Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

“In a word, concern for the environment calls for…a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples.” Pope Benedict XVI, 2010 World Day of Peace Message.

 

“In a word, concern for the environment calls for…a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples.” Pope Benedict XVI, 2010 World Day of Peace Message

Respect Life Sunday, October 3 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Is celebrated on the first Sunday in October, as designated by the U.S. Bishops. This year’s theme is: The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.  Every parish has received a USCCB packet with liturgical ideas and educational resources on timely social issues, including: Death Penalty, Pro-Life Youth, End of Life Care, Losing a Child to Suicide, and Sex Trafficking.  This year’s liturgy guide offers Intercessions for Life, suggested preaching reflections for Respect Life Sunday and January 22, a “Litany for Life,” and a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program brings Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and the wider public. The program combines education, prayer, service and advocacy.  Respect Life Sunday is observed in virtually all of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States.

All resources are available in English and Spanish and may be ordered or downloaded from:  www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/index.shtml, or call the Office of Advocacy and Justice, 407-246-4819. 

Early Voting for Primary Election Begins Monday, August 9
Don’t miss your chance to make your voice be heard.  The polls are open now until Election Day, Tuesday, August 24.  Visit the website of your county Supervisor of Elections for voting times and locations.

Before heading to the polls, be sure to check out our Candidate Questionnaire Project to see candidate responses to questions pertaining to human life and dignity and the common good.

Click here for Candidate Questionnaire Project

Click here for Supervisor of Elections

Knights of Columbus Holy Family Council 9236 Annual Pro-Life Seminar
On Saturday, September 18 the Knights of Columbus Holy Family Council will host a pro-life seminar at St. Andrew Catholic Church, Orlando. The guest speaker will be Fr. Peter West from the Priests for Life along with Loretta Fleming from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment and Deborah Shearer with the Office of Advocacy and Justice. Conference fee is $20 and includes lunch. Deadline to register is September 15. To sign up; email:
council9236@me.com or call 407-656-8617.

Catholic Coalition on Climate Change to Train Leaders to Promote Catholic Approach to Climate Change
The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change urges you to consider becoming trained as a member of our Speakers Bureau.  The Bureau is being created to meet the increasing demand by schools, parishes, and other organizations to understand better Catholic teaching on this important moral issue.  Trainings will be this December and in early March 2011.  Candidates must first complete the application here.

Climate Change is Theme for Catholic Relief Service’s Food Fast
Food Fast, a 24-hour hunger awareness retreat, is a great way to engage youth in prayer and action on behalf of the world’s poor. This year, CRS’s Food Fast invites participants to hear the call to care for God’s creation by looking at how climate change affects food security in the poorest places on Earth. Food Fast also encourages youth to join the U.S. Bishop/CRS initiative: Catholics Confront Global Poverty
www.usccb.org/sdwp/globalpoverty/  and become one of a million Catholics working to end global poverty and hunger.  Order free materials at  www.foodfast.org.  See the CRS video about the Food Fast here.  If you would like more information or the DVD on the program, contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice at advocacyjustice@orlandodiocese.org

Update on Climate Legislation
Hope for passage of comprehensive climate change legislation is all but over for the 111th Congress.  The Senate leadership did not even bring to the floor the scaled back version of a climate bill-one that would have focused only on energy and oil-spill response-before they adjourned for the August recess.  It is unlikely that any bill will surface again before the elections in November and the 112th Congress begins in January.

Coalition partners will continue to meet with members of Congress and administration officials to push for our key priorities: protecting poor people at home and abroad from the impacts of climate change and climate change legislative remedies that address climate change.  Please read more here.

Archdiocese of Cincinnati Encourages Parishes to Go Green
Five parishes and a high school have applied for and received grants amounting to $125,000 for retrofitting and energy-saving improvements to their buildings in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, an early endorser of the Catholic Climate Covenant.  In addition, the Archdiocese will place large bins at parishes to help recycle parish festival waste in 2011.  “What is heartening is that, whether one believes specifically that humans are causing change, most people … agree that we can all be better stewards of God’s creation,” said Tony Stieritz, director of the Archdiocese’s Catholic Social Action Commission. “We can all move forward to mitigate our impacts on the earth.”  
Read more here.

Extreme Weather Events Severely Impact Rural Populations Worldwide
As the United States itself deals with heat waves and environmental disasters, we do not neglect other nations also facing extreme weather events. These include very dry conditions in Russia (and subsequent forest fires) and heavy flooding in various parts of Asia due to monsoon rains. Pakistan has been particularly hard hit with flooded rivers wiping out many rural communities. We draw your attention to a special appeal by Catholic Relief Services.

These extreme weather events may not be a direct effect of global warming, but it is important to note that these are the kind of weather events that the world can expect under rapid climate change. Our prudent response is to urgently begin the mitigation of climate change through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, we should implement well-funded programs of adaptation in expectation to the extreme weather events of climate change.

If you find yourself still facing arguments by skeptics, or perhaps trying to convince policy-makers to act now on climate change, here is a summary of skeptic arguments — and a simple response based on science.  For other information see:  www.catholicclimatecovenant.org.

Confused about USDA Programs? See their “Programs at a Glance”
USDA programs can often seem enigmatic and confusing.  Many farmers, rural development and conservation groups in need of financial or technical assistance are often either unaware of what USDA programs exist, or lack access to the assistance they seek. The USDA recently published a blog called “USDA Programs at Glance” with links to memorandum outlining programs that can be used to foster local and regional food systems in four areas of USDA: Rural Development, Farm Service Agency; Agriculture Marketing Service; and Research, Education & Economics.

Institute for Theological Encounter with Science & Technology
The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science & Technology will host its 2010 conference on the theme “Food, Glorious Food — Bioengineered and Organically Produced.” The conference will take place on September 25 at the Cardinal Rigali Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Organizers welcome “all who are interested in how our food is grown, produced (organically or bio-engineered) and distributed.” Please visit the Institute’s website for details about speakers and how to register.

Advocacy Efforts:

Senate Approves State Aid Package
On August 5, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that will provide over $26 billion in aid to states. The “Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2010,” (HR 1586) passed the Senate by a vote of 61 to 39. The package includes $10 billion to pay for education related jobs and $16.1billion for enhanced Medicaid payments to states for the next six months.  While the bill included important provisions to save teacher jobs and could potentially improve access to health services for low-income individuals, it was paid for by reducing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  In order to keep the state aid package from adding to the federal deficit, Senators used $11.9 billion in revenues from SNAP.

Catholic Charities USA, along with a large coalition of nutrition advocates, urged members of the Senate not to take funds from SNAP to pay for the state aid package. In a letter to both the Senate and House, the coalition urged congressional leaders not to fund other federal programs at the expense of hungry families. They stressed that over 40 million vulnerable Americans depend on SNAP, and that during these challenging economic times it is critical to maintain a strong nutrition safety net.  You can access the SNAP Offset letter here. More information on the legislation is available here.

Senate Passes Child Nutrition Bill — Thank You For Your Advocacy
Last week, the Senate passed a much needed re-authorization bill for the Child Nutrition Program. We appreciate the efforts of those who contacted their senators and asked that this be fully funded before Congress went on summer recess. The bill includes $40 million in mandatory funding for the Farm to School competitive grants program, a measure that many in the sustainable agriculture and nutrition community have helped champion.
 
It is important to note, however, that some compromises had to occur, including a major change to how the bill is paid for. The original bill, passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee back in March was partly paid for with $2.2 billion from the conservation program called Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Last week’s child nutrition bill now replaces the controversial cuts to EQIP with equally controversial cuts to SNAP (food stamp) benefits for millions of Americans. Specifically, this money comes from shortening the time frame for the temporary increase in SNAP benefits included in the 2009 stimulus bill.
 
As the legislation moves back to the House, NCRLC will continue to urge our network to press the House leaders and sponsors to avoid cuts to food stamps, conservation or other farm bill funding when developing its offset package. Instead, we believe Congress should close regressive tax loopholes which can only benefit the wealthy and distort the economy, not serve the needs of the vulnerable.  Time is running short for final action. The current child nutrition provisions expire on September 30. Stay tuned for further updates and alerts.

Grassley-Feingold Bring Back Commodity Cap Bill
Last week in Congress, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced
the Rural America Preservation Act (bill number not yet assigned) would cap commodity payments at not greater than $250,000 a year for any one farm. It would reduce the annual cap on direct payments from $80,000 to $40,000 per farm and the annual cap on counter-cyclical payments from $130,000 to $60,000 per farm. Other type of payments would be capped at $150,000 per farm per year. (Under current law there is no effective limit on payments.)

Along with family farm and sustainable ag groups, NCRLC has been an advocate of this kind of legislation over many years and continues to urge its adoption.

Urge Your Representative to Support a Peaceful and Stable Sudan by Co-Sponsoring House Resolution 1588
Download in PDF.

Take action now! Contact your Representative now and urge him/her to co-sponsor the bipartisan House Resolution 1588 that supports full implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement and efforts to promote peace and stability in Sudan.

Why is action important now? Sudan is at a crossroads.  The volatile situation in the country – not just in the Darfur region, but also the tenuous peace between northern and southern Sudan brought about by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – is becoming more serious.  The country is bracing for a referendum early next year when southern Sudan will decide if it will secede from the north.  The potential for increased violence, death, and displacement as a result of renewed war is real.  Significant steps must be taken to avert such a disaster.

What does H. Res. 1588 do? Representatives Capuano (MA), McCaul (TX), Payne (NJ), Smith(NJ) and Wolf (VA) have introduced H.Res. 1588, similar to Senate Resolution 404 passed earlier this year,  that signals the United States’ strong commitment to prevent increased violence and promote peace and stability in all of Sudan.  The resolution specifically calls on President Obama to strengthen engagement on this issue and on the international community to coordinate their efforts closely. It urges the responsible actors in Sudan to comply with the provisions of the CPA, resolve outstanding issues, and avoid actions that escalate tensions.

What is the Church’s position? The Catholic bishops of Sudan have raised serious concerns about the situation in their country.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are taking action in light of  the potential for increased violence to avert conflict by assisting  people in need, promoting reconciliation, and advocating for strong U.S. leadership for peace.  CRS and USCCB support H. Res. 1588 and urge all members of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor this important resolution.

What does the situation in Sudan have to do with my Catholic faith? Our Catholic faith calls on us to uphold the life and dignity of all human life and to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.  Conflict in Sudan has already cost millions of lives, displaced millions more, and deepened widespread poverty.  As Catholics, we must take action to prevent violence and save lives as well as assist our neighbors in need.

How is the Catholic Church promoting peace and stability in Sudan? CRS has worked in Sudan since 1972 and is currently active in Darfur, southern Sudan and in the capital, Khartoum.  Working in partnership with the Catholic Church in Sudan and with affected communities, our focus in Darfur is to provide humanitarian assistance such as food and essential household items as well as establishment of shelters for people displaced by the violence.  Throughout the country, we also promote development assistance through education, agriculture, water and sanitation and health care initiatives and support peace efforts that strengthen civil society and civic education.

The USCCB has been working closely with the Catholic Church in Sudan, with delegations repeatedly visiting the country, including Darfur, and playing an active role in the U.S. policy debate. Visit: www.usccb.org/sdwp/globalpoverty/ for more information.

Summary of Domestic and International Advocacy Efforts
Thank you for your efforts to promote life and dignity through your advocacy on issues affecting our brothers and sisters in the United States and around the world!  Below is a summary of advocacy efforts during the last two months, what has been accomplished, and what you can do to follow-up with your Congresspersons during the August 9-September 12 recess.

Domestic Updates
Unemployment Assistance: In July, you were asked to urge your Senators to extend unemployment insurance benefits for laid-off workers through November 2010.  On July 21, the Senate voted 59-39 to do just that, providing Extended Unemployment benefits to millions of people who are without work and granting back payments to about 2.5 million people who have been out of work for six months or more and have seen their jobless benefits lapse. The House passed the bill (HR 4213) quickly thereafter and the President signed it into law on July 22, 2010.  Thank you for your hard work! You are making a difference!

Tax Credits for Low-Income Persons: We asked Congress to protect and strengthen key tax credits that make a difference to low-income workers and their families, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. Both of these provisions are part of the broader tax legislation passed in 2001 and 2003 (known as the “Bush Tax Cuts”) that will expire on Dec. 31 if Congress does nothing. Although no legislation has been introduced, there is much debate about the pros and cons of extending the tax cuts. The EITC and CTC help low-income and middle-income families trying to pay their mortgage, catching up on payments after a job loss, or paying for school clothes. Please continue to urge Congress to extend these credits regardless of whether or not they extend other tax cuts.

Housing: Catholics across the U.S. participated in a sign-on letter to urge Congress to provide funding for the National Housing Trust Fund as a way to help communities build and preserve housing for people with the lowest incomes, as well as to create needed jobs. You can continue to urge Congress to include funding for the Housing Trust Fund in economic recovery or jobs legislation when it returns from recess.

International Updates
Nuclear Weapons:  We asked those of you whose Senator is a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations to urge them to support the New START Treaty, which reduces U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and implements new verification requirements.  The Committee is expected to take up action after the August recess (the week of Sept. 15).  Please continue to urge your senators to support the New START Treaty when it comes to the Senate floor in the fall.

Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Due to your successful advocacy efforts, provisions are now included in the financial reform bill requiring large U.S. companies to take steps, including regular audits, to ensure that the minerals used in their products are not financing militia violence in the eastern Congo. The bill also allows companies to label goods as “conflict mineral-free” and directs the U.S. government to develop a strategy that addresses the links among human rights abuses and illegal extraction of minerals from the Congo.  Thanks to your advocacy efforts, the prayers of the Church and people in DRC have been answered.

Accountability and Extractive Industries: Thanks to your efforts, the financial reform legislation also now includes a provision requiring large U.S. companies that extract minerals, oil, and gas to publish what they pay to the governments of the countries in which they work. This requirement will make it easier for civil society in those countries to hold their governments accountable for how these revenues are used.  Thanks to your successful advocacy efforts, poor and vulnerable people throughout the world will benefit.

Haiti:  We asked you to urge Congress to provide much-needed emergency relief and funds for long-term reconstruction in Haiti. Congress passed the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP, S. 3275 and H.R. 5160) and the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery Act for Haiti (H.R. 4573 and S. 2961) and both pieces of legislation were signed by the President.   These are huge victories that will help Haiti to recover and rebuild. We are deeply thankful for your support of Haiti as it struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake.

FY 2010 Supplemental Budget Request:  Thanks in part to your advocacy around the Emergency Supplemental, Congress approved $ 2.8 billion for Haiti (our ask was $2.5 billion), of which $1.23 billion went to relief and reconstruction, $943 to debt relief, and $150 million to food assistance.  Of the $1.597 billion we requested for global emergency needs, Congress approved $165 million for migration and refugee assistance and $460 million for International Disaster Assistance.  Although the amounts allocated for global emergency needs did not reach the levels CRS and USCCB had requested, in these difficult economic times, the additional funds are welcome and will save lives and help protect human dignity.

Land Mines:  We asked you to let President Obama and your Senators know that you support a comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy so that the U.S. can join the Mine Ban Treaty. While that review is in process, you can still voice your support for the Mine Ban Treaty.

Peace in the Holy Land:  We continue to urge strong U.S. leadership for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a secure and recognized Israel living alongside an independent and viable Palestinian state.  In addition to your grassroots advocacy, Christian leaders, including Bishop Dennis Madden, have met with a high ranking Administration official to urge action for a just peace.

Sudan: We asked you to urge President Obama to do everything he can to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and other efforts to promote peace and stability in Sudan.  Thanks to your efforts and the recent visit by Bishop Daniel Adwok and Bishop Rudolf Deng of Sudan to meet with key Administration officials and a number of members of Congress, Sudan is getting more attention.  A number of members of Congress are now contacting the Administration about this issue.  In addition, Special U.S. Envoy Scott Gration met with the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), of which the Catholic Church is a member, to listen to their concerns. 

Reduce Nuclear Weapons and Enhance Child Survival:  We urged members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to support the Global Security Priorities Resolution (H.Res. 278) which would use savings from nuclear weapons reductions to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and to support child survival programs in developing nations, a real “swords into plowshares” initiative.  The Committee has not yet acted. If your representative is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, please continue to express your support for this Resolution.

You can find out if your Congresspersons co-sponsored particular legislation and how they voted on particular legislation by entering the bill number at www.congress.gov.  We hope that during the August 9 – September 12 recess you will visit or contact your Congresspersons to thank them for their support when appropriate and to ask for their support on other issues. Thank you for your continued advocacy in support of human life and dignity!

Psalm 46: God is our Refuge
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and
   mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging.
The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
 
Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day.
Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, God’s voice thunders and the earth trembles. The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
See more NCRLC Seasonal Prayers on the new website.