As Bob Golden filled out his survey in preparation for the Synod on Family and Evangelization, he felt the need to add a few subjects he thinks the Catholic Church needs to address. The Albion resident feels a just wage, domestic violence, immigration and health care do not receive the attention they deserve.
As a 35-year veteran of law enforcement and a member of the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission's Immigration Sub-Committee, Golden has seen how these issues directly affect the family.
"I think we have to be real for what is going on with people in order for the people who are active in the Church, the baptized Catholics who are now in it and others who may be sympathetic to the Church. I think it shows that we are aware and concerned about the real issues affecting families," he said shortly before attending a panel discussion on immigration.
As an avid reader of Catholic periodicals such as America, Gregorian, St. Anthony's Messenger, and the Western New York Catholic, he doesn't see these issues addressed anywhere outside of papal encyclicals.
"I would like to see us be as active on these issues as we are on others," he said. "I see a silence as far as domestic violence is concerned. The bishops and certainly a number of priests have spoken out on immigration problems. Other than the encyclicals, I see a silence on the part of the Church with respect to just or living wage."
He defines a just wage as income sufficient to support a family and educate children, with some being saved for retirement, as expressed in encyclicals by Pope Leo XIII, and echoed by Pope Pius XI, Pope Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Pope Leo XIII wrote "Rerum Novarum" in 1891, during the height of the Industrial Revolution, calling for fair wages and a respect for the dignity of workers. Rush Limbaugh called Pope Francis a Marxist for suggesting redistribution of wealth, but since 1980 the income for the U.S. upper class has risen exponentially higher than that of the middle class.
"The reason I was so concerned about this being part of the Synod on Family is because a just wage, a living wage is for a family to live and prosper in a reasonable fashion," said Golden.
He likes the Church's concern for the disadvantaged and needy.
"I think the Church has been very consistent and very strong in its concern for the poor," he said. "I guess I'd like to see a little more focus on issues like just wage. I think we're too much concerned with charity and not enough with justice. Pope Paul VI said that justice is the minimum of charity. The least we should do is justice. I don't think we realize that charity is frequently making up for injustice."
Golden became involved with the immigration issue in 1964 when he moved to Orleans County, which sees its share of migrant workers on area farms and orchards. His pastor told him to get involved. At the time most migrants came from Florida or were brought in legally from Jamaica and Haiti because they were willing to work around poisonous snakes. Laws passed in 1986 disallowed foreign workers to be brought to the U.S. in that fashion.
"We never enforced the laws because, the fact of the matter is, agri-business and other businesses wanted the cheap labor," Golden said. "I think we passed a law to maybe try to regularize some things. It did give citizenship to a lot of people. But it seems like we really didn't intend to enforce it. I think we pass a lot of laws that way, to look good with no serious intent of enforcing them."
Golden has since become good friends with an undocumented Mexican, who has lived in the United States for 20 years, since the age of 12. Every attempt to become a citizen has been shot down because of his "voluntary departure" in 2007 to visit his ailing mother back in Mexico.
Despite having a Social Security number, a driver's license, and paying income taxes from the business he owns, he could be picked up and deported at any time, taken away from his wife and two children. Others like him have to choose between their family in America and their family in Mexico.
During his years as a probation officer, Golden began training judges, police and other probation officers on domestic violence. An estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year. He said this comes from 10,000 years of male-dominated culture. Golden agrees with the old adage that power corrupts. "It's hard to get past that," he said.
With the issue being close to his heart, he doesn't feel it gets the attention it deserves from the Church. He would like to see the Catholic Church challenge all the men not to be abusive or exploitive towards women.
"As a male-controlled organization we need to challenge men to stop physical and emotional abuse of wives and children," he said.
Active in his home parish of Holy Family in Albion, where he and his wife, Margaret, serve as Eucharistic ministers, the Goldens have always considered themselves very fortunate.
"We always count ourselves blessed to be able to do things we believed in, to do something worthwhile, to make a difference," Golden said, who attended Holy Cross College. Mascot - a Crusader.
"It seems like I'm always crusading for something or other, hopefully with good guidance," he said.
He likes that the Church is open to different ideas and different opinions and he likes the growing lay involvement. "You got an awful lot of people doing good works and feeling free to do it."
At 77 years old, he is able to remember the days before Vatican II when the Church employed only priests and nuns. "It's kind of a necessity now, but still it's a terrific opportunity for the laity to be involved in a substantial way."