Wednesday, December 27, 2006

World Day of Peace

January 1, 2007 is World Day of Peace. To mark our Church's commitment to create a more peaceful world, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has prepared a World Day of Peace bulletin insert. We invite you to help distribute this insert in your parish. You may download the insert by clicking here. Please ask your pastor or parish office for guidance on appropriate ways to distribute the World Day of Peace insert, such as handing out copies after Mass.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A note from the Catholic Conference

We received the following missive from the New York State Catholic Conference"
We appreciate your frequent links to our action alerts but in the future please refrain from encouraging your readers to indicate to legislators that they saw the alert on Albany Catholic. We can't allow our service to be used to advertise non-Catholic Conference sponsored web sites or other media. In addition, it waters down the influence of the Catholic Advocacy Network if legislators are given the false impression that the email campaign is being generated from a local blog rather than from the state's bishops' own network. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

We promised to refrain.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Last call for Timothy's Law?

The New York State Catholic Conference is urging one last action on your part in the continuing efforts to enact Timothy's Law, which we have discussed previously.
The Assembly and Senate have now passed Timothy's Law and sent it to the Governor for his signature. This important legislation would establish that insurance coverage for many mental health services must be on par with physical health benefits. This bill is a compromise that was reached between the Senate and Assembly after years of debate and discussion. Health insurance plans and health maintenance organizations frequently limit access to mental health services by restricting the number of visits and/or requiring higher co-payments than required for access to general health services. The case of Timothy O'Clair, a Schenectady boy who committed suicide in his home after not getting adequate mental health treatment due to lack of coverage, clearly illustrates the ultimate cost that barriers to treatment can exact. Please contact the Governor today and encourage him to sign this legislation.

To take action, go here and click on TAKE ACTION on the bottom right of the page.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


AfricaFiles is a network of people committed to Africa through its promotion of human rights, economic justice, African perspectives and alternative analyses.
The group was launched early in 2002 by former volunteers in two well-established groups based in Toronto but supported by numerous other people - in Canada, Africa, and elsewhere. These groups were: the Economic Rights in Southern Africa group of the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF), which is now a part of KAIROS-Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, and the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa (TCLSAC) which, for more than 20 years, published the Southern Africa Report (SAR). For a variety of reasons, both of these groups ceased operation in 2001. Volunteer members from each group then came together to explore ways to continue their work and express their solidarity with Africa. The result is AfricaFiles.

For articles about the situation in Darfur, you can go here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Time of Hope

Bishop Gabino Zavala, Bishop President of Pax Christi USA, delivered a homily entitled Advent Season: A Time of Hope in the Midst of a World at War for the first Sunday of Advent. The homily was given in the Caldwell Hall Chapel on the campus of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. at a Mass commemorating the martyrdom of the four US churchwomen in El Salvador, December 2, 1980.
The Advent season awakens our deepest longings and stirs our most fervent hopes for peace. Tonight is also a time to remember four modern-day martyrs, Sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and laywoman Jean Donovan, killed in El Salvador 26 years ago tonight—this is a lesson of what solidarity with the poor and oppressed is about.

On this first Sunday of Advent, in this beautiful chapel at Catholic University, in the heart of our nation’s capitol, let us call to mind tonight a people who live in darkness, the darkest of darknesses, which is the darkness of war. Let us imagine ourselves among their families, wondering what will happen tonight to their loved ones, and whether they will ever hear the joyful news of the dawning of peace, that news that the prophet Jeremiah announced so many years ago:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

These are the prophetic words of Jeremiah, a Jewish prophet, speaking of the promised Messiah whom Christians will acclaim as Jesus Christ, and promising justice and righteousness to all who live in the land – a land now populated by Muslims, as well as Christians and Jews.

There is a beautiful expression that binds all of our peoples together – we are “Abrahamic peoples,” who share a common root and a common dream of Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

That is the message we yearn to hear this first night of Advent, in a world so torn by war. I speak to you tonight, not only as a Catholic bishop, but also as the bishop president of Pax Christi USA, with a special mission to proclaim in word and deed the peace of Christ. It is a mission, really, that binds all of us, Christian, Muslim and Jew alike.

I also come to you as a Mexican migrant, who came to this land in search of peace and promise with my mother, brother and sisters 50 years ago. Tonight, on this first night of Advent, let us be mindful, as well, of all those who are crossing borders, crossing mountains and deserts, many fleeing from the ravages of war, many in search of bread and work to feed their families. May we receive them into our hearts and into our nation as Christ would receive them, the stranger in our midst, for they, too, are Christ.

You can read the rest of the homily here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Prescient and Patriotic

Writing in The Nation last April, Eric Alterman wrote an article headlined Prescient and Patriotic: America's Honor Roll.
George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq has proven so colossally counterproductive it almost beggars belief. This is finally, belatedly, reflected across a spectrum of opinion that includes virtually everyone who is not in the Bush inner circle or on the Washington Post editorial board or the Weekly Standard masthead. Speaking for the bedrock institutions of the establishment on The Charlie Rose Show recently, Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, admitted, "There's no question that it's helped to weaken America's standing in almost every other country in the world. It's just added to the notion of an America out of control, an America that doesn't know how to deal with the world." Jessica Matthews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, added, "The war has cost us deeply in credibility, in respect.... even our closest allies don't trust what our next instincts would be."
. . . I've picked a short (representative) Honor Roll of people in a variety of fields whose prescience and patriotism led them to risk their positions and/or prestige in public life to warn their nation of impending catastrophe:

To read the list, go here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Have yourself a defiant Christmas

While surfing the website of U.S. Catholic, we came across this article by John Shea, the author of numerous books, including The Legend of the Bells and Other Stories (ACTA, 1996) and Gospel Light (Crossroad, 1998). Although this article originally appeared in the December 1996 issue of U.S. Catholic, we think it remains relevant today.
. . . Christmas arrives to find our health precarious, our careers, jobs, or vocations under stress, our finances dipping badly, our relationships in need of repair, and our society and world slightly insane. How can we celebrate Christmas in situations like these? Isn't the only realistic response anxiety and gloom?

When the outer world is darkness, barrenness, and rejection, Christmas is a lesson in bringing forth and responding to the inner world of light, greenness, and love. Spiritual teachers think that since this inner world is rooted in a transcendent love, it is more powerful than all the attacks that emerge out of both our finitude and sinfulness. "I have said this that you might have peace in me. In the world you have tribulations, but cheer up, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Christmas cheer, when it is modeled on this passage from Saint John, engenders in us a gentle defiance to the tribulations of the world. Gentle defiance is not on the standard list of Christian virtues, but it is the Christmas gift that we all need to unwrap at one December or another.

How do we open this gift of inner light, greenness, and love? How do we get in touch with it? How do we allow it to flow into our lives?

There are some clues in the characters that Christians meditate on in the Advent-Christmas season. Gabriel, Mary, and John the Baptist give hints on how to have a defiant Christmas.

We at Albany Catholic believe you will enjoy the full story.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Twilight of the Republic?

The latests issue of Commonweal magazine has an article by Andrew J. Bacevich with the title: Twilight of the Republic? Seeds of Decline, Path to Renewal.
In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush declared the promulgation of freedom to be “the mission that created our nation.” Fulfilling what he described as America’s “great liberating tradition” now requires that the United States devote itself to “ending tyranny in our world.”

Many Americans find such sentiments compelling. Yet to credit the United States with possessing a “liberating tradition” is like saying that Hollywood has a “tradition of artistic excellence.” The movie business is just that-a business. Its purpose is to make money. If once in a while the studios produce a film of aesthetic value, that may be cause for celebration; but profit, not revealing truth and beauty, defines the purpose of the enterprise.

Something of the same can be said of the enterprise launched on July 4, 1776. The hard-headed lawyers, merchants, farmers, and slaveholding plantation owners gathered in Philadelphia that summer did not set out to create a church. They founded a republic. Their purpose was not to save mankind. It was to guarantee for people like themselves “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

You can read more here.

Tax refunds

Longtime readers of Albany Catholic know that one of our proposals for fiscal responsibility is to collect the taxes that are owed to the government, a plan that we believe could alleviate the need for higher taxes or, at the very least, provide funding for programs we support. This week we read an article by Kevin McCoy of USA TODAY with the headline: How the IRS failed to stop $200M in bogus refunds.
At least two months before the IRS mistakenly began paying an estimated $200 million in fraudulent or erroneous 2006 tax season refunds, the agency was warned about potentially “catastrophic” problems in a new computer being developed to avert such a blunder.

A USA TODAY examination of the IRS Electronic Fraud Detection System project found the previously unpublicized November 2005 warning, along with other warnings and new details of missteps that culminated in one of the most costly and embarrassing episodes in the tax agency's recent history.

As the peak of the 2006 tax season approached last spring, the IRS discovered that a planned upgrade of the agency computer that red-flags potentially fraudulent tax refunds had failed. The discovery came after the IRS had shut down the older computer. The failure forced the agency to continue processing 2006 tax season returns — and issuing refunds — without its first line of electronic defense against fraud.

USA TODAY's review found that the IRS lacks a comprehensive plan to recover the $200 million, which the agency said represents far less than 1% of all 2006 tax season refunds. That means most fraudulent filers who got federal checks in 2006 will likely never be caught.

You can read more here. Albany Catholic recommends you contact your congressional representatives (see button at right to locate them) and ask what they intend to do to address this issue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

More on pork

Gannett News Service has an article here detailing some of the pork spending by New York State’s Legislature.
. . . the process is secretive.

Often, grants depend more on the seniority of the legislator and whether he or she is locked in a tight re-election battle, some say.

"We don't question the substance. Some are very worthy," said Rachel Leon of Common Cause, a watchdog group. "We question the process. The problem is how these member items get doled out. It's about power and seniority. ... Right now, what you get can depend on where you live."
. . .
A word search of the list of Assembly projects showed that "baseball" pops up 28 times, "tennis" 33 times, "parade" 22, "museum" 58, and "flag" eight.

We at Albany Catholic note that a number of projects on the list are of a Catholic nature, ranging from $5,000 to Catholic Charities of Broome County to purchase food for the food pantry to $50,000 for a statue of the late Msgr. John T. Fagan, who headed a social-services agency on Long Island. This leads us to ask whether the Catholic Church is part of the problem here. If everyone has their hands out for a slice of the pie, who will step forward to say this is a bad process that has to be fixed? Perhaps that is the political genius behind pork: “Give some to everyone so that no one will object” except maybe our children when the bill comes due and they have to pay it. Will the New York State Catholic Conference be weighing in on this issue any time soon?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Road to Damascus

Joan Chittister, OSB writes a regular column for National Catholic Reporter with the title: Where I Stand. Her most recent effort carries the headline "Road to Damascus still a place for conversions."
The movie "Everest," now showing at the local IMAX theater, sent chills down my spine. There, in the middle of the Himalayas, a group of climbers found themselves blocked on their way to the summit by a fracture in the snow 90 feet deep. The crevasse was too wide to jump, but at the same time too narrow to simply accept as the end of their 30,000-foot attempt to conquer the highest mountain in the world. So they opened up a telescoped pole ladder, laid it across the icy ravine and in large, clunky, steel-clawed boots walked across the open spaces between its rungs, toes on one rundle, heels on the other.

I know a metaphor when I see one. I felt like I had just been part of a similar climb myself, sure of the need to go on, not sure that the passage was safe.

In Lebanon the week before, spiritual leaders from every side of the religious crevasse -- Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Orthodox -- met in the first-ever Middle East-Asian Spiritual Dialogue to discuss the role of religion and the road to peace. They were sheikhs and monks and archbishops and patriarchs and judges and theologians.

They were leaders of religious groups who had long been at odds with one another. And they were now trying to take the first steps across the historical fissures that were keeping them from uniting a globe where borders were fast disappearing, where cultures were all becoming polyglot, where no one was safe from having to deal with the others any more.

No doubt about it: This was not one more routine academic convention.

You can read more here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Latest pork round-up

James Odato of the Times Union's Capitol Bureau, continued his reports on the State Legislature's pork-barrel spending this week with stories on Democratic pork and Republican pork.

Albany Catholic read the articles and wonders what the difference between the parties really is.