Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Upcoming: Public Policy Week

February 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by b a

If you keep up with the Catholic Courier, you’ll know that next weekend (Feb 12/13) is Public Policy Week. This year’s theme is “Working out of Poverty“. His Excellency himself has used his weekly column to shed light on the issue:

Poverty, sadly, is no stranger to the people of the 12 counties of the Diocese of Rochester, and is a growing and tenacious issue. For example, nearly 42 percent of the children in Rochester and Elmira live in poverty, according to recent data. Lest we think that poverty is an urban issue only: More than 37,000 people live at the poverty level in the suburbs of Rochester, the largest metropolitan area in the diocese. [Sad statistics indeed]

We have a moral obligation to change the structures, economic and social, that create the incongruity of the richest nation on earth shot through with such pernicious and growing poverty [interesting that he uses such strong language in this regard.  Where is this same strong language when it comes to abortion, ESCR, and same-sex “marriage”?]. We must do this not only because our faith calls us to do it, but also because the obligations of good citizenship require it.

Certainly we do have a moral obligation to help our brothers and sisters in need.  However, it is my understanding that the Church doesn’t take an official stand on the best way to do that.  Is there not room for legitimate debate about the best ways to actually help the poor?  One could make a very good argument that many of our current social and political structures actually enable the culture of the poor.  In a time before government bureaucracies, the Church helped the poor directly.  Clergy, religious, and lay people gave their time and money to help those in need.  Many still do that today, but it seems the norm in the 21st century has become demanding our government to solve such problems.  That’s what this year’s Public Policy Week comes down to.  I believe that at the end of masses, parishioners will be asked to sign this petition (warning: link is to a .doc file):

Working Out of Poverty: Transportation and Child Care for Low-Income Workers

We understand that difficult decisions need to be made regarding the 2011-2012 New York State budget.
We, the undersigned, urge the Governor, the Assembly, and the Senate to give priority to programs that preserve and promote employment, with special attention to subsidies for child care and transportation for low-income workers.

I’m not advocating a position on whether it’s more efficient to help the poor directly or whether we should petition our government to do so.  I am, however, advocating that there is room for debate.  One thing for sure is that there is no one perfect method.  We all know people who abuse the system as it is.  If you don’t, watch the movie Precious.  I’d bet most of us also know people who are willing and able to work, but just can’t seem to make enough for themselves and their families and need some assistance in one way or another.  We must also remember that continuing with the current deficits that both our state and our country are running is also immoral.  This is stealing money from our children and grandchildren.  It’s also interesting to note that in asking you to sign this petition, the diocese is really asking you to help you feed it’s own bureaucracy.  This article from the RBJ sheds some light:

It could be said that the Diocese of Rochester is indebted to John Balinsky for how he has grown Catholic Charities from an organization with $13 million in revenue and three subsidiary agencies to a current budget of $62 million, 10 subsidiaries and a total of 1,000 employees.

There he gained a reputation as a capable liaison connecting dioceses throughout the state with state government organizations, including the Legislature.

To compensate for a drop in revenue, Catholic Charities has become more aggressive in seeking state and federal funding…Government funding makes up the bulk of Catholic Charities’ funding-nearly 66 percent. Private fundraising accounts for 7 percent of the total budget, foundations and program fees each provide almost 8 percent, and the rest is funded by United Way allocations.

Again, let me be clear in saying I’m not advocating for a position one way or the other.  It does make one wonder, though, in a diocese in which up is down and left is right.  It should also be noted that one of Catholic Charities’  affiliate agencies (Providence Housing Development Corp) buys up properties of closed parishes (see

To sum up this issue, it’s great that our diocese is working to help poor people.  Who can argue with that?  While there’s debate over the best way to do this (and thus no one should be guilted into signing a petition), proper intent and good will seems to be there.  What’s somewhat more concerning is what’s NOT being highlighted during Public Policy Week.  In my opinion, besides abortion, same-sex “marriage” (along with some other sexual issues) is what our Church should be focusing on.  Americans (Catholics being at the top of the list) are so amazingly uneducated on the topic.  So many people erroneously connect the homosexual agenda with the civil rights movement.  We’ve tackled this issue here before, so I’m not going to go too deep into it now.  Perhaps the diocese decided it prudent not to overwhelm parishioners and stick with one topic.  To which I’d respond that the most important topic to address, then, should be the one in which so many people are confused about.

Equality, huh? Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? This audio clip pretty much sums up the diocese’s approach to same-sex “marriage” debate :


So here’s my proposition:  In the true spirit of Christian unity, print out several copies of the Manhattan Declaration (warning: pdf link) and encourage priests, lay administrators, and parishioners to visit the Manhattan Declaration website and sign the petition.

No faithful Catholic can have legitimate beef with signing the Manhattan Declaration.  If we are too scared or feeble to sign it while encouraging others to do the same, then we are unworthy of being called Christians.  If you are a priest and have signed on, please email me. I’d like to start a list of priests who have signed on. Some may say, “but it’s just so arrogant of us to think we have a higher moral code than other people”.  To that person, I would direct you to this recent interview with Dr. Peter Kreeft.

MHR: The church herself appears to have moved from wonder, mystery, and paradox to emphasize merely her ethical side — which you have described as the “good judge, solid, secure, upright, never troubled by passion for the infinite or terror of the unknown.” How have we come to this point?

PK: For one thing, the church needs to recover some moxie, some chutzpah. We need to stop being nice and conforming to the world, saying, “We’re going to win you by being just like you.” The church has got to say, “We’re better than you — not better people than you, but we have a better worldview, a deeper truth. Our product’s the best one on the market.” The church has been so bedeviled by the American religion of egalitarianism that we are terrified to claim superiority. Only if you believe you have something better can you be enthusiastic about it.



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