by Bill McCarthy 

In order to live the values of Catholic Charities, we are called to see the beauty and possibilities in all our encounters.  In order to live our value to work for justice, we are called to see the possibilities in our greater society. We are called to see what a just world would look like – and then work to make it a reality.

In a recent statement from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland, entitled When Did We See You Hungry, the bishops wrote about injustices in Maryland.  Despite the relative wealth of our state, many Marylanders are hungry and homeless.  Many are struggling to survive.  The bishops very clearly urge people to help those in need by supporting programs that help people living in poverty, but they do not stop there.  They assert that our government officials have a moral obligation to help vulnerable Marylanders and urge all of us to make sure that they take action:

[W]e, as citizens of Maryland, [must] make a public call to our local, state and federal governments to urge them to make decisions, pass legislation and appropriate public money in a manner that is charitable, just and reflective of our shared human dignity.

Last month, many of you participated in Catholic Charities’ Lobby Day in Annapolis.  Those who did had the opportunity to learn more about the way our State government creates Maryland’s budget and about our Agency’s different legislative priorities during the 2012 legislative session.  The work that Regan Vaughan, our Director of Social Concerns, and others in our Social Concerns Department do to help advance just public policies that reflect our concern for our sisters and brothers in need is critical to our mission.

Working for justice is never easy, especially in our world of competing priorities.  Sometimes, it can even be dangerous.  Last month, I read an op-ed piece in The New York Times about a man named Raoul Wallenberg, who was born into an affluent family in Sweden 100 years ago.  During World War II, rather than remain safely in Sweden, a neutral country, he put himself at great personal risk in his pursuit of justice.  As first secretary at the Swedish Legation in Budapest in 1944, he worked to save thousands from death at the hands of the Nazis.  He began issuing Swedish “protective passports” to Jewish Hungarians and, by doing so, saved the lives of roughly 100,000 people.  The writers of the op-ed asked why Wallenberg and other heroes put their very lives at risk to save people they did not know:

Why did they do it?  All of these heroes seemed to have shared the sentiment of the martyred Lutheran pastor and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil… Not to act is to act.”

At Catholic Charities, we do not face such personal risk as we advocate for those we serve, but we may face criticism, even ridicule at times.  Positions that reflect a love of those living in poverty and that argue that all Marylanders deserve safe, affordable housing, health care and employment that pays a just wage are not always popular.  But where we see injustice, we are called to act, to speak up, rather than sit back in silence.

Thank you for all you do to help us live our value to work for justice.  If you want to learn more about the advocacy work we do at Catholic Charities, please click the “Advocacy” link in the blue bar at the top of this page.