Monday, March 24, 2008


Terence L. Kindlon, an Albany lawyer and a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, writes in today’s Times Union, after American casualties in Itaq hit the 4,000 mark:
"If I were slightly younger ... I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines. ... It must be exciting ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger."
-- President Bush, March 13

On the day after Christmas in 1967, I found a young Marine quietly lying on his back near the perimeter wire at our temporary base south of DaNang. He was just a boy, maybe 18, and he looked relaxed, as if he had drifted off to sleep under a warm sun while fishing. But he wasn't asleep. He was dead and gone, taken down by a sniper's bullet shot through the center of his chest. When I checked for a pulse he was still warm.

The same day I found that dead Marine, another young man, George W. Bush, then a senior at Yale, was probably home for Christmas vacation. Mr. Bush, 21 and just a few months from graduation, was at an ideal age to enlist in the military, where he could have had -- to use his words -- the fantastic, exciting experience, in some ways romantic, of confronting danger as a second lieutenant on the front lines of Vietnam. If he wanted, he could have actually had the exact same kind of combat experience he rhapsodized about just a few days ago.

Unfortunately, after graduation in 1968, he decided to cut and run instead.

The rest of his op-ed piece is here. We at Albany Catholic recommend it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Election aids

The Center of Concern has developed a number of materials to help us participate actively in the current political campaigns as informed and faithful Christians. The materials posted here can help us deepen our own analysis, make our own evaluation of the programs and candidates, and engage our local communities.

Future postings in this Center initiative will be made on the 1st and 15th of each month. Topics will include immigration, international relations, jobs and outsourcing, poverty, Iraq and security, health care, and climate change. Other topics may be developed as the campaigns evolve.

The issues are framed in the context of globalization and a commitment to the common good faithful to the universalism of the Christian vision. They reflect the conviction that merely national solutions to security, health, poverty, employment, migration, the ecology and life itself cannot provide more than short-term fixes.

Select, download and use the materials that are most helpful to you in your context. One example of the entries if the following draft blog/op-ed:
Sound bites and easy canned answers do not do justice to the needs facing the American public nor to its intelligence. Turn them off! Block them out! Demand honest, direct real-life answers to life’s real questions – like jobs, outsourcing, health care, poverty, immigration and security. And don’t try to use our religion to divide us or manipulate us.

As a Christian approaching what could be the most important set of national elections in my lifetime, I have a serious responsibility to be an authentic Citizen Disciple: involved in the political process, working to turn the country toward greater justice for all, guided in addressing the issues and candidates first of all by the values of Jesus and his vision of the human community in the Reign of God. All Christians do. And I’m sure members of other faiths – and even people with no religious faith but authentic human values – can say something analogous.

During the three months ahead after which we will probably have identified our major presidential candidates, my dream is that we Americans will use all the best resources at our command to choose candidates and support programs that will move us as a nation again toward our best social vision for humanity, building on our best and most sacred national traditions and values.

Among those resources in the Catholic community are:

- a centuries-long living tradition of social vision, principles and values grounded in the teachings of Christ,

- deep engagement with each and all of the issues facing the American people,

- strong national and international networks of organizations committed to working for justice for each and every person, and

- a well-articulated faith vision that supports and invites social engagement with these issues.

To help Christians and Catholics take leadership in the national process of selecting new leadership and setting our national direction into the future, the Center of Concern is offering analyses of the major issues and educational tools to help people deepen their own analysis, make their own evaluation of the programs and candidates, and engage their local communities in those same efforts.

The first set of materials in this new project clarifies the notion of the common good as the context for all the major issues of the campaigns. The policy paper and educational materials argue that each of the issues – from immigration to jobs, from health care to global warming, from poverty to terrorism – is a new and more complicated problem than it was a few years ago precisely because of globalization. Merely national solutions to security, health, poverty, employment, migration, the ecology and the so-called “life issues” themselves cannot provide more than short-term fixes.

All materials in the Center of Concern initiative will be posted at and, and are available free of charge for individual or group use. Future postings in this Center initiative will be made on the 1st and 15th of each month. Topics will include immigration, international relations, jobs and outsourcing, poverty, Iraq and security, health care, and climate change. Other topics may be developed as the primary campaigns evolve into the national campaign. Take a look.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Candidates and faith

Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School, writes about presidential candidates and their faith in yesterday’s Voices of Faith column in the Times Union.
Eight years ago, when George W. Bush stated on the eve of the Iowa caucuses that Jesus was his favorite philosopher, suppose someone had asked a follow-up question: "Mr. Bush, Jesus, your favorite philosopher, invited his followers to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek. How will that guide your foreign policy, especially in the event, say, of an attack on the United States?"

Or: "Governor Bush, your favorite philosopher expressed concern for the tiniest sparrow. How will that sentiment be reflected in your administration's environmental policies?"

Or: "Jesus called his followers to care for 'the least of these.' How does that teaching inform your views on tax policy or welfare reform?"

He goes on to note:
Ronald Reagan insisted abortion was the defining moral issue of his time, and he campaigned twice for the presidency promising to outlaw it. Yet as even his supporters acknowledge he made no serious effort to outlaw abortion. He made no mention of it in his 700-page autobiography.

On the other hand, no one could accuse Lyndon Johnson of being a demonstrably pious or religious man. Yet he learned (and sought to live by) a simple maxim that he attributed to his mother: The strong have an obligation to look after the weak. That principle led him, a white Southerner, to push for civil rights, and it also animated his quest for the Great Society. Tragically, Johnson used the same principle to justify American involvement in Vietnam.

Billy Graham detected vast reservoirs of faith in his friend Richard Nixon, who hosted worship services in the White House. Probity, however, is not the first word that comes to mind in recalling the Nixon administration. And Bill Clinton's many critics would be justified in pointing out the disjunction between his professions of faith and his conduct in the Oval Office.

Arguably, the only exception to this litany proves the rule. Jimmy Carter ran for office promising a government as "good and decent as the American people" to whom he pledged, "I will never lie to you." After he sought actually to govern according to his moral principles -- revising the Panama Canal Treaty, seeking peace in the Middle East -- the American people denied him a second term.

Then he goes on:
We the voters settle for shallow, perfunctory bromides about faith and piety. We allow candidates to lull us into believing they are moral and virtuous simply because they say they are.

At the very least, we should examine those claims to see if any real substance lies beneath the campaign rhetoric. If we're not willing to probe the depth and the sincerity of politicians' declarations of faith, then we shouldn't bother to ask the question.

Albany Catholic recommends the entire article, which can be found