Recently in Catholic Social Concerns Category

Syrians seeking refuge graph.jpg

According to UNHCR data, Lebanon is currently hosting over 135,000 Syrians, not including many lucky enough to find work who haven't sought to be registered. 

With AVSI, you can help by visiting this link.

Part of your Advent charitable giving, please consider making a donation to AVSI for this good work, others in the USA and internationally.

AVSI-USA is a non-profit of the international AVSI network, supporting human development in 38 countries, with special attention to each human person, according to Catholic social teaching.

The Mission of AVSI is "To support the AVSI network by leveraging resources and contacts in the U.S. in order to enhance and broaden the achievements of member organizations in promoting human dignity in developing countries. The Association of Volunteers in International Service is an international not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in Italy in 1972. AVSI's mission is to support human development in developing countries with special attention to education and the promotion of the dignity of every human person, according to Catholic social teaching. The AVSI-USA office was established in 2001."

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We honor with fraternal solidarity and spiritual closeness those who faithfully and sensitively observe World AIDS Day 2011. Not many have been unaffected by HIV/AIDS: we know someone directly or have been acquainted with someone who has had the devastating disease of HIV/AIDS. I've known several people who died due to complications of AIDS or know people who live with the disease today. There's 33 million people affected by the disease. How can a heart centered on the Lord be unmoved by our brothers and sisters who struggle to live with uncertainty?

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, 62, the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, wrote a letter on today's observance. He notes some good stuff; challenging stuff for some, but things we need to grapple with if we are sincere in our pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty. His thinking in other places has asked for the international community to come together and work on diseases that are pandemic in nature because it is a matter of global security and solidarity. The Archbishop's letter follows:

Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

on the Occasion of the World AIDS Day 2011

The World AIDS Day of 2011 must constitute a new opportunity to promote universal access to therapies for those who are infected, the prevention of transmission from mother child, and education in lifestyles that involve, as well, an approach that is truly correct and responsible as regards sexuality. In addition, this is a privileged moment to relaunch the fight against social prejudice and to reaffirm the need for moral, spiritual and - as far as this is possible - material proximity to those who have contracted the infection and to their family relatives.

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Protecting women and motherhood ought to be our daily work. For physicians all the more.  In fact, this week in Rome, the Internation Federation of Catholic Physicians (FIAMC) is meeting on the realtionship between and doctors. The English language congress, "The Dignity of Mothers and Obstetricians - Who on Earth Cares!" is organized by the MaterCare International and sponsored by FIAMC) with the assistance of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Around the world basic and unsafe conditions for women bearing children is a probelm. And thus, infant and mother mortality is a crucial problem. In the 21st century this ought not to be the case. What, if anything, can "regular" person do about it? Raise the consciousness of others about the problem and work at the local level to make sure that women have proper gynecological and pre-natal care. Being pregnant is not a disease, it is life bearing life; a pregnant woman is closely working with God to bring a human being into this world.

The Internation Federation of Catholic Physicians is located in 70 countries with nearly 50,000 members.

Saint Gianna, pray for us!
drought2.jpgIn his Sunday prayers Pope Benedict appealed on behalf of the victims of the severe drought in the Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia.  He asked Christians to show solidarity for the millions that face death by starvation in the worst conditions there in a century. Rain is not expected until October.
On July 14th, UNICEF called the situation in the Horn of Africa "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world ... with Somalia being the epicenter of the crisis."
"Innumerable people are fleeing from that tremendous famine in search of food and help," the Pope told the crowd gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. "I hope that international mobilization will increase to send help in time to these brothers and sisters of ours, already sorely tried, among whom are so many children."
Benedict's prayer was: "May our solidarity and the concrete support of all people of good will, not be lacking to these suffering populations."  As a first expression of its concern, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum has sent a donation of $70,000.
Today, I had the opportunity to speak to Father Julián Carrón so as to clarify an aspect of what the Movement of Communion and Liberation understands its founder, Father Luigi Giussani to mean by doing charitable work. One of the central characteristics in the life of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation is doing charitable work, where I see "the final powerlessness of my love" and the presence of Christ now.

Father Giussani's text on the meaning of charitable work is a very document that speaks of the reasons why we charitable work but doesn't tell us how to do it. The mechanics, if you will, are not given because they have to be given flesh in a local, concrete experience. Hence, there's a bit confusion on what it means for the members of CL do works of charity.

Last night at the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena (NYC) a remarkable event took place. About 120 people from all over the Metropolitan New York area attended an event co-sponsored by the Siena Forum for Faith and Culture and Crossroads Cultural Center whereby we wanted to know more about a pivotal figure of the 20th century who was truly human and in love with Christ through the poor, the Servant of God Dorothy Day. Ms. Mary Lathrop, a longtime friend and spiritual daughter of Day's, with Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, spoke about the person of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker Movement and Catholic Social teaching. Albacete as you know is the well known priest, physicist and theologian who works with the lay movement Communion and Liberation in the USA. Lathrop is a remarkable woman of faith and conviction who gave us a deeper appreciation for the real person that Day was and not the ideaology that is often passed off for the same.

A video of the event is located here.

The following article by Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete was published today on Il Sussidiario (English edition):

This week I was asked to participate in a discussion about Dorothy Day, founder of the "Catholic Worker Movement." The story of her life captures like none other the history of the Catholic Church in the United States during the last century, and a judgment on her life pretty much indicates how American Catholics look at the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Dorothy Day in living room.jpgDorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 8, 1897 and died on November 29, 1980. I must confess that I knew very little about her during the 60's and 70's, except that she was a very controversial Catholic pacifist, feminist, and maybe socialist who made many Church authorities very nervous (and still does here and there). I knew about her opposition to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but it was not until recently that I read her stunning editorial excerpted below so you can get a feel for her soul's style:

Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant...the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese...

Father Benedict Groeschel hosted Ken Hacket, the president of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on his weekly EWTN program, Sunday Night Live a few weeks ago. Since 1972 he's worked in the missions. The program was a source of hope for me because it expanded my horizons of what we as Christians are meant to be: beacons of hope and compassion for others, not only in a time of need, but at all times. This organization clearly and proudly represents us doing good around the world. CRS is a great example of Christian charity!

Kyle Logue's essay on Christian Web Trends, "4 Reasons Why Church Websites Don't Attract Visitors". Kyle pinpoints a number of good things to keep in mind for the work sharing the faith with the outside world. Pay attention! His list includes:

  1. lack of interaction
  2. no easy way to share content
  3. lack of good content
  4. lack of purpose.
One could also quote Reinhold Niebuhr who once said: 

"Nothing is so incredible as an answer to an unasked question. One half of the world has regarded the Christian answer to the problem of life and history as "foolishness" because it had no questions for which the Christian revelation was the answer and no longings and hopes that that revelation fulfilled" (The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II. Human Destiny).
A thorny matter of faith and morals between a bishop and a historic "Catholic" hospital has been settled: the hospital is no longer a Catholic hospital. Mass is not permitted to be celebrated there and the Blessed Sacrament can't be reserved there. Phoenix's St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center whose owner is Catholic Healthcare West (CWH) defied Catholic teaching and the authority of the Catholic bishop in whose diocese the hospital is located. St Joseph's is one of several hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona. For Catholics, the bishop of the diocese is the final authority on matters of faith and morals; the bishop is not a branch manager, he is the successor of the Apostles.

Contrary to an editorial in the NY Times today, hospitals who claim to be Catholic are not agents of the state and therefore are not bound to comply with legalities to provide emergency reproductive care.

St Joseph's Hospital was founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1895.

In Catholic teaching we hold that no one, no institution is the authentic interpreter of faith and morals but the bishop. In this case, The Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmstead, Bishop of Phoenix, is the proper teacher and interpreter of Catholic teaching with regard to the faithful and Catholic institutions in the Diocese of Phoenix. But let's be clear: it is not Bishop Olmstead's isolated interpretation of Catholic teaching nor is Catholic teaching determined by him as a private body of teaching and interpreted arbitrarily. What we see in Bishop Olmstead is a man faithful to his word, a priest acting according to his calling and ordination. Catholic teaching is not a policy statement; Catholic teaching coheres to objective and divine truth not to positive law. Catholic teaching is based on sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the clear and consistent teaching of the sacred Magisterium through the years. It is the Church's theological and pastoral patrimony that the bishop is responsible for because he's responsible for the salvation of souls in his diocese. He's responsible to see that the faithful and all others meet God face-to-face.

WAD 2010.jpgWe pray that Mary, Mother of God, will ask her Son, Jesus, to assist us in responding to the worldwide AIDS crisis and to heal and/or cure those who are ill with the disease. And in gratitude for the many, many women and men who have dedicated themselves to fighting AIDS.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and Saint Damien de Vuester, pray for us.

It is reported that since 1981 25 million people have died from HIV-AIDS and there's 33 million people who live with the disease.

I was reading the current issue of L'Osservatore Romano and I noticed a striking title of brief article: "First ever Catholic school in Laos." Something in me went, "really, wow!!!" In the States so many of our dioceses are merging or closing Catholic schools we forget that in other parts of the world --Laos for example-- education is not a possibility on a large scale. Where education is given, liberty happens. So, when the people of Laos can open a school as part of an initiative of the "Circolo San Pietro" (Circle of St Peter), I am extraordinarily happy. Wouldn't you be?

The article in L'Osservatore Romano reads:

The first ever Catholic school in Lao was recently opened in Ban Simang. The school was inaugurated on 10 February and is an initiative of the Circolo San Pietro (Circle of St Peter), which also recently received recognition as an ecclesiastical organization from the Italian Government.

The school building, which had previously been used as a chicken-run, was turned into a school for children between the ages of two and five that can accommodate 80 students. There, a group of Caritas sisters will manage both school and a medical care centre.

The project was financed by the Cicolo's Commission for international aid, which in the past has also funded projects such as creating scholarships for Lithuanian seminarians, providing hospitality for child victims of the nuclear diaster at Chernobyl, and contributing to a professional school in Malindi, Kenya. This year, Circolo San Pietro celebrates the 141st anniversary of its founding.

A priest in New Haven, Connecticut was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with the police. The charges are now dismissed. Father Manship, pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Church, a parish community with a dominant Latino congregation, was "videotaping two officers who were removing what they called illegal license plates from a wall of a grocery store owned by an Ecuadorean couple."


The real matter is the process of justice. East Haven police have long been known to do racial profiling. In fact, they are generally imprudent but some of that imprudence is learned from their superiors. The question of what this couple was doing with license plates is rather crucial but whatever it was they really doing needs to be investigated according just principles according the law. Perhaps the law enforcers could have worked with the priest to understand better the context, etc. Nevertheless, there have been significant problems with stolen plates used on cars driven by illegal immigrants in Connecticut, who also drive without insurance. Plus, a causal observer would see the number of Pennsylvania license plates on cars driven by Hispanics in the New Haven area. It's doubtful that they commute from anywhere in Pennsylvania to work in New Haven (PA is normally 3-4 hours away). So, there is something illegal going on here but there is due process of the law.


Father Manship, like any priest, like any Catholic, was right to stand up for the rights of people against the injustice. The Gospel calls us to this type of witness. Prudence and discretion are also required. The Ecuadorean couple may well have been doing wrong but following Catholic Social Teaching and just laws to right the matter is required.

Help the poor by drinking tea

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fairtrade.jpgToday's Zenit posting had an article titled: Nuns Invited to Help Poor by Drinking Tea. Interesting idea, I thought. Help the poor by drinking tea. (I like coffee more.) Sounds easy and given the recent economic problems we're facing in the USA --and scanning the news services shows problems with the economy are global-- I wonder what we are doing about the poor of this country. Granted the poor in the developing world are far poorer and have much less access to resources to fulfill human basic needs than our poor brothers and sisters in the USA. Nonetheless, I think we all need to figure out an adequate plan on how to assist the poor in our own cities and abroad. The Beatitudes quickly come to mind as does the parable of the widow's mite, and the rich young man. I'd be negligent if I didn't say the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

A variety of religious congregations of sisters are leading the charge by making this invitation as concrete as possible by encouraging others to buy tea and coffee sold by Fairtrade workers. Of course, the Franciscans are behind this good work! The Zenit article says: "Springing from a financial vision and a commitment based on the values of the Gospel," the organizers explained, "new economic relations can arise, challenging men and women religious to make their choices as consumers, beginning with a critical conscience, with bases in the political, economic and social reality." My challenge: let's not let the vowed religious do this act of mercy alone.

fairtrade tea.jpgAre good deeds only left to nuns and priests? I hope not. The Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is for all people and therefore we have to let the words announcing our salvation to cut closely to our human experience. Would it be possible for us, on this side of the ocean, to purchase food products from Fairtrade? Yes, because Fairtrade also operates here in the USA. See the links below. Those unfamilar with the work of Fairtrade should know that it is an organization that represents more than 4,000 groups of workers worldwide.

In early January, the Pope called on Governments to assist the poor: "We need to give new hope to the poor," he said. "How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water?" (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 2009). Pope Benedict, quoting the First Letter of Saint John, offers us a challenge in this year's Lenten message: "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him -- how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17).

Fairtrade USA

Fairtrade UK

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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