Justice Corner

The Justice Corner is devoted to the subject of Justice and will cover, over time, these topics:  what is meant by Justice, especially Social Justice; the Catholic principles of Justice; and critical Justice issues that are seriously impacting our community, our nation and the world. We will also provide some suggestions for action on these issues that readers may wish to consider taking.

Examples of Catholic principles of Justice to be addressed are these: the God-given dignity of every individual, and the implications of this for each of us; our responsibility to practice Justice; and Jesus’ call to us to care for the poor, and for the integrity of all of His Father’s creation.

Justice issues to be covered will include topics such as poverty, trafficking in women and children; corruption and greed, discrimination, and so on – the list is long. We will endeavor to cover topics of particular interest to our readers, and we will respond to email questions from them.

Co-Editors are Tom Cull, head of St. Jude’s Justice and Peace Ministry, and Deacon Joe Manion, who has devoted considerable time to Justice since his ordination to the deaconate sixteen years ago. You may connect with Tom and Joe about your suggestions and comments on The Justice Corner by emailing us at tom@saintjudetheapostle.org.


May 21, 2017

Up to now we have focused on Justice principles such as Dignity, Responsibility and Solidarity. In today’s Justice Corner we will move from Justice principles to a discussion of Justice issues. We will, of course, return to Justice principles again.

We will also continue our short Columns in the Bulletin for those who want only  a highlight of the Justice topic under discussion.  In addition we are initiating today an expanded website Column which will provide significantly greater coverage about the topic highlighted in the Bulletin. This will allow readers the option of getting a brief overview of the topic from the Bulletin only, or a more in-depth understanding of the topic by reading the material on the web.

We recommend that you do both, namely that you first read the Justice Corner in the Bulletin at the time you normally do, and then access, read and reflect on the expanded  website material at a quiet time later. This is the most effective way for you to get a meaningful insight into the Justice principles and issues we will be covering. The research on them has already been done for you and that work is reflected in what is presented in the website. We believe that if you do this it will help inform, enlighten and probably surprise you about the injustices that are going on in the world today, and in our own country, and perhaps cause you to begin thinking about Justice in a deeper way.

The Justice Issues of Poverty and  Hunger

We will start our coverage of Justice issues today by addressing  two truly fundamental world issues – poverty and hunger. To do them “justice” we anticipate that it will require a total of about four Columns, including this one. These will run consecutively in the weeks ahead.

In this Column we will concentrate on providing you with a summary of factual information about these issues, so that you are informed about the reality and scope of how much  poverty and hunger exist in the world  today,  This is an essential base of knowledge that each of us needs to have if we are to think in any serious way about the injustices of poverty and hunger, and their consequences to all of us.

In our next Column we will discuss some very important actions that are being taken to reduce poverty and hunger significantly. In particular we will review the actions of the United Nations and its Millennium Project, a fifteen year program  which ended in 2015. It is now being followed by a successor Program to be completed in 2030. There have been very significant positive results from the Millennium Project, and  good progress is being made on both poverty and hunger. We are hopeful that it can continue and even accelerate in our fragmented and divided world. We will also remind ourselves of other significant efforts being made by other organizations, including the Catholic Church, our sister religious institutions, governments, including our own, and individuals.

Following this we will review some of the important causes of poverty and hunger, and the barriers and misplaced priorities that impede the kind of progress that we as a society are capable of making. 

Finally we will point out what Jesus, Pope Francis, the Church and the American Bishops, and our own Archbishop Jose Gomez, are saying about our call as Catholics to help improve the plight of the poor and the hungry. There are many things we can do in this regard, both as individuals and as groups of Parishioners , and we need to begin thinking and planning on ways that St. Jude’s can become as active about Justice issues as we are in our remarkable Loaves and Fishes charity program.

Poverty and Hunger Today: In the World and in the U.S.

We turn now to an overview of where poverty and hunger stand in the world and in the United States today.  For simplicity, we will provide the information in the form of statements or “bullets”

Poverty in the World

Definition of Poverty - Many people are confused about the international definition of poverty, which is the responsibility of the World Bank. The Bank takes the lead in defining poverty levels for the world’s developing (poor) countries, and revising them occasionally as inflation and  living costs change. At present a person in the developing world  is deemed to be poor if he or she is living on less than $ 3.10 per day; and  in extreme poverty if living on less than $1.90 per day. Please note that the $3.10 or $1.90 refer to the amount that a person can purchase in his or her own country with local currency that is equivalent to what someone can get for the $3.10 or $1.90 amounts  in the U.S. Developed countries, such as the U.S. or those in Europe, for example, define their own poverty levels, which are far higher than the levels that define poverty in the developing countries.

With that background, here is a summary of important world and U.S.  poverty and hunger facts. 

Poverty in the World - Note that all statistics below reflect the improvements that have been made by the U.N. Millennium Project  mentioned earlier.

  • There are about 7.4 billion people in the world – that’s 7,400 million people.
  • About 3 billion (3,000 million) people are living on less than $3.10 per day, and therefore are living below the international poverty line.
  • This means that 40 percent of the world’s people are currently living in poverty. That’s 4 out of 10 people in the world.
  • Another way to look at the 3 Billion in poverty in the world is that it is almost 10 times higher than the entire population of the United States.
  • The vast majority of those in poverty in the world are in the developing areas – Sub- Saharan Africa and Asia, which also includes India. However significant poverty also exists in the developed world, including the U.S. and Europe. (See U.S. data below). Numbers for the developed world are in the millions and tens of millions, not in the hundreds of millions.
    • There about 160 countries in the developing world.
    • There are about 35 countries in the developed world.

Extreme Poverty in the World (Often called “deep poverty”)

  • People living in extreme poverty are defined to be those living on half the the amount defined for those in poverty.
  • There are close to 800 million people in the world living in extreme poverty. Again, the vast majority of them are living in the developing world, but the number in the developed world  is also unacceptably high.

World Poverty Among Women and Children

  • There are at least 1 billion (one thousand million) children living in poverty in the world today
  • Close to 60 percent of those living in poverty in the world are female.

Hunger in the World

  • About 800 million people in the world suffer from chronic undernourishment
  • Three million children suffer and die from starvation every year
  • An additional five million older kids and adults also die of starvation each year
  • Some 160 million children in the world are stunted as a result of malnutrition

Poverty and Hunger in the United States

Poverty - The U.S. Census Bureau defines poverty according to the number of people in a family.  For example, a single person is defined to be poor in the U.S. if he or she has a total annual income of less than $12,082;  or a family of four is poor if its total income is $24,256 per year. Using these statistics as definitions of poverty, here are some key facts about U.S. poverty, based on 2015 data.

  • There are 43.1 million people in poverty in the United States which is 13.5 percent of the U.S. population
  • Of this number 14.5 million are kids, or 1 in 5 children in the country
  • There are 12.2 million men in poverty  and 14.8 million women
  • The poverty rate for African Americans is 24.1 percent
  • And is 21.4 percent for Hispanics
  • Households with a single parent and no husband have a 28.2 percent poverty rate
  • And people with a disability have a poverty rate of 29 percent

All this in perhaps the richest country in the world.

Hunger

There is good news and bad news about the recent trend in hunger in the United States.

The good news is that food insecurity ( basically not knowing where or when your next meal is coming from) is down significantly from 14 percent of households, or 17.5 million households in 2014 ( one in 7); to 12.7 percent of households, or 15.8 million households in 2015 ( one in 8 ) . That’s excellent progress and it is hoped that this trend will continue.

The bad news is that it’s far too high for a country as rich as the United States, especially considering that 6.3 million U.S. households (5 percent of the total experienced very poor food insecurity). And also that households with children were food insecure at a rate of 17 percent (one in 6 households);  and those headed by single women were very food insecure at the  alarming rate of 30 percent.

We are not treating our children, whether in the developing world, or in the United States, the way we should, and the way that Jesus wants us to. They should be first on our list, and they are not. This is an area where St. Jude’s may be able to do something special – beyond the great work being done by Loaves and Fishes – and what we are doing for children with special needs. Perhaps you who are readers might think about this, send us your suggestions, and help us collectively to  put something important together.

Feedback, comments and suggestions on this first website Justice Corner would be appreciated. You can send them to tom@saintjudetheapostle. Thank you.

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“Then he looked at his disciples and said:’ Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” Luke 6:20-21.


April 23, 2017 Expanding our Coverage on the Webpage

In our next Justice Corner we will transition from our discussions to-date about Justice – its basic definition and some of the fundamental principles which drive it - Dignity, Responsibility and Solidarity – to a review of society’s most critical Justice issues, including hunger, poverty, violence and so on.  Then, after covering a few Justice issues, we will return to our review of important Justice principles and definitions, repeating this pattern in the months ahead.

We will also start to expand the material on Justice being provided in the Bulletin, which has significant space limitations, by including  supplementary material on our St. Jude Justice Corner webpage. This will provide readers with the option of either getting an overview of the topic by reading the Justice Column in the Bulletin only, or of obtaining a deeper view by going to the webpage to read both the Bulletin content and the supplementary material. We recommend that you try to read the full content contained on the website. To facilitate this process we will provide the reader with some guidance about the material included in the website, and we will avoid providing large amounts of things to read.

You may access the Justice Corner website by going to our web address listed below, beginning with “http”. Please note that both the Bulletin content and the supplemental material will remain on the website for a considerable time, so that it can be accessed whenever you wish.

As always, we welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.

“Peace and Justice are two sides of the same coin” Dwight D. Eisenhower


April 2, 2017 Who’s Responsible for Justice?

A critical principle underpinning Justice is Human Responsibility. It stresses that each of us has a responsibility for Justice – to learn about it; to practice it; and to promote it.

In his outstanding book “Bringing Forth Justice” Archbishop Daniel Pilarzek says: “If things can be improved, if the goods of the world can be better used and more fairly distributed, if human dignity can be more effectively fostered, it is up to ordinary human beings………to see that the improvements take place”.

And “If there is injustice, if the rights of human beings are being violated, it is up to other human beings….to do something about it. Ordinary [people] can and must be the agents of God in bringing forth Justice”.

Therefore people, whether acting as individuals or as part of an organization, need to: …..“have some idea about Justice rights and responsibilities and [be] willing to take the trouble to think about what is needed……. to promote Justice most effectively.”

“We cannot say that we are doing our part for Justice if we refuse to become involved in the process that provides the means for Justice to be done……..”

In effect, what Archbishop Pilarczyk is saying as a spokesman for Jesus and His Church is that when it comes to Justice, we’re all in this together, and we all need to play our part. For children of God Justice is not an option.

“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same”. Steve Maraboli, Author


March 12, 2017 The Three Legs of Justice

So far we have said this about Justice: It is a commitment on our part to give every person his or her due. We all have Dignity because we were created by God in His image. Therefore we have a right to be treated with Dignity, and a Responsibility to treat others with Dignity.  This Responsibility is ours as individuals and it extends also to the institutions of our society.

There is a third fundamental principle which underpins Justice besides Dignity and Responsibility. That principle is Solidarity.

What do we mean by Solidarity? The answer derives from the fact that we are all children of God, and therefore connected with each other through Him. Archbishop Pilarczyk says:  Solidarity is “the mindset that recognizes the interdependence of all human beings”. He points out also that Pope John Paul II, in his 1987 encyclical “The Social Concern”, has said that Solidarity is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the Common Good”. The Common Good means that which benefits society as a whole.

What do these principles say? First, that we have great value in God’s eyes – Dignity. Second, that we must honor that value in how we treat people - Responsibility. Third, that this Responsibility extends to all those we are connected to - Solidarity.

The challenge for each of us is to determine the depth of our individual responsibility, and how far it extends in the circle of humanity. We all need to think and pray about this, then take some action. If you need suggestions, please email Tom at the address below. We will be happy to help.


February 19, 2017 Human Dignity and Justice

It is impossible for us to  comprehend  the depth of the love that God has for us. It is constant, unconditional, without limit, and graced with His compassion, forgiveness and mercy. No one is excluded from God’s love.

We humans, however, tend to focus on our inner circle, paying scant attention to those beyond, especially  the poorest and most disadvantaged who are “out of sight and out of mind”.

Justice, which is Jesus in action, calls us to become aware of and to treat all of His brothers and sisters with Dignity.  He understands that we are imperfect, and that we fail,  but  He knows we are capable of doing more than we do. He does not give us the option to turn away from  His call to treat others with Dignity, or to relegate that call to our bottom drawer.

How do we do this?  How can we motivate ourselves to see the value of our brothers and sisters outside our circle , and to affirm them and treat them with the Dignity with which they are due?

One way is to remind ourselves of the way God sees them.. The U.S. Catholic Bishops, in their Pastoral Letter “Economic Justice for All” said it this way: “ When we deal with each other,  we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence  of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.”

“When we treat people with Dignity we practice Justice”

-Tom C


February 5, 2017

In our last column we provided a definition of the term Justice, and underscored that since each of us was created by God in His own image and likeness, we all have intrinsic dignity. Along with this comes the individual right to be treated with dignity and the individual responsibility to treat all other of God’s children with Dignity.

These rights and responsibilities also apply to collections of individuals, such as corporations, governments, political and labor institutions, churches, etc. The Justice requirements for such institutions are broader and more complex than for individuals, because of the scope of the issues and the number of people involved. God calls us to participate in both individual and collective Justice. Since the fundamental platform on which all Justice rests is Dignity this means that we need to treat individuals and groups of individuals with Dignity, and at all times, whether we are acting as individuals or as part of a group.

In our next several columns we will address five fundamental Catholic principles that underpin Justice: Dignity, the most basic principle; Responsibility; Solidarity; Care for the Poor; and Care for God’s Creation. After that we will review some of the collective forms of Justice, such as Social Justice. We will then move to a discussion of key Justice issues, ranging from poverty, greed, human trafficking,  the environment, etc. You are also cordially invited to suggest Justice topics that you wish to be addressed, or questions that you would like answered.

“ Matthew Chapter 25: verses 31 – 46 “

 


January 15, 2017  ~ What Do We Mean By Justice?

A classic definition of Justice is that it is “the strong will and commitment on the part of each of us to give every person his or her due as a child of God”.  We practice Justice when we implement this definition.

What is meant by our “due” as a child of God? That what God gave each of us at the time of our creation – the gift of an intrinsic and permanent worthiness and dignity because He made us in His own image – must be honored by all others. It means that we have an innate right to be treated with dignity and a responsibility to treat others with dignity. It means also that whenever the dignity of one or a group of God’s children is diminished –  by poverty, or violence, or character assassination, or for any reason - the rest of us are called to try to take some action to repair that dignity to the extent we are able. More on this in subsequent columns.

God’s call for us to develop a “strong will and commitment” to Justice implies that we learn about the Justice principles of Jesus and His Church to help guide our actions, and that we pay attention to what’s happening in our society with respect to Justice and Justice issues.

We hope that the Justice Corner will help you as you strive to play your part in understanding and practicing Justice.

Please email your comments and questions to tom@saintjudetheapostle.org.

“If you want peace, work for Justice” - Pope Paul VI