Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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No one can deny that God has been very generous to the people of the greater Connecticut River Valley. From the breezy skies of Long Island Sound to the lush landscape of the Litchfield hills, we enjoy a small but remarkably diverse landscape rich in God’s majesty.

Clearly, Connecticut’s natural beauty is a matter of stewardship, for it is truly a testament to God’s glory. As people of faith, we must grow ever more appreciative of God’s good works. Enjoying the sunset over Long Island Sound, it’s easy to wonder, "How can you not believe in God the Creator?"

As we enjoy the wonder of God’s creation, we have a particular moral responsibility. Here is where our fair state has divided in two. Enabled by financial security and motivated by a desire to embrace a more comfortable life amid the more rural and suburban landscape, great numbers of Connecticut residents disproportionately have moved out and away from the older established urban communities. In our state, this migration has left our cities and older communities at a disadvantage in a number of ways. As the migration to newer suburban communities continues, the financially disadvantaged remain behind in the older urban centers.

All the negative developments of urban communities’ falling deeper into financial crisis will only further the divide between those who have and those who have not. A decreasing population of urban residents is left to cover the bill for its older infrastructures and services, which in turn is reflected in a greater tax burden. Thus, a growing number of our small cities and older suburbs, comprising nearly half of the state’s population, have shrinking tax bases and growing poverty. To some degree, this situation fulfills the pessimistic adage: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

While Connecticut can be described as a wealthy state (in 1999, our per capita income was the highest in the nation), there is growing and grave concern for the welfare of the state’s aging cities. Some of Connecticut’s cities have below 25 percent home ownership rates while the national average is above 70 percent. No one can escape the great disparity between the struggling cities and the more affluent suburbs of our state. They are, in many ways, two very different Connecticuts living side by side. With this state of affairs, it’s possible for a suburban resident to dismiss and even resent the plight of the inner-city poor – that Hartford, that Waterbury, that New Haven, that Bridgeport problem.

As people of faith, we need to ask the hard questions posed by the Church’s social teaching and seek a response to this damaging divide of injustice in our state. "But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:17-18)

In Scripture, there is a moral axiom referred to as the ethic of John (1 John 3:17-18), which has its root in the Old Testament (Isaiah 58:7-8). It simply states that if you have the advantage of having the means to answer the need of a poor brother or sister, you must provide that help, or the Gospel has no life in you. This is a stirring consideration of faith in action. I’ve heard it said that your beliefs are only as strong as your ability to act on them, especially when it comes to financial sacrifice.

Positive social change is not easy, but it is necessary. Connecticut is one of only a few states that haven’t embraced a reform of the tax structure to better meet the needs of the urban communities. Some have argued that this is the case because of our status as a state of significant affluence. Namely, Connecticut will never adopt a regional model of taxation because the wealthy suburbs would never allow it. Such a position says little of our Christian call to love our neighbor, especially the poorest of the poor.

In acknowledging this resistance, we need to work for sincere conversion of hearts that see caring for the less fortunate as the only responsible choice. As a people of advantage, we must embrace the fundamental stewardship principle that all we possess materially is the result of God’s generosity and not merely our own achievement. This principle causes the Christian heart to turn from the all-embracing concern of self-interest to a need to respond to the needs of others.

As informed citizens, we can understand that changes to the urban tax bases are not only a way to level the playing field for the disadvantaged of the cities, but smart planning. No one wants to work or live next to communities of unbridled urban decay. Stabilizing our cities and reversing their population trends are good for everyone.

Communities like Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury are poised for their own renaissance, but this new life and vitality will be short-lived if it isn’t coupled with concrete reforms of the tax bases. Our Catholic faith has a lot to say about the division of Connecticut; may it be heard loud and clear and make a difference through our stewardship.

Father Hinkley is Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church and School and the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, both in Waterbury.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.