Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

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Calendar of Events

For a recent Calendar of Events, click here. 

Stewards of the Earth

Pope Francis Continues to Emphasize Creation Care

In the past week, Pope Francis has continued to emphasize the importance of creation care in many of his public statements:

In his audience with an ecumenical and interfaith group he said:

  • The Church is likewise conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect.
  • [A]ll those men and women who, although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, are nonetheless searching for truth, goodness and beauty, the truth, goodness and beauty of God [. . .] are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in safeguarding and caring for creation.

In his address to the diplomatic corps:

  • Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

In his homily on Palm Sunday he noted:

  • When we were small, our grandmother used to say: a shroud has no pocket. Love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – as each one of us knows and is aware – our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbor and towards the whole of creation.

 

Easter Message

In his Easter Sunday Urbi Et Orbi message, Pope Francis echoed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words (in Benedict’s inaugural homily) saying, How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross!  Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbor, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us.  God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones.

He continued: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. …  Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

 

Press Looks Ahead to Francis’s Potential Environmental Legacy

Commenting on the environmental potential of Pope Francis’ pontificate, Chris Bain, director of the Catholic development agency CAFOD, said in a recent article, I hope he will put global poverty, climate change and environmental degradation higher up the church agenda.

In a similar way, National Geographic recently published an article reflecting on what the environmental legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI might mean for Pope Francis: How Green Was the ‘Green Pope’?  One of Benedict’s lasting legacies might be how he steered the global debate over climate change.

 

Earth Day

Is just around the corner.   Feel free to promote the Sun Come Up Education Initiative in your school, parish or other group offered by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has revised the Education Kits and Facilitator’s Guides since the launch of this program last fall.  Using these guides, as well as the bulletin inserts, flyers, and other promotional material, we encourage you to schedule a screening of Sun Come Up in celebration of Earth Day (April 22).  Directions for how to order the film at a discount rate are also found on the Sun Come Up Resources page

Coalition Adds New Resources to Website

We hope you continue to find the Coalition’s website a one-stop shop for the Church’s witness on climate change and environmental justice.  We have updated the site with additional and revised resources including: Annotated Bibliography of Catholic Statements on Energy: The Coalition has compiled an annotated bibliography of important Catholic statements and articles on key energy issues. The resource, which includes information on Clean Energy, Tar Sands, Fracking/Natural Gas, and Nuclear, can be viewed online.

 

University of Portland Takes St. Francis Pledge

The Coalition is pleased to announce that the University of Portland (OR), a Catholic school in the tradition of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, has become a Catholic Climate Covenant Partner by institutionally endorsing the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.  

University of Portland president Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C, signed the Pledge on March 28, and a press release notes that University of Portland is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada, according to The Princeton Review [. . .] Among the University of Portland’s many other sustainability highlights, it is one of the only schools in the country with a LEED Platinum certified building – Donald P. Shiley Hall – making it one of the most energy efficient and environmentally sustainable buildings in the world. In 2010, University of Portland was the first college in the West to ban the sale of disposable plastic water bottles, helping start a national trend.

The University of Portland is the sixteenth Catholic college/university to take the St. Francis Pledge.   View all of the Covenant partners here.

 

Students at Jesuit Universities Encouraged Divestment

Students and alumni at several Jesuit Universities have encouraged their institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel corporations in response to climate change and Catholic, Jesuit mission.

In an article titled Catholic Identity Requires BC’s Divestment From Fossil Fuels in The Heights, students from BC Fossil Free write that Boston College President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. and the BC Board of Trustees have both the precedent and obligation to pursue total and expedient divestment of the University’s endowment from fossil fuel corporations in order to fully live the school’s Catholic, Jesuit mission.

Similarly, A Campus Call to Divest from Fossil Fuels from the Ignatian Solidarity Network reports about the divestment efforts happening at Georgetown University. Georgetown sophomore Sydney Browning is part of GU Fossil Free and says that Catholic, Jesuit schools have a special set of values that I admire and want to dedicate my life to, and I think that divestment adheres to those values. In order to adhere to these values, we should look at these companies that are violating human rights and the environment. As students we have a distinct responsibility to fight for divestment.

 

U.S. Senate Cites Climate Change Work of Faith Communities

The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Commerce released a statement that highlights the work that faith communities continue to do in response to climate change. The statement reads that [f]aith leaders described climate change as a moral issue, and expressed concern that low-income communities across the globe are disproportionately affected by climate change.

In the statement, U.S. Representative Edward Markey (MA) said, People of faith recognize the moral imperative to protect God’s creation.  This was underscored as the world watched the Catholic Church install a new Pope who chose the name Francis and reminded us all the importance of loving and guarding all creation.

Congressman Henry Waxman (CA) said, We are called upon to be good stewards of our environment and to address this serious issue before irreparable harm is done.  Protecting the climate is one of the great moral challenges of our time.  

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) noted: These urgent calls from religious leaders of so many faiths, and these conscientious actions by individual houses of worship, demonstrate the powerful connection men and women of faith feel to the wonders of creation and to our fellow humankind.

Advocacy Efforts

Farm Bill Action Coming this Month

When members of Congress return next week after their Easter break, it is expected that movement on a new Farm Bill will begin. That means we must be ready to express support for programs most appropriate to sustainable agriculture and family farms. It also means calls for adequate funding of these programs. Throughout April, we will update the Ag & Food section on our website and provide timely alerts to our network via our eBulletin.

Members of Congress will also put forward “marker bills” in the coming days as a way to introduce important programs and reforms in our federal agricultural policies. Please stay tuned!

The Senate is About to Vote on Legislation to Reduce Gun Violence!

Contact Your Senators and Urge Them to Support Legislation That Will Help Reduce Gun Violence! 

Take Action Now!

ACTION: Following the Easter recess, the Senate is expected to take up legislation to address gun violence. Call or email your Senators today and tell them to support provisions that will help defend human life by strengthening regulation of firearms. Tell them to support policies that:

  • Require universal background checks for all gun purchases;
  • Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; and,
  • Make gun trafficking a federal crime;

The Senate is discerning what the final legislation to be considered will provide. Amendments will be permitted to be offered to the main bill. Tell them to support amendments that: 

  • Ban assault weapons; and,
  • Resist expanding minimum mandatory sentences as punishment for gun violations.

All of us must respond to what Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, called our “innate vocation to peace,” and build a culture of life in our homes, our streets, our communities and in our world now, more than ever.

USCCB POSITION/CHURCH TEACHING: In 2000, the U.S. bishops issued their pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. In this statement the bishops called for all people to work for a culture of life and to do more to end violence in our homes and in particular, legislators should: 

  1. Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms;
  2. Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts to prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner);
  3. Call for sensible regulations of handguns;
  4. Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons, including assault weapons;      and,
  5. Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime. 

Please also see recent USCCB testimony on gun violence submitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary by clicking here.

For more information, including updates and alerts, see the USCCB Take Action Now page by clicking here. Thank you for your dedication and advocacy on behalf of human life and dignity.

Immigration Legislation Could Eliminate Some Family Visas

Adult family members of U.S. citizens could find it more difficult to obtain a visa under a new proposal being discussed by a bi-partisan Senate group. As part of discussions around comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration system, some Senators are considering revamping the visa program to place a higher emphasis on highly-educated workers.

Under current law, spouses and minor children of citizens are given preferred status in immigration decisions, followed by unmarried adult children, married adult children, and adult siblings. According to reports, the proposal currently being developed by the so-called “Gang of 8” and expected to be released in early April, would significantly reduce the visas available to married adult children and adult siblings of citizens.

According to reports, the waiting list to obtain a family visa currently has 4.3 million people.  Catholic Charities USA supports immigration policies that not only promote border security, but also strengthen families and provide a path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship for undocumented workers and their families. To learn more, please see this January 2013 statement or contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org

 

USCCB Mass in Support of Immigrant Families – April 10

Thousands of people from across the United States will gather in Washington, D. C. to support comprehensive immigration reform.  Join fellow Catholics in prayerful solidarity for immigrant families and to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform at St. Aloysius Catholic Church at 10 am, April 10.  For more information, contact Tony Cube at the USCCB Justice for Immigrants Campaign:  acube@usccb.org.

Just a reminder: Comments on the HHS Mandate:

The April 8 deadline for submitting comments on the Administration’s latest “proposed rule” mandating contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in health care is fast approaching.

Thanks to all those who have already responded! If you have not yet acted, please click on the link attached to send in your comments today! Monday, April 8, is the last day comments can be submitted. Click this link below to log in and send your message:   http://actions.nchla.org/link/target/nchla/3JNRM53P.aspx . It is vital that we speak up for religious liberty and rights of conscience.

Under the new health care law, the mandate requires most health plans to cover “preventive services for women,” including items that many citizens find objectionable for moral and religious reasons: sterilization, FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity,” including minor girls. 

The mandate continues to allow only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer,” chiefly aimed at what it calls “houses of worship.” Other religious organizations offering education, health care and charitable services to all in need do not qualify for the exemption. Instead they receive only an “accommodation,” under which their employees and employees’ female children are still “automatically” enrolled in the coverage even if they object. There is no exemption or delay for individuals, for pro-life organizations that are not explicitly religious, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.

Aging Resources 

Favorite National Websites!

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Stats links views with aging-related statistics and reports published by different federal agencies.  Click here.

Find government resources for seniors on money, housing, health, consumer protection and more.  This website is a compilation of official information and services on elder issues from the U.S. Government. Click here.

The National Institute on Aging provides leadership in aging research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs relevant to aging and older people.  Click here.

The National Council on Aging helps older people remain healthy and independent, find jobs, and increase access to benefits and programs. Click here.

The Family Caregiver Alliance operates a national center for caregiving. The website contains a wealth of information, education, services, research and advocacy on caregiving. Click here

 

Resources

Ending Poverty in Community (EPIC): A Toolkit for Young Advocates

This online toolkit has been recently updated!  The toolkit is a series of lesson plans for teachers, religious educators and youth ministers at the high school and junior high levels that lead youth to creatively learn about poverty and its causes, then put faith in action by developing a community action project. Share EPIC with teachers, religious educators, youth ministers and others in your diocese. Learn more.

Now Available for Purchase: Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples
In the Sacraments, we are formed as Christ’s disciples, then sent on his mission in the world! This color, 32-page booklet can help all Catholics to better understand the connections between the celebration of the sacraments and our social mission as followers of Jesus and members of the Body of Christ. The booklet includes attractive, double-sided handouts on Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick, suggestions for use in a parish setting, and a guide for small group study sessions. Order the booklet now! It is also available for download. 

 

Upcoming Messages on Poverty and Today’s Economy

This month, the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, which includes the Subcommittee on CCHD, will begin release a series of messages on poverty and today’s economy.

The messages will be brief and in a format that easily lends itself to online distribution and parish bulletins. They will touch on the economy, nutrition and the safety net, immigration, the environment and energy, jobs and income inequality. The final capstone message will be the bishops’ traditional Labor Day Statement.

How will you work to get the word out in your diocese? Start thinking now! Share the message in parishes, prayer groups, with CCHD funded groups and your own colleagues!

Reflections and accompanying resources will be found here.

ConfrontGlobalPoverty.org Monthly Feature

USCCB and Catholic Relief Services partner through Catholics Confront Global Poverty (CCGP) to help Catholics pray, learn, act and give to confront global poverty. On the new CCGP website, http://confrontglobalpoverty.org, you can learn about four current issues that affect poverty: International Assistance, Hunger & Nutrition, Conflict & Peace, and Natural Resources. For each issue, get background information, watch a video, read stories of how real people are impacted, and take action!

USCCB Subcommittee Chair Leads Prayer at March for Marriage

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, participated in the March for Marriage in Washington on March 26, by leading the marchers in prayer. Thousands of people from across the country gathered in the nation’s capital to march peacefully to the United States Supreme Court to show their support for marriage. Read the press release or watch video coverage of the march.