Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

 

 

Adoption Awareness Training

An Infant Adoption Awareness Training under the auspices of Catholic Charities will be available July 12 at the Diocese of Orlando (50 E. Robinson St., Orlando) from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. RSVP at http://www.adoptionatwork.org/ or contact the FL Training Coordinator, Geralyn Ryan, at 352-219-7248 or ryanlmz@yahoo.com .  This event is open to anyone but will be of special assistance to pregnancy center staff in reaching out to their clients and helping them with an adoption plan option. 

August 27, 2011 –  Spirit to Serve Living to Serve Day of Reflection at Holy Family Church, Orlando

This day is dedicated to those who serve others or who may be discerning a call to ministry. Come away for a day to reflect on our relationships to God, to others and to ourselves.  Fr. Bruce Nieli, CSP will be the keynote speaker. Topics include: Formation and Vocation, Service and Evangelization, and Advocacy and Transformation. Register by contacting eclayton@orlandodiocese.org ; 407-246-4819. 

Washington, D.C. Youth Rally and Mass for Life in January

If you or your youth group are planning to attend annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington each January you should keep some logistical changes in mind.  Bishop Barry Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, recently sent a letter to all the bishops throughout the dioceses in the United States to highlight important changes for 2012. Click here to access the letter, which also includes contact information for the Department of Life Issues for the Archdiocese of Washington. 

USCCB Life Issues Forum Newsletter

This issue of Life Issues Forum can be found in English and the Spanish will be sent out at the beginning of next week. (To access the Word documents, click on the hyperlinked text.) 

Back issues of Life Issues Forum can be found at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/publicat/lifeissues/ 

Protect our Poor and Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urges Congress and the Administration to protect programs for poor and vulnerable persons during deficit reduction negotiations that are happening this week. Fiscal responsibility is important and our current budget deficit must be addressed. However, a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. A balanced approach requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.

Urge Congress and the Administration to consider these moral criteria to guide their budgetary decisions:

1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work, or in poverty should come first.

3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic time. Click here to check out the full alert

Action Alert for Conservation Programs

The agriculture appropriations bill the House of Representatives just passed slashes $1 billion from mandatory farm bill conservation funding and tells USDA to drop the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. The House measure would slash programs that support farmers protecting the soil and water on which our nation’s future productivity depends. A provision denying any funding for the Know Your Farmer initiative is a direct attack on new farm and market opportunities, rural job growth and public health. As the Administration and Congressional leaders enter into a possible final week of budget negotiations, it is crucial that we act today. Please click here to take action. 

Reminder to Fast on First Fridays: July 1

On every first Friday for a year, our U.S. Bishops ask us to eat meals that cost only as much as is allotted for a family of your size by the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. This plan is used as the basis for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps). The “cutting back” that will likely be required in order to stay “in budget” can be considered a form of fasting. 

Food Policy Resources for State Initiatives

Michigan Good Food is an initiative to develop a policy agenda that supports Good Food in Michigan — food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. Local food groups in other states will find much to support their own efforts. The Michigan Good Food Charter presents a vision for Michigan’s food and agriculture system and outlines 25 agenda priorities for the next 10 years. A series of five work group reports have been released. These reports provide more detail and background on the charter recommendations. Visit the Michigan Good Food website to access the reports and learn more. 

Food Security and Economic Justice Study Guide Promotion!

Just a reminder that from now until Aug. 31st you can receive 20% off all orders of our new study guide and leader’s guide! The new guide is great for individual or group-based study. Visit our website to learn more, or our store to order. Coupon code: 20percent. 

Peace in Sudan Resources

On July 9, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the world’s newest nation – the Republic of South Sudan. This result came about after a referendum for independence that despite all predictions was peaceful, orderly and uncontested. In the United States and throughout the world, the prayers, advocacy and financial support of Catholics and people of goodwill helped shape a climate where peace was possible. But South Sudan will also be one of the world’s poorest nations. Decades of civil war with northern Sudan has left the region with widespread poverty, limited infrastructure, and little money in its coffers. Make Solidarity with Sudan part of your summer Visit http://www.peaceinsudan.org/ for:

• Summer reading suggestions to learn about Sudan’s history and future.

• Prayers to engage the family and parish in solidarity.

• Advocacy to ensure South Sudan’s stable and sustainable development.

Advocacy Efforts  

President Obama and Members of Congress: Protect Iraqi refugees!

What’s the issue? Since 2006, millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes to other areas within Iraq and to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Because these countries are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Iraqi refugees are not afforded the protection and basic human rights of most refugees in other countries. Thus, a majority of Iraqi refugees cannot legally work in the countries they have fled to and lack access to basic health, social services and education. While the United States government has done much to support Iraqi refugees, more can be done to support this vulnerable population.

What do you want me to do? Contact President Obama and your members of Congress with this message:

  1. Thank them for fulfilling the United States’ moral responsibility to Iraqi refugees by continuing to support refugee host governments. Thank President Obama for recent allocation of additional funding to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to facilitate refugees’ reintegration into Iraqi society.
  2. Urge your members of Congress to support robust funding of poverty-focused international assistance in fiscal year 2012, critical to ensuring continued assistance for Iraqi and other refugees across the globe.
  3. Urge your members of Congress and President Obama to work together to develop and implement a long-term solution for Iraqi refugees before U.S. troop withdrawal, including:
    • Encouraging the Iraqi government to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees to Iraq and including them into long-term development plans for the country;
    • Significantly increasing resettlement rates to the United States by a minimum 25,000 refugees annually over the next five years while streamlining lengthy security checks;
    • Leading other donors to robustly assist those countries hosting refugees and those agencies responding to the needs of Iraqi refugees;
    • Focusing on vulnerable refugees, especially religious minorities and female-headed households.

Take Action Now! E-mail, fax or print and mail your members of Congress from our Action Center:

https://secure.crs.org/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=723&autologin=true&JServSessionIdr004=mnqgvaw3x2.app246b

 

Patenting Human Organism Ban Included in Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), a bill to update patent law. The Manager’s Amendment accompanying the bill to the floor included a provision to prohibit the patenting of a human organism: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism” (Sec. 30(a)). On June 23, the House approved the Manager’s Amendment. No challenge was made to the patenting ban. This ban codifies in permanent law a policy that has been in appropriations law since fiscal year 2004, through an amendment that was offered by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL). The Weldon Amendment reflects a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) policy in place since 1987. 

Thanks to all those who responded to the Action Alert urging Representatives to support this provision in H.R. 1249. The version of the America Invents Act (S. 23) passed by the U.S. Senate does not incorporate the ban. House and Senate must come to agreement on a final bill.

Immigration Legislation Introduced in the Senate

On June 21, legislation to overhaul the immigration system was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011,” sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL) , Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and John Kerry (D-MA), a bill that would provide a legal path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants.

The introduction of the legislation follows a Judiciary Committee hearing held last week on a proposal to mandate use of the federal electronic verification system (E-verify) by all employers to verify a person’s eligibility to work in the U.S. The legislation proposed by the Senate Democrats would pair E-verify with an overhaul of the current immigration system. 

As introduced the bill would:

  • Create a new status, called Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI), that would authorize undocumented non-criminal immigrants and their families to work  
    and to travel abroad;
  • Allow immigrants with LPI status to remain is U.S. for four years and to extend status after this four year period;
  • Require undocumented immigrant applicants to wait six to eight years for permanent residency, learn English, undergo a background check, pay a $500
    fine, application fee and submit biometric data;
  • Provide an opportunity to obtain a green card after paying an additional $1,000 fine;
  • Allow young adults brought into the U.S. as children, an opportunity to earn legal permanent status and put them path to citizenship provided they attend college or join the military;
  • Mandate that all employers use E-verify; and
  • Create a commission to study expanding the guest worker program.

It is uncertain whether the proposal will move forward in the Senate given the measure has yet to receive bipartisan support. 

Debt Limit Budget Update

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) pulled out of deficit talks led by Vice President Joe Biden and the task of reaching an agreement on raising the debt limit now falls to President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. 

With the prospect of an August 2 government default looming over the proceedings, the two top leaders must agree to a deficit agreement that could deliver cuts to areas such as Medicare, appropriations and defense spending. 

The Biden-led talks ended because there is no support in the House for a tax increase, according to Cantor. He said the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue. The Republicans want the White House to agree to large spending cuts. The Democrats want any spending cut plan to be accompanied with tax increases as part of a “balanced” approach. 

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said his department can avoid a default on government debt no later than August 2, adding a sense of urgency to the talks between Obama and Boehner. But the differences in opinion between the parties mean that both leaders will be hard pressed to work out a deal that will satisfy both sides. 

Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor the developments in this very critical and sensitive Congressional and Administration issue. 

House Approves Spending for Agriculture Programs

On June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Spending Bill (HR 2112), by a vote of 217 to 203. The $125.5 billion bill reduces funding for discretionary programs by $3 billion from FY2011 levels and includes significant cuts to nutrition and rural development programs.

As passed by the chamber, the $17.3 billion in discretionary funding would: 

  • Allocate $6.048 billion to fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The program was funded at $6.7 billion in FY2011;
  • Reduce funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) from $178.8 million in FY2011 to $138.5 million in FY2012;
  • Cap mandatory commodity funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program at $200 million for FY2012, a $51 million decrease from FY2011;
  • Maintain benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including remaining funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; and
  • Provide $20 million, a $5 million increase in funding, for the WIC Farmers’ Market Program. 

Now that the House has passed its version of the FY2012 Agriculture Spending Bill, the debate will turn to the Senate. To see how your Representative voted on the bill, please click here.

To view text of the legislation, please click  

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr2112rh/pdf/BILLS-112hr2112rh.pdf

Aging Resources

Cool Websites: Caregiving Survey – This study looks at the costs that working caregivers incur. Visit www.metlife.com/mmi/research/caregiving-cost-working-caregivers.html

Health Insurance: – The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a new federally funded program that enables US citizens to sign up for health insurance if they have a pre-existing condition.  For eligibility guidelines and other info, visit http://www.pcip.gov/

Transportation Report – The “Aging in Place: Stuck without Options” report looks at the growing transportation gap for elders. Visit http://www.t4america.org/

Caregiver Contest – The 3in4 Need More Association has created a “get your life back” contest for long-term caregivers, rewarding the top applicant with a makeover worth over $50,000.  Entrants should submit their essays or videos describing the difficulties they face supporting parents and loved ones in their elder years. The contest runs through September 30, 2011.  For info, visit “Share your Story” page at http://www.3in4needmore.com/.

ADA Accommodationshttp://www.askjan.org/ provides information on workplace accommodations for people under the American Disabilities Act. 

Prayer Resources 

Prayer for Flood Victims

God our Father,

In faith we acknowledge your protective care over us, your sons, daughters and children. In hope we trust in your divine providence. Give us wisdom and courage as we face these difficult days of flooding. In love we ask for your help and guidance during this challenge in life.

Bless all who extend their helping hands to those in need of food, shelter and clothing and who share their time, talents and resources with others.

Inspire more people to imitate Christ in service to their neighbors, convinced that the more they are for others, the taller they stand before you, God our Father.

Most of all, we pray that whatever may come from this struggle may unfold according to your divine will and be for our spiritual good and growth.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Most Reverend Paul A. Zipfel, Diocese of Bismarck