Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

 

Calendar of Events
Click here to learn about the latest events hosted by the Office of Advocacy and Justice.

Pope Encourages Contemplation and Protection of Nature

After praying the midday Angelus on Sunday, July 10, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged those gathered in Castel Gondolfo to value nature and teach their children to do the same. In his message, the Holy Father said, I would like to recommend that during this time of vacation, you revivify your spirits by contemplating the splendors of Creation. Parents, teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel—the parable of the sower—Pope Benedict noted that, Jesus used the language of nature to explain to his disciples the mysteries of the Kingdom. May the images he uses become familiar to us. Read more here.

U.S. Bishops and Catholic Relief Services Link Deficit Talks and Climate Change

In a joint letter to the U.S. House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said that morally appropriate efforts must be made to reduce the nation’s deficit and debt but extreme care should be taken to ensure that cuts don’t disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people.
The letter, co-signed by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president of CRS, identified climate change as one of the challenges which must be addressed because its impacts place additional burdens on the poor:

[T]he United States has a moral imperative to maintain its commitment to assist the poorest people in the poorest places on earth as they face the global impacts of the economic downturn, climate change, and food crisis. Read the entire letter here.

Book Review: God, Creation and Climate Change

God, Creation and Climate Change (Richard W. Miller, Editor, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y.), which recently won second place in the category “Faith and Science” at the Catholic Press Association annual book awards, is the featured book review in this month’s edition of Health Progress, the journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. The review, written by Coalition staff member and CHA Mission Intern Dan DiLeo, reads in part:

As climate change intersects health care and Catholic mission, God, Creation, and Climate Change: A Catholic Response to the Environmental Crisis … can help Catholic health care professionals obtain an advanced understanding of how the church is responding to climate change and how the Catholic health care ministry might continue to do so.

The review considers some of the book’s essays in light of the Catholic health care ministry, and concludes by saying that this book is a valuable and highly recommended resource for leadership formation programs and mission teams within Catholic health care who seek a deep understanding of climate change within the Judeo-Christian faith. Read the entire review here.

Sustainability Example: Detroit’s Nativity of our Lord Catholic Church

Nativity of our Lord Catholic Church in Detroit has taken the message of “being good stewards of the earth” seriously as shown by their very positive environmental activities. In particular, the Nativity has invited speakers to discuss reducing carbon footprints, held sustainability workshops, reduced waste management costs by 50% through aggressive recycling, upgraded lights and windows, reduced water use, created a parish garden, and composted yard waste for the local 4H community center.

Learn more about Nativity’s sustainability experience and how you can use their ideas to more fully care for God’s Creation in your own parish.

NCRLC Survey on Energy Use and Climate Change

NCRLC is conducting an online survey among our network members to examine the level of Catholic awareness of the Church’s involvement in economic and environmental justice issues. Specifically, we are looking at energy issues and climate change concerns.

We invite you to click into the survey, which should take no more than 15 minutes. All responses will be kept confidential and grouped with hundreds of other responses to maintain individual anonymity. The results of the survey will help us develop new educational materials that better show how Catholic social teaching is applied to environmental and energy use concerns.

“Environmental Sacramentality” commentary by Rev. Bud Grant

Father Bud Grant, Assistant Professor of Theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, offers a reflection on “Environmental Sacramentality” on our NCRLC website. He begins with a recollection of a visit to the basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy, which later triggers a revelation when celebrating the Eucharist with his rural Iowa parish. “Looking at the consecrated host on the altar,” he writes, “I uttered a spontaneous creed: ‘If this is not holy, nothing is holy. Because this is holy, everything is holy.'”

All of Creation is sacralized into the Body of Christ, he offers. Another truth came to him as priest when breaking the host in full view of the congregation: “It is only by His brokenness that we are made whole.” You can read all of Fr. Grant’s commentaries, plus other guest contributors, by visiting our new Commentary web section.

Preparing for Food Day 2011: July 28 webinar

Food Day is a new nationwide effort to improve health, the environment, and food security. On and around October 24, 2011, people will gather at events big and small, from coast to coast to celebrate America’s bountiful, delicious food supply; learn about problems; and advocate for improved policies.

NCRLC is partnering with the coalition of groups around this campaign to make the first Food Day a success. You can celebrate Food Day by organizing an event in your community, school, or at home. To help you do this, a Food Day webinar will be held on July 28th at 3:30pm (Eastern). The webinar will provide an overview of the state of food security in the United States, as well as provide tips on how you can help organize around Food Day 2011.

Reserve your Webinar spot here. After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

Advocacy Efforts:

Senators Propose Medicare Changes

On June 28, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced a new plan that would adjust Medicare’s eligibility and payment structure. The bill’s sponsors say the proposal would reduce Medicare spending by $600 billion over the next 10 years.

As introduced the bill would:

  • Raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. This increase would occur in two month increments starting with people turning 65 in 2014 until the threshold reaches 67 in 2025. Doing so is projected to save $124 billion over 10 years.
  • Increase Part B premiums for individuals making more than $150K a year o couples making more than $300K a year. Under the plan, they would have to pay 100 percent of the costs of their Part B coverage, which covers non-hospital doctor’s care. Currently, premiums are now covered at 25 percent. The projected savings would be between $5-10 billion over 10 years.
  • Establish a combined annual deductible of $550 for both Part A and Part B Services and restructure Medigap Coverage that picks up costs not covered by Medicare. Out-of-pocket expenses would be capped at $7,500 a year. For individuals with incomes between $160,000-213,000, expenses would be capped at $22,500. The projected savings would be $130 million over 10 years.
  • Phase out Medicare payments for bad hospital debt. Currently, Medicare reimburses hospitals and providers for unpaid deductibles and copayments. Eliminating this reimbursement is expected to save $23 billion over 10 years.
  • Increase Part B premiums for Medicare beneficiaries by 2 percent over 5 years, including a “hold harmless” provision that would prevent an increase in the Part B premium in the event if it would be larger than the Social Security annual cost-of-living adjustment. The projected cost savings is $241 billion over 10 years.

While the proposal is said to be too controversial to pass as a whole package, elements of the proposal could be included in debt negotiations or longer term discussions on Medicare.

Debt Limit Update

With an August 2nd deadline approaching, President Obama and Congress remain at odds in their negotiations to avoid forcing the first Federal government default on debt obligations in U.S. history. Congress, which has the authority to raise the debt limit, is responsible for making sure the Treasury department is able to cover the government’s financial obligations through 2012.

For the Republicans in the House, they are adamant that any debt limit deal must include no tax increases. Democrats, led by President Obama, take the position that any budget reductions must include tax increases requiring the nation’s top earners to pay their “fair share.” “We need to take on spending in domestic programs, in defense programs, in entitlement programs, and we need to take on spending in the tax code, spending on certain tax breaks and deductions for the wealthiest of Americans,” Obama said. “This will require both parties to get out of our comfort zones and both parties to agree on real compromise.”

Republican leaders have vowed to oppose any tax increases, while leaving open a small possibility of increasing revenue through ending some tax loopholes or raising user fees. The bottom line for the Republicans is that any effort to raise the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts of an equal amount. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned that any plan to increase taxes “cannot pass the House, as I have stated repeatedly…I’m happy to discuss these issues at the White House, but such discussions will be fruitless until the President recognizes economic and legislative reality.”

President Obama has invited the top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to a meeting at the White House on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 for a summit to attempt to hammer out a deal that all parties can agree on and avoid a default on the nation’s debt.

Senate Committee holds DREAM Act Hearing

On June 28, the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee held the first-ever hearing on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The legislation addresses the plight of immigrant children who grew up in the U.S. and graduated from high school, but cannot attend college because of current immigration laws.

Witnesses at the hearing included:

  • Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, who testified to the importance of the DREAM Act for our country, the benefits to our economy and the armed forces
  • Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, who testified to his Department’s support for the legislation and its importance for our country’s global competitiveness
  • Clifford Stanley, Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), who discussed the DREAM Act and its impact on our Armed Forces.
  • Ola Kaso, an immigrant student, who shared her experience as a child coming into the U.S. legally thirteen years ago and excelling in her education, but who now faces deportation in less than a year.

If enacted by Congress, the DREAM Act would put children of undocumented immigrants on a path to legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship if they attend college or join the military for two years. The Act would apply to those children who entered the U.S. prior to age 16, have lived in the United States for at least five years, and have graduated from high school. In addition, the proposal would allow students to attend college at in-state tuition rates.

It is unlikely that the bill will receive consideration in the House. As previously reported, Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that the measure could be attached to a web-based employment proposal expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives. In addition, the Congressional Quarterly reported that expanding the E-Verify system is a top priority of House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is expected to introduce such legislation later this year. To view testimony and/or the webcast from the DREAM Act Hearing, please visit this link.