Friday, March 31, 2006

Fiscal responsibility

The April issue of U.S. Catholic, printed before the passage of the New York State budget, reports:
Our collective inability as a nation and as consumers to balance our budgets is not just a political but a moral failure. In fact, reining in U.S. debt could be the most challenging social and moral problem of our times. Though terrorism and Mother Nature remain potent and uncertain dangers, it is America’s fiscal gluttony and shaky monetary policy that are emerging as the likeliest threats to world stability and peace.

Read the entire article here.

Today's grab bag

Earlier this month, we told you about a planned march from the College of St. Rose to the Capitol to highlight issues of child poverty. The Evangelist reports on the event here:
Ms. Esposito hoped that the collegians' actions will keep legislators mindful of issues impacting poor children at budget time and hopes that they will "do what they have to do to make [kids] a priority."

The latest issue of the New York State Pro-Life Reporter is available here.

The latest letters from the bishops to Congress are here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A war on Christians?

Apparently the so-called war on Christmas was not enough for some, who now claim that there is a war on Christians:
There are those who would say Tom DeLay lost his job as House majority leader because he was indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of money laundering and conspiracy, or because of his extensive ties to lawbreaking lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But they would be wrong.

In fact, the Texas Republican fell from power because he is a Christian.

That, at least, is the view of Rick Scarborough, convener of a conference this week called "The War on Christians."
. . .
But when it came to providing evidence about this war on Christians, the examples were a bit stale. Don Irvine of the conservative media watchdog Accuracy in Media led off. He cited a "Jesus freaks" slur by former CNN boss Ted Turner (from 2001), a CBS employee's description of Bauer as a "little nut" (1999), a columnist's description of "Taliban-like" conservatives (2002) and a radio report linking conservative Christians to the anthrax attacks (2002).

You can read the whole story here.

The United Church of Christ takes a different view here:
Over the years, Religious Right political leaders like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson have appeared on ABC's This Week at the exclusion of other mainline religious voices. Tell ABC to stop catering to the Religious Right.

Prayer rally

The New York State Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a Prayer Rally at the capitol in Albany on April 4th, from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM in support of the issues raised by the Catholic Conference and the positions on those issues that our Bishops and Priests have taken

All are invited to join together in prayer on that day as a show of unity of the Catholic community in New York State on issues which confront our duly elected legislators. We will be there to let our lawmakers aware that there is such a thing as a “Catholic constituency”. Learn more here.

Also, to learn more about Tuesday "lobby days," read this article from Ottaway News Service:
Welcome to tin-cup Tuesdays at the state capital, the weekly Albany ritual when unions come to chant, teachers talk of lost opportunities for New York's children and health-care workers spread fear about the quality of care.

Got something to say?

You can find the telephone numbers and addresses of your state legislators in the blue pages of your telephone directory. For tips on writing letters, go here.

Fiscal foolishness

It's been said that budgets are moral documents. The budget passed by the New York Legislature seems to fail that test. Take, for example, these comments.
It didn't take long for legislative leaders to make short work of this year's budget surplus. They squandered it on a raft of tax cuts that will make incumbents look good before voters this November, when fiscal prudence argued for a more responsible use of the windfall. As a result, New York will more than likely face budget deficits in the coming years, and will surely slip deeper into debt. Gov. Pataki is right to raise the threat of a veto, although the votes to override him appear to be there in both the Assembly and Senate.

"They're leaving the next governor with an exploding cigar," said E. J. McMahon, a budget expert at the conservative Manhattan Institute.

Once this budget gets to his desk, Gov. George Pataki should do what he can to restore some fiscal sanity to the mayhem. Unfortunately, even Pataki's original budget proposal, which called for less spending than the Legislature would like to authorize, didn't go far enough to address the state's long-term financial health.

And here:
There's still time for the full Legislature and the governor to agree upon a taxing and spending course that makes sense for New York. They should quit Fantasyland and seize the opportunity.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Senator Clinton and Catholic voters

The New York Observer reports, here, that Senator Hillary Clinton hopes to woo Catholic voters in the upcoming election:
Strategists have been saying for some time that Mrs. Clinton will use her re-election campaign in the heavily Catholic areas of upstate New York as a laboratory for her expected 2008 Presidential bid. “Her spin is, ‘Hey, look, I can win Catholic votes. If I can win the western tier of New York, I can win Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania,’” said veteran Democratic operative Hank Sheinkopf. If religion-tinged issues such as abortion and gay marriage can be neutralized in those areas, the Democrats can win on economic issues among hard-pressed Catholic men, Mr. Sheinkopf argues.

Follow-up on the news

Two items today to follow-up on items we've mentioned this week. First, the Associated Press reports on Medicaid fraud here:
Investigations into Medicaid fraud last year netted more than four times the money recovered the previous year, but critics say the state needs to go much further in reforming the state's costly program.

This article, about a man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, reports:
"I was very blessed not to have the death penalty," Mr. Mumphrey said in a telephone interview from the office of his lawyer, Eric J. Davis of Houston. "I'd probably be dead right now. The legal system is a hard system to wrestle, especially in Texas."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Budget savings

As the state legislature wrangles over the budget, due April 1, there is much talk about raising taxes and lowering spending. However, we also need to look at other avenues, such as saving money through the elimination of what, for lack of a better word, might be called fraud. For example, William Hammond of The Daily News writes in today's paper:
They talk tough about cracking down on waste and fraud in the Medicaid program, but lawmakers are closing their eyes to one of the worst scams in the state.

It's called "spousal refusal," and it has nothing to do with husbands and wives who suddenly develop headaches around bedtime. Instead, it's a gaping loophole that makes it possible for millionaires to mooch off a government health plan for the poor and disabled.

Read the rest of the story here.

Putting a face with a name

Dennis Poust , Director of Communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, is profiled here. When asked what issues are of most importance to the Catholic Conference, he replied:
"They range from very liberal to very conservative, politically. All are linked to the fundamental respect for human life. We try to be a voice for the voiceless. The single mother on welfare. The unborn child in the womb. The elderly person in a hospital bed. We try to advocate for them. We get reaction from both sides of the Legislature, but most people respect us for our consistency. They know our positions are grounded."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Politics in Albany (and elsewhere)

Gannett News Service reports:
Gov. George Pataki and state lawmakers have pushed New York $1.7 billion farther into debt by borrowing money to pay for projects like Little League fields and parking lots in affluent communities through a secret, politically driven system, a watchdog group says.

The article goes on to report:
. . . the borrowing for such projects has driven state debt, now about $48 billion, to "dangerous levels," and that the money is unevenly distributed around the state. For example, while Albany County has gotten almost $1,100 per person with this spending, largely because of the heavy state investment in nanotech research at Albany University, SUNY, Westchester has gotten only $27 per person, Putnam $49, Rockland $40 and New York City $29.

Read the rest of the story here.

While at the national level, reports The Washington Post:
As long as there is no explicit quid pro quo, lawmakers can channel clients to lobbyists, who help secure home-district pet projects, or "earmarks," and in turn, those lobbyists can send part of their fees back in the form of campaign contributions.

The article also notes:
Proposals pending before the House and Senate would force lawmakers to reveal their contacts with lobbyists and disclose their involvement in winning federal spending provisions or earmarks for constituents or special interests. If such disclosures become mandatory, some in Congress hope past practices will shrivel in the light of day.

Read the rest here.

But before you get discouraged, go to this article, by columnist Mark Shields, who writes about why he believes in politics:
I believe in the politics that wrote the G.I. Bill, that passed the Marshall Plan to rebuild a war-devastated Europe, that saved the Great Lakes and that through Social Security took want and terror out of old age. The kind of politics that teaches us all we owe to those who came before us and those who will come after. That each of us has drunk from wells we did not dig; that each of us has been warmed by fires we did not build.

At their worst, politicians -- just like the rest of us -- can be petty, venal and self-centered. But I believe politics, at its best, can help make ours a world where the powerful are more just and the weak are more secure.

Right on cue

Yesterday, we told you about opposition to the death penalty. Today, the Associated Press reports:
Gov. George Pataki, speaking at graduation ceremonies Monday for 93 new state troopers, renewed his call for legislation providing for the death penalty for those who kill police officers.

The full article is here.
You can contact the Governor here.

Did you miss it?

Yesterday was the collection for Catholic Relief Services. If you missed Mass or did not have enough money for a second collection, we have some information for you here. And even if you gave, there is plenty of useful information.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Capital punishment

A column about the death penalty in today's Washington Post states:
Many, many victims of violent tragedy object to this assumption that their interest in justice is congruent with that of state prosecutors seeking the death penalty. Just last month, Vicki Schieber, the mother of Shannon Schieber, a Wharton Business School student murdered in 1998 by a serial rapist, testified before the U.S. Senate's subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and property rights. As she told the committee: "The word closure is invoked so frequently in discussions of victims and the death penalty that victims' family members jokingly refer to it as 'the c word.' But I can tell you with all seriousness that there is no such thing as closure when a violent crime rips away the life of someone dear to you." Schieber testified that a single-minded government focus on executions shifts the focus away from other, more meaningful legal reforms that might better honor victims and support their families.

The entire article is here.

The New York Catholic Conference has a statement, here, which states, in part:
Based as it is on respect for the human person, the Church’s opposition to the death penalty also includes profound respect for the victims of crime, their family and friends. Respect for the inherent humanity of a person who has committed evil acts should in no way be interpreted as a defense of his or her crimes.

Interfaith news

Today's Times Union reports that Rev. William Love will replace Rev. Daniel Herzog as the next bishop of Albany's Episcopal Diocese, here.

The Associated Press reports today that an Afghan court dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, here.

Finally, Reuters reports:
In its search for better relations with the Islamic world, the Roman Catholic Church is turning a spotlight on the role that culture can play in fostering understanding between peoples of different faiths.

The full story is here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Today's Los Angeles Times reports on its website tonight:
Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border.

Earlier this week, Roger Mahony, the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote this in The New York Times:
I've received a lot of criticism for stating last month that I would instruct the priests of my archdiocese to disobey a proposed law that would subject them, as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties. The proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week, would among other things subject to five years in prison anyone who "assists" an undocumented immigrant "to remain in the United States."

About this war . . .

The front page of this week’s Evangelist has an article by Kate Blain that begins:

What is the responsibility of a Christian living in a nation involved in a war?

Not to sit quietly, believes Otto Maduro, a professor of World Christianity at Drew University in New Jersey who will speak on "Being a Christian in a Time of War," March 29, 7 p.m., as part of the RPI Chapel & Cultural Center Lenten Speakers Series in Troy.

The full article is here.

Earlier this year, Kevin Clarke, senior editor at U.S. Catholic , noted in the February 2006 of that magazine:

The worst thing about our invasion of Iraq is not that it was unwarranted, not that it distracts from the real war on terror or that it builds bridges to future bloodshed and enmity, not that it diminishes our military and drains our treasury now and far into the future. The worst thing about our misadventure in Iraq is the futility of it, the sameness of it, the dreary, awful, sickeningly familiar waste.

That article is here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oscar Romero

March 24 is the 26th annivesrary of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who said:
A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth - beware! - is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call.

Learn more here, here, here and here.

Wealthy New Yorkers WANT an estate tax?

This week's edition of The Legislative Gazette carries an "open letter" to the members of the State Legislature from forty-six wealthy New Yorkers calling for New York State to keep its estate tax. In their advertisement, the millionaires said that keeping the estate tax is essential to New York having a fair tax system.
Governor Pataki has proposed eliminating New York's estate tax. Eliminating this tax, which only applies to estates worth more than one million dollars, and affects less than 3% of all estates, would cost New York $2.8 billion over the next five years (2007-08 through 2011-12), and more than $1 billion per year thereafter. The open letter was published as the Legislature is deciding whether to accept the Governor's proposal. The State Senate's budget proposal does away with the estate tax, but the State Assembly's budget plan keeps the estate tax.
. . .
According to letter signer Alan Grad, "Many owners of successful closely held businesses feel that their financial good fortune is due to the timeless strength of the US economy, the political freedom inherent in our form of government, and the quality of the American employee. Giving back to the government and charities upon death is not a burden that can't be planned for, but a fair tax, on having played the game well, and won."

You can read the entire ad here.

Congressional testimony

In testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services declared that severe poverty assaults the human dignity of millions of people in many regions and nations.
“Our religious faith and our nation’s values tell us that the moral measure of our efforts is how we respond to the ‘least among us’…and whether we seek justice for all,” they said. “Investments in human development are not only matters of moral responsibility, but contribute to a safer and more just and peaceful world.”

The full text of the testimony can be found here.


Not everyone thinks of The Village Voice as a source of pro-life cartoons, but here is one by Ward Sutton that you don't want to miss.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What to do? What to do?

At his news conference yesterday, President Bush said:
We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.

The problem with that statement, as Eric Alterman points out in his blog today, is:
Remember the inspectors were in Iraq doing their job when George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein, kicked them out in order to launch a war that was opposed by most of the word.

Mr. Alterman notes that this is not the first time the President has made this statement that does not agree with the facts. Mr. Alterman calls the President a liar. What do you think? And if the President is indeed a liar, do you think anyone in a pulpit might care to point that out?

Read more here.

An appreciation (or three)

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert announced his departure from Congress last week. Newspapers take note here, here and here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Resources for action

Today's Times Union reports:
ALBANY -- Bearing banners, peace flags and signs, about 200 protesters marched on a downtown federal building to call for an end to the Iraq War and to demand American troops be brought home before more lives are lost.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers resources for dioceses and parishes here.
“Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to ‘cut and run’ versus ‘stay the course,’” said Bishop Wenski. “Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared. Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition…. Our nation’s military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later.”

Monday, March 20, 2006

Got a stick?

Then get it out, because tonight we have more stories than you can shake a stick at.

First, from The Legislative Gazette, this report on last week's Public Policy Day.

Then we have this from Gannett News Service Bureau Chief Jay Gallagher, who was not impressed when Albany’s legislative "conference committees" met, ostensibly to discuss the New York budget.
Because while the sessions have been billed as an important reform in "opening up the process," they were for the most part a sham, as they have been in past years, with little of real importance taking place.

The federal budget process was the subject of this editorial from The Washington Post:
WHAT WOULD IT take to get the federal budget in balance -- honest, no-gimmick, no-fooling balance -- without raising taxes? This is a question the Bush administration would prefer not to discuss, and for good reason: It would require cuts so deep and wide as to be unimaginable as a matter of politics and unwise as a matter of policy.

How can we be sure? Well, the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House members, has produced an alternative budget that treads where Bush will not. And it is a helpful document, not in the sense of being realistic but for exposing the airiness of administration claims of fiscal prudence. Balance could be achieved by 2011, it shows, but only if Americans are willing to sacrifice a good chunk of their health care, education, energy, transportation and foreign aid -- in fact, pretty much all of the federal budget outside defense and veterans.

And speaking of money, The New York Times has this book review of Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, by William Easterly, who says about foreign aid:
"the tragedy in which the West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $4 bed nets to poor families. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get $3 to each new mother to prevent five million child deaths." The West is not stingy. It is ineffective.

Finally, if you wonder why we are fighting in Afghanistan, this article from USA Today might not provide the answer you desire:
A man in Afghanistan is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under the country's Islamic sharia laws, a judge said Sunday.

Catholic pacifists and the FBI

Columnist James Carroll writes in today’s Boston Globe:
OVER THE LAST four years, the FBI has repeatedly spied on the Thomas Merton Center, a Catholic peace organization in Pittsburgh. The American Civil Liberties Union made the case public last week, with documentation. One 2002 FBI memo defined the center as ''a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism." Oh my. I confess that I felt a little light-headed on reading this news; déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say.

Read more here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A developing rift?

Today's New York Times reports:
The fierce battle over the future of America's immigration system is spilling from Capitol Hill onto the airwaves, as conservatives accuse Democrats, human rights groups and even some labor unions of trying to stymie Republican efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

But in recent weeks, some commentators and prominent Republicans have turned their swords against another formidable foe in their battle to tighten the borders: the Roman Catholic Church.

The article is here.

The bishops explain their stance here:
There are several reasons the Catholic Church is involved in the immigration debate. The Old and New Testaments, as well as the encyclicals of the Popes, form the basis for the Church’s position. In Gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls upon us to “welcome the stranger,” for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me. “ (Mt. 25-35, 40). The Church also is involved in the issue because many of the Catholic faithful are immigrants who need the support and assistance of the Church. Finally, the U.S. bishops believe that our current immigration system is not good for our nation and contributes to the human suffering of migrants. Thus, they seek to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Take a hike

Joan Horgan, director of campus ministry at the College of Saint Rose, writes in today's Times Union:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian executed for opposing the Holocaust, wrote, "The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."

It's way past time for our rich, powerful nation to pass this test. We invite all New Yorkers concerned about our children to gather with us at the College of Saint Rose at 3 p.m. Wednesday, to march to the Capitol and deliver our demands for a state budget that takes into consideration the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society.

For information, call 337-2308 or e-mail

We suggest you read the entire column.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Action Alert

The New York State Catholic Conference is urging people to write their State senators to ensure health care access for the uninsured. From their sample letter:
Nearly three million of our fellow New Yorkers have no health insurance, including over 400,000 children. For almost half of those who are uninsured—and for over 80% of uninsured children—help could easily be within their reach. Proposals before you, advanced by the Assembly in Bill Number A.10257, would simplify the processes currently in place to enroll eligible children and adults in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, or Family Health Plus.

Learn more here.

Republican news

The Associated Press reports that Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, the longest-serving New York Republican in Congress and outgoing chairman of the House Science Committee, will retire from the office he has held since 1982.
Boehlert is a leader of the small moderate Republican faction in Congress that has clashed in the past with Bush over such issues as global warming and spending for social programs.

Boehlert said Friday he was proud to be labeled a moderate.

"I think most people reject the extremism of the left and the right. They find stalemate insufferable. They want us to find the common ground," he said.

Read more here.

Also, read this review of American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips.
As he's done in so many of his earlier books, Mr. Phillips draws a lot of detailed analogies in these pages, using demographics, economic statistics and broader cultural trends to map macropatterns throughout history. In analyzing the fates of Rome, Hapsburg Spain, the Dutch Republic, Britain and the United States, he comes up with five symptoms of "a power already at its peak and starting to decline": 1) "widespread public concern over cultural and economic decay," along with social polarization and a widening gap between rich and poor; 2) "growing religious fervor" manifested in a close state-church relationship and escalating missionary zeal; 3) "a rising commitment to faith as opposed to reason and a corollary downplaying of science"; 4) "considerable popular anticipation of a millennial time frame" and 5) "hubris-driven national strategic and military overreach" in pursuit of "abstract international missions that the nation can no longer afford, economically or politically." Added to these symptoms, he writes, is a sixth one, almost too obvious to state: high debt, which can become "crippling in its own right."

For those who might not know it, Kevin Phillips is a former Republican strategist who helped design the GOP's Southern strategy. He made his name with his 1969 book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which predicted the coming ascendancy of the G.O.P.

Follow-up on Public Policy Day

The Evangelist reports:
The forum drew more than 1,100 other Catholics from across New York State with the same goal: to lobby state legislators about five targeted issues of concern to the Church:

* approving education tax credits for parents in religious, independent and public schools;

* promoting ethical stem-cell research, and banning embryonic stem-cell research and cloning;

* passing "Timothy's Law" to ensure equity in insurance coverage for mental illness and substance abuse treatment;

* ensuring access to health care for the poor; and

* continuing to reform the Rockefeller-era drug sentencing laws.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Today's Times Union reports:
Senate Democrats on Wednesday complained they are being censored by their Republican counterparts, who through their majority status have control over the mailings that lawmakers regularly send to constituents.

We might feel more sympathetic if they expressed the same concern for the way majority Democrats in the Assembly treat their minority Republican counterparts:
Members of the Republican minority in the Assembly said they too have struggled with censors, who in their case are with the Democratic majority.

The minority parties in each house seem a little hypocritical when they complain about the way they are treated in their own house, but remain silent on the treatment their political colleagues treat the other party in the house on the other side of the Capitol. If, for example, Senator Kruger was criticizing the Assembly Speaker, THAT would be news.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lawmakers urged to reject embryo research funding

The New York Catholic Conference has sent the following to members of its Public Policy Network:
The State Assembly has now included funding for cloning and embryonic stem cell research in its version of the 2006-2007 State Budget (A.10257)! Please urge your State Senator and Assembly member to reject this proposal to use your tax dollars to finance experimentation on living human embryos. Urge your representatives to fund ethical successful adult stem cell research instead. Now is the time to take action…the state budget must be finalized by April 1!

Click here for more information.

Stopping torture

Pax Christi has a campaign to convince our government to stop using torture.
We join with the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, the National Council of Churches and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in saying that torture debases the torturer and tortured alike, and denies the preciousness of life "and the dignity of every human being."

The group quotes our late Pope, John Paul II:
"The thought of Jesus being stripped, beaten and derided until his final agony on the cross should always prompt a Christian to protest against similar treatment of their fellow beings. Of their own accord, disciples of Christ will reject torture, which nothing can justify, which causes humiliation and suffering to the victim and degrades the tormentor."

To get involved, go here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Farm subsidies opposed

Catholic News Service reports that the Vatican has said justice requires wealthy nations to reconsider the level of subsidies they offer their own farmers and the barriers that countries place on the import of agricultural products from developing nations:
In the position paper, the Vatican said the conference must give priority to the "longing for justice and the desire for development" of poor people living in rural areas in the developing world.

By helping them, the Vatican said, the world will improve food security, promote environmentally sound farming methods and make real strides toward alleviating poverty since "three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas."

The full article is here.

Today's Wall Street Journal follows up with a front page story:
A movement to uproot crop subsidies, which have been worth nearly $600 billion to U.S. farmers over the decades, is gaining ground in some unlikely places -- including down on the farm.

In Iowa, one of the most heavily subsidized states, a Republican running to be state agriculture secretary is telling big farmers they should get smaller checks. Mark W. Leonard, who collects subsidies himself and campaigns in a white cowboy hat, told a room full of farmers recently that federal payments spur overproduction, which depresses prices for poor growers overseas.

"From a Christian standpoint, what it is doing to Africa tugs at your heartstrings," Mr. Leonard told them. Last year, he helped humanitarian group Oxfam International in its anti-subsidy campaign by escorting a cotton farmer from Mali to church gatherings near his farm in Holstein.

More on Sunshine Week

The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County and Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs, will present "Openness in Government: Looking for the Sunshine, A Symposium on Openness and Transparency at Local Levels of Government."
The event, part of Sunshine Week, will be Wednesday at the Saratoga County Building No. 5, 50 W. High St. Refreshments will be served at 5:30 p.m., followed by the panel presentation at 6:15 p.m.

Read more here.

And if you ever wondered why we need more disclosure, read this article:
Now, President Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency want to weaken the largely successful Toxics Release Inventory program, which requires companies to tell the public how they dispose of or release nearly 650 chemicals that may harm human health and the environment. The disclosure program makes data available for anyone — journalists, policymakers, investors or parents — to learn exactly which chemicals are being released from corporate smokestacks and discharge pipes.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Act now for immigration reform

The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform reports:
The legislative action on immigration reform has now turned to the U.S. Senate. Over the next few days, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be “marking up” legislative proposals. The Judiciary Committee Chairman, Arlen Specter (R-PA), introduced his “Chairman’s Mark” (The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006) on February 24. It is critically important to actively engage the Senate at this time.

Your Senators need to hear from you now. Your Senators need to understand that only comprehensive legislation will fix the ills of the current system and that an enforcement-only approach is ineffective and unacceptable.

To learn more about the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 and what you can do, click here.

Time alone with God

The February issue of the monthly magazine of the Columban Fathers is devoted to prayer:
“It must be great for you to have such a clear vocation,” someone once said to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “I mean, to know that your job is to help the very poor and sick and the dying.”

“Oh, but that is not my vocation,” Mother Teresa replied. “My vocation is to love God with all my heart and soul; everything else flows from this.

Like all mystics, Mother Teresa’s secret of nourishing this deep, personal love of God was prayer. Nearly all great spiritual teachers, especially in the Christian tradition, point to this way of private prayer. If we are to deepen our faith and grow in the love of our Lord, we must regularly spend time with God.

The issue is here. Simply click on Columban Mission Magazine on the left side of the home page, and scroll down to Selected articles from February 2006 Columban Mission, Lord, Teach Us To Pray.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

FOILed again

Today's Times Union reports:
Sunshine Week begins today across the United States, a time when newspapers and broadcasters take a look at the current state of government openness. The idea was born in Florida in 2002, championed by that state's news media hoping to spread the access they enjoy.

It is good to have such access. Maybe everyone should take Senator Joe Bruno up on his suggestion that we use FOIL to access records he has:
So this is how government, supposedly representative government, really works in New York. Say you wanted to know how the state Senate actually spends the millions of dollars in discretionary funds formally known as memorandums of understanding, among the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker, but more commonly known as pork barrel and even slush funds.
. . .
Want answers? Then go fill out a Freedom of Information Law request, or so Mr. Bruno said the other day.

Read the editorial here. With a state drowning in debt, everyone should be asking our politicians -- Republican and Democrat -- how our money is being spent. The good Senator's e-mail is BRUNO@SENATE.STATE.NY.US. Drop him a line today, and let him know Albany Catholic is on the case.

Catholic books, Left and Right

The New York Times has reviews of books by two Catholic writers from different ends of the political spectrum. First is CRUNCHY CONS by Rod Dreher:
"To us, to be a committed conservative today is to go against the grain of the broader, lifestyle-libertarian culture," Dreher writes. "And to be devoted to things like preserving the environment, resisting television and the depredations of big business, and encouraging sustainable development is to pitch one's tent off the Republican reservation." The core of the crunchy-con perspective is that "industrial capitalism and conventional left-wing bohemianism are two sides of the same coin." Both glorify consumerism and individual choice above all else, at the cost of undermining traditional mores and ways of life.

Read more here. Free registration required (and worth it.)

Then we have WHAT JESUS MEANT by Garry Wills:
"To read the Gospels in the spirit with which they were written, it is not enough to ask what Jesus did or said," Wills writes. "We must ask what Jesus meant by his strange words and deeds." Or, more precisely, what the Gospel authors meant; as the Gospel of John acknowledges, the scriptures were composed "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name."

The whole review is here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stem cell research

The Associated Press reports that a ballot proposal promoting embryonic stem cell research is turning conservatives against each other and threatening to tear apart Missouri's Republican Party at the very height of its modern-day influence. The story is here. Does that bode anything in the Empire State?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bishops' Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today released a Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life:
A recent public statement by 55 Catholic and Democratic members of the House of Representatives offers an opportunity to address several important points about the responsibilities of Catholics in public life.

We welcome this and other efforts that seek to examine how Catholic legislators bring together their faith and their policy choices.

The entire statement is here. Any chance you'll hear any of this from a pulpit near you?

We reported on this statement on February 28, and linked to it here.

Iraq -- Getting in/Getting out

Foreign Affairs magazine, in the current issue, reports:
During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

Meanwhile, at the Boston Review, we have an article by Barry R. Posen, the Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT. He is the author of Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks and The Sources of Military Doctrine.

Some people argue that the United States should disengage because the war was a mistake in the first place, or because it is morally wrong. I do not propose to pass judgment on these questions one way or the other. My case for disengagement is different: it is forward-looking and based on American national interests. The war as it has evolved (and is likely to evolve) badly serves those interests. A well-planned disengagement will serve them much better by reducing military, economic, and political costs.

And over at the Center for American Progress, there is a plan for Strategic Deployment:
The United States needs to pursue a plan of Strategic Redeployment. Strategic Redeployment is a threat-based strategy to target our efforts against global terrorist networks and bring greater stability to Iraq and its neighborhood. This approach will minimize the damage to the United States in the short term, mitigate the drawbacks of our eventual withdrawal from Iraq, and secure our interests in the long term. Strategic Redeployment differs from other plans for what to do in Iraq by recognizing that Iraq is now connected to a broader battle against global terrorist networks - even though it was not before the Bush administration's invasion. Strategic Redeployment also means re-engaging our allies, building a platform for multilateral cooperation that counters the terrorist threats we face, rather than relying on ad-hoc "coalitions of the willing."

Bush vs. Benedict

The American Conservative magazine notes how Catholic neoconservatives grapple with the church’s Just War tradition:
Writing in National Review Online—a venue not explicitly Catholic or neoconservative but colored by both—shortly after the death of John Paul II, University of Reading philosophy professor David Oderberg put the neocon line bluntly. “When it comes to applying tradition to life-and-death moral issues”—such as the Iraq War—“Bush 43 wins hands down over John Paul II.” George Weigel or Michael Novak would never write such a thing, but the conclusion is one to which their arguments readily lead. Where foreign policy is concerned, for the Catholic neoconservative, it is Bush is, Benedict no.

The article goes on to state:
Yet in the end, American Catholics are not faced with a choice between conservatism and their faith—conservatives in the realist, anti-militarist traditions of George Kennan, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, and the 1930s Old Right have always held foreign-policy views compatible with Benedict’s. But between what commonly passes for conservatism today, as represented by the president’s Iraq policy, and the vision of the pope there is an unbridgeable gap, on one side or the other of which American Catholics will have to take a stand.

You can read the entire article here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Write a letter

The Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy and the President of Catholic Relief Services are urging support for essential funding for programs affecting some of the most vulnerable people around the world.
As the Congress takes up consideration of the request by President Bush for Fiscal Year 2006 emergency appropriations, we write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to urge your active support for essential funding for urgent humanitarian and development activities. This support is based on our extensive experience among some of the most vulnerable people around the world. In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need, we urge you to ensure that the following critical funding requirements are included in the FY 2006 supplemental legislation currently before you:

Read more here. The address of your congressional representative is in the blue page of your telephone directory (page 11 of my new Verizon directory). Please call the local office or send a note this week.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

40 days to a new you

Lenten resources from U.S. Catholic:
40 days to a new you part 1 is here.

40 days to a new you part 2 is here.

Think about it

Two items in the news that may surprise some people. First, for those who think Republicans do not have children fighting in Iraq:
His father, the veteran Republican senator from Missouri, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I'm very proud of him, he's done very well," said Sen. Bond, who met with his son in January during a visit to Iraq and four other countries in the region. Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) were on the same codel.

Shortly before meeting his son in Fallujah, the senator said, five members of his son's unit were killed by a roadside bomb.

The full story is here.

And for those who think all Muslims are the same:
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- It's not just East and West that are divided over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two of the most popular Muslim preachers on Arab television are feuding over whether dialogue or protest is the best approach in the clash of civilizations.

The rest of the article is here.

Just a reminder

The New York State Catholic Conference's 2006 Public Policy Forum, in which Catholic New Yorkers from across the state demonstrate their political strength in Albany, will be held on Tuesday, March 14, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.

More details, along with information on the issues, is available here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Abortion update

TIME's Nancy Gibbs divulges the secrets behind South Dakota's tough new law here.

The United State Conference of Catholic Bishops website on abortion has information here.

William Saletan, who covers science and technology for Slate, the online magazine at, writes in the Washington Post:
Five hundred years from now, people will look back on our surgical abortions the way we look back on the butchery of medieval barbers. Like the barbers, we're just trying to help people to the best of our ability. But our ability is growing. So should our wisdom, and our ambitions.

The entire article is here.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cardinal Mahony speaks and others react

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported on comments made by Cardinal Roger Mahony regarding proposed legislation on immigrants:
In his most forceful comments to date, Mahony said he would instruct his priests to defy legislation — if approved by Congress — that would require churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance and penalize them if they refuse to do so. That provision was included in the immigration bill recently passed by the House of Representatives; a similar proposal is in the version that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin debating this week.

Steve Pehanich, the executive director of Catholic Charities of California, comments here.

The New York Times supports him here.

Bill O'Reilly disagrees here.

With God on our side

Eric Alterman, writing in the March 20 issue of The Nation, notes:
In a less flamboyant though more revealing episode last year, CNN's star anchor, Wolf Blitzer, questioned traitorous right-winger Robert Novak and liberal Paul Begala about the death of Pope John Paul II. Blitzer opened the segment by suggesting that while "I am sure Bob is a good Catholic, I am not so sure about Paul Begala." Novak converted from Judaism to an Opus Dei form of Catholicism, while Begala was raised in the faith, remains devout and even named his eldest child John Paul. When he asked Blitzer, "Well, now, who are you to pass moral judgment on my religion, Mr. Blitzer...on the day of my Holy Father's funeral?" adding, "I don't think anybody should presume that a liberal is not a good Catholic" and "The Holy Father is liberal.... The Holy Father bitterly opposed President Bush's war in Iraq. He came to St. Louis--and I was there--and he begged America to give up the death penalty. President Bush strongly supports it, as did President Clinton and others. Many of the Holy Father's views, my church's views, are extraordinarily liberal. I mean, the Pope talked about savage, unbridled capitalism, not Bob Novak's capitalism." The CNN anchor instructed Begala, "Don't be so sensitive," as if he had unflatteringly critiqued Begala's makeup.

The moronic level of cable discourse notwithstanding, missing from almost all discussions of the role of religion in public life is what William James famously termed the "varieties of religious experience." The right-wing hijacking of religion's public role in our political discourse is as undeniable as it is inappropriate, and represents one of liberalism's most serious problems.

You can read the entire article here.

A Catholic town

From the Associated Press:
FLORIDA: PLANS FOR CATHOLIC TOWN AND UNIVERSITY Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, who is helping to bankroll a new Florida town and university, backtracked from comments that he would like the community to be governed by strict Roman Catholic principles. His ideas about barring pornography and birth control, he said, applied only to the university. Both the town, called Ave Maria, and Ave Maria University, the first Catholic university to be built in the United States in four decades, are set to open next year about 25 miles east of Naples in southwest Florida. Mr. Monaghan's comments contrasted with statements he made last year to a Catholic men's group in Boston that pornographic magazines would not be sold in town, that pharmacies would not carry condoms or birth control pills, and that cable television would carry no X-rated channels. (AP)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Contemplative prayer

Bruce Gardiner conducts a wonderful session on contemplative prayer each month at Abba House. Here is info on this month's session:
Contemplative Outreach United in Prayer

The third Saturday in March each year is a time when Centering Prayer groups throughout the world meet for a day of prayer and enrichment. So our usual Saturday will a bit expanded, as you'll see on the schedule below.

As always – come when you can and stay as long as you can.

Schedule of the Day
8:30 AM Centering Prayer intro for total beginners
8:30 Coffee and.... for others
9:00 Chair Yoga Preparation for Centering Prayer
9:15 Two 20-minute Periods of Centering Prayer with optional walk
10:00 Break
10:15 New Video Part I: Living the Contemplative Life (Fr. Thomas Keating)
11:05 Break
11:15 Discussion of Video
11:40 Centering Prayer
12:00 PM Lenten Lunch (Homemade Soup & Bread)
12:50 New Video Part II: Homily with Fr. Thomas Keating
1:15 Discussion of Video
1:35 Centering Prayer
1:55 Closing

Abba House is located at 647 Western Avenue at the corner of Homestead, in Albany, NY

Please let us know if you'll be attending.

Peace and blessings,

Bruce Gardiner

Sister, teacher, advocate

Saturday's Times Union had a nice profile of Sister Renee Adamany: Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, assistant professor at Schenectady County Community College and recipient of a 2005 Women of Achievement award from the Schenectady YWCA. The article is here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Bishop's column

Bishop Hubbard's latest column in The Evangelist is here. In it, he mentions what might be the major purpose of this blog:
Financial contributions are not the only way to assist those in need. We can also do so by advocating with our elected officials, letting them know -- through letters, emails, phone calls or personal visits -- of our support for or opposition to particular public policies that impact the poor.

Two points to make here. The first is that God must really love the Albany diocese to let us have this wonderful man as our bishop. We support his efforts. And second, if you don't subscribe to The Evangelist, get a subscription. It is a wonderful resource, and the printed paper has so much more than the on-line version. It's no wonder they win all those awards from the Catholic press association.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

New call for a death penalty

The murder of two police officers this week has led for a call to restore the death penalty on New York. While we have relatives who are in law enforcement, and know two police officers who survived attempts on their lives, we still support the position of the New York State Catholic Conference, which opposes such a move:
Based as it is on respect for the human person, the Church’s opposition to the death penalty also includes profound respect for the victims of crime, their family and friends. Respect for the inherent humanity of a person who has committed evil acts should in no way be interpreted as a defense of his or her crimes.

You can read more here.

Public Policy Day on March 14

From the New York State Catholic Conference:
Edward Cardinal Egan and the Bishops of New York State will join with more than 1,000 Catholics on Tuesday, March 14, for the annual Public Policy Forum sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference. The Forum is an opportunity for Catholics to show their political strength in Albany, and the Bishops are encouraging all concerned Catholics to attend.

The news release, with a list of Diocesan Forum Coordinators, is here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Had we only known sooner . . .

we could have planned a celebration.
It's March 1st, International Death Penalty Abolition Day! This marks the anniversary of the date that the State of Michigan became the first English speaking territory in the world to abolish the death penalty - March 1st, 1847. To be clear, this was Michigan's first legislative act - passed in the Spring of 1846, but it officially took effect on this day in 1847. So, especially today, do something to advance the cause of Abolition, and also, do something that celebrates your own vision of a world without violence....

Read the story of the wrongful execution that led to Abolition Day

A Truce Between Science and Religion?

An essay in the Science section of The New York Times states:
For its part, organized religion has for centuries found means of accommodation, approval and even support for science to leaven its sometime resistance. The early Roman Catholic Church adapted cathedrals across Europe to serve as solar observatories. Muslims of the Middle Ages pioneered the forerunners of optics and algebra.

So too, many scientists in history have turned to the heavens. Galileo believed in the power of prayer. Darwin wrote "Origin of Species" as a theist, envisioning divine control of the universe. Today, surveys show that roughly 40 percent of scientists believe in a God who actively communicates with humankind and to whom one may pray in expectation of answers — hardly a mob of atheists.

Crossing borders

An article in yesterday's Times Union detailed a trip to Mexico by local high school students and sponsored by the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.

ALBANY -- Natalia Testo could have gone skiing. But while her family hit the Colorado slopes last week, the 16-year-old took a different path.

She left behind her expensive clothes, her Coach bags and her classmates at Academy of the Holy Names and joined a delegation to the Mexican border.

In Los Napolitos near Reynosa, she stepped out of a van into a raw breeze and stared at rows of shacks. Cold air seeped through the shanty walls, made of shipping pallets. She felt hot tears in her eyes and a wave of guilt.

As her personal economy turned global, she realized that pieces of her cellphone, her sneakers, even her shopping bags were made by Mexicans living in this polluted slum -- across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas -- netting as little as 89 cents an hour from American manufacturers.

The rest of the story is here.

And so it begins

Regulations on fasting and abstinence during Lent in the Albany Diocese can be found here.