Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates



US Bishops Link EPA’s Mercury Rule with Church’s Pro-Life Agenda

On June 20, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton in his role as Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter  to the Environmental Protection Agency welcoming recently proposed and first-ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxics from power plants. 

Bishop Blaire noted that, Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment.  While short-term costs for implementation of the rule should not disproportionately impact poor and vulnerable people, the health benefits of such a rule outweigh these costs, he continued.  See the full press release here. 

The USCCB’s letter follows on the heels of a letter from the Catholic Health Association of the United States, which made many of the same points. 

The Coalition encourages you to submit your own written comments on this standard to the EPA before their August 2 deadline.  To learn how to do so, go here.  You may want to use similar language from the letters by Bishop Blaire and CHA as you make your comments. 

Stewards of God’s Creation

NEW INITIATIVE: Climate Challenges

This week, the Coalition launched a new initiative called Climate Challenges on its Facebook and Twitter pages.  Each week, a new Climate Challenge will be posted as a way to become more engaged in the Church’s authentic response to climate change.  You are encouraged to post comments about how the Challenge is going, and to offer additional ways we can each more fully care for God’s Creation and the poor! 

This week’s Climate Challenge: Take time to read Climate Change Informed by the 7 Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Then, post your favorite quote to your Facebook Newsfeed and/or Twitter Status (along with the link so your friends know where to go for more!). 

If you haven’t already, please “Like Us” at and follow us on Twitter @CatholicClimate.

Vatican Continues to Amplify Prophetic Messages on Economics and Environment

At a three day conference on business ethics sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone addressed the modern challenges of business, the economy and finance.  While recognizing that The Church has always stressed that commercial activity is essential to the common good, Cardinal Bertone also said that social teaching, past and present, insists that commercial activity should be directed to the common good and not merely to the private profit of property holders. 

The Cardinal went on to address modern economic challenges regarding common goods such as water and energy.  He said, Where common goods are concerned, we urgently need business leaders for whom profit is not the exclusive goal. More and more, we need business leaders with a social conscience, leaders whose innovation, creativity and efficiency are driven by more than profit, leaders who see their work as part of a new social contract with the public and with civil society. Read Cardinal Bertone’s entire message here.

Brazil’s Bishops Decry Deforestation

The Catholic Church in Brazil recently issued a statement opposing a legislative attempt to change the country’s “Forest Code.” According to CNN, the bill would rewrite some of the rules regarding protected areas, grant amnesty to illegal deforestation that occurred before July 2008, and give states greater control over preservation management. Many environmentalists are concerned that the proposed policy change would result in even more widespread deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest by powerful business interests.

The Catholic Church in Brazil will mobilize its 12,000 parishes to circulate a petition against the reforms. The Church released a statement saying, Our main concern is the impact and consequences of a law of this size on people’s lives and the environment. We urge our communities to participate in the process of reform of the Forest Code, mobilizing social forces and promoting a petition against the devastation.

The climate change implications of increased deforestation in the Amazon are potentially grave, since deforestation releases the carbon dioxide which is naturally stored in trees and other vegetation. The independent, non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations points out that Cutting deforestation rates by 50 percent over the next century would provide about 12 percent of the emissions reductions needed to keep carbon dioxide concentrations to 450 parts per million, a goal the IPCC[Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] argues is necessary to prevent significant increases in global temperatures. Read more here.

Australian Catholic Leads Faith-Based Climate Change Lobby

Recently, Thea Ormerod, a Catholic and the chairwoman of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, led 28 faith-based environmentalists in advocating for strong climate change action before Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The group includes leaders from the Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Anglican, Buddhist as well as Catholic faith traditions.  They urged the Prime Minister that addressing climate change is a moral imperative for people of all faiths.  As Ormerod said, “You can’t love God and trash creation.” The advocates also reminded Ms. Gillard that since Australia is a wealthy country it ought to be seen as a global leader in addressing climate change and that more needs to be done to build on some of the country’s initial efforts. Read more here.

Action: Justice for Immigrants

The Catholic initiative Justice for Immigrants is circulating an alert about how some legislators in Congress are now calling for the mandatory expansion of E-Verify. This largely voluntary program allows employers to electronically verify workers’ employment eligibility with Government databases. Only 250,000 some employers use the system today; some in Congress want to make its use mandatory by all 6 million U.S. employers.

The problem is that unless E-Verify’s expansion is undertaken in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, it will hurt U.S. workers and our already weakened economy. In addition, uncorrected flaws in the Government databases still result in false positives for hundreds of thousands of American workers. For these reasons, urgent action is needed to let Senators and Representatives know that unless and until the E-Verify program is improved and undertaken in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, we oppose its expansion and mandatory implementation.

Please visit the website of Justice for Immigrants to see a sample letter that you can electronically send to your federal lawmaker.

Supporting Farmworkers through Local Supermarkets

Following a recent visit to Immokalee, Florida, New York Times food writer and opinion columnist Mark Bittman penned a column about the reality facing farmworkers. Bittman sets his sights on the supermarket industry and calls on his readers to spark change through local supermarkets. As he writes in “The True Cost of Tomatoes” (6/14/11):

“Most of us eat or buy industrially produced tomatoes, and it doesn’t seem too much to ask that the people who pick them for us be treated a little more fairly. Speak to your supermarket manager or write to the head of the chain you patronize (the easiest way to do this is to visit the Coalition for Immokalee Workers site). Supermarkets, I expect, are as susceptible to public pressure as fast-food chains.”

Genetic Diversity and Food Security for the Future

The July 2011 issue of National Geographic carries an informative piece on the importance of preserving both genetic diversity and farmer knowledge in meeting the world’s growing demand for food.

“Food Ark,” by Charles Siebert, highlights the efforts of several seed banks around the world to serve as essential keepers of genetic diversity and traits that could one day help us weather new crop diseases and climate change.

Siebert makes the case that the successes of modern agriculture have at the same time put our food security at risk. Our heavy reliance on mono-cropping vast fields seeded to high yielding but genetically uniform plants have left us with an ever-dwindling list of crop varieties. Ninety percent of the historic fruit and vegetable varieties in the U.S. have disappeared. The world has lost more than half of its food varieties.

Also, learn more about world hunger and how to respond by checking out the new NCRLC resource on Food Security & Economic Justice: A Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty & Hunger.