Dear Colleague in Ministry:
The National Catholic Anti-Violence Working Group is pleased to offer you the 8th annual Stand Against Violence resource packet. More urgently than ever, we see the human cost of a world losing respect for human life. With this set of materials we urge you, once again, to lift up the Church's role in reducing violence in our nation and communities especially between January 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Recent acts of terrorism, like the attacks on September 11 and the spate of anthrax-laced letters, demonstrate all too clearly the violence of our world. As our nation's leaders search for answers and for those who are responsible, we must rely on the principles of our Christian faith and turn to those whose lives are an example of love, forgiveness and understanding. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s powerful witness of a nonviolent life and a violent death is an appropriate reminder of what is still needed to reconcile the dream of a fully welcoming society. And the dream of a culture of life remains unrealized when each year more than 1.4 million children never see the day of their birth.
This resource packet focuses on important issues confronting the Catholic community:
- The Death Penalty -- in light of the first federal execution in nearly three decades and understandable anger toward those who use terrorism to further their political ideology, our Catholic voices are needed so that we as a society will seek justice, not vengeance.
- Development Aid Reform is an essential component in the international effort to combat extreme poverty and to promote sustainable development. The Catholic Church has played a significant part in convincing our leaders to commit more money and attention to the international debt relief effort.
- Crime and the Catholic Community -- the U.S. Bishops have called on Americans to pray and to deeply examine crime and punishment in our society. We are called to examine the implications of the Church's teaching for crime and punishment, suggest policy directions that are in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching and encourage action to shape new alternatives.
- The Safe Havens Act -- this legislation encourages parents to act responsibly by providing a safe alternative to baby abandonment, in effect saving the life of the newborn. Support of this legislation by the Catholic community is yet another way to uphold our respect for all human life and help reduce the violence of child abuse.
On behalf of the organizations that worked together to offer this packet, I thank you for your efforts to "confront a culture of violence" in our nation and world.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington, DC
Chairman: Domestic Policy Committee
Each year this packet of materials provides an opportunity for Catholic parishes and dioceses to Stand Against Violence. When the Bishops first addressed this concern in their 1994 statement, Confronting a Culture of Violence, some thought this language was too harsh. Now having experienced the events of September 11 and their aftermath, no words can adequately express the senseless violence, destruction, and loss of life that will forever be associated with "9/11." Some people for the first time understand what horrific consequences can result from a fundamental lack of respect for human life.
In uncertain times such as these, when we are confronted with threats to our security from those we cannot see or find, we must resist the temptation to simply turn away and hope that it all goes away. If there is to be a less violent world, each one of us will have to do our part to get there. "Peace be with you" must become more than just a traditional prayer. The modest resources in this packet do not provide a recipe for putting an end to the culture of violence but they are useful tools for parents, teachers, parish and diocesan leaders who are looking for ways to involve their families and faith communities in a stand against violence and for a more just and peaceful world.
Your own Son was delivered into the hands of the wicked,
yet he prayed for his persecutors
and overcame hatred with the blood of the cross.
Grant those who stand against violence peace of mind
and a renewed faith in your protection and care.
Protect us all from the violence of others,
keep us safe from the weapons of hate,
and restore to us tranquility and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer adapted from the
Book of Blessings
As diocesan leaders, you face many opportunities to Stand Against Violence and strengthen anti-violence efforts in your ongoing ministry. This list of possibilities will help you:
- Encourage people to continue to reach out and support those touched by September 11 and its aftermath.
- Coordinate your anti-violence activities with your diocesan or parish pro-life committee. Your Pro-Life Office has received and used the Bishops' Respect Life Sunday Materials for October and suggestions for the National Prayer Vigil that begins on Sunday, January 20.
- Contact local civil rights and ecumenical groups to assist you in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday (Monday, January 21).
- Offer to assist your Bishop in preparing an article for your diocesan newspaper column (many Bishops do this weekly) for January 13-26.
- Copy all or part of this Packet and mail it to each parish.
- Meet with the editor of your diocesan Catholic newspaper to call attention to the Bishops' Statement Confronting a Culture of Violence and to promote special activities and programs within the diocese that address violence and its root causes.
- Activate legislative networks and parish social concerns efforts on a wide-range of issues including war and peace, abortion, foreign aid, land mines, domestic violence, children's access to guns, criminal justice reform, the death penalty, the illicit trade of small arms and other efforts focused on reducing violence.
- Order a copy of the Families Against Violence Advocacy Network's Creating Circles of Peace kit and urge its use in parishes, schools and families.
- Hold a special diocesan event that honors individuals and organizations who confront violence such as police, fire fighters, teachers, and builds peace in your diocese. Encourage your Bishop and the press to be present to recognize these efforts.
- Coordinate with other diocesan offices to develop an ongoing strategy to overcome violence.
- Offer educational efforts to share the Church's teaching on human life, war and peace.
Suggestions for Parishes
Our Catholic faith calls us to reduce violence in our own lives and in the communities in which we live. By examining our own hearts, devoting ourselves to prayer, and actively living our faith we can be peacemakers in a violent world. There is no better place to build peace than through our local parishes, schools and communities. Local churches have played a key role in raising awareness about violence, in healing those who mourn, and in promoting religious tolerance and cultural understanding.
Here are some suggestions for parish or school activities to Stand Against Violence:
- Continue the prayers, outreach, dialogue and advocacy that have begun since September 11, 2001.
- Include bulletin inserts on: a) Catholic Teaching on War and Peace, b) the Death Penalty, c) Criminal Justice Reform, d) Racism, e) Conflict Management, f) Domestic Violence.
- Organize a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life on Tuesday, January 22, or participate in local March for Life activities.
- Develop a list of local resources for pregnancy counseling, women and children's shelters as well as groups working for reconciliation or mediation and advocacy. Raise awareness about what is available through Catholic Charities for people in need.
- Plan classes and seminars for youth and adults that teach nonviolent behavior and conflict resolution. If possible, involve the whole family.
- Train parents of the parish to be effective mentors or start an adult/youth or young adult mentoring program to provide young people with good role models.
- If the parish doesn't already have a social justice committee, create one. Make sure young adults and youth feel welcome.
- Participate in churched-based community organizing projects that address root causes of poverty and violence. Many of these organizations are funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Suggestions for Youth in School and Parish Settings
Acts of terror disturb us all. Children are especially vulnerable to fear and stress that result from both the events themselves and the media coverage that followed.
Communicating with Children about Disasters
In response to the tragic events unfolding in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offered the following advice:
- It is important to communicate to children that they are safe. Parents should reassure their children that they are doing everything they can to keep their children safe.
- Adolescents in particular can be hard hit by these kinds of events. Parents should watch for signs such as: sleep disturbances, fatigue, lack of pleasure in activities enjoyed previously, and initiation of illicit substance abuse.
- Overexposure to the media can be traumatizing. Discourage children and adolescents from viewing footage of traumatic events over and over. Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.
- Adults need to help children understand the significance of these events. Discussion is critical.
- Remind children that lashing out at members of a particular religious or ethnic group will only cause more harm.
http://www.aap.org/policy/re9813.html - How Pediatricians Can Respond to the Psycho social Implications of Disasters (AAP Policy statement)
http://www.mentalhealth.org/publications/allpubs/SMA95-3022/SMA3022.htm - Psycho social Issues for Children and Families in Disasters: A Guide for the Primary Care Physician (Joint publication between AAP and US Center for Mental Health Services)
Nonviolent and Awareness Activities for Youth
Children Ages 5-12:
- Present examples of violence in the media to initiate a discussion of violence in our culture. Talk about the ways that violence permeates advertising, the news, popular sitcoms and dramas, and cartoons.
- What does the Gospel mean in saying "turn the other cheek?" Is it always possible? How can we practice this in our everyday lives? Explore your own reactions to conflict in everyday life.
- Identify words that reflect violence and those that reflect nonviolence. How do these words make you feel? What images do they bring up?
- Discuss the Catholic framework for peace. Introduce passages from the U.S. Bishops' 1983 pastoral letter, Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris, Confronting a Culture of Violence, and The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace.
- Learn about the Catholic Church's teaching on war and peace: Identify conflicts today where these principles may apply. When would it be appropriate to intervene in a war between two countries? When would it not be appropriate? What about terrorist networks?
- How do the things that we read each day (newspapers, pleasure reading) affect the way we view conflict resolution?
- Is the criminal justice system just? Is it nonviolent? If not, should it be? What would this look like? Should prisoners be rehabilitated, punished or both?
- How does the gap between rich and poor affect violence in the U.S.? Introduce passages from the U.S. Bishops' pastoral letter Economic Justice for All.
- Hold a weekend retreat exploring ways to seek justice and peace.
- Hold regular discussions on peacemaking. What was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s contribution to peacemaking? What can we do to make peace a reality on our campuses, with each other, in our families and communities.
- Create forums to promote understanding between different cultures and religions.
- Participate in immersion experiences to see first-hand urban/rural poverty. Work on letter-writing campaigns to state or national leaders on issues of poverty relief and violence like third world debt and gun control legislation.
- Utilize the National Issues Forum (NIF) approach to exploring major issuesincluding problems of violence and racism. This method utilizes the "town meeting" concept to explore different facets of an issue. The USCCB's Department of Education works with the NIF to view these issues through the lens of Catholic social teaching. Contact your diocesan Adult Religious Education office for more information.
Seeking Justice, Not Vengeance
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks heightened our challenge as a Catholic community to confront violence in our communities, in our nation and in our world. Each January our nation honors the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His commitment to overcome violence, racism, and injustice inspires us to do the same. The week between January 15, his birthday, and January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, spur us to both renounce violence and lift up the sanctity of life.
Any manifestation of violence itself challenges us to examine who we are and how we will respond (to the terrorists, to our neighbors, to our government, and to the world). We must work to prevent such attacks from happening again. The Catholic community must continue to seek justice, heal the victims, mourn the dead, restore hope, and foster understanding between people of different cultures and religions. Justice is what we need. Justice, and not vengeance. What follows are some basic teachings from the Catechism of The Catholic Church that can guide our reflection and response to the violence.
Respect for Life
2258 Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.
2297 Kidnaping and hostage taking brings on a reign of terror; by means of threat they subject their victims to intolerable pressure. They are morally wrong. Terrorism which threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately is gravely against justice and charity.
2302 By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct the vices and maintain justice." If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement.
2304 Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity...
Justice and Solidarity
1807 Justice ... consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor... Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.
1941 Socioeconomic problems can be resolved only with the help of all forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees on a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor...The one is intended, the other is not."
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right to lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."
Key Elements of the Catholic Church's Just War Criteria
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evils to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. #2309
Our response must come in a variety of ways:
- We must seek justice--but not vengeance--for those who have committed these atrocities. We do so not merely for the sake of punishment, but in response to our moral obligation to protect innocent people who could be targeted in the future.
- We must work to deepen our understanding of the root causes of the hatred that provides for these unjustified expressions of violence and terrorism.
- We must examine our own hearts and root out the suspicion, mistrust and even the hatred of those who do not share our values, our faith, our race, our ethnicity or our culture.
As The Challenge of Peace observed, "The vision of Christian nonviolence is not passive about injustice and the defense of the rights of others." It ought not be confused with popular notions of non-resisting pacifism. For it consists of a commitment to resist manifest injustice and public evil with means other than force. These include dialogue, negotiations, protests, strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and civilian resistance. Although nonviolence has often been regarded as simply a personal option or vocation, recent histories suggest that in some circumstances it can be an effective public undertaking as well. Dramatic political transitions in places as divergent as the Philippines and Eastern Europe demonstrate the power of nonviolent action, even against dictatorial and totalitarian regimes.
One must ask, in light of recent history whether nonviolence should be restricted to personal commitments or whether it also should have a place in the public order with the tradition of justified and limited war. National leaders bear a moral obligation to see that nonviolent alternatives are seriously considered for dealing with conflicts. New styles of preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution ought to be explored, tried, improved, and supported. As a nation we should promote research, education, and training in nonviolent means of resisting evil. Nonviolent strategies need greater attention in international affairs.
Such obligations do not detract from a state's right and duty to defend against aggression as a last resort. They do, however, raise the threshold for the recourse to force by establishing institutions which promote nonviolent solutions of disputes and nurturing political commitment to such efforts. In some future conflicts, strikes and people power could be more effective than guns and bombs.
Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice
When the USCCB approved this statement in November 2000, the Catholic Bishops sought to: explore aspects of crime and punishment in our society, examine the implications of the Church's teaching for crime and punishment, suggest policy directions on crime and punishment that would be in accord with Catholic social teaching and to encourage action by Catholics to shape new alternatives.
After consulting with Catholics who represent varied perspectives within the criminal justice system, from victims and convicts, to prosecutors and defense attorneys, from judges and correctional officers to chaplains and police officers, the US Bishops heard that the system did not live up to the best of our nation's values or our religious principles. Victims have been ignored, offenders are often not rehabilitated and many communities have lost their sense of security. The US Bishops have raised questions about the criminal justice system from the context of personal responsibility, community, sin and redemption.
As they applied scriptures, sacraments, theology and principles of Catholic social teaching, the Bishops The United States spends more than $35 billion on corrections.affirmed that our starting point must be grounded in the fact that each person is a child of God. "Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be protected and respected. We seek justice, not vengeance. We believe punishment must have clear purposes: protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law."
Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or reintegration of all into the community.
24 percent of prison inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. Nearly half were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they committed the crime. US Department of Justice BJS.
With an enormous commitment of resources and time that our federal, state and local governments make in the field of criminal justice, we need to make sure that we engage in serious debate about the cost and effectiveness of incarceration versus the cost of prevention, education, community development and drug treatment.
Policy Directions and Foundations
- Protecting society from those who threaten life, inflict harm, take property, and destroy the bonds of community.
- Rejecting simplistic solutions such as "three strikes and you're out" and rigid mandatory sentencing.
- Promoting serious efforts toward crime prevention and poverty reduction.
- Challenging the culture of violence and encouraging a culture of life.
- Offering victims the opportunity to participate more fully in the criminal justice process.
- Encouraging innovative programs of restorative justice that provide the opportunity for mediation between victims and offenders and offer restitution for crimes committed.
- Insisting that punishment has a constructive and rehabilitative purpose.
- Encouraging spiritual healing and renewal for those who commit crime.
- Making a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
- Treating immigrants justly.
- Placing crime in a community context and building on promising alternatives that empower neighborhoods and towns to restores a sense of security.
- To better understand how all parties are affected by crime and the criminal justice system;
- To seek common ground on local issues;
- To build safer communities.
Standing with Victims and their Families
Far too often victims and their families are left behind in the aftermath of a crime. Few have the satisfaction of knowing that an offender has been held accountable. Sometimes the concern for victims can be misused as a weapon to maximize punishment for its own sake. We must be clear that the purpose of justice is not mere retribution but restoring and healing the rupture in community.
Victims and their families must also play a key part of reform in the criminal justice system. Their need for healing and closure are necessary elements that must be respected in any attempt to reform the system.
Each parish has a role to play in standing with victims and their families.
- Consider developing a victims' ministry program to ensure that victims' needs do not go unmet.
- Research the numerous resources available to victims of violent crime and use the parish as a clearinghouse for information.
- Become familiar with the services that are available through Catholic Charities and other counseling agencies and help match victims to these services.
Copies of the statement Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice can be ordered by calling 1-800-235-8722.
Death Penalty: The Innocence Protection Act
The nation is at a critical juncture on the death penalty. Almost weekly we hear of someone being removed from death row either by execution or exoneration. The debate about the death penalty has shifted from whether or not one supports the death penalty to the means by which people end up on death row. Questions of prosecutorial misconduct, incompetent counsel, inadmissable but exculpatory evidence (such as DNA), race, poverty, and even the county in which a defendant commits a crime, all point to a system that is badly broken and unfixable. This shift provides abolitionist and "soft" supporters of the death penalty with an opportunity to increase the dialogue and expose the flaws in the system so that political leaders and the American public will conclude that the use of the death penalty should be ended.
A bipartisan bill, The Innocence Protection Act, was introduced in last year's Congress and will appear again this year. It seeks to remedy some of the worst problems with the death penalty. While these "fixes" are, for Catholics, a means to an end (that of abolition), they have the potential to shine a bright light on a system where the potential exists that an innocent person will be put to death. We hope this exposure can create the opening for the abolition of the death penalty.
Key Provisions of the Legislation
DNA PROVISIONS: Establishes rules and procedures governing applications for DNA testing by inmates (whether or not they are on death row) in the Federal system.
COMPETENT COUNSEL PROVISIONS: Establishes a National Commission on Capital Representation to develop standards for providing adequate legal representation for indigents facing a death sentence.
INFORMED JURY PROVISIONS: Provides juries in Federal death penalty prosecutions, brought under the drug kingpin statute, the option of recommending life imprisonment without parole. Encourages States to allow defendants in capital cases to have the jury instructed on all sentencing options, including parole eligibility rules and terms.
MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS: Expresses the sense of the Congress that the death penalty is disproportionate and offends contemporary standards of decency when applied to juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.
Sponsors of the Legislation
The Innocence Protection Act is sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and by Representatives William Delahunt (D-MA) and Ray LaHood (R-IL).
The Innocence Protection Act urges states to put into place practices that ensure fairness in capital cases. The incentives to comply with the standards and the sanctions for failing to do so are modest. However, the major issues that the bill addresses are widely espoused and seen to be reasonable: i.e., the preservation of and access to DNA evidence and the provision of good legal counsel to indigent defendants facing capital charges.
In twenty-two states, 95 people have been released from death row because of new evidence. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all capital sentences are overturned frequently because of incompetent counsel. National uniform standards are required so that the fate of innocent people is not determined by where they happen to live.
Since the mid-seventies, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have opposed the death penalty. In St. Louis in 1999, Pope John Paul II called capital punishment "cruel and unnecessary" to keep society safe. The position of the Church is clear: we should end the death penalty because there are more humane ways of keeping society safe from an unjust aggressor.
While The Innocence Protection Act does not end capital punishment, it does offer opponents a realistic way to demonstrate the fallacies of this system. Since it is designed by humans, the possibilities for mistakes and abuse are ever-present. When a life is at stake, there is no room for such error..
Visit, call, and write to your Senators and Representative and urge them to support The Innocence Protection Act. If your Senator or Representative is a member of the Judiciary Committee, please urge them to hold hearings on the bill and to send it to the floor of their respective chambers for a vote..
Development Aid Reform
Global poverty, while not a direct cause of violence, provides a breeding ground or fertile field in which violence thrives. Global poverty and the growing economic gap between rich and poor can facilitate regional instability and inflame animosity against our nation. Therefore, the fight against global poverty, while first and foremost a moral obligation of solidarity, is also in our long-term national interests. Overseas development assistance can help heal the division of the world between zones of peace and prosperity and zones of conflict and division.
Nearly one-half of the world's population lives in poverty, on less than $2 a day, and 20% live in extreme poverty, on $1 or less a day. On the continent of Africa, the statistic is even more horrifying: nearly half the population lives in extreme poverty. The needs are great; the human and moral costs are staggering. As a Catholic community we recognize and embrace the moral obligation calling our country to provide effective and appropriate aid in solidarity with our poorest brothers and sisters around the world. We also believe that a national effort against global poverty is not just the right thing to do; it is a means of building a safer, more secure, and more peaceful world.
The performance of the United States on foreign assistance is scandalous. Overall, the United States ranks last among donors in foreign aid measured as a percentage of gross national product, just one-tenth of one percent for the last three years. U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa has suffered most from declines in foreign assistance. U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa fell by nearly 50% from 1985 to 1990, and has been at or below the 1990 level in the last several years. The gap between per capita income for Americans and per capita aid for the poor overseas has grown dramatically wider.
For more than a decade, the U.S. Catholic Bishops and their development agency, Catholic Relief Services, have sought to bring attention to the urgent need for more aid to the poor overseas, expressing concern in Congressional testimony, letters, and policy statements. During this period -- one of increasing prosperity for America -- U.S. foreign aid has fallen, not increased, and allocations of funding have shifted toward strategic interests and military spending, and away from the poorest countries and economic development programs.
Changing U.S. Attitudes
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the need is even more urgent to reform U.S. foreign assistance to achieve greater justice. America must show that it acts not only in its own self-interest but in response to the needs of others who suffer grievously from severe poverty. Ironically, there is a risk that the terrorist attacks will lead some to demand a shift in foreign aid away from the poor. For example, some lawmakers have suggested that the foreign assistance program will need to become mainly a tool to reward friends and punish foes in the antiterrorism campaign. The coming year will be a time to remind legislators and the American public of the moral obligation to combat global poverty.
The message about foreign aid reform can be bolstered by highlighting how the fight against poverty can also serve our national interests. Poverty shows itself not only in starving children and families, but also in a lack of primary education opportunities, lack of economic infrastructure, lack of proper health care, environmental degradation and no access to clean water. These symptoms assault human dignity and can provoke anger and hostility. Poverty and economic deprivation destabilizes regions. Hostility by those not sharing in the progress and opportunities of economic globalization can create a fertile environment for violence. U.S. neglect of regions or countries in extreme poverty can lead to fierce anti-American sentiment and extremist positions.
U.S. foreign assistance can help defuse resentment against America. Development aid can help support fledgling democracies resist drifting toward radicalism. Support will reduce the appeal of terrorists who buy sympathy and protection from local communities by funding hospitals, schools, and other development projects.
Legislators often blame the low levels of U.S. foreign aid on lack of public support. Numerous studies give strong evidence to the contrary. Surveys show overwhelming support for foreign assistance to fight hunger and poverty. If Americans are not clamoring for increases in foreign aid, it may be because they tend to overestimate grossly the U.S. contribution. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that our country gives only 0.1% of GNP in foreign assistance.
To convince legislators to reform foreign aid and to give specific attention to poverty, a serious grassroots effort is needed. The American public must be given the truth about the current U.S. performance in foreign aid, in particular the country's bottom ranking among major donors, and legislators must hear from their constituents. Only then will the appeal for reform have a chance to succeed. U.S. foreign assistance can play its part in breaking the cycle of violence, if it becomes centered on a comprehensive development agenda, including substantially increased foreign aid and fair trade.
Protecting Children: The Safe Havens Support Act
In their 1991 statement, Putting Children and Families First, the U.S. Bishops noted that "A growing violent abuse and neglect of infants and children have led to families where children are not only rejected but also endangered." The most disturbing trend involves parents in crisis who abandon their newborn babies.
Most baby abandonment occurs not only out of fear and desperation, but also out of ignorance that there are no other options. The Safe Havens Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA), will allow programs across the country to apply for federal assistance through state block-grants under temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). These funds may be used for general education, public service announcements and other functions that increase awareness of and access to "safe havens." The legislation also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect and analyze statistics on the occurrence of baby abandonment, as well as the demographics and specifics behind the cases. Monsignor William P. Fay, General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to Rep. Hart on October 11, 2001, supporting the bill and thanking her for her leadership in protecting abandoned infants.
Media reports indicating an increase in the incidence of babies left in public places over the past few years has led to a growing national concern about baby abandonment. An abandoned infant is a newborn, not more than 30 days old, intentionally left or discarded by a parent unwilling or unable to care for the infant.
How prevalent is newborn abandonment in the U.S.?
Unfortunately, no one has a definitive answer to this question. The federal government and most states do not keep statistics specific to abandoned newborns and there is presently no way to determine what portion of infant homicides are due to abandonment. Anecdotal evidence from media accounts remind us that this is a significant problem nationwide.
- According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, 32 to 34 infants were found abandoned each year from 1997-1999.
- In the twelve months before Texas passed safe havens legislation, 33 babies were discovered abandoned.
- According to a CNN review of FBI statistics, nearly five infants under the age of one are killed in the U.S. each week.
- Between 1991 and 1998, media reports of the number of abandoned babies discovered nationwide almost doubled.
What is known about the abandoned babies and their birth parents?
To date, no research has been conducted to identify the population of parents who abandon their babies. The only information available is based on the few cases when authorities identify the parent, but such anecdotal data is not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions.
As of April 2001, 30 states have passed legal abandonment legislation, and many other state legislatures are currently considering safe havens bills. The intent is to save lives by helping parents in crisis safely relinquish a healthy infant to a third party. Legislation varies from state to state, but all laws or proposals diminish or remove the threat of criminal prosecution against parents who relinquish unharmed infants to safe havens identified by the law.
What happens once a baby is turned over to the appropriate authorities?
Although this varies slightly from state to state, typically, state child welfare agencies take custody of the infant and arrange for foster care and eventual adoption.
Do Safe Havens laws encourage irresponsible behavior?
No. This legislation encourages the parent to act responsibly by providing a safe alternative to baby abandonment, in effect saving the life of the newborn. Safe havens bills provide a way for individuals unwilling or unable to care for their babies to leave their child with care givers who can provide the baby proper medical and other care. In the states and areas that have safe havens' campaigns and have passed legislation, preliminary reports show a decline in the number of infants abandoned and left to die.
Safe havens programs can save lives of two potential victims -- the defenseless newborn, as well as a parent who could be making a tragic decision. This legislation will help distraught parents know that help is available.
What Can You Do:
- Support passage of the Safe Havens Support Act of 2001 introduced in the House on May 25, 2001 with significant bi-partisan support. The bill is now being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. Call the members of the Committee and urge them to support Safe Havens provisions.
- Start a safe havens campaign in your community helping to identify places where care givers can provide abandoned babies with proper medical and other care.
The ABC's of Nonviolence
(a brief summary of Confronting A Culture of Violence)
Advocate for policies which confront the violence of abortion, curb the easy availability of deadly weapons, and support community approaches to crime prevention.
Both victims and offenders are children of God. Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be protected and respected.
Confront this growing culture of violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope, and a call to action.
Defend the life and dignity of every human person at every stage of development and in every country.
Economic, social and moral forces can tear apart communities and families not as quickly, but just as surely, as bullets and knives.
Families - The family is the key to the development of positive values, including peacemaking. Families need to talk about how violence affects each member, the family itself, and their neighborhood, and to discuss ways of responding in a nonviolent manner.
Global Solidarity - the United States, as the world's only superpower, as the world's greatest consumer and as the largest arms exporter, must seek peace and promote justice through creative and responsible world leadership
Hold major institutions accountable, including government, the media, and the criminal justice system.
Insist that punishment has a constructive and rehabilitative purpose: Our response to sin and failure should be justice, contrition, reparation, and reintegration of all into the community.
Join with other churches in developing a country wide strategy for making our neighborhoods more safe, welcoming and peaceful.
Know that confronting a culture of violence requires conversion, commitment and action.
Listen carefully to those around you to hear the pain, anger and frustration that comes with and from violence.
Make a concerted effort to improve the church's role in ministering to prisoners, victims and their families.
Nonviolence means action - Look at Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day and Fr. Daniel Berrigan for examples of how to actively build peace in a violent world.
Organize prayer services, reflections, and actions that link January 15 (Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday) and January 22 (Anniversary of Roe v. Wade) to demonstrate our common commitment of overcoming the moral and human costs of violence. The theme of peacemaking is especially appropriate at this time of year when Christian churches pray and gather to reflect on the challenge of unity within the Body of Christ and the human family.
Pray for peace in your local community, state and world.
Question those policies which do not contribute to an ethic that cherishes life. Help shape a community that puts people before things, and values kindness and compassion over anger and violence.
Respect for life must guide the choices we make as individuals and as a society, what we do and what we won't do, what we value and consume, what we support and what we oppose.
Support efforts that address root causes of crime and violence - including poverty, substance abuse, lack of opportunity, racism, and family disintegration.
Tradition - Our Catholic tradition of prayer, sacraments and the teachings of Jesus Christ provide the cornerstone for confronting a culture of violence.
Understand that violence is unacceptable.
Violence is overcome day by day, choice by choice, person by person. All of us must make a contribution.
Work to defend the dignity of all human life especially with regard to abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia.
eXamine your own attitudes and actions for how they contribute to or diminish violence in your society.
Youth Ministry plays a unique role within parishes by providing young people with a sense of community, values for overcoming violence and opportunities for action.
Zealously foster the vocation of peacemaking within your families, neighborhood, country and world.
2002 Calendar- Confronting a Culture of Violence
January 1 World Day of Peace
January 15-22 Stand Against Violence Week
February 6 Nat'l Day of Prayer for the African American Family
February 20 Ash Wednesday--Beginning of Lent
Season of Lent continues
April 12-14 Holy Week
April 15 Easter
April 19 Anniversary Oklahoma City Bombing
May 1 Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
May 28 Memorial Day (observed)
June 12 Medger Evers, civil rights activist, assassinated, 1963
July 4 Independence Day
August 6 & 9 Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
September 3 Labor Day (observed)
September 11 - Anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon Terrorist Attack
September 14 - Feast of the Victory of the Cross
October - Respect Life Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 4 Feast of St. Francis
October 6 Respect Life Sunday
November 17 Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection
November 21 - Thanksgiving
December 1 Beginning of Advent
December 7 - Anniversary Pearl Harbor Attack
December 12 Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe
December 25 Christmas
Bulletin Quotations from Church Leaders on the September 11 Attacks and the "War on Terrorism"
'We call upon all our fellow citizens to renew their trust in God and to turn away from the bitter fruits of the kind of hatred which is the source of this tragedy'. Administrative Committee of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference, September 11, 2001
"America's continued moral leadership in the world depends on her fidelity to her founding principles. Underlying your nation's commitment to freedom, self-determination and equal opportunity are universal truths inherited from its religious roots. From these spring respect for the sanctity of life and the dignity of each human person made in the image and likeness of the Creator; shared responsibility for the common good; concern for the education of young people and for the future of society; and the need for wise stewardship of the natural resources so freely bestowed by a bounteous God. In facing the challenges of the future, America is called to cherish and live out the deepest values of her national heritage: solidarity and cooperation between peoples; respect for human rights; the justice that is the indispensable condition for authentic freedom and lasting peace." Pope John Paul II Castel Gandolfo 9/13/2001
We are encouraged by the efforts to build a global coalition to seek justice and a comprehensive response using diplomatic, economic and humanitarian as well as legitimate military means. Beyond the crisis of the moment, we continue to urge the renewal of diplomatic and other measures to secure a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and a world which is more just and more peaceful for all who suffer the loss of their God-given rights. Our every effort should be guided by our desire for a world which truly respects the rights and dignity of every human person.
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the USCCB, October 9, 2001
In the midst of conflict, we pray for peace. In the aftermath of terrorism, we seek justice. In response to hate, we offer love. At a time of trial, we turn to God as our refuge and strength to show us the path to healing, reconciliation and peace.
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President USCCB, October 9, 2001
An Excerpt from A Pastoral Message: Living with Faith and Hope After September 11
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
November 14, 2001
It has been said many times that September 11 changed the world. That is true in many ways, but the essential tasks of our community of faith continue with a new urgency and focus. The weeks and months and years ahead will be:
A time for prayer.
We pray for the victims and their families; for our president and national leaders; for police and fire fighters; postal, health care and relief workers; and for military men and women. We pray for an end to terror and violence. We also pray for the Afghan people and for our adversaries. We call on Catholics to join in a National Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1, 2002.
A time for fasting.
As long as this struggle continues, we urge Catholics to fast one day a week. This fast is a sacrifice for justice, peace and for the protection of innocent human life.
A time for teaching.
Many Catholics know the Church's teaching on war and peace. Many do not. This is a time to share our principles and values, to invite discussion and continuing dialogue within our Catholic community. Catholic universities and colleges, schools and parishes should seek opportunities to share the Sacred Scripture and Church teaching on human life, justice and peace more broadly and completely. In a special way we should seek to help our children feel secure and safe in these difficult days.
A time for dialogue.
This is a time to engage in dialogue with Muslims, Jews, fellow Christians and other faith communities. We need to know more about and understand better other faiths, especially Islam. We also need to support our interfaith partners in clearly repudiating terrorism and violence, whatever its source. (See Joint Statement of Catholic Bishops and Muslim Leaders , September 14, 2001). As the Holy Father recently said, dialogue is essential for ensuring that "the name of the one God become increasingly what it is: a name for peace and a summons to peace." (Remarks to Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, November 6, 2001)..A time for witness.
In our work and communities, we should live our values of mutual respect, human dignity and respect for life. We should seek security without embracing discrimination. We should use our voices to protect human life, to seek greater justice, and to pursue peace as participants in a powerful democracy.
A time for service.
Catholic Charities throughout the United States is providing assistance to families, parishes, neighborhoods and communities directly affected by the attacks on September 11. Catholic hospitals in these cities are also in the forefront in caring for those injured in these attacks. Catholic Relief Services is providing critical aid to Afghan refugees and doing invaluable work throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. This is a time for generous and sacrificial giving.
American Catholic servicemen and women and their chaplains are likewise called conscientiously to fulfill their duty to defend the common good. To risk their own lives in this defense is a great service to our nation and an act of Christian virtue.
A time for solidarity.
We are not the first to experience such horrors. We now understand better the daily lot of millions around the world who have long lived under the threat of violence and uncertainty and have refused to give in to fear or despair. As we stand in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families, we must also stand with those who are suffering in Afghanistan. We stand with all those whose lives are at risk and whose dignity is denied in this dangerous world.
A time for hope.
Above all, we need to turn to God and to one another in hope. Hope assures us that, with God's grace, we will see our way through what now seems such a daunting challenge. For believers, hope is not a matter of optimism, but a source for strength and action in demanding times. For peacemakers, hope is the indispensable virtue. This hope, together with our response to the call to conversion, must be rooted in God's promise and nourished by prayer, penance, and acts of charity and solidarity.
Our nation and the Church are being tested in fundamental ways. Our nation has a right and duty to respond and must do so in right ways, seeking to defend the common good and build a more just and peaceful world. Our community of faith has the responsibility to live out in our time the challenges of Jesus in the Beatitudes to comfort those who mourn, to seek justice, to become peacemakers. We face these tasks with faith and hope, asking God to protect and guide us as we seek to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these days of trial.
[The full text of this message is available on the web at /sdwp/sept11.shtml]