We who form part of SEMILLAS are committed to commenting on and raising awareness of social justice issues in our local and global communities. We are strongly influenced by the mission and work of Maryknoll, the U.S. Catholic Mission Society. Some of us are formally linked to Maryknoll through its Affiliates program. We welcome anyone to join our Weblog community who has an interest in planting a few seeds of social justice. We hope you will enjoy our blog - we appreciate any comments.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pope on Conflict in Lebanon

When will pro-war Cafeteria Catholics ever get it. The Pope`s position on warfare is crystal clear. He says it is wrong and can never be justified.

From AlertNet:

Pope Benedict on Sunday condemned "terrorist" acts and reprisals in Lebanon and Israel, saying the violence was unjustifiable.

Benedict, in his first public comments on the escalating crisis, said that violations "of law and justice" at the root of the conflict could not be used to sanction bloodshed.

He called on both sides to resume dialogue.

"The causes of such fierce confrontation are unfortunately objective situations of violation of law and justice," Benedict said, speaking from his holiday retreat in the Aosta valley.

"But neither the terrorist acts nor the reprisals, above all when there are tragic consequences for the civilian population, can be justified."

Monday, June 12, 2006

COHA on WHINSEC: "Torture is Un-American"

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs comments on the legacy of the U.S.'s training of Latin American military officers at the WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the SOA or School of the Americas). Combining the current anti-terrorist fears in the U.S. public, an administration policy that tends to ignore or dismiss torture as legitimate interrogation techniques, and border security concerns, one wonders if WHINSEC might not just stay open, but might also ramp up its old ways again.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Justice as an Answer to Terrorism

From America:

Just solutions to political, social and economic problems that frustrate young immigrants worldwide “can rob terrorists of the oxygen of hatred” and thwart efforts to “recruit the impressionable,” the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations said on May 11. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent representative of the Holy See to the international body, spoke before the General Assembly during its informal consultations on a counterterrorism strategy. “The political, social and economic exclusion of immigrant communities stokes the frustration of young people and has led to breakdowns in order in some places; but the demand for a just solution to these questions remains a legitimate one,” the archbishop said. “By resolving such questions swiftly and justly, nations can rob terrorists of the oxygen of hatred and of grievances, real or imagined, by which they attempt to legitimize their evil deeds and recruit the impressionable,” he added.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Editorial from America: True Costs of War

How can anyone argue against this:

The irony in this silent erosion of American values is that it surrenders the most important weapon we possess in the present struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. The campaign against international terrorism confronts a new kind of challenge. Unlike conventional wars between nation-states or the decades-long confrontation of the cold war, this campaign will not conclude with a surrender or a treaty. When the two global superpowers confronted each other in a climate of mutual assured destruction, the danger was all too real, but the competing interests of the adversaries were clear. Such clarity is not present in the campaign against international terrorism. Suicide bombers will not be defeated by missiles and tanks but by the promise of a life of opportunity with hope for future generations. While military responses to clearly defined targets must be part of our response to terrorist attacks, the fundamental and continuing conflict will be one of ideals and values. If American citizens accept the diminishment of constitutional safeguards and American values without protest, we will slowly surrender our most valuable resource in the continuing campaign against terrorism. By failing to understand our adversaries, we run the risk of becoming their mirror images.
This is the piece's concluding paragraph. Read it from start to finish.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Immigration Myths

Check out this site, which is from the USCCB's formal "Justice for Immigrants" website. In it, some common myths about immigration are provided. They're all interesting, but the one I found most surprising is the following:

Most immigrants cross the border illegally
Around 75% of today’s immigrants have legal permanent (immigrant) visas; of the 25% that are undocumented, 40% overstayed temporary (non-immigrant) visas.

(Source: Department of Homeland Security (http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/statistics/index.htm)
Interesting. Check out all the other myths they debunk.

Back in the Saddle

I figure it's time to get this blog rolling again. We in New Orleans have had a lot to contend with over the past 8 or 9 months, and we're gearing up for another hurricane season, so who knows what surprises are in store for us; but social injustice in the world doesn't stop just because Katrina hit us hard.

We in the local chapter of the Maryknoll Affiliates movement have been very active in attending to the needs of our own community, which are tremendous. Social injustices in our City have always been palpable, and they are even more so in the post-Katrina world that is New Orleans today. So, my hope is that we can restart the blogging part of our efforts small, with a renewed focus on mission to our own in New Orleans, and then build it where we can to other issues of justice facing our nation and our world, of which there are many.

So, please do get in the habit of visiting Semillas with more regularity. I promise that there will be more things to ponder in the weeks to come.

Peace in God.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Justice for Immigrants

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is heading up an initiative entitled "Justice for Immigrants" that it is about to roll out. The official website for this initiative can be found by clicking here.

This initiative came out of the recent work done jointly between the Catholic Bishops of the United States and Mexico. This collaborative effort resulted in the publication of Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope. The full text of this joint Pastoral Letter can be found by clicking here. But to whet your appetite for what this Pastoral Letter says, here's a bit of my favorite parts:

33. Both of our episcopal conferences have echoed the rich tradition of church teachings with regard to migration. Five principles emerge from such teachings, which guide the Church's view on migration issues.

I. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.
34. All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need.

II. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
35. The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.

III. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.
36. The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.

IV. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.
37. Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority.

V. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
38. Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.

39. The Church recognizes the right of a sovereign state to control its borders in furtherance of the common good. It also recognizes the right of human persons to migrate so that they can realize their God-given rights. These teachings complement each other. While the sovereign state may impose reasonable limits on immigration, the common good is not served when the basic human rights of the individual are violated. In the current condition of the world, in which global poverty and persecution are rampant, the presumption is that persons must migrate in order to support and protect themselves and that nations who are able to receive them should do so whenever possible. It is through this lens that we assess the current migration reality between the United States and Mexico.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bill Quigley on Ratzinger

New Orleans and Louisiana are so blessed to have such courageous and faithful (not to mention famous) voices on behalf of justice. We have Sister Helen Prejean and Father Roy Bourgeois. And we also have Loyola University Law Professor Bill Quigley. Here is Bill's latest on what the selection of Ratzinger as Pope means to progressive Catholics:

Within minutes of the media announcement that Cardinal Ratizinger was selected Pope Benedict - I refuse to call a process whereby less than 1% of 1% can vote an election - I received an email asking if I was going to switch churches or wait to be excommunicated! My friends laughed and said “A progressive American Catholic is now a double oxymoron!”

The first Pope joke is already racing around Rome. When gregarious and generous Pope John XXIII was made pope, his first words were “Be not afraid!” Now when Pope Benedict is sworn in his first words will be “Be afraid! Be very afraid!”

For those of you who are not Catholic, selecting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope is a lot like selecting Attorney General John Ashcroft as President. Ratzinger has been the enforcer of orthodoxy for years. No women priests. No gay unions. No questioning authority. Fall in line.

As a progressive American Catholic I feel uncomfortably out of place - both in country and in church. While the last Pope spoke passionately about poverty and peace and solidarity - these principles were undercut by the practices of protection of the all-male clerical hierarchy.

Likewise, we have a president who speaks boldly about freedom and democracy and opportunity - yet these same principles are undercut by practices of global military and economic domination and widespread denial of social and human rights at home and abroad.

Yet I, and millions of others, are not leaving - country or church. Millions refused to give up and go to Canada when our current fundamentalist president was elected.

And we millions are not leaving the catholic church just because the fundamentalists have assumed power there as well.

Our church and our country have wandered far away from the principles of respect and justice and equality that are supposed to be the foundations of each. Yet, we will not leave.

It is time to stand and struggle for the soul of church and country - and, I am afraid, more frequently than I would like, to struggle with both our church and country to force them to stand consistently for their principles.

If our country will not stand up for justice for civilians in Iraq, prisoners here and abroad, a living wage, racial justice, quality public schools, fair healthcare, and reigning in national and international corporate power - then it is up to us to do it. Our country is the one of Harriet Tubman, Patrick Henry, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King. They inspire us and they give us hope to push forward in these times.

If our church will not stand up for women leaders, accountability for abuses, democracy in our institutions, healthy sexuality, equality for people of all orientations, and real respect for all life - including the born - then it is up to us to do it. Our church is the one of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Joan of Arc, Philip Berrigan, Dorothy Day and Francis of Assisi. They inspire us and give us hope to push forward in these times.

Benedict and George - we are not leaving. It is our church and our country. We are going to stay and struggle for the soul of both, with love and justice for all.
Have faith, stay firm: truth will out.