Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More interesting reading

In a week-long series, Ottaway News Service is exploring how the Seven Deadly Sins are reflected in Albany's culture of political and moral corruption. Monday’ sin was Lust; Tuesday’s was Sloth. Today, reporter John Milgram writes about Wrath here:
Politics can get personal in Albany. And when it gets personal, there's payback. There's wrath, described as inappropriate anger and the desire for revenge.

David Rossie, associate editor of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, and one of the finest columnists writing today, offers some advice to Mexican immigrants here:
. . . you are heading in the wrong direction, literally. About face. Forward march, to any of the banana republics south of your own border and join the army or local constabulary.

I know this sounds like a round-about way to get into the United States, but bear with me.
. . .

So head for similar democratic outposts such as Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, get into uniform and waste no time demonstrating enthusiasm for your new job. Your superiors will notice, and if you're lucky you will be assigned to a death squad, where you get to deal with activist nuns and priests who think they can get away with all that communist-inspired liberation theology.

Work hard and with a little bit of luck you may get to attend the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, where you'll learn a lot of new ways to help your countrymen and women to see the light. They've changed the name of the school to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, but don't worry, the drill's the same. You'll return home a new man.

An interesting read

The May isue of Columbia, the magazine of the Knghts of Columbus, carries this article by Bishop William E. Lori:
The recently published biography of Father Michael J. McGivney, Parish Priest (William Morrow, $24.95 US/ $32.95 CAN), helps us better understand the world in which Catholic Irish immigrants of the late-19th century were living. Their families left Ireland to escape starvation, chronic poverty, and unremitting religious persecution. But even after they arrived in the United States, they continued to face poverty, discrimination and religious persecution. Although Irish immigrants were in the ranks of those who built the infrastructure of the United States, they suffered not only for their Irish heritage but also for their Roman Catholic faith.

Even in Father McGivney’s time, the Church in the United States was living in the shadow of the Know-Nothing Party. The Know-Nothings believed that all were created equal — except for Catholics, foreigners and African-Americans. When questioned about their political philosophy, members of this secretive organization replied, “I don’t know.” In fact, however, everyone knew that their main target was Irish Catholics. They did their best to deprive Irish Catholics of their rights. They organized mob violence against them. Above all, they sought to ensure that no Irish Catholic — and no one who married an Irish Catholic — would ever be elected to public office or serve in a responsible government position.

Take a moment and read the entire story.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

German pope at Nazi death camp

Reading about Pope Benedict’s trip to Poland and the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp here, we were put in mind of the Barmen Declaration, issued 72 years ago tomorrow. And just what is the Barmen Declaration, you ask? It was an effort by several churches in Germany to stand against the Nazi Party.
Most of the churches in Germany were Lutheran, organized into provinces. A movement took fire to nationalize the church under a single Reichs-bishop. This was actually a trick to bring the church under Nazi control. In May, 1933, the constitution for the unified national church was produced. The so-called "German Christians" elected Ludwig Müller, a fervent Nazi, to head the church. In July, two restrictions were placed on the clergy. A clergyman (1) must be politically reliable and (2) must accept the superiority of the Aryan race. Hundreds of clergy accepted these demands.

A small group of church leaders did not. They openly opposed those German Christians who did accept the government's terms. The dissidents insisted that the church must obey Christ apart from political influence. In September, 1933, Martin Niemoeller sent a letter to all German pastors, inviting them to join a Pastor's Emergency League to oppose the unified church. Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were among those who joined him. In October, Niemoeller asked pastors to take a pledge to be bound by the scripture and the old confessions of faith. They pledged themselves to protest certain violations of the faith, to stand with the persecuted, and to acknowledge that Aryanism (with its claim of racial superiority) was a violation of Reformation and Christian teaching.
. . .
pastors who opposed Hitler formed the Confessing Church, which they called the "legal Protestant church of Germany." It included Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches.

The Confessing Church took its name because it clung to the Church's great historical Confessions of faith. In May 1934, the Confessing Church issued the Barmen Declaration, rejecting errors of the Nazi-controlled Unified Church. The Confessing Church stood almost alone in Germany against Nazi lies during the terrible years of the third Reich. Because of their boldness, the leaders paid a steep price. Niemoller went to prison. Bonhoeffer was hanged.

You can read more here.

Let us not forget that in 1937, Pope Pius XI had his encyclical Mit brennender Sorge smuggled into Germany and read from all Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday. According to Thomas Bokenkotter’s “A Concise History of the Catholic Church,” it denounced the Nazi myth of blood and soil and even denounced the Fuhrer himself as a “mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance.”

Then there was Cardinal Clemens August von Galen, the Bishop of Munster during the Nazi regime who used his pulpit to criticize Hitler and the cruelty of the Nazis. And you should read about Father Bernhard Lichtenberg here.

Military investigations

In our previous post, we noted the delay in the Army investigation of the death of Pat Tillman. Today, we read this from the Associated Press, a follow-up to its Pulitzer Prize-winning story about the shooting of refugees in 1950 at No Gun Ri. The AP’s 1999 story led to a 16-month Pentagon investigation which concluded:
. . . the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy" -- "not a deliberate killing." It suggested panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals concealed enemy troops.

Now the AP reports:
More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light -- a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the U.S. State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.

And so we wait for results of the fourth investigation into Cpl. Tillman’s death

Monday, May 29, 2006

Truth in the sports pages

Brian Ettkin, sports writer for the Times Union , writes here:
Our soldiers fight this war on terrorism for freedom -- right? -- truth, justice and the American way?

So why, after the death of former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman by "friendly fire," was the truth concealed and justice subverted?

Why is it a building as massive as the Pentagon could be constructed in 16 months, but after 25 months and three Army probes -- a fourth, a criminal one, is ongoing -- unvarnished answers to Cpl. Tillman's parents' questions have yet to be provided?

Why? Because our government couldn't handle the truth. "I'm not proud of the fact, frankly, that it's a couple years later and the Army is still investigating this thing," said Fletcher Lamkin, president of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. Lamkin is a retired Army brigadier general and former dean of academics at West Point.

Let’s remember all our veterans today, but let us not forget that political leaders do not always send our young men and women off to war for honest reasons, as discussed here:
What are national leaders to do when they want to thoroughly discredit another country or mount an attack when a provocation is lacking?

"Casus belli" is defined in my dictionary as (1) "an event or combination of events which is a cause of war, or (2) may be alleged as a justification of war." So the time-honored answer is: If you don't have a casus belli, go for option 2 and invent one.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Let's hope so

Today's Times Union reports here: TV political attack ads a dying breed:
One of the most effective, criticized and ubiquitous tools of American politics over the last 40 years -- the 30-second TV attack ad -- may be losing its punch.

It's not that you will see fewer of these negative spots come the fall elections, when Republicans and Democrats will be at each others' throats in an all-out fight for Congress. But these pillars of the Old Politics are increasingly surrounded by the Internet's seemingly infinite capacity for narrowcast causes, broadcast grievances and instant responses.

You can count on us to do our part.


Catholic Relief Services does more than provide aid to people around the world.
Catholic Relief Services' policy and advocacy work is rooted in the realities of the poor and marginalized communities we serve overseas. This lived experience gives focus and depth to our message and reinforces the voice of our church and lay partners when we advocate for change.

CRS concentrates on strategic issues that emerge from our daily work in emergency and development projects in more than 80 countries around the world. These issues are "strategic" for CRS because they are often part of the root causes of the poverty, conflict, and marginalization our programs seek to redress.

Learn more here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Vatican tells U.N.

Commit to sustainable development, fight global warming, Vatican tells UN here:
The international community must commit to sustainable resource management policies that place the needs of the human family and protection of the environment above commercial and industrial concerns, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations told a May 11 session of the UN Economic and Social Council’s Commission on Sustainable Development.

Progress toward global sustainable development pales in comparison to “a sobering picture” of the world’s environment, said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the international body.

“Essential improvement in living standards for all, while assuring our world’s environmental future,” he said, will only occur if there is an integrated international environmental and developmental policy coupled with “committed political follow through.”

Again, will anyone in the pews hear this in a homily, ever?

Think about it

. . . a triple murderer would be eligible for welfare benefits but not a mother who had served time for a felony drug offense.

Read more here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

American Catholic history

Catholic News Service reports here:
While writing two books on Catholic history, Kevin Schmiesing discovered that "although there was a wealth of information pertaining to American Catholic history on the Web no one had collected and organized it." To fill that gap, Schmiesing has launched a new Web site devoted to American Catholic history at Intended as a resource for students, teachers and researchers, the site displays important events, people and places, organized by time period, and offers lists of suggested readings on topics such as "Catholics in time of war." The "Spotlight" feature looks at a subject currently in the news from the perspective of its significance in Catholic history. Recent topics have included immigration, Catholics on the Supreme Court and Catholics in Hollywood.

Was it John Adams who wanted to deny Catholic the vote? Do people know about anti-Catholic prejudices in our history? Anyone ever been called a mackerel-snapper? As Catholics, we have much to be proud of, but let us never forget that we were not always welcome in this country, and let us use that memory to remind us to always reach out to others.


Following is a brief outline of one of the stories Religion & Ethics Newsweekly will be covering this week. The show airs on WMHT at 6:00 a.m. on Sundays.
Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche, an international organization that creates communities for people with developmental disabilities -- people who were in institutions, on the streets, or in families who couldn't care for them or didn't want them. The son of a French-Canadian diplomat, Vanier served in the British Royal Navy during World War II, then he taught philosophy in France.

While never marrying, he considered the priesthood. But in 1964, he found his calling, opening the first L’Arche home in a small village south of Paris. Judy Valente visits L'Arche in Chicago and talks with Vanier about how the members of this establishment have transformed Vanier by allowing him into their world and watching their self-esteem grow as they give back the love that they have received.

Vanier says, "My life is to live with them -- to be with those who are fragile, vulnerable and weak. I’m not sure that we can really understand the message of Jesus if we haven’t listened to the weak...we can love people who have been pushed aside, humiliated, seen as having no value. And then we see that they are changed. And at the same time, we discover that we too are broken, that we have our handicaps. And our handicaps are around about elitism, about power, around feeling that value is just to have power."

If you had to complete the sentence, "My life is to ________," what would you say?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Churches and war

The Saratogian newspaper reports here on a panel or clerical leaders of local churches who were challenged by several members of the audience for not speaking out against the Iraq war. The panel included the Rev. Holly Nye, United Methodist Church; Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein, Temple Sinai; Imam Djafer Sebkhaoui, Muslin Community of Troy; the Rev. Joseph Tizio, St. Clement's Roman Catholic Church; and the Rev. Adam Wiegand, St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
Both Nye and Tizio had introduced their denomination's Christian viewpoint in terms of how Jesus Christ taught people to turn the other cheek. Tizio also went into detail about how both former Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI had denounced the war in Iraq as "unjust," especially when it came to the doctrine of pre-emption.

"My church is against it. I am against it. But I haven't spoken against it," Tizio said. "The challenge that you have made is well taken."

Has anyone spoken out against the war in your church? Is this one of the greatest issues of the day? Why are the pulpits silent? Here's an idea. At church this weekend, ask your priest or deacon to speak out against the war.

East Timor

For many years, Catholic activists and others were involved in the efforts to gain independence for East Timor, a campign that eventually proved successful. Today we read:
Crack Australian troops landed in East Timor as new fighting between the military and rebel soldiers forced thousands to flee the worst violence since independence four years ago.

The rest of the story is here.

You can learn more about East Timor and the people who struggled for independence here:
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network/United States was founded in November 1991 to support genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1960 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Decolonization, and Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on East Timor. Our primary focus has been to change US foreign policy and raise public awareness to support justice and self-determination and now genuine independence for East Timor and human rights in Indonesia. In February 2001, ETAN revised its mission statement to reflect its coming independence.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Diocesan Appointments

This just in from the Pastoral Center:
Father Michael Farano has been appointed as Vicar General of the
Diocese of Albany and Moderator of the Curia. Father Farano will be succeeding Father Leo O'Brien who is retiring as Vicar General after 29 years and 34 years as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Albany. The Vicar General is the second ranking official in the Diocese. As Moderator of the Curia, Father Farano will be the coordinator of administrative affairs. This position was established in the revised code of Canon Law in 1983 and Father Farano is the first priest in the Diocese of Albany assigned this responsibility. He will also continue his service as pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Loudonville. Father Farano had previously served as secretary to Bishop Broderick, Vice Chancellor and Chancellor. Recently he completed his term as chairman of the Albany International Airport.

Ms. Elizabeth Simcoe has been named Chancellor for Pastoral Services, replacing Sister Kathleen Turley, who has been elected to the leadership team of the Northeast Community of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Ms. Simcoe is the first lay woman to be appointed Chancellor in the Diocese of Albany. She had been serving as the Director of the Diocesan Office of Prayer and Worship and has previous experience in both parish and campus ministry. In her new responsibility she will still retain staffing responsibilities for Prayer and Worship but the planning function will be transferred to another office.

Mr. John Manning has been appointed as Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning. Mr. Manning has been serving as an associate to Sister Kathleen Turley in the planning office and previously served the Diocese as a school principal, associate superintendent of schools, and the Director of the Office of Stewardship. Mr. Manning brings a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience to his expanded responsibilities.

Reverend Kenneth J. Doyle will continue in his position as Chancellor for Communications.


The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution, reports, here on a talk earlier this year by Thomas Reese, S.J., former editor of America magazine, who said:
If you are a conservative and want a return to the pre-Vatican II liturgy, don't let anyone tell you that you are a heretic. If you are a liberal and believe that married men should be ordained priests, don't let anyone tell you that you are a heretic. The questions of married priests or Latin in the liturgy are not doctrinal issues. These are matters of canon or liturgical law…. Laws have changed over time. Laws can change again.

It makes for interesting reading.

Employment opportunity

Capital District Labor-Religion Coalition/Jobs with Justice announces a part-time Staff Opening:
We are seeking a 10 hour/week office manager/organizer. Through education, support for organizing and advocacy we strive for worker justice. With a particular concern for low wage workers, we help workers challenge corporate control and gain their rights.

The staff person will oversee the Coalition’s office work. This includes:

* serving as a contact person for members of the community that want to work with the Coalition
* database work
* sending out mailings and notices.

The primary work of the staff person will be to work with volunteers to advance our religious outreach and advocacy. This will involve:

* staffing our Congregational Outreach committee
* arranging visits with clergy and congregations
* involving religious leaders in our labor solidarity work
* promoting our Labor in the Pulpit program

We are seeking a person with an outgoing personality, who is organized, able to prioritize and able to work independently. We want to find a person with computer knowledge.

Pay is $15/hour. If fundraising allows, we hope to expand staff hours.

To apply send a letter or email to: Labor-Religion Coalition, 33 Central Ave., Albany NY 12210.

The application deadline is Friday, June 30, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The power elite?

The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills, was first published 50 years ago last month. In it, the author argued that, at the pinnacle of the government, the military and the corporations, a small group of men made the decisions that reverberated "into each and every cranny" of American life. Here is an essay that looks back at that book and its impact on America and the world:

Mills could not answer many of the most important questions he raised. How did the power elite make its decisions? He did not know. Did its members cause their roles to be created, or step into roles already created? He could not say. Around what interests did they cohere? He asserted a "coincidence of interest" partially organized around "a permanent war establishment," but he did little more than assert it. Most of the time, he said, the power elite did not cohere at all. "This instituted elite is frequently in some tension: it comes together only on certain coinciding points and only on certain occasions of 'crisis.' " Although he urged his readers to scrutinize the commanding power of decision, his book did not scrutinize any decisions.
. . .
Yet "The Power Elite" abounds with questions that still trouble us today. Can a strong democracy coexist with the amoral ethos of corporate elites? And can public argument have democratic meaning in the age of national security? The trend in foreign affairs, Mills argued, was for a militarized executive branch to bypass the United Nations, while Congress was left with little more than the power to express "general confidence, or the lack of it." Policy tended to be announced as doctrine, which was then sold to the public via the media. Career diplomats in the State Department believed they could not truthfully report intelligence. Meanwhile official secrecy steadily expanded its reach. "For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end," Mills wrote in a sentence that remains as powerful and unsettling as it was 50 years ago. "Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own."

A follow-up

One of our readers advises us that Anthony Aversano, whose father was killed at the World Trade Center and who we mentioned in yesterday’s post, will be speaking at the Bethlehem Library at 6:30 pm on June 1. He will give a short talk followed by the film: The Dreams of Sparrows, a documentary through the eyes of the Iraqi people about how their lives have been changed by the war. If you have not read his article in the Times Union, it is here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Good reading

This past Friday we stopped by The Chancery in Albany for the fund-raiser for the documentary film "Question of Justice," which we posted here earlier this month. We got to talk with a number of interesting people, including Antonio Aversano, a Troy resident whose father was killed at the World Trade Center on September 11. He wrote at article opposing the death penalty in Sunday’s Times Union.
. . . I did not testify at this trial to determine the fate of one man. I expressed my voice and my heart because I believe in restorative justice and that killing someone to teach people that killing is wrong is a very poor lesson that even a child would recognize doesn't make sense.

The rest of the article is here.


As Catholics, we are called to joy, not despair. With that in mind, we direct your attention to where we learn the joy of despair. They have a fine collection of de-inspirational posters, such as:
Blame – The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.

Irresponsibility – No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood.

Meetings – None of us is as dumb as all of us.

Motivation – If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

Well, we thought it was funny.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The book club

Rochester’s Catholic Courier reports on a book club at Auburn's Sacred Heart Parish:
During the month of May, members of the book club watched the film "Hotel Rwanda" and planned to read Immaculee Llibagiza's book, Left to Tell. Both works both tell the story of the 1994 ethnic genocide in Rwanda, where, according to Catholic News Service, more than 800,000 people were brutally massacred in a clash between the Hutu and Tutsi people.

In the wake of this genocide, many members of the international community pledged to remain vigilant to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again. But less than a decade later, a similar situation erupted in Africa, in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

The rest of the story is here.

Does your parish have a book club? If not, maybe it's time to start one.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The religious left

The New York Times reported this week:
They had come to All Souls Unitarian Church, 1,200 of them from 39 states, to wrest the mantle of moral authority from conservative Christians, and they were finally planning how to take their message to those in power.

After rousing speeches on Wednesday by liberal religious leaders like Rabbi Michael Lerner of the magazine Tikkun and Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, participants in the new Network of Spiritual Progressives split into small groups to prepare for meetings with members of Congress on Thursday.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Book signing

Does the unholy matrimony of American Empire and the Christian Right have you spooked? Then come join in a conversation and book signing with Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor author of "Religion, Politics and the Christian Right: Post 9-11 Powers and American Empire."

Dr. Taylor is the Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. He will be speaking on Sunday, May 21, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 85 Chestnut Street, Albany, New York, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. There is no charge and the program is open to the public. For further information contact David Moore at 518-463-2382.


We promised that one of the issues we would discuss in the blog would be productivity. In an age of Blackberries and other technological wonders, we like the simplicity of the PocketMod.
The PocketMod is a new way to keep yourself organized. Lets face it, PDAs are too expensive and cumbersome, and organizers are bulky and hard to carry around. Nothing beats a folded up piece of paper. That is until now. With the PocketMod, you can carry around the days notes, keep them organized in any way you wish, then easily transfer the notes to your PDA, spreadsheet, or planner.

Learn more here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spring enrichment follow-up

Rev. John Hurley, CSP, in his keynote address at Spring Enrichment, held at The College of Saint Rose in Albany this week, as reported in The Evangelist today:
"Whether we like it or not, our Baptism calls us to teach others, to evangelize 24-7. It is not just how I teach in the classroom, at church or in the school. It's how I treat my children, how I talk to others, how I respect cultures that are different from mine. It's about being energized and excited, all the time, about the Good News of the Gospels. It is also about reconciliation, dialogue and respect."

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring enrichment

This is the week of Spring Enrichment, so posts will be intermittent as we head off to learn more about our faith. The 2006 Spring Enrichment Conference Brochure (including registration form), is available here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Good government reform

Amo Houghton, a former congressman from western New York, now is president of the Reform Institute. He writes about the need for re-districting reform here:
One of the most distasteful, partisan practices in modern American politics can be found within closed-door meetings of state legislatures. That's where party leaders carve out legislative and congressional districts that protect incumbents and solidify their power. The losers in these gerrymandered deals are the voters, who are left with little choices at the polls. Fortunately for voters in New York, a bill in the state Senate presents an opportunity to change that.

Marie Cocco writes about a proposal for budget reform here:
Restoring budget rules that would force lawmakers to offset any spending increase or tax cut with spending reductions or tax hikes. Democrats, Pelosi says, will once again force Congress to pay as it goes.

It was, in fact, budget policy beginning under the first President Bush in 1990 and continuing through the Clinton years. The result of this rule and other tough choices on spending and taxes was that Reagan-era deficits eventually were erased, Clinton surplus materialized.

The pay-as-you-go rules were circumvented between 1999 and 2002, then dropped altogether by the Republican Congress (and approving White House) determined to have its runaway tax cuts and its runaway spending, too.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Senator Santorum reports:
Objection! In Re Santorum, Trial Lawyers Withhold Evidence
Their ad mischaracterizes a quotation from his book and gives a one-sided description of his obstetrical malpractice bill

The ad shows him cruising through space and accuses him of saying he "questions why some women work." In fact, Santorum was defending women who give up careers to care for children.

The ad also says he sponsored a bill that "restricts the rights of women injured by medical errors." The bill was actually an attempt to address soaring malpractice insurance rates for obstetricians and gynecologists, and would have limited awards for non-economic "pain and suffering" to $250,000 per doctor or hospital. Not mentioned in the ad is that the bill also would have capped lawyer's contingency fees.

The full report is here.

The cardinal speaks (or, writes)

Cardinal Egan reflects on a rainy weekend in New York City here.

Meanwhile, we learn that Thomas Merton had some trouble writing here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The bishop speaks

Bishop Howard Hubbard was the keynote speaker last month at the Diocese of Rochester's Pastoral Planning Leaders Day at Keuka College. The Catholic Courier, the newspaper of the Rochester diocese reported:
KEUKA PARK -- U.S. Catholics have been rocked by the priest sexual-abuse scandal and face such additional challenges as the closing and reconfiguration of parishes; declining attendance; a priest shortage; and the growing influence of secularism.

Even so, Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard said the present era should be considered one "of rejuvenation and joy."

"By now you may wonder, 'What is that man smoking?'" Bishop Hubbard quipped, but went on to cite the Last Supper as a source for his optimism. Jesus, he noted, chose that occasion to celebrate the first Mass even though he knew he was worshipping with one man who had sold him out (Judas), another who would deny him (Peter), and that the rest would eventually run away. Since that day, Bishop Hubbard said, the Catholic faith has weathered many other crises throughout its 2,000-year history.

"The resurrection of Jesus far surpasses anything that can defeat us," he stated.

The bishop also addressed issues of particular concern to us here at Albany Catholic:
He also called for Catholic social-justice action in the tradition of Bishop Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Bishop Hubbard, who chairs the New York State Catholic Conference's Public Policy Committee, said it is imperative to develop greater Catholic involvement in important issues. Gov. George Pataki the state Legislature feel free to disregard the Catholic conference's pleas because they consider the state's bishops "generals without armies. ... They know it won't hurt them at the polls," he said.

The rest of the article is here. Have we told you lately how lucky we are to have him as our bishop?

Friday, May 12, 2006

A fund-raiser

Bishop Howard Hubbard is one of the hosts for a fund-raiser for the documentary film "Question of Justice."
This is a film that will expose the human dimensions of capital punishment, show America why it does not need and should not have the death penalty, and reveal alternative, constructive ways of opposing and overcoming violence.

Bishop Hubbard will present the prestigious Community Service Award from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty to Assemblyman Joseph Lentol for his role in last year’s legislative hearings.

Time: Friday evening, May 19

Place: The Chancery, 465 State Street, Albany

To reserve a place, and learn ticket prices, call Debra Pearlman at 518-677-8471

Thank you, Mr. President

The Chairman of the International Policy Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed appreciation for the Administration’s leadership in working to secure an end to the terrible tragedy in Darfur. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he wrote:
“We asked for concerted U.S. leadership on Darfur and in the last few weeks the President and the Administration have provided it,” said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski. “Our bishops’ Conference knows that the road towards peace for the people of Darfur is long and uncertain and that this agreement could easily unravel without sustained U.S. and international attention. The Administration’s action to help forge this agreement was critical, however, and we are grateful for these efforts and others you have taken on behalf of the long-suffering people of Darfur.”

Read more here.

Are they Sirius?

Sirius Satellite Radio, which brings Howard Stern to millions of listeners, is creating a new channel of Catholic-themed programming with the Archdiocese of New York.
The channel, which will launch in the fall, will carry live daily Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York as well as talk and music programming. Financial terms of the arrangement weren't disclosed Wednesday.

You can read more here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Abortion syndrome?

Following is a brief outline of one of the stories RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY will be covering this week. The show airs Sunday mornings on WMHT at 6:30 a.m. Every Friday evening, new stories are uploaded to the Web site here.
According to Theresa Karminski Burke with Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion support group, the trauma of abortion, which she calls “post-abortion syndrome,” can cause addictions, disorders or depression: “Some people can ignore it. Some people can run from it. Some people can numb it through drugs and alcohol. But, on some level, just as a human being, we pay a price when we engage in destruction of life.” But Reverend Rebecca Turner with the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice denies that such a syndrome exists: “It's a name applied by those who are completely against abortion and want others to believe that all women suffer this extreme emotional trauma after an abortion . . . Certainly, there are women who experience stress related to an unplanned pregnancy and an abortion. It's normal to experience stress. But to say that there's a particular syndrome that women are always going to go through after they have an abortion is completely fictitious.”

Working for the Church

Today's Times Union reports:
Last fall, the Rev. Kenneth Doyle became suspicious that someone was taking collection money from his church, Saint Catherine of Siena.

The priest didn't know how to prove it, so he called in Albany police, who set up surveillance equipment and planted marked money in the church's safe.
. . .
"He started taking a small amount of money out of the collection bin and then he obtained the combination to the safe," said James Miller, the city's Department of Public Safety spokesman. "He said that he needed the extra money for living."

The rest of the story is here. The story reminds us of this article from U.S. Catholic magazine, which asked, Does it pay to work for the church?
Laypeople who make a living in the church love what they do—but don’t always love the pay.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

You knew we would get to this eventually, didn't you?

Fordham University filled the Pope Auditorium at its Lincoln Center campus recently for the Headline Forum: “Waiting for Da Vinci – From Factoid to Mythoids”. Hosted by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, the forum examined the facts behind of the fiction of the blockbuster novel, soon to be released as a major motion picture.
. . . while a lecture offered on a standard theological topic might draw 20 people, a talk on The Da Vinci Code draws crowds. Attridge said the book opens up a wonderful dialogue with his students, who approach him with a lot of questions after reading it.

“There is a compelling need for this type of discourse,” says Massa. “The book illuminates the shortcomings of our institutional dialogue. Religious education institutions have failed when popular fiction is taken as fact.”

You can read more here.

On the agenda

The spring meeting of the U.S. bishops will take place June 15-17 at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles. And just what is on the agenda?
The agenda will include discussion and vote on: extending the annual appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious beyond 2007, adaptations of the Order of Mass, liturgical translations by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, and a request by the Stewardship Committee to begin drafting a document entitled Stewardship and Teenagers. The bishops will hear reports on the work of Priorities and Plans, on Catholic Relief Services, on their Hurricane Task Force, on a new DVD by the Committee on Vocations, “Fishers of Men,” and a report by the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Politicians.

We at Albany Catholic are particularly interested in that last item.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Some news coverage

A short time ago, we told you about Cover the Uninsured Week. The Legislative Gazette had two stories on events that happened last week. The first one, which mentioned Bishop Howard Hubbard, is here:
Bishop Howard Hubbard and Fidelis Care held a press conference last Wednesday in recognition of national Cover the Uninsured Week, in an effort to call attention to the more than 100,000 uninsured people in the Capital Region and the many more throughout the state.
. . .
“Even one person being uninsured is one too many,” Hubbard said. “It’s a matter of justice.”

The other article is here:
Religious leaders joined with the Faith and Hunger Network last Thursday to call on the Legislature to provide health care for all of New York’s residents by creating a state commission on universal health care.

Nearly 46 million Americans and three million New Yorkers are uninsured, according to the groups, who came to Albany as part of national Cover the Uninsured Week.

Interesting reading, we think.

Essay contest

The Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany is sponsoring an essay contest for students in grades 9-12.

Students are asked to write an essay of 500 words reflecting on the words of Pope Paul VI, "If you want peace, work for justice."

Entries must be typewritten and include the author’s name, telephone number, address, grade and school.

Essays must be received by May 15 at the Commission on Peace and Justice, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, 40 North Main Avenue, Albany NY 12203.

Excerpts from the winning essays will be printed in The Evangelist.

Religion on sale?

The Teaching Company is having its annual sale on the religion courses it offers. What is The Teaching Company?
The Teaching Company brings engaging professors into your home or car through courses on DVD, audio CD, and other formats. Since 1990, great teachers from the Ivy League, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities have crafted over 200 courses for lifelong learners. We provide the adventure of learning, without the homework or exams.

We have bought several of their courses and can vouch for the value and quality they provide. Among the courses being offered are The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Historical Jesus, and American Religious History. A list of the religion courses is here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More on Iraq

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a paper last month titled Backgrounder on Iraq. In it, they ask us to ask Congress to address these key challenges to a responsible transition:
confronting terrorism without using excessive military force that endangers civilians or abuses prisoners, and without relying solely on military methods to counter terrorism;

protecting religious liberty in Iraq, especially for Christians and other religious minorities;

providing more support for Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers; and

resisting the temptation to ignore other pressing needs, especially the poor at home and abroad.

The entire backgrounder is here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ten commandments day

Perhaps you did not know it, but today has been declared Ten Commandments Day by the Ten Commandments Commission. You can learn more about them here.

It is interesting to note, when you go to the link for the Commission itself, that the logo contains three elements. The American flag is in the background, an American eagle is in the foreground, and wedged in between them are the tablets with the numbers one through ten in Roman numerals. The actual commandments are not there; even if they were, you could not see numbers two through five because the eagle blocks them. Apparently the message is that the commandments and America are linked, and the commandments are secondary. The logo has been changed on the main page of the Commission, so that the eagle is removed.

We learn that:

The Ten Commandments Commission has assembled a massive coalition of cross cultural interdenominational community leaders, pastors, rabbis, educators, and heads of denominations who are committed to standing up for traditional values.

What are the values to which these people are committed? Well, let’s look at some of the people involved. For example, we have televangelist Benny Hinn. This is from a transcript of one of his shows in the early 1990s:
"The Lord also tells me to tell you in the mid 90's, about '94-'95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America. [audience applauds]

Also there is Jay Sekulow, chief counsel to The American Center for Law and Justice, about whom it has been reported:
But there is another side to Jay Sekulow, one that, until now, has been obscured from the public. It is the Jay Sekulow who, through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle -- complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
. . . one of Sekulow's nonprofit organizations paid a total of $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife. The same nonprofit also subsidized a third home he uses in North Carolina.

Of course, there also are some of the usual suspects, such as Rev. Jerry Falwell, who wrote:
I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

Also the Rev. Pat Robertson. Where to begin with the good reverend, who wants to assassinate the president of Venezuela? Let’s limit ourselves to this quote from the 700 Club:
"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them."

Perhaps we have overactive imaginations, but are we the only ones who see a political agenda at work in all of this?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

More on healthcare

Catholic News Service reports the following about healthcare:
Sometimes people wonder how a woman religious can be the head of a large health-care organization like SSM Health Care, with 24,000 employees, 5,000 physicians, 20 hospitals and two nursing homes in four states. "It's not surprising that people wonder about that," said Sister Mary Jean Ryan, who has led the St. Louis-based Catholic health system for 20 years. "There is a very old conception of us, that we are these sweet little things that sit under the trees and pray," she told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. "I think that takes away from the confidence and the actual dedication that sisters have had over the years for a variety of ministries." A Franciscan Sister of Mary, Sister Mary Jean oversaw systemwide changes that resulted in SSM Health Care becoming the first health-care system in the country to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Now SSM Health is the subject of a one-hour documentary, "Good News: How Hospitals Heal Themselves," airing on public television stations nationwide in May (check local listings).

You can read more here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What's with these chaplains?

We mean, they seem to be everywhere in the news this week. First was this:
Chaplains can come from any faith group that has established a relationship with the Department of Defense. But statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center indicate that while Christian fundamentalist and evangelical service members make up less than 20 percent of the military, more than a third of military chaplains come from such denominations. As a result, for every Southern Baptist chaplain, there are only 40 Southern Baptist service members. By comparison, Roman Catholics, who constitute the military's single biggest religious group, make do with one priest for every 800 Catholic service members.

It was followed by this:
Detention ministry is one of the most rewarding—yet possibly one of the least talked about—ministries within the Catholic Church. On any given day a surprisingly varied group of people bring Christ, in word and in Eucharist, into jails and prisons around the country. Some offer Communion services, retreats, self-help programs, individual counseling, faith-sharing, Bible studies, or sacramental preparation. Some simply offer a sympathetic ear. But I know that everyone from my home parish who volunteers at the nearby state prison, including my husband and me, actually feels ministered to and greatly blessed by this work.

And then we have this:
In a pediatric intensive-care unit, physician Robert Graham approaches the bedside of a teenage girl who is just beginning to confront some devastating news. After years of successful treatment, her leukemia has returned -- and there are no other options for a cure. As she weeps and clutches a teddy bear, Dr. Graham begins to talk to her about her thoughts, and how she wants to spend the time she has left, letting her do a lot of the talking. Though he speaks gently, he doesn't mince words, and it is still jarring to hear him say, "If you don't necessarily want to die at home. ...”

Chaplains do wonderful work for the Church. Why not call the diocesan vocations office and see if you have what it takes to become one? It does not hurt to ask.

The covenant with the poor

Last year, the New York State Catholic Conference released Restoring the Covenant with the Poor at the Public Policy forum. This pastoral letter, which addresses our responsibility to the poor and the vulnerable, is available here.

Martha H. Pofit, Director of Public Policy for the Albany Diocese, will present a talk entitled Implementing the Covenant with the Poor at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 during the Spring Enrichment program at the College of St. Rose. If you missed the May 1 deadline for registering at the $10 price, you still can register, but now the cost is $12. The program brochure and registration form are available here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Being Jewish?

Barnes & Noble University offers a free on-line course called Being Jewish in Today’s World.
This course serves as a practical, yet informative guide to understanding the rich and diverse Jewish heritage, and traditions that American Jews celebrate today. Jewish cultural customs and holidays will be explained for both Jews and non-Jews. The course focuses on history and tradition as well as cultural and religious practices, with an emphasis on the Talmud (the Rabbinic commentaries on Jewish life and practice). It also discusses the conflict that many Jews feel while trying to uphold traditions within contemporary American society.

If you have never taken an on-line course, B&N U is an inexpensive way to try this new way of learning. You can learn more about this particular course here.

Relations between people of the Catholic and Jewish faiths have been good in this country for some time, but the same cannot be said for all other countries. For example, read this:
WARSAW, April 27 — When Kazimiera Szczuka, a well-known literary critic and television personality here, satirized a young woman who often recites prayers for broadcast on Radio Maryja, an ultraconservative Roman Catholic radio station in Poland, she did not know, she says, that the young woman suffered from a crippling disease and used a wheelchair.

"I called her and apologized to her, because I didn't know she was disabled," Ms. Szczuka said in an interview, "even though many disabled people phoned me to say that I shouldn't apologize."

Still, the Polish National Broadcasting Council, which enforces broadcasting regulations, fined the commercial television station on which Ms. Szczuka had appeared the equivalent of $125,000 for insulting a disabled person and mocking her religion. It was, the Polish press has reported, the highest fine the council has levied.

That was in March. In April a regular commentator on Radio Maryja, Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, made what are almost universally deemed here to have been classically anti-Semitic statements, accusing Jews of using what he called "the Holocaust industry" of trying to exact financial "tribute" from Poland through property restitution claims.

But the broadcasting council has taken no action so far in the case of Mr. Michalkiewicz and Radio Maryja (pronounced Maria), even though the far-right Catholic radio station has often been a forum for comments that Jews and others here have called derogatory and insulting.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

To your health

We previously told you that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is co-sponsoring "Cover the Uninsured Week," from May 1-7. 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. Locally, we report this:
A public forum titled "Universal Healthcare: How Do We Get There from Here?" will be held Sunday, May 7, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 509 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. The forum is sponsored by the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare, a coalition of religious, labor and social justice organizations seeking reform of the nation's current healthcare system. It is part of the national week of action around the uninsured.

The program will feature talks by Dr. James W.L. Wilson of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada; Dr. Deborah Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All, an organization that educates the Vermont community about the structure and features of universal health care systems; and Sister Gail Waring, vice president of mission services for St. Peter's Health Care Services in Albany.

In Albany on Wednesday May 3rd at 8 p.m., Medical students from Albany Med are organizing a candlelight vigil and speak out for the Uninsured at the Koinonia Health Care, 553 Clinton Ave, Albany.

News from the Catholic Conference

The New York State Catholic Conference issued a statement last week regarding the child tax credit:
“We thank Gov. Pataki, State Sen. Marty Golden, Assembly Member Vito Lopez and others for their leadership and tireless efforts on behalf of the hardworking parents of our state. Unfortunately, the influence of the public school teachers unions prevented the credit from being directly tied to education as initially proposed. It is ironic that those who represent our state’s teachers would insist that this money expressly not be dedicated to education expenses."

The entire statement is here.

Anyone interested in the work of the Catholic Conference might want pay attention to this:
Kathleen Gallagher, Director of the Catholic Advocacy Network for the New York State Catholic Conference, will discuss Putting Faith into Action in the Political Arena at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 during the Spring Enrichment program at the College of St. Rose. If you missed the May 1 deadline for registering at the $10 price, you can still register, but now the cost of $12.

The conference brochure and registration form are available here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sister Dorothy Stang

Catholic News Service reports that it took less than one day for five men and two women to convict Amair Feijoli da Cunha of hiring two gunmen to murder U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang on a deserted dirt road in Brazil's Amazon region.
Sister Dorothy was a native of Dayton, Ohio, but had lived in the Amazon region for nearly four decades and was a naturalized Brazilian. She worked closely with the Brazilian bishops' Pastoral Land Commission in favor of land rights for the poor and for sustainable development in the region. Because of her work, she had been receiving death threats for nearly four years.

In the Hands of God

The Washington Post reports on chaplains in the military here:
Chaplains can come from any faith group that has established a relationship with the Department of Defense. But statistics from the Defense Manpower Data Center indicate that while Christian fundamentalist and evangelical service members make up less than 20 percent of the military, more than a third of military chaplains come from such denominations. As a result, for every Southern Baptist chaplain, there are only 40 Southern Baptist service members. By comparison, Roman Catholics, who constitute the military's single biggest religious group, make do with one priest for every 800 Catholic service members.
. . .
Chaplains don't do this work alone. Though they're military officers, the Geneva Conventions classify chaplains as noncombatants, which means they aren't allowed to carry weapons. So each chaplain is accompanied by an enlisted service member who acts as both assistant and bodyguard.

Interesting reading.

For May

The Holy Father’s General Intention for May:
That the abundance of the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on the Church may contribute to the growth of peace and justice in the world.

Let us pray . . .