the federal government when markets were poor. Loan deficiency payments or subsidies for certain commodity crops like corn, wheat, rice, cotton and soybeans are the most common guarantees. The current structure, however, excludes or leaves behind many small farmers and ranchers who must compete with larger producers and wealthier farmers.

The 2012 reauthorization of the Farm bill provides an opportunity to reshape the current, broken agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves small and moderate-size family farms in the U.S., promotes good stewardship of the land, overcomes hunger here and abroad and helps vulnerable farmers and their families in developing countries. It also provides an opportunity to strengthen and improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamps Program), a key part of the fight against hunger in the United States, and to strengthen international food security aid programs for starving people abroad.

During the 2012 Farm bill discussion, the Catholic community will offer a united, constructive, and active voice in the debate about how U.S. farm policies affect hungry people, domestic farmers, food producers and consumers, and promote conservation of creation. A remarkable Catholic partnership (USCCB, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Relief Services) will urge Congress to adopt policies that support domestic farmers, promote rural development, and reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Half the world’s population relies on agriculture to make a living. Most poor or extremely poor people around the globe (i.e., those living on less than $2 or $1 per day) live in rural areas, so agriculture reform is a primary means for alleviating poverty.

The USCCB has a website devoted to this issue, The Farm Bill: Principles and Priorities.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Remembering the Council

"Vatican II: Remembering the Council and Celebrating the Vision"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Carondelet Hospitality Center
St. Joseph’s Provincial House
385 Watervliet-Shaker Rd
Latham, NY 12110

Presenters: Sr. Lois Barton, CSJ and Sr. Katie Eiffe, CSJ

Description: The historical background that led to Pope John XXIII’s call for the Council, and the dynamic processes which changed the Church and the world will be explored. In addition, we Council documents will be reviewed, hoping to increase awareness and appreciation of how momentous the Council was – and is – for the Church and the world.
There is no fee, but a free will offering would be appreciated.

Registration: Please register by contacting Sr. Katie at 389-2299 or via email at



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do charter school undermine parochial schools?

Scott Waldman of the Times Union reported this morning on a draft report by Abe Lackman, the former head of the Coalition of Independent Colleges and Universities and, before that, the Senate GOP’s point man on budget negotiations, who claims in a draft report that charter schools in Albany have undermined parochial schools:
"We’ve wound up replacing a good system with a system that is inferior, and it’s cost the taxpayer a good deal of money," he said Monday.

For every charter school that has opened in New York in the past decade, a parochial school has closed, Lackman states in the report that will be published next month in the Albany Law Review.

In Albany, the drop has been precipitous and has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and wiped out "good schools" along the way, the report states.

Albany’s parochial schools have lost a staggering 65 percent of their enrollment, double the statewide average. In 1998, before charters were introduced, Albany had seven Catholic elementary schools and a high school with 1,812 students. By the 2011-12 school year, four elementary schools had closed and enrollment plummeted to 575. At the city’s only parochial high school, Bishop Maginn, enrollment declined for years. Annual tuition is about $6,000.
You can read more here.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Political guildelines for Catholics

The New York State Catholic Conference has posted guidelines for permissible activities by Catholic organizations. Titled Pastors, Parishes and Political Responsibility, it is available here. Some examples:

Permissible Church Activities
- Endorsing/opposing legislation, including ballot referenda
- Homilies/bulletin inserts on moral issues, and on the moral responsibilities of voters
- Providing educational materials on public policy issues, but not candidates, to parishioners
- Arranging for groups to meet with their elected officials to advocate for or against legislation
- Encouraging letter-writing, phone calls and other contacts with candidates and elected officials about issues
- Inviting all candidates for public office to a Church-sponsored public forum, debate, or candidates’ night
- Conducting a nonpartisan voter registration drive on Church property
- Distributing unbiased candidate questionnaires or voting records on a wide variety of issues
Prohibited Church Activities
- Endorsing/opposing candidates for political office
- Homilies/bulletin inserts regarding specific candidates
- Distributing or permitting distribution of partisan campaign literature under Church auspices or on Church property
- Arranging for groups to work for a candidate for public office
- Funding or financial support of any candidate, political action committee, or political party
- Inviting only selected candidates to address your Church-sponsored group, or permitting/hosting political meetings on Church property
- Conducting voter registration that is slanted toward one party
- Rating candidates numerically, or "favorably" or "unfavorably"

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Primary Day

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and vote.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bishop Hubbard’s monthly column in The Evangelist offers a reflection on Labor Day, the minimum wage, and the need for labor unions, among other subjects:
This past Monday, we celebrated our annual Labor Day, in which we were reminded -- as Blessed Pope John Paul II pointed out in his 1981 encyclical, "On Human Work" -- that "labor is essential to our identity as human beings and a tangible expression of our dignity," as well as a concrete way we can cooperate with the creator and bring into fulfillment the dream God has for all of creation.
Certainly, this Labor Day, which in the recent past has been more associated with picnics, the end of summer vacations and the opening of schools than with its initial intent, presents us with some sobering realities.
The unemployment rate remains at more than eight percent, the longest stretch of such high joblessness since the Great Depression. Further, millions of working people are struggling to pay their monthly mortgages; thousands of college graduates are struggling with crushing student loan debt; formerly middle-class folks are now feeding their families with food stamps; and, over the past 30 years, there has arisen a growing income inequality which has led researchers to conclude that the United States is the most economically unequal country in the advanced world.  
In 1986, the U.S. Catholic bishops sought to address the issues confronting our economy in the light of Catholic social teaching, with a particular focus on poverty, unemployment and the relationship between the American economy and world economies.
The entire column is here.

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