Peace & Justice

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

The saint and the president

It is not every day that the thoughts of a saint and those of a politician align, but today is one of those times, thanks to a friend from college and the liturgical calendar of the Church.

Today is the feast day of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church. In 397, against his will and knowledge, he was nominated archbishop, or Patriarch, of Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire. He criticized the wealthy for their lack of charity and he “called them to a conversion of life that they did not desire.” For example:

“Do you want to honor the body of Christ? Then do not despise his nakedness. You come to attend church services dressed in the finest silks which your wardrobe contains; and it is right that you should honor Christ in this way. But on your way, do you pass naked beggars in the streets? It is no good coming to the Lord’s table in fine silks, unless you also give clothes to the naked beggar – because the body of that beggar is also the body of Christ.


Do you want to honor the blood of Christ? Then do not ignore his thirst. You have donated beautiful gold chalices for the wine, which becomes a symbol of Christ’s blood; and it is right that you should honor Christ in this way. But on your way to services, you passed by beggars who pleaded for food and drink. It is no good putting gold chalices on the Lord’s table unless you give food and drink to the poor from your own tables.


The service which we celebrate in church is a sham unless we put its symbolic meaning into practice outside its walls. Better that we do not come at all than we become hypocrites – whose selfishness can only besmirch the Gospel in the eyes of others."

Compare that with the words of our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower who, in April of 1953, gave his famous speech, “The Chance for Peace.” I was reminded of that speech today by a classmate from Eisenhower College. Here is a sample:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.


It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. 

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. 

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. 

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. 

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. 

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. 

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. 

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

 The speech was delivered in the early days of Eisenhower’s presidency, just a few weeks after the death of Joseph Stalin. In his book, White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters, Robert Schlesinger writes:

More than a week after Stalin’s death, Eisenhower was talking with speechwriter Emmet Hughes about the address. “Look, I am tired—and I think everyone is tired—of just plain indictments of the Soviet regime,” Ike said. “I think it would be wrong—in fact, asinine—for me to get up before the world now to make another one of those indictments. Instead, just one thing matters. What have we got to offer the world?”


As Eisenhower spoke, it seemed to Hughes that his contemplation was drawing to a close. Ike’s thoughts were now coalescing. The president stopped and, jaw set, stared out the window onto the South Lawn. The tiny speck of an F-86 Sabre buzzed across the sky.


In an instant his reverie broke, and he wheeled around. “Here is what I would like to say. The jet plane that roars over your head costs three quarter of a million dollars. That is more money than a man earning ten thousand dollars every year is going to make in his lifetime. What world can afford this sort of thing for long? We are in an armaments race. Where will it lead us? At worst to atomic warfare. At best, to robbing every people and nation on earth of the fruits of their own toil.


“Now, there could be another road before us—the road of disarmament. What does this mean? It means for everybody in the world: bread, butter, clothes, homes, hospitals, schools—all the good and necessary things for decent living. …”

The saint and the president. Two lives separated by decades yet united in a singular approach to life. May their words unite us as we work to put our faith into action.


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Monday, September 06, 2021

Bishops' Labor Day statement

For Labor Day, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released a statement in which he writes, “It is our task not only to reflect on the present ills of our economy, but also to build consensus around human dignity and the common good, the bedrocks of Catholic social teaching, and to answer the Pope’s call to propose new and creative economic responses to human need, both locally and globally.”  


Archbishop Coakley notes:

Throughout the pandemic, the bishops have advocated in favor of nutrition programs, an eviction moratorium, income and employment support, safety measures for those who are incarcerated, and access to health care. During consideration of legislative proposals on infrastructure, the bishops shared with members of the U.S. Congress that Pope Francis considers employment to be the “biggest issue” in politics as it relates to reducing economic inequality. We emphasized the importance of creating jobs for those who are poor and marginalized, prioritizing organized labor and continued protection of workers’ rights. We also called for the legislation to support working families and address the ecological crisis that impacts all workers. 

The entire statement is available here.

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