J/P Alert is the newsletter of the Justice and Peace office of CMSM. It is intended to inform and stimulate discussion and involvement among the members. Its contents do not necessarily represent official positions of CMSM.
The New Orleans Times
Picayune [summary by Catholic
Thousands of New Orleanians broke briefly Wednesday from the sweaty toil of rebuilding a broken region to remember those lost to Hurricane Katrina, to comfort and encourage one another -- and in many cases, to demand more assistance from federal authorities whose fragile levees failed, drowning the city two years ago to the day.
Some also asked for patience at the two-year mark in the painfully slow recovery. "Give us the wisdom not to fight each other," prayed Mayor Ray Nagin at a state-owned cemetery off Canal Street that soon will become a memorial containing the remains of 100 people who remain unclaimed since the storm.
But the fact that two years of heavy labor should produce so few rebuilt homes and neighborhoods was clearly on the minds of many.
At an evening convocation of civic and cultural leaders gathered by Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence Magazine, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Nagin seemed to call directly for the resignation of Donald Powell, President Bush's point man on the Gulf Coast recovery.
"Maybe we need someone else to become the head person of the recovery for the federal government," Nagin said. "Maybe we need to call (former Secretary of State) Colin Powell and give him the authority, the juice to get the money moving."
As early afternoon thunder rumbled outside St. Louis Cathedral, Archbishop Alfred Hughes, concluding a memorial Mass attended by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and hundreds of others, thanked God it was only a thunderstorm this time.
Two years ago it was a huge, once-in-400-years storm that grazed the city and crumpled rings of substandard levees built over 40 years by the Army Corps of Engineers. Lower Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes were demolished. Eighty percent of New Orleans flooded; the death toll is officially at 1,464.
Two years later, 300,000 people are still displaced from the metropolitan area; about 33,000 still live in FEMA trailers; health care and public education are in tatters. Vast stretches of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes are pocked with new clusters of construction embedded in tracts of heavy blight.
Clamoring for cooperation
"The time is long past for our political leaders to fulfill the tasks entrusted to them," they said.
"Our circumstances demand from our political leaders cooperation rather than competition, dedication to the common good rather than to political or private advantage."
[The following is from Sr. Mary Turgi, CSC, director of the Holy Cross International Justice Office]
Today marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Immediately after this devastating hurricane struck New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast, President Bush made a public pledge "to help the citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." Two years later, the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are still crying out for help. There are tens of thousands of families without homes; 30,000 families are scattered across the country in FEMA apartments; 13,000 are in trailers; and hardly any of the 77,000 rental units destroyed in New Orleans have been rebuilt.
The citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast need the help that the federal government promised to them in order to rebuild their homes and local infrastructures. The Bush Administration has failed miserably in its promises to assist these citizens.
However, in the U.S. Senate, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has proposed the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007 (S.1668) to assist the region in rebuilding the infrastructure lost after the Katrina, Rita and Wilma disasters. Passage of this bill will be an important step to rebuilding the Gulf Coast and returning residents to their homes. The bill is expected to come up for a vote after Labor Day.
On this second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we urge you to contact your senators and tell them to support the Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007. CLICK HERE to take action now.
403 Bertrand Annex, Saint Mary's, Notre
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[The following is an abridged version of the USCCB Labor Day Statement by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The full statement can be downloaded here (pdf)]
September 3, 2007
Labor Day is a holiday with an important, but sometimes forgotten purpose. It was established in New York in 1882 as a day to honor work and workers and also a time to celebrate the contributions of the American Labor Movement.…
Let us…remember that too many people in our midst–and millions around the world—still lack decent work or fair wages, toil in terrible conditions, and have no real voice in their economic life. For example, more than 40 million people in our own nation lack genuine health care coverage. Our economy is strong in many ways, despite the serious and growing problems in the housing and credit markets. However, that strength is not shared as widely and deeply as our American tradition of "liberty and justice for all" and Catholic teaching on solidarity and human dignity would require.
Recalling Catholic Teaching
This year is the 40th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI's powerful encyclical, Populorum Progressio – On the Development of Peoples. He called Catholics to defend the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable workers in our own societies and around the world. Paul VI called us to be in solidarity with those who seek to "escape from hunger, misery, endemic disease, and ignorance." (Populorum Progressio, 1)
This message of solidarity and the pursuit of the global
common good builds on the tradition
Our present Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, has placed the Church's social doctrine in the context of God's love for us and our duty to love the 'least of these.' "[W]ithin the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life." (Deus Caritas Est, 20)
Our Bishops' Conference has outlined A Catholic Framework for Economic Life that seeks to summarize this essential part of Church teaching as "principles for reflection, criteria for judgment, and directions for action."
(www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/ACatholicFrameworkforEconomicLife.pdf) Among the key principles, these are especially appropriate for Labor Day:
A Look Back: A Failed Immigration Debate
This should not surprise us, but it should not dissuade us either. … We have to find a way to re-start the discussion, to re-engage the hard issues, to search for practical and realistic solutions. This debate brought out some of the worst in us. Now we need to draw on the best in us if we are ever going to move forward as a whole, healthy society and nation.
Let me suggest a few starting points for a new and better immigration discussion: reality, civility, morality, and consistency.
First, reality. I have heard it said, "You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." … However, there are some inescapable facts:
Second, civility. Passion and strong convictions can be good things. … However, anger is no substitute for wisdom, attacks are no substitute for dialogue, and feeding fears will not help us find solutions. Respect for different points of view is a mark of civil society.…
Third, morality. By morality, I do not mean that faith and moral principles give us easy answers to difficult problems, or that people of good will cannot disagree over the best ways forward. Rather, I am suggesting that how we analyze and act on these issues ought to be shaped and measured by fundamental moral principles. For example, human dignity is a gift from God, not a status to be earned. Fundamental rights to work, decent wages, safe working conditions, to have a voice in decisions, and the freedom to choose to join a union do not depend on where you were born or when you came to our nation. Human dignity and human rights are not commodities to be allocated according to where you come from, when you got here, or what documents you possess.
Basic morality insists that the search for the common good should prevail over the pursuit of narrow economic and political interests. … The measure of immigration reform is not how it touches the secure and powerful, but the weak and vulnerable.
We need a different debate, a constructive discussion
that neither diminishes our nation nor divides our people, but
and principled steps towards reform. A national discussion that is
based on reality, civility, morality, and consistency--properly understood--can
lay the groundwork for real progress.
Signs of Hope
Another less well known sign of hope is the progress of a small but courageous group of workers called the "Coalition of Immokalee Workers." After years of hard work, they have reached landmark agreements with McDonald's Corporation and Yum! Brands, Inc., the company that owns Taco Bell, to address wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes in Florida.…
In a small way, this is also a sign of hope for our Church that has supported and stood with these workers in their just cause and legitimate aspirations. Our Catholic Campaign for Human Development offered initial, vital support. CCHD saw in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers the kind of empowering, bottom-up effort to overcome poverty that is at the heart of CCHD's mission.
… [I]n the final analysis, it is the workers who created this sign of hope for the rest of us. They are an example of how courage, sacrifice, and a passion for justice can make a difference. There is much more to be done and a long way to go for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and for all farmworkers who remain among the most invisible, neglected, and vulnerable workers in our nation.…
The Bottleneck Behind Bottled Water
by Fr. John S. Rausch [Glenmary Home Mission Society]
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
Nothing quenches a thirst like cool water, whether it's PepsiCo's Aquafina (13% of the bottled water market), or Coca-Cola's Desina (11% of the market), or a specialty water from Nestle. Every day millions of Americans grab a clear plastic bottle of water from the cooler at a convenience store, or pull a case of it from the shelves at their local supermarket. Toting water has become as indispensable for some people as carrying a cell phone.
The $15 billion a year industry has grown from a marketing approach evoking purity, natural springs and the great outdoors. In 1976 the average American drank 1.6 gallons of bottled water, but 30 years later consumption jumped to 28.3 gallons. Within a decade bottled water is projected to surpass the current 52.9 gallons per year consumption rate of soda.
While drinking water rather than soda offers positive health benefits, the delivery of individual servings of water in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles brings a headache to landfills. Americans used 50 billion PET bottles last year, about 167 per person, but recycled only 23 percent of them. Landfills got the other 38 billion. Add to this the pollution from moving one billion bottles of water weekly by ship, truck and train, and bottled water represents a genuine environmental concern.
Fiji Water comes from the islands of Fiji, which lie roughly 8,000 miles from New York. The bottles for the Fiji Water nearly double the trip because first they are brought to Fiji, filled, then shipped to their final destination. Transportation represents fully half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water. In addition, the Fiji Water plant further impacts the environment because it operates 24 hours a day requiring uninterrupted electricity that the factory supplies with three large generators run by diesel fuel.
The bottled water closest to home comes from Aquafina and Dasani because they start with the local municipal water throughout the country. Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola add an energy-intensive filtration process to insure purity and consistency. As researcher Charles Fishman writes: "They are recleaning already-clean tap water."
Despite safe, clean municipal water in the U.S. costing pennies per gallon, many consumers still choose to buy water at twice the price of gasoline. For some, bottled water represents convenience, for others, status and for still others, matters of health.
The marketplace sees purchasing bottled water as a consumer choice, but people of faith reject the "it's-my-money" argument. Water "constitutes an essential element of life"–according Benedict XVI's 2007 Message for World Water Day–and "water cannot be treated as just another commodity." The principles of subsidiarity and solidarity paint a larger picture about the global water supply.
Worldwide, one billion people lack safe water and everyday over 3,000 children die from diseases caused by unhealthy water. While Fiji Water ships one million bottles of water per day, more than half the people in Fiji lack safe, reliable drinking water. By purchasing bottled water that promotes profits over the public good, i.e. the privatization of water, the consumer can encourage the disregard for local community rights (subsidiarity) to provide safe drinking water for all.
In addition, solidarity requires examining present patterns of water delivery with its pollution and waste in light of future generations, because today's convenience might produce tomorrow's hangover.
While promoting greater water drinking for health reasons, we can responsibly tap safe local supplies using additional filters and refillable bottles. If giving a cup of cold water brings God's blessing (Matt. 10:42), how much more will insuring safe water for all with the minimum of pollution?
The fifth installment of "Iraq: Catholic Resources for discernment" is now available on the Jesuit Conference web site.
[The following is a press release from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good]
Washington, DC- While U.S. Census Bureau data on income, poverty and health care released today show some minor improvements, Catholic leaders note that millions of Americans still lack health insurance and are unable to pull themselves out of poverty.
According to the government's conservative figures, 36.5 million Americans live in poverty, a figure that has not statistically changed in the last year. The 12.8 million children in poverty and the 20.2 million adults in poverty have also remained the same. Despite the success of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) 611,000 more children lack health insurance this year. As America's wealthy prosper, Catholic social justice leaders worry that lost in these statistics are the real struggles of people unable to afford adequate housing, medicine or health care.
"The fact is that low and middle-income families have not shared in the prosperity that the extremely wealthy have enjoyed," said Kathleen Maas Weigert, the Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service at Georgetown University and a Catholics in Alliance advisor. "While we applaud the fact that economic numbers have improved, they have not improved enough for the poor and vulnerable among us. Catholic Social Teaching is clear that poverty is a moral scandal that threatens the dignity of the human person. As a society and as individuals, we all need to work towards eliminating it."
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good calls on all public officials and policy makers to make a renewed commitment to ensure that the poor and middle-class have the same opportunities as wealthy Americans.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (www.catholicsinalliance.org) is a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the fullness of the Catholic social tradition in the public square. CMSM is a participating member.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
T. Michael McNulty, SJ, editor
8808 Cameron St., Silver Spring, MD 20910