Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cruising with politics and religion

On Thursday, we mentioned that the Rev. Peter G. Young was honored with the Interfaith Alliance Rev. Robert Lamar Humanitarian Award. The keynote address was given by Denise Taft Davidoff, a founding director of the Interfaith Alliance, a nationwide organization of 150,000 members. Yesterday, on the religion page of the Times Union, she wrote about politics and religion ( a favorite topic here at Albany Catholic).
We need to train a new generation of leaders who understand the intersection of religion and politics in our nation's history, who appreciate what gifts the First Amendment bestows and who want to preserve the glory of religious liberty.

We need to provide them with the tools to shape our democracy to reflect America's rich diversity of heritage, culture, religion and values. And we and they must learn to speak of these things with strangers at the dinner table.

You can read the entire article here.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Last Friday (April 21), we asked you (yes, we’re talkin’ to you) to join the Million Voices for Darfur Campaign. The latest from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is here.

It's not too late

There still is time to register for the 33rd Annual Spring Enrichment Program which will be May 15-18 at the College of St. Rose in Albany. This event is sponsored by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Albany diocese. The classes, which cost just $10 if registration is received by May 1 and $12 after that date, can help you deepen your faith and hone your skills for ministry. For more information, call 453-6630.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wish we’d known this sooner

Today’s Times Union reports that the Rev. Peter G. Young will be honored with the Interfaith Alliance Rev. Robert Lamar Humanitarian Award tonight (Thursday) at the Albany County Country Club.

"My theme for 48 years has been don't incarcerate, rehabilitate," Young said, stressing that he makes people take accountability for their actions.

Young said his greatest challenge is making sure there is enough money to keep his programs running.

"Challenging would be to try to keep up economics of our 94 operations," Young said, who estimates it takes millions to keep each facility up and running. He said he uses local, state and federal funding to keep things afloat.

Ed Bloch, director of the Interfaith Alliance, said a committee, in addition to a number of advisers, selected Young for the award.

One thing we do know about, however, is the Governor’s annual prayer breakfast. But can we get a ticket? Can you? Apparently the invitations went to a select list that does not include us, or you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iraq and El Salvador

Derrick Z. Jackson, a columnist for the Boston Globe, writes the first of a two-part series on America’s foreign policy in today’s paper, reflecting on the situation the Church opposed in El Salvador:
As auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, Gregorio Rosa Chavez wonders if the United States learned anything from its murderous meddling in his nation. He remembers reading a magazine article shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about how Americans surround themselves with information but much of it ''frivolous and superfluous." He said the article talked about how such shallow knowledge leads to US foreign policy being based on the moment, ''only looking at our navel as if the world ended at the border with Mexico."

Rosa Chavez wondered if the attacks would wake up the United States to look beyond the navel. He wondered if Americans would truly begin to ponder the question of ''Why do they hate us?" After the unprovoked invasion of Iraq under false pretenses in 2003, the answer was a terrible no.

''Pope John Paul called the war a 'defeat for humanity,' " Rosa Chavez said. ''The pope gave his condolences to the American people for Sept. 11. But we also needed to enter a new understanding that we are one world where we only have a future together if we get rid of barriers and walls. Preemptive war makes no sense . . . I worry the US will have to ask again, 'Why do they hate us?' "

You can read the rest of the column here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Cover the Uninsured" Week

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will co-sponsor "Cover the Uninsured Week," from May 1-7, 2006. The purpose of this effort is to focus the attention of the nation on the almost 46 million Americans who lack any form of health insurance. To learn more, go here.

The bishops offer these suggested homily points for the two Sundays at the
beginning and end of Cover the Uninsured Week:
April 30
Third Sunday of Easter B

Readings: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; I John 2:1-5a, and Luke 24:35-48
Acting out of ignorance can lead to disastrous actions. To be of help to our brothers and sister without health insurance, we need to become informed about the question. Once informed we can unite with others and take action in both the public and private sector.

In 1 John we are told that Jesus is an “advocate.” This word comes from the Greek verb meaning to comfort, to call someone to one’s side as a helper or counselor, to speak on another’s behalf as would a defense attorney. As followers of Jesus in today’s world we are called to speak and act on behalf of those in need who have no one to intercede for them

Jesus works with his disciples whose shattered hopes needed healing. He listened to their story, instructed them and led them to the discovery of the truth. In the breaking of the bread, He revealed His presence to them. There are many in our midst who need our willingness to walk with them and give them hope. In the measure we share the pain and sorrow of our brothers and sisters we will bring Christ’s presence to them.

May 7
Fourth Sunday of Easter B

Readings: Acts 4:8 – 12; 1 John 3:1-2, and John 10: 11-18
St. Peter makes evident the saving power of Jesus Christ when he reaches out and brings healing to a crippled man. Essential to the Christian community’s mission of making Christ present in our world is a determined outreach to the sick, the poor, the heavily burdened and those in need.

As children of God, we are called to see in all our brothers and sisters the presence of God. We share a deep solidarity with all men and women. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World notes in paragraph 11: “The people of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord who fills the whole world. Moved by that faith, it tries to discern in the events, the needs, and the longings which it shares with the other men of our time, what may be genuine signs of the presence or purpose of God.”

The Good Shepherd gives us the example of self-sacrificial service. Despite the many social challenges of our day and age, we can never give up reaching out to those in need. For the Good Shepherd every sheep was significant and important.

Albany Catholic would like to take special note of any homilist who addresses this topic. Please let us know if you hear of any.

Maryknoll missionaries

Four politicians and a community leader in Guatemala have been murdered in recent weeks. Maryknoll missionaries have asked that people respond to an action request by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, urging a full investigation of these murders and greater protection for the country’s human rights workers. More information is available here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Abortion and politics

The New York Times reports, here:
As the Democratic Party tries to inch its way toward a new, less polarized politics of abortion, seeking some common ground between supporters and opponents of abortion rights, there is no better case study than the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Many supporters of abortion rights — sometimes grudgingly, sometimes led more by their minds than by their hearts — are lining up behind Bob Casey Jr., a Democratic contender for the Senate who opposes abortion rights. The invitation to a recent Casey event in Philadelphia, raising money for his campaign to unseat Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican, perhaps captured the mood. "Pragmatic Progressive Women for Casey," it declared.

Sojourners magazine reports, here:
The politics of abortion has been dominated by extreme views on either side, but now voters are looking for solutions, not slogans.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

School of the Americas

The School of the Americas:
The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

SOA Watch Lobby Days in Washington, DC are April 23-25. Your Congressional Representatives and Senators need to hear from you! If you cannot come to Washington, DC this April to demand that Congress close the SOA/WHINSEC so that no more killers will be trained, that no more families will lose their loved ones and that no more people have to go to prison for speaking out against this notorious school, then at least write a letter or make a telephone call to your Congressional representatives and urge them to close the school. You can learn more here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

An appeal from the Pope

Join the Million Voices for Darfur Campaign. This is from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT: Although the U.S. bishops were deeply gratified when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved its version the “Darfur Peace and Accountability Act” (H.R. 3127) a few weeks ago, conference committee action will still be necessary to reconcile minor differences with the previously passed Senate version (S. 1462) of this bill. As indicated in their repeated calls for enactment of this legislation, the bishops hope that these measures will help to bring an end to the atrocities suffered by the people of Darfur in western Sudan, where innocent civilians remain trapped in the middle of violent clashes between the Sudanese army and rebel forces, as well as subject to inhuman cruelty at the hands of the janjaweed militia under the sponsorship of the government in Khartoum. In addition to the 400,000 people who have died since 2003, 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and 3.5 million are at risk of starvation.

In the face of the intolerable human suffering resulting from this brutal, government-sanctioned campaign against the people of Darfur, which the U.S. government has labeled genocide, we must answer the appeal of Pope Benedict XVI, last November. Our Holy Father stated that “The horror of events unfolding in Darfur, to which my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II referred on many occasions, points to the need for a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights. Today, I add my voice to the cry of the suffering and assure you that the Holy See … will continue to do everything possible to end the cycle of violence and misery.”

More information on this issue, and suggestions of things that you can do, are here. If you happen to hear anything about this in your church, please let Albany Catholic know. We would like to give credit to those who are doing something.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Legislative districts

The Associated Press reports today on a call for a better way of drawing our legislative districts:
Legislative districts in New York drawn by lawmakers in the majority parties of the Senate and Assembly to protect incumbents are denying fair representation, according to government watchdog groups.

The advocates on Thursday called for an independent commission to shape Senate and Assembly districts before the district lines are redrawn after the 2010 Census.

"With this rigged system, lawmakers are choosing their voters rather than voters choosing their lawmakers," said Rachel Leon of Common Cause.

The rest of the article is here.

This is an important issue, since an independent commission could guarantee elections in which incumbents do not have a pre-determined advantage. Please let your legislators know that you support this idea.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More budget news

An article in the Anniston Star, a newspaper with special meaning for us, addressed the topic The Moral Dimensions of Budgets and Taxes:
While conservatives continue trying to shrink government down to the size where they can drown it in a bathtub, it is the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable in our society who are actually drowning. While providing massive tax cuts for America’s most wealthy citizens, programs that help the elderly and children, the Bible’s widows and orphans, have been drastically cut.

You can read more here.

Also, the good folks at Sojourners provide advice on action you can take here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Common ground?

Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Rodham Clinton co-authored an op-ed piece in today’s Times Union:
As two senators on opposite sides of the abortion debate, we recognize that one side will not suddenly convince the other to drop its deeply held beliefs. And we believe that, while disagreeing, we can work together to find common ground. We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.

The rest of their article is here.

The Associated Press wrote a follow-up article here:
A top aide to one of Clinton's potential Republican challengers in her re-election bid this year scoffed at the op-ed piece.

"Today's op-ed is nothing more than rhetoric," said Kevin Collins, campaign manager for former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer. "Senator Clinton can help establish common ground by taking action. A good first step would be to introduce legislation protecting the right to provide services and counseling to pregnant women seeking alternatives to abortion."

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has some pro-life resources here.


James P. Bailey, a theologian from Duquesne University, will present a free public lecture on “Rethinking Poverty: Assets, the Poor and Catholic Social Thought” on Thursday, April 20 at Siena College. The talk will take place in the Father Benjamin Kuhn House. For more information, call 518-782-6766.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is helping people break free from poverty. You can learn more -- much more -- here.

On the local level, a race to benefit the Outreach Center of St. John's-St. Ann's Church in Albany's South End will be held Saturday, April 29. The Center describes itself:
A ministry serving the underprivileged, responding with compassion and care to all our neighbors, through our twice-weekly Welcome Table, Food Pantry, and Furniture and Clothing Programs. Your participation in this event will enable us to continue to provide support and help to our many neighbors in need.

There is more information here.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Here at Albany Catholic, we hope to be faithful to the Church and also to be open to new ideas. In this case, it is about the need for more expensive gasoline. Before you think we have gone completely looney, keep reading.

Gabriel Rotello,an author, journalist and documentary writer/producer/director, writes about the chain e-mails he receives, encouraging him to take action against the oil companies:
Friends, if you think that cheap gas is good - that it's good for you, good for America, good for the planet - you haven't been paying attention.

Several of the greatest threats facing us today result directly from our addiction to cheap oil and gas. First and foremost is global warming. Add to that our economic dependence on unstable, hostile Middle East dictatorships. Stir in our tragic intervention in Iraq. Add the trade deficit. And terrorism. The list goes on and on.

Read more here.

The Wall Street Journal offers a similar take on this issue from the chairman and chief executive of AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest car-dealer chain:
We've had five presidents in a row, including [the current] President Bush, tell us that America's dependence on imported oil is an issue of national security, and we don't have an energy policy that deals with the issue. We've gone from importing one-third of our oil to importing two-thirds. We need a strategy...which must include supply, technology and a change in consumer behavior. Increasing the gasoline tax by a dollar a gallon, phased in 10 cents a year over 10 years, is a very compelling statement to the American consumer that the party is over, that we're going a new way.

You can read the entire article here.

Still with the budget?

James Odato writes, in Sunday’s Times Union:
When the finance czars of the Senate, Assembly and Gov. George Pataki's budget division divvy up $200 million for pet projects each year, they sign a confidentiality pact barring them from telling the public how the money is going to be spent, according to a document obtained by the Times Union.
. . .
Last year's ``Memorandum of Understanding'' specifies $85 million for each chamber and $30 million for the governor. It also reveals that the parties agree to share ideas for spending the funds only among themselves.

As you might suspect, not everyone in the Legislature agrees that this is a good thing, or even what it means. You can read more here.

Meanwhile, Jay Gallagher of Gannett News Service writes:
But the situation raises some questions that citizens might want to pose to lawmakers when they see them around town in the meantime. Here are some suggestions:

What's the deal? I thought the budget was all done. You're getting paid, right?

What happened to those tax breaks you told me I was getting?

And what about the ball field (or fire truck, or new sidewalks or playground or day care center) you promised us? Don't you have any clout in Albany any more?

Pataki says you guys want to increase spending from $106 billion last year to $115 billion this year. How can you hold down taxes by increasing spending that much? (Then whip out your calculator, hit some keys and announce: That's three times the inflation rate!)

We keep hearing about how huge (almost $50 billion) the state debt is, but even when the state treasury is flush like now you keep borrowing more. How come?

If there's a chance to negotiate a settlement this week, how come you're home while the talks are in Albany?

Whatever happened to those "open" leaders' meetings, where the governor and the legislative leaders meet in public to discuss these things? Haven't we just gone back to the bad old days of negotiations behind closed doors?

That might be enough to give your duly elected representative what used to be called an Excedrin headache.

You can read the entire article here.

And the New York Times editorializes on the subject here:
Most thoughtful politicians in Albany recognize that we have a problem here, but the wrong solution would be worse than nothing at all. Voters wisely rejected one such effort last year. As they look for a substitute, one of the best comprehensive proposals is from Alan Hevesi, the state comptroller. Mr. Hevesi was formerly the comptroller in New York City, where the financial crisis of the 1970's forced politicians to adopt a budgeting process that is much better than Albany's.

What the state needs is more information, transparency and accountability.

Albany Catholic encourages our readers to contact their legislators this week to ask for both transpartency and accountability. This is not a matter of Democrat versus Republican or Right versus Left. It is a matter of fairness and justice.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Albany Catholic wishes all of our readers a joyous and blessed Easter.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tax time

Over at the Woodstock Theologocial Center, they have published a report entitled Who Pays? Taxation and the Common Good. Perfect reading on tax day (even if some of you are waiting a few extra days to pay your taxes). It is based on a forum held at the Center. One of the speakers at the forum, Dan R. Ebener, the Social Action Director for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, said:
The problem of taxation goes much deeper than the fairness of the latest tax cuts. It cuts to the very essence of our religion in its role in economic life. My motivation for suggesting to the Iowa bishops in May 2002 that we should endeavor into writing a statement on taxes came out of the frustration of seeing one tax cut after another passed by the Iowa legislature without having enough tax revenues to do a decent job of providing for the general welfare of the people of Iowa. I suggested that we as communities were faced with a two-sided question: 1) What kind of communities do we want to live in? 2) How will we pay for that? The first side of this question raises the issue of what rights do people deserve in our society. Rights are assumed in Catholic social teaching as derived by the dignity of the human person. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God, we are endowed with certain human rights. Catholic social teaching identifies some of these as the right to food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and work. This is the distributive justice side of this question. How will we distribute our goods and services in order to ensure that needs are met and rights are protected?

Tax Justice as Contributive Justice. The other side of this question, which isn’t looked at nearly as often, is the issue of contributive justice. How will we pay for these services that we agree as a society are basic to our needs? If the first side of the question raises the Catholic social teaching principle of rights, I would suggest that the contributive justice side raises the issue of responsibilities. Because after all, we’re taught in Catholic social teaching that with every right comes a responsibility. We have a right to vote; we have a responsibility to vote. We have a right to private property; we have a responsibility to use private property toward the common good.

You can read more here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How I almost missed Good Friday

James Philipps is a freelance writer and teacher of theology living in Syosset, New York, wrote an article with this name for U.S. Catholic:
It must have been about the time that I was chopping up the melon for my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter's breakfast that the angst set in. Here it was Good Friday, and I hadn't done a single liturgical or sacramental thing during the entire expanse of Lent despite the best of intentions that I had at the beginning of the season.

You can read the entire story here.

Good Friday

According to tradition, Loginus was the name of the centurion at the Crucifixion who acknowledged Christ as "the son of God" (Matt. 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47). He also is identified as the soldier who "pierced His side with a lance" (John 19:34), probably because the name is derived from the Greek word longche, meaning a lance.

Untrustworthy legend exemplified by the Golden Legend says that the blood pouring from Christ's side immediately healed him of incipient blindness. Therefore, he was converted, left the army, and later died as a martyr for the faith.

Here is children's article on this saint.

All of which brings us to the death penalty, which some are trying to restore in New York. Jesus forgave those who killed Him. You can follow Him today. Here are some resources:

The New York State Catholic Conference has information here.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has resources here.

Statements on the death penalty by the Holy Father are here.

New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty has more here.

Some things you can do are listed here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's not too late

Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace has information here for those who want to reserve a seat on one of the buses going to New York City on Saturday, April 29 for the march for peace.
Buses will be leaving from the Eagle St. Garage, Albany (Madison Ave. between Eagle and Philip) at 7:00 AM on Saturday, April 29. (Please arrive by 6:30 AM.)The buses will arrive in NYC before 11 AM. The return buses will leave NYC at 5 PM and arrive back in Albany about 8:30 PM Saturday evening.

Will any of our churches be promoting this event?

Conservative Party praises veto

The New York State Conservative party praised Governor George E. Pataki’s veto of “the phony education tax credit passed by the Legislature, here:
Michael R. Long, State Chairman of the New York State Conservative Party stated that the Party "firmly believes that the parents of school age children are entitled to tax-relief if they are spending the money on educational needs. The language of the legislature was non-specific so parents could spend it on anything, including basketball, pizza or ipods."

So the question is, have you contacted your State legislator about passing a reasonable tax credit?

God or the girl?

Always fraught with difficult choices, the call to the Catholic priesthood becomes a mini-drama of men struggling within themselves and within an increasingly secularized world in the A&E network series "God or the Girl," which begins Easter Sunday.
"It's going to put a human face on the priesthood," said Joe Adair, one of the four men whose struggles are chronicled in the reality TV series. "It's going to show four guys who are pretty normal guys with relationships, family. Guys who aren't losers. It's going to show a real struggle that people have."

Indeed, the young men in the A&E five-part series are all-American fellows. They're intelligent and bright with diverse interests and multiple talents. Each — in different ways — fits the profile of the sort of men church leaders usually say they want to attract to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Read more here.

A special collection

The Evangelist reports here on the collection to be taken up during services on Good Friday, which will be sent to the Holy Land to maintain Christian ministries to people living in the area, and to preserve shrines, churches and holy sites in Israe:
"The annual Good Friday collection aims to promote among the Christian faithful a love of the land of the Lord," Bishop Howard J. Hubbard says in a letter to be read in parishes this weekend. "For the Church to survive there, it must rely on a loving and nurturing solidarity on the part of each Christian, a solidarity which bears witness to faith in Him. From the daily news, we all know of the challenges in the Middle East. Christians in the Holy Land urgently need your help."

Reuters reports on those Christians here:
The population of Christians in the Holy Land, particularly in the Palestinian territories, is dwindling as more and more leave for a better life abroad, turning the community into a tiny minority squeezed between Muslims and Jews.
. . .
"If the situation continues, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity will become cold, empty museums," said Samir Qumsieh, a Palestinian-Christian businessman, referring to two of the holiest Christian shrines.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pro-life nation, take 2

An alert reader sends this article from the the March 24 issue of Commonweal (free registration required) about a disagreement between two pro-life philosophers:
. . .for about two weeks after fertilization, that embryo may split, resulting in identical twins. Less commonly, two embryos may combine, resulting in one individual. As Ramsey notes, “there is fluidity and indeterminacy in either direction during the earliest days following conception.” So how do we think about the various entities involved in twinning and combination?

An interesting question, on which people of good will can disagree. Paul Ramsey (1913-88), a pioneer in the field of bioethics, thought it plausible:
that an individuated human life does not begin until the possibility for twinning and combination has passed, a stage called restriction, about two weeks after fertilization. Assuming Ramsey was right, what does that mean for research on human embryos that destroys them in the process? If the embryos have not reached the stage of restriction, such research would not count as homicide, because it wouldn’t involve killing a human being.

If it’s not homicide, is such research morally permissible? Perhaps, given its potential benefits. But not necessarily.

And does this have an impact on the use of the "morning after pill"? We suggest you read the entire article.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Prayer and science

Raymond J. Lawrence, an episcopal priest, who also is the director of pastoral care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, comments here on a recent study regarding the effectiveness of prayer:
In a large and much touted scientific study, one group of patients was told that strangers would pray for them, a second group was told strangers might or might not pray for them, and a third group was not prayed for at all. The $2.4 million study found that the strangers' prayers did not help patients' recovery.

The results of the study, led by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston, came as welcome news. That may sound odd coming from an ordained minister. But if it could ever be persuasively demonstrated that such prayer "works," our religious institutions and meeting places would be degraded to a kind of commercial enterprise, like Burger King, where one expects to get what one pays for.

That strikes us as right on the money.

Religion in public life

Today's Chicago Tribune quotes from author Jon Meacham's new book, American Gospel, here:
When the subject is faith in the public square, secularists reflexively point to the Jeffersonian `wall of separation between church and state' as though the conversation should end there; many conservative Christians defend their forays into the political arena by citing the founders, as though Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin were cheerful Christian soldiers.

Yet to claim that religion has only recently become a political force in the United States is uninformed and unhistorical; in practice, the `wall' of separation is not a very tall one. Equally wrongheaded is the tendency of conservative believers to portray the founding fathers as apostles in knee britches.

Is it time to buy a book?

Pro-life nation

What happens when you completely criminalize abortion? Over the last eight years, El Salvador has found out here:
El Salvador, however, has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus — the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor's office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal.

Before we get charged with being in favor of abortion, we will point out that the Respect Life agenda of the New York State Catholic Conference is here:
In the Catholic social vision, the human person is central, the clearest reflection of God among us. From the point of conception to the point of natural death, all human beings are sacred, deserving of respect and worthy of government protection.

Patriarch of the West

John L. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of The Rise of Benedict XVI, writes here:
As the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI approaches, most commentary has focused on his lack of charismatic snap, crackle and pop in comparison with his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and on the surprisingly positive and moderate tone of the first year.

Yet a little-noticed papal act last month offered another important clue to understanding this new leader of the largest and most complex religious organization on Earth: Benedict's decision to drop the traditional papal title "patriarch of the West."

He concludes:
Benedict seems willing to draw lines in the sand when the situation calls for it, but he is a listening, moderate and pastoral figure in every other sense.

That combination will make for some head-scratching, as reaction to the "patriarch of the West" decision illustrates, but it will also mean a papacy of drama and surprise.

All in all, an interesting read.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More proof that there is a God

Today's Washington Post reports here:
The once-mighty Christian Coalition, founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors' lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters.

Now, we believe in ecumenism as much as the next folks, but isn't there a way, with all the Christian charity in our hearts, to tell people like the Rev. Robertson that sometimes they are ignorant loudmouths who should shut up?

On the subject of religion and politics (this is Albany Catholic, after all) we turn to Garry Wills, the author, most recently, of What Jesus Meant, who wrote here:
The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats.

Having said that, we turn to the subject of immigration:
Late last week the Senate was unable to advance a migration reform compromise developed by Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Mel Martinez (R-FL). On Thursday Senate leadership from both parties jointly announced the compromise legislation as a breakthrough that the majority of Senators would be able to support. However, by Thursday evening it became apparent that the announcement was premature.

Catholic Relief Services reports why we should get involved here:
Our Catholic faith calls on us to uphold the dignity of the poor and vulnerable among us, whether they live in the United States or overseas. In response to this call, CRS serves displaced people, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking worldwide, daily confronting the suffering and exploitation of migrants and families separated across borders often for years. At the same time, CRS works with the Catholic Church throughout the world to create economic opportunities so that people are not forced to migrate.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Living Faith is a wonderful resource for the spiritual life, providing daily reflections based on a Scripture passage from the daily Mass. Today’s reflection was on the word “Hosanna” from the Gospel of Mark.

Author Kevin Perrotta wrote about how the crowd used the word to acclaim Jesus as the one they thought had come to save them from the Roman occupiers, and how Jesus proved to be a different kind of Messiah. He goes on:
Some of us, I think, have been in that crowd. We stirred up faith that Jesus had come to save us from the suffering we most dreaded. We hoped he would be our medical Messiah, our financial Messiah, our legal Messiah. But he wasn’t. Rather than saving us from our cross, he joined us on it.

The web site is

It ain't over yet

Congress headed home without passing any legislation to solve the issue of immigration. If you see one of your representatives on the street, you might want to ask them about the issue. Here are some resources, with more to follow in the next few days.

Over in Rochester, Bishop Matthew H. Clark calls for a humane immigrant bill, here.

And at Salt of the Earth, published by the Claretians, you can find this appeal from Mexican bishops for just US immigration laws:
For their part the Mexican Bishops said the Catholic Church in Mexico will continue to foster serious and respectful dialogue: "We cannot shirk our responsibility to promote structural reform so Mexicans may find basic conditions for a worthy lifestyle in their own country whatever profession they choose."

Finally, author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez writes this in today's Washington Post:
Used to write for the Boston Globe and L.A. Times. Quit to be a novelist out of frustration with the media's incompetent reporting about Hispanics and immigration. In the spirit of helping people overcome the misinformation they often read, I offer the following cheat sheet:

1 The words "immigrant" and "Hispanic" are not synonymous. The majority of Hispanics in the United States are not immigrants. According to 2004 census data, 60 percent of the more than 40 million Hispanics in this country were born here. Of the 40 percent who were born elsewhere, the majority are legal immigrants, not illegal.

Feeling creative?

Help Old Chatham Quaker Meeting design a billboard for peace.

The Outreach, Peace and Justice Committee of Old Chatham Quaker Meeting is looking for people of all faiths and all ages to offer firm, loving, messages for a just peace. Appropriate original images next to words may be used.

Our country is currently waging war and engaging in torture. A number of prominent Christian leaders support these acts. Yet Christian teaching does not. We recognize the urgent need for eloquent voices to state the truth as Jesus taught. Torture is wrong. Lies formulated to justify war are an abomination. Violence will not bring a just peace nor establish freedom.

Are you able to express in 10 or fewer words the conviction that current American practices of torture, aerial bombardments, and spending far more on making war than helping the poor are morally wrong?

We wish to use the design judged most effective to bring a message of peace and integrity on a billboard in Columbia County. Submissions are due by June 15, 2006 and should be sent to OPJ, Old Chatham Quaker Meeting, 524 Pitt Hall Rd., Old Chatham, NY 12136 or emailed to

Contact: Bob Elmendorf 518-766-2992

April 8, 2006

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I have a confession to make

As we enter Holy Week, we at Albany Catholic will be turning to some more spiritual matters, starting with confession.

The good folks over at AmericanCatholic.Org have a number of useful newsletter articles here, with titles like How to Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation Today, Ten Tips for Better Confessions: The Gift of Reconciliation, The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Celebrating God's Forgiveness, Preparing for Confession: Taking Your Spiritual Temperature, and Reconciliation: An Experience of Forgiveness. They are worth a look.

Alas, U.S. Catholic reports here that confession is a shadow of its former self.
Many post-Vatican II Catholics who don’t shudder at memories of uttering “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned” in a grim, dark confessional still don’t plan to make Reconciliation a regular part of their lives.

Centering prayer . . .

. . . at Abba House
Holy Saturday Morning – April 15th

You may have seen advertisement of a weekend retreat on April 14 – 16. That will not be occurring.

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

Schedule for the Day
8:30 AM Arrival, Coffee and… plus an intro for new people

9:00 Chair Yoga and Centering Prayer

10:00 Break 10:15 The Gospel of John (excerpts from the movie showing the farewell discourse and the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ)

11:10 Centering Prayer

11:30 Adjourn

Come when you can. Stay as long as you can.

There is a free will offering.

Centering Prayer Mini-Retreats are held the third Saturday of the month. Every month.

Please let us know if your coming...
Peace & blessings,
Bruce Gardiner

Interfaith partners

What: 20th anniversary commemoration of "From Fear to Friendship: Looking Back, Marching Forward."

When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Details: A reception and program at Congregation Ohav Shalom on Krumkill Road in Albany. Followed by a caravan to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on Eagle Street. Walk through "Portal" sculpture led by Bishop Howard Hubbard and Rabbi Bernard Bloom to recommit to dialogue and peaceful relations. Bus provided to and from cathedral for those who don't wish to drive. Sponsors: Jewish Catholic Dialogue Committee of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese and the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York Community Relations Council (783-7800).

Read the interesting story behind this event here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Spring enrichment

The program and registration form for the 33rd annual Spring Enrichment conference is included in this week's issue of The Evangelist. Among the featured speakers is John Carr, Director of the Department of Social Development and World Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who will discuss Catholic social teaching on May 16. The next day, Kathleen M. Gallagher, Director of the Catholic Advocacy Network for the New York State Catholic Conference, will present a session entitled Putting Faith into Action in the Political Arena.

Other sessions cover areas such as catechesis, prayer, liturgical music and spirituality.

The conference will be at the College of St. Rose from Monday, May 15 to Thursday, May 18. If you have attended in the past, you know what a useful program this is. If you have not attended, you should.

Contact the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for more information.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A new low?

David S. Holland, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat from Northern Virginia in 1984, writes in today's Washington Post:
Political fundraising solicitations cater to the lowest common denominator, a fact with which everyone other than those in the lowest common denominator will probably agree. Recently, however, I received a solicitation that might give pause to even the lowest common denominator.

The solicitation was from the Republican side of the aisle, but Democrats should not feel too superior: Their communications are certainly not aimed at rocket scientists.

The whole article is interesting, but here is the relevant part:
And then comes the insult to the intellect of even the lowest common denominator. Aunt Maude has three choices. She can check "YES!" she wants to help defend the Republican Senate Majority with a contribution of $500, or several lesser alternatives. She can check "No," she does not wish to participate in "this vital Republican Senate Leadership Survey," but she does want to give a generous donation of $500, or several lesser alternatives, to "help build Republican grassroots support for President Bush and his agenda."

Or she can claim membership in the group below the lowest common denominator by checking No: "I do not wish to participate in the Survey, nor do I wish to make a donation to help the Republican Party. I am returning my Survey Document, along with a contribution of $11 to help cover the cost of tabulating and redistributing my Survey."

Let's hope this is not a trend.

The passing of Father Joe

Reverend Joseph P. Cotugno, who was director of the Diaconate Formation Program since 1999, died Wednesday. His obituary is here:
A reception of the body and vigil will be held on Friday at 4 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 122 Vliet Blvd., Cohoes followed by the Parish Eucharist at 7 p.m. A wake will be held in the church from 4-7 p.m.

Relatives, friends, parishioners, priests, deacons and religious are invited to the Liturgy of Christian Death and Burial to be celebrated on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in the Church of St. James, 391 Delaware Ave., Albany with the Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., Bishop of Albany presiding.
A wake will precede the Mass from 10 to 11 a.m. in the church. Burial will be in the family plot in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery, Colonie. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the Hospice Inn at St. Peter's Hospital, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205 would be appreciated.

We will miss him.

Got a minute?

You mind need it, and a few more, to read this post, which begins with Henry Stern from New York Civic, who wrote recently:
It was sad to read yesterday of the closing of 11 parochial schools in NYC, which are generally regarded as educationally successful institutions. The state cannot and should not subsidize religious education, but we wonder what educational benefits will accrue from spending billions on new schools while small existing schools close for lack of resources.

Many non-Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools, paying tuition, because they believe their children will learn more. It is unfortunate that the legislature, in thrall to the United Federation of Teachers and its upstate appendages, resists charter schools, vouchers for parents, or other efforts to modify their educational monopoly, while demanding greater public expenditures without demonstrating superior results.

You can read more here. Then you can read more budget news here:
So, you feeling generous?

Well, you are, whether you feel it or not.

That's the upshot of the newly posted data at the Web site of Empire Center for New York State Policy, a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Visit it, at, and see just how often you say "yes" to state spending for church groups, synagogues, baseball teams, soccer teams, roller hockey, cheese museums . . .
. . .
How else would something called the Cuba Cheese Museum get $5,000 in taxpayer dollars, or the Flushing Meadow Soap Box Derby score $5,000, or the Back to Basics Outreach Ministries Inc. another $5,000, without any public explanation? The Empire Center secured the data under the state's Freedom of Information Law, but FOIL only does so much; the lists don't tell who secured the grants or what purpose they serve.

And here:
In the latest attack on the finances of the state's public authorities, a Manhattan-based watchdog group yesterday urged that their ability to borrow money be reined in.

The group, the Citizens Budget Commission, put the total borrowed by state and local governments and authorities in New York at $227 billion. Authorities borrowed $166 billion, or almost three-quarters of the total.

The state government alone is $45 billion in debt — about $10 billion more than it can safely afford, according to the report.

And here:
The trouble with the state budget, on which the legislature agreed as the clock ticked toward midnight, is that it does little or nothing to correct what's wrong with New York state's fiscal miseries, instead aiming to get the architects re-elected.

And that brings us here, where someone thinks all our legislators should be voted out of office:
New York needs to focus on the Leadership but are looking for people to challenge every senator and assemblyman across the Great State of New York.

New York Coalition.Org announces three Press Conferences across New York State.
At 12 Noon, Thursday April 6th 2006
250 Broadway, New York City in front of the office of Sheldon Silver
330 Capitol Bldg, Albany, NY in front of the office of Joe Bruno

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From Thomas Merton

A prayer from Thomas Merton, for all of us who blog:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust You always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Contact information

The Legislative Gazette has an updated directory of state Senators and Assembly Members here. Scroll down until you see Legislative Member Directory on the left. Why not contact someone today?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Catholic politicians

John J. DiIulio Jr., who directed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, writes in the latest issue of Commonweal:
During the 2004 election, some bishops insisted that Catholics should obey church teachings in deciding how to vote. Some bishops even declared that prochoice Catholic politicians should be denied Communion. The ensuing public controversies shed more heat than light on many questions: Which church teachings on what issues ought to matter most? How should Catholics decide between candidates? If Catholic politicians are obliged to follow church teachings when making laws, are Catholic judges also supposed to “vote Catholic” in deciding cases?

Read more here.

Are you free Thursday?

The College of Saint Rose will present a lecture by Gary Dorrien of the Union Theological Seminary in New York on what kind of country the United States should want to be.

Dorrien’s talk, "Empire in Denial: The Permanent War and the Ethics of Resistance," will be presented Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in The College of Saint Rose Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, 959 Madison Ave., Albany. A reception will follow the lecture. The program is free and open to the public.

Dorrien will focus on the development, since the end of the Cold War, of the "unipolarist" or "global dominion" perspective, which is espoused by the Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, and the Bush administration. He will focus particularly on key points of difference between neoconservative ideology and the strategies, both liberal and conservative, of foreign policy realism. Dorrien will argue that the strategy of American empire, which its advocates usually call "unipolarism," is plausible, coherent, politically powerful and wrong.

The Annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

Over 500 diocesan and national social ministry leaders gathered from February 10-15, 2006 in Washington to celebrate and act on the social mission of the Church. Some of the highlights of the 2006 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, plus links to some of the keynote presentations, are here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Take action on the federal budget

NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby, reports today:
The budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 – H. Con Res. 83 – has now reached the House floor and will likely come to a vote this week. The House’s budget bill is considerably harsher than the Senate version in its cuts to health, housing and other human needs programs: $10.3 billion for next year alone and $167 billion over the next five years. At the same time, the budget proposal includes $228 billion in tax cuts, most of which benefit the wealthiest families in America.

Take action here.

A story of tax credits

Many of tomorrow's papers will carry this article from the Associated Press, but we bring it to you tonight:
In Albany last week, the Legislature considered Gov. George Pataki's proposal for a $500 education tax credit for moderate- and low-income families in poorly performing school districts. It could have been used for tutoring, SAT test preparation, or private school tuition and would have cost the state $400 million. By the end of the week it was passed into law as a $330 "child tax credit" for any purpose. There is no mention of education, and it will cost the state $200 million more.

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson

Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland, and more recently United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is in Albany this morning to speak at the Empire State Plaza. We don’t know what she is going to say, but
here is what she said in 2004 to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and Leadership Conference of Women Religious Assembly:
On your Assembly’s powerful theme – ‘no longer bystanders: creating peace in violent times’ - I would like to conclude by invoking Virginia Woolf’s words to men on behalf of women:

“We can best help you prevent war, not by repeating your words and repeating your methods, but by finding new words and creating new methods”.

Could there be a new alliance between those within faiths, the human rights community and the women’s movement to find these new words and create new methods? Our world needs to regain that kind of hope.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Priests and public policy

For those who might question the role of priests being involved in issues of pubic policy, we offer this from Saturday's obituary of the Rev. Thomas Phelan from Troy:
Preserving local history was always important to him, even at a time when the notion wasn't popular, said Thomas Carroll, a longtime friend. Carroll is now executive director of the Industrial Gateway, an organization that was dear to Phelan's heart.

"If it wasn't for Tom," Carroll said, "all of Troy would have been turned into a strip mall. He's a giant."

Phelan and a small group of supporters vocally opposed the urban renewal movement, a time when city planners razed old urban neighborhoods expecting to pave the way for chrome-and-glass cities of the future.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Speaking of money . . .

. . . is not something our homilists always (ever?) like to do, but in light of this week's budget mess in Albany, perhaps we can ask that someone in a pulpit speak up on our behalf. Someone might use, as the basis of a homily, this article by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who wrote last year:
We must proclaim that budgets are moral documents - and current proposals fall short.

And who went on to state:
Your witness is needed at this crucial time to urge a better moral and political logic for our nation - toward a vision for a new America. In the name of social conscience, fiscal responsibility, equality of opportunity, protection of communities, and the very idea of a common good, it is time for the moral center of American public opinion to stand up and say, "Enough!"

Or someone might quote from some of the items we posted previously, or even from more recent items, such as this from Newsday:
What will we do with a drunken sailor - make that a cash-guzzling legislature on an election-year spending binge?

We asked that question last Sunday, as lawmakers seemed ready to add billions of dollars to Gov. George Pataki's already overly generous budget proposal - and to open up potentially huge budget deficits. And this week we got the answer: Nothing. Neither sharp criticism nor a sense of civic responsibility was enough to rein them in.

Or this from the Middletown Times Herald-Record:
What is driving this excessive generosity is the availability of a budget surplus of $2 billion to $4 billion and legislators' instinctual drive to give away money in election years. This drive is so powerful, it makes incumbent politicians ignore the fact that they have rigged the system so that it is virtually impossible for them to lose their seats. They just have to give money away.

Or even something from the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization devoted to influencing constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government.