Peace & Justice

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

At the end of Black History Month . . .

As we come to the end of Black History Month, the Penitential Act from the beginning of Mass has been on my mind. You will recall the opening, “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; . . .”
And what, you might ask, does that have to do with Black History Month? It is a reminder that so much of Black history is the result of action or inaction by white people.
Just read this section of Rev. Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Rev. King wrote this letter 60 years ago. Since then some things have changed, but many have not. Perhaps he had a premonition of this when he wrote later in the letter, “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.”
In the years since those words were written, there have been many bouts of civil unrest, some of which resulted in investigations and reports by various government agencies. It seems each of those reports contained a similar finding, one that was seen in earlier reports on the 1919 riot in Chicago, the Harlem riot of 1935, and the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of 1943. As one commentator noted, “the same analysis, the same recommendations, and the same inaction.”
The analysis was that the chief cause of the unrest was white racism, which still leads to problems today. Fortunately, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has prepared this guide to assist Catholics and people of good will in reflecting on the evil and harm of racism. Although not a comprehensive list, it provides actionable steps to help Catholics to reflect and respond in faith. With the aid of Holy Scripture, Catholic social teaching, and sacred tradition, it is an open invitation to journey toward reconciliation. I would encourage you to share it with your parish community. Future possibilities of civil unrest rest on what we do or what we fail to do.
And for an excellent history on civil unrest and the government reports about it, read this excellent article by Harvard historian Jill Lepore in The New Yorker. You will learn a lot.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

POSTPONESD-- Ecumenical and Interfaith Advocacy Days next week

Because of the expected snow storm, this event had been re-scheduled to March 20-21.

The New York State Council of Churches will have its annual Ecumenical and Interfaith Advocacy Days in Albany on February 27 and 28. This year’s focus is on immigration and the housing crisis in New York.
According to promotional material, the Council expects that the Governor and the Legislature will focus on addressing the affordable housing crisis in 2023. In addition, they believe, the issue of immigration will be front and center on the political stage because of the lifting of Title 42 and the influx of immigrants across the state.
The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. on Monday with a gathering at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 262 State Street in Albany. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. The guest preacher is Reverend Reginald Bacchus, Senior Pastor at Mt. Ollie Baptist Church in Brownsville, Brooklyn. A reception will follow at 8:00 p.m.
Participants will gather again at the church on Tuesday, February 28, at 9:00 a.m. to hear about what the Council is seeking in terms of legislation. A news conference is tentatively scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol, followed by lunch and legislative visits.
More information and a registration form are available here. The registration fee of $25 will help cover costs of food and materials provided.
You can contact the Council directly at or 518-436-9319.