Peace & Justice

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, delivered an address today to the participants in a major international conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on climate change and stewardship of creation. It was titled Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.

Here is an excerpt:
Without moral conversion and change of hearts, even good regulations, policies, and targets in the world are unlikely to prove effective. Without this ethical foundation, humanity will lack the courage (moral substance) to carry out even the most sensible policy proposals. Yet without effective policies, our moral energy is all-too-easily dispersed. 
This is an all-embracing moral imperative: to protect and care for both creation, our garden home, and the human person who dwells herein – and to take action to achieve this. If the dominant, pervasive ethos is selfishness and individualism, sustainable development will not come about. For progress towards sustainability requires a fundamental openness to relationship or, in other words, justice and responsibility, opening up new avenues of solidarity. 
Citizens of wealthier countries must stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor, both at home and overseas. They have a special obligation to help their brothers and sisters in developing countries to cope with climate change by mitigating its effects and by assisting with adaptation. A simple analogy might help make this clear. Imagine ten people walking in a vast desert. Two of the ten people have already drunk half of the group’s combined supply of water. The other eight are growing weak from thirst. And there is no more water in sight. In such a desperate situation, the two who have drunk their fill have a moral duty to scout ahead to find an oasis. When they find it, they have a moral duty to guide the rest of the group there, making sure that no life is lost. 
As this suggests, the wealthiest countries, the ones who have benefitted most from fossil fuels, are morally obligated to push forward and find solutions to climate-related change and so protect the environment and human life. They are obliged both to reduce their own carbon emissions and to help protect poorer countries from the disasters caused or exacerbated by the excesses of industrialization. 
This moral obligation extends to all – political leaders, corporate leaders, civil society, and ordinary people too. Corporations and financial investors must learn to put long-term sustainability over short-term profit, and to recognize that the financial bottom line is secondary to, and at the service of, the common good. And every single person of good will is summoned by an inner call to embrace the personal virtues that ground sustainable development – and the most important of these is an enfolding charity that radiates outwards from the self to others, from those alive today to those not yet born.
The entire text is here.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day reflection

Daniel J. Misleh, Executive Director of Catholic Climate Covenant, offers an Earth Day reflection through Catholic Charities USA’s Daily Reflections and Prayer Resources. Today he writes about Pope Francis, poverty and climate change. Here is a selection:
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis explained that he chose his papal name to honor St. Francis of Assisi because, “For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?” Since then, Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed the insight from his predecessors that poverty and creation care are intimately related, especially in the face of climate change. 
This summer, Pope Francis will release the Church’s first papal encyclical devoted to ecology. Given Francis’ popularity and his unquestioned moral stature, this document is expected to have a profoundly positive impact on the efforts of both the Church and the world to address climate change. Pope Francis’ attention to ecology will be particularly good news for the world’s poorest people and communities: they are the most vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change—even though they have contributed very little to the problem.  The fact is that the world’s poorest people emit less carbon into the environment because they do not have as many vehicles, nor as many temperature control systems that heat and cool the air, nor as many electronics and machines powered by electricity, nor do they consume as much food (primarily meat) that requires more energy to produce, than those who are not poor.  However, when they live in coastal areas, with less money to construct safeguards against extreme weather brought about by climate change, those who are poor are more likely to feel the effects of such disasters.
You can read more here.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering Archbishop Romero

Today is the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who is scheduled to be beatified next month.

According to an article from Catholic News Service:
Pope Francis formally recognized Feb. 3 that the slain Salvadoran archbishop was killed "in hatred of the faith" -- and not for purely political reasons. 
While Archbishop Romero's sainthood cause began in 1993, it continued for years as church officials combed through thousands of documents related to his life. The effort began moving forward under Pope Benedict XVI. In May 2007, he said: "Archbishop Romero certainly was a great witness to the faith, a man of great Christian virtue." 
The process advanced rapidly with the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the first Latin American pope in history. From the first moments of his papacy, he showed interest in declaring Archbishop Romero a saint. 
Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr, which meant there was no need to prove a miracle for his beatification. However, a miracle is ordinarily needed for canonization as saint. 
Archbishop Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor, was shot and killed March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador during his country's civil war. Archbishop Paglia [Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the archbishop's sainthood cause] said in early February that the two decades it took to obtain the decree were the result of "misunderstandings and preconceptions." 
During Archbishop Romero's time as archbishop of San Salvador -- from 1977 to 1980 -- "kilos of letters against him arrived in Rome. The accusations were simple: He's political; he's a follower of liberation theology." 
All of the complaints, Archbishop Paglia said in February, slowed the sainthood process.
However, promoters of the cause, he said, collected "a mountain of testimony just as big" to counter the accusations and to prove that Archbishop Romero heroically lived the Christian faith and was killed out of hatred for his words and actions as a Catholic pastor. 
"He was killed at the altar," Archbishop Paglia said, instead of when he was an easier target at home or on the street. "Through him, they wanted to strike the church that flowed from the Second Vatican Council."
This week’s issue of America magazine has a cover story devoted to Archbishop Romero. It is written by Kevin Clarke, senior editor and chief correspondent of America and the author of Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out. He recalls the homily that the archbishop gave on the eve his assassination:
The night before his murder, the archbishop made a personal appeal in a desperate attempt to place some sort of moral obstacle before the escalating pace of the killing in El Salvador. He spoke directly to those soldiers of the night who were most responsible for the growing horror. “I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army,” he said, “and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the police and the garrisons. Brothers, you belong to our own people. You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God that says ‘Do not kill!’ should prevail. No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.... Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you! In the name of God: ‘Cease the repression!’” 
The applause was so thunderous the radio station’s beleaguered audio technicians at first took it for some sort of short circuit or feedback in the system that had knocked the good archbishop off the air.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Praying for victims of religious persecution

Earlier this month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for all people of good will to pray for victims of religious persecution and violence, and they asked them to work to protect the marginalized and persecuted around the world.

In their statement, they wrote: “Lent is a season to meditate upon the Cross and unite ourselves even more closely with Christ's suffering. Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way. With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ's resurrection.

The entire statement is available here.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Free family concert on March 20

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany is helping Catholic Relief Services mark the 40th anniversary of the Lenten Rice Bowl Program with a free family event at Carondelet Hospitality Center, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road in Latham.

The event, scheduled for Friday, March 20 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include a simple supper and concert event to showcase the work of CRS Rice Bowl and bring Lenten giving to life. The event will feature family-friendly music from ValLimar Jansen and Ken Canedo and a stirring talk by CRS’ Thomas Awiapo.

ValLimar Jansen has sung sacred music since she was five-years-old. She has sung and toured professionally throughout the United States, Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium and Japan. She played the role of Beneatha, with the Broadway touring cast, in the European Premier of Raisin. ValLimar went on to co-author a one-woman musical about the life of Ethel Waters that received a special commendation from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

            Ken Canedo is a liturgical composer whose songs are sung in Catholic churches around the world. Long involved with, a contemporary Catholic music website, he is the voice behind the popular weekly Liturgy Podcast and also a Spirit Spot blogger. His most recent CD is Doxology, a collection of contemporary and traditional music to honor the Most Holy Trinity. He currently serves as a youth minister and pastoral musician for parishes in Portland, Oregon.

Ken writes frequently for Today’s Liturgy magazine. His first book, Keep the Fire Burning, was just released by Pastoral Press.

            Thomas Awiapo tells a truly inspiring story of survival and success. Orphaned before the age of 10, Awiapo survived bleak poverty and hunger in his small African village in Ghana. At age 12, his search for food led him to a school where Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – with funds contributed through the CRS Rice Bowl program – was providing lunch.

            Because of this food, Thomas survived and continued school, earning a master’s degree. Today, Thomas works for CRS and trains community leaders throughout Ghana. Thomas shows us how our participation in CRS Rice Bowl brings compassion, food and hope around the world.

Please RSVP to 518-453-6650 with the number in your group attending for the simple supper (soup, bread) so we can estimate food. Or you can e-mail Erica Kirkland at

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Catholic Charities USA responds to President's budget proposal

Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016. Catholic Charities USA reports that this blueprint document outlines priorities and areas for investment, but does not have the force of law and will not change current spending levels.

However, it is first step in the budget process, initiating the federal budget negotiations for this year.

Catholic Charities USA has prepared an analysis of the President's proposed budget in comparison to previous years, which is available here. The response read, in part:
"While Catholic Charities agencies, and many other faith-based non-profits, will continue to work with families and individuals on the brink, we know that in order for our nation to truly make a significant change in the numbers of those in poverty, we need support and commitment from the for-profit sector and from government. We cannot do this alone.”
Click here to read the full press release.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Thinking of the death penalty

Today’s blog from the Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) focuses on the death penalty. It begins with this quote from Pope Francis:

“All Christians and men of good will are thus called to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom”

The entry is titled, Yes. The Church Is Opposed to the Death Penalty. This may take some by surprise, but opposition to the death penalty has been a Catholic teaching for many years.

Pope Saint John Paul II prayed the following at a Papal Mass at Regina Coeli Prison in Rome on July 9, 2000: "May the death penalty, an unworthy punishment still used in some countries, be abolished throughout the world." He also spoke out against it on many occasions, such as the previous year when he said the following on a visit to the United States:

A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.

In 1999, the USCCB issued A Good Friday Appeal To End The Death Penalty. They wrote, in part:

For more than 25 years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for an end to the death penalty in our land. Sadly, however, death sentences and executions in this country continue at an increasing rate. In some states, there are so many executions they rarely receive much attention anymore. On this Good Friday, a day when we recall our Savior’s own execution, we appeal to all people of goodwill, and especially Catholics, to work to end the death penalty.

There is much more information on the website of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

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