Category Archives: social justice

A Shout-Out to Catholic Charities

Although I’m familiar with only one Catholic Charities, East Bay in Oakland, CA (CCEB), I’m guessing that their work is typical of many organizations, so this praise goes to all 139 offices nationally. In a dark time, when immigrants are terrorized, the poor are pushed even further into the margins, and the vulnerable are demonized, they offer hope in crisis, and shine like bright lights.

The price of housing in CA is so astronomical that even people with healthy salaries have a hard time buying or renting a home. Teachers can’t afford to live in the districts where they work, and those on minimum wage can’t begin to compete. Last year, CCEB received over 8,000 requests for housing assistance, and could help with less than 1% of those.

But they don’t get discouraged. They press on, and with generous supporters, branch into other areas too, like welcoming immigrant families and helping them with jobs, housing, schools and cultural adaptation. One of their films shows a Burmese family who’d spent years in refugee camps arriving at the airport, where parishioners, translators and a pastor waved flags in welcome. Those of us without refugee experience can only imagine what that sight must’ve meant—and it was just the beginning of ongoing care to ease difficult transitions.

I’ve written before about Claire’s House, one of the first shelters for young girls rescued from trafficking. CCEB has carefully pioneered in this complex arena, hopefully paving the way for other homes of refuge. A tangle of licensing and other state requirements has slowed the process, but the staff’s perseverance will make sure it won’t close, and can continue to offer healing to those who need it most.

Here’s where you come in. Studies from The Greater Good Science Center have found that giving to others makes us happier than spending time and money on ourselves. So if you know someone at your local Catholic Charities or similar organization, send their staff this column—with a bouquet, chocolate and a big donation. If you don’t know anyone, do the same—surreptitiously posting your praise in a break room or on a website. Even saintly humans need reinforcement and thanks. The research mentioned above proves that giving it increases oxytocin (the “feel good” hormone) in the bloodstream of the giver. Maybe we can’t all be on the front line. But we can support those who are. Let’s launch a campaign: Three Hundred Cheers for Catholic Charities!

Shame at the San Diego Border

The National Guard must be mortified. Excerpts from the recruitment pitch read as if they’ll be joining Doctors without Borders or some other humanitarian group that saves the world:

TAKE A PATH WITH PURPOSE. BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF.

This is a message to anyone who ever believed they could be something great when they grew up. It’s an invitation to all who want to build a better world.  As a Guard Soldier you’ll respond when disaster strikes at home. You’ll also answer the call when your country needs you around the world. (www.nationalguard.com)

The $20,000 signing bonus must appeal too. As Helen Thorpe reveals in her splendid book Soldier Girls, it draws desperately poor young people, eager for education, who are then amazed when they wind up killing civilians in Afghanistan.

Or enmeshed in the current fiasco: saving the country from babies, and mothers who respect the U.S. so much they’ve walked long, treacherous distances to get here. Yet Jeff Sessions, Attorney General accuses them of “a deliberate attempt to undermine our laws and overwhelm our system.” What kind of system can’t absorb 200 unarmed civilians? An editorial by Eugene Robinson (Bay Area News Group, 5/2/18) adds, “President Trump has spoken of these people as if they were some kind of rampaging horde.”

So one-year olds, barely walking, can lug howitzers and machine guns all the way from Honduras? And their parents, facing death threats at home, want to undermine the only place they might find safety and hope for the future? Doesn’t the country face more of a threat from lax, NRA-friendly gun laws that have led to murders in our schools? Or a president who accepted $30 million in campaign contributions from said NRA, but doesn’t know asylum or international law?

Those laws were passed after World War II when the US disgracefully refused entry to German Jews, sentencing many to death in concentration camps. Does a Spanish-speaking Anne Frank wait agonizing today in Tijuana? And what’s happened to the ancient moral code that a society is judged by its treatment of the most vulnerable?