Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

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Conversion in the Year of Faith at St. Andrew Catholic Church – Sunday, April 21:

To witness to the “New Evangelization” of the Catholic faith requires an examination of how the teachings of the Church form our understanding of the value and dignity of each person in an increasingly secular and relativist world view. The goal of this day is to provide a forum for examining the profound respect each person is owed in justice and how we may express that Truth through our personal and collective conversion.

Come join us at St. Andrew (801 N. Hastings St. Orlando) on Sunday, April 21, 2013.  We begin with Mass at 11:30 a.m. followed by a keynote address from Fr. Trans, a Redemptorist priest from ministry in North Carolina to the Montagnard people.  Other sessions will include Dale Recinella, who has served as spiritual advisor for those on death row.  Mr. Racinella writes and advocates for the end of the death penalty. 

The Knights of Columbus and their many programs and charities especially among persons with disabilities will be featured along with a new ministry that helps women and families deal with a poor prenatal diagnosis.  To RSVP and for more details please contact the Advocacy and Justice Office at 407-246-4819 or email us at advocacyjustice@orlandodiocese.org. More information here!

 

Celebrating the Climate Change Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

In an on-going effort to celebrate the climate change legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has published a resource bibliography of the documents in which the Holy Father addresses climate change. This is a useful resource to more fully care for God’s creation.

 

Advice to Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change in U.S. Congress

Co-Chairs of the Congressional Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change invited the U.S. Conference Catholic of Bishops (USCCB) to offer guidance on public policies addressing climate change. In response—and on behalf of the USCCB President, New York City’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan—Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, CA, and Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent a letter to the co-chairs: Congressman Henry Waxman and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

In the letter, Bishop Blaire writes that [e]ffective measures to address climate change are urgent and necessary. Evidence continues to point toward significant damaging impacts from climate related events in the United States, across the globe, and particularly for the poorest developing countries. Some poor nations and small island states already experience these impacts as a matter of survival for their people and cultures. He also notes that: In signaling the moral dimensions of this issue and advocating for the needs of the most vulnerable, the Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to this urgent matter. Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI demonstrated strong leadership on climate change in his teaching office and through efforts to reduce the Vatican’s own carbon footprint.

Bishop Blaire then outlines the principles that the USCCB insists should guide any climate change policy.  These include prudent action and prioritizing the needs of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad. He concludes by saying that the USCCB appreciate[s the Task Force’s] commitment to address this urgent global challenge confronting the human family. The USCCB stands ready to work with [the Task Force], members of Congress, and the Administration to ensure that needed climate legislation both cares for creation and protects “the least of these.”

 

Carbon Tax in U.S. and China

On February 14, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (CA) and Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced a “carbon tax” bill.  The bill aims to build on the momentum created by President Obama’s calls in the State of the Union address for Congressional action on climate change, proposes the introduction of a $20 a ton carbon tax that would be introduced on emissions above a set level. The levy would be imposed on 2,869 power plants, refineries and industrial facilities, and would rise by 5.6 per cent a year over 10-year periods, raising a total of $1.2trn. Significantly, the bill commits to distributing 60 per cent of the revenue raised direct to energy bill payers to help them cope with any increase in energy costs resulting from the tax. The remaining 40 per cent of revenue would be targeted at programs to improve building energy efficiency and increase investment in clean tech research and development.

In a separate but related story China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). The government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry’s tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF’s website.

 

Franciscan Action Network Offers Monthly Strategy Webinars

The Franciscan Action Network, continues the tasks of building a broad coalition on climate change, starting with Franciscans and other people of faith. Our strategy involves: Grassroots Organizing, the Inside Game, and the Outside Game.

To help make this a reality they will be offering monthly webinars beginning Thursday, March 7 and continuing through Thursday, June 6.  Each webinar will be for one hour beginning at 4 pm EDT.  You can register here.

 

Catholics and the “Energy Problem”

A Catholic environmental blogger, Bill Patenaude argues in Catholics and ‘the Energy Problem,’ that The moral implications of the world’s energy problem make the Church’s engagement on the subject indispensable.  He notes in particular on how Pope Benedict XVI has reflected on energy consumption vis-à-vis creation care, human life and dignity and the poor and vulnerable, and amplifies the pope’s voice by calling on the international community “to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future.”

Patenaude reminds us again of the forceful calls by the Holy Father who insists that The technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption, either through an evolution in manufacturing methods or through greater ecological sensitivity among their citizens. It should be added that at present it is possible to achieve improved energy efficiency while at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy. What is also needed, though, is a worldwide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them.

Patenaude ends by reflecting on how people of faith and goodwill can more fully care for creation by conserving energy and choosing cleaner sources.

 

Coalition Featured in Sun Sentinel

In a story titled Environmentalists reach out to the faithful to talk climate change, the Sun Sentinel chronicles how environmental activists are working more closely with faith-based communities as they recognize that faith-based communities are increasingly addressing the issue of climate change. In particular, the story highlights that [g]roups such as Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change have urged Christians to examine how environmental crises affect the poor, wildlife and the world’s economy.

Advocacy Efforts

Archbishop Lori Welcomes Introduction of “Health Care Conscience Rights Act”

On March 4, 2013, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and 50 other House members introduced H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed its introduction with the following statement:

“I am grateful to Congresswoman Black and other sponsors for their leadership today. I welcome the Health Care Conscience Rights Act and call for its swift passage into law. While federal laws are on the books protecting conscience rights in health care, this Act would make such protection truly effective. This overdue measure is especially needed in light of new challenges to conscience rights arising from the federal health care reform act.”

In a February 15 letter, Archbishop Lori urged Congress to enact effective conscience and religious freedom protection provisions like those of H.R. 940 as part of “must-pass” legislation for continued funding of federal programs.

A Capitol Hill press conference featuring four plaintiffs advocating for their conscience rights and religious freedom will take place at 10 am (EST) Tuesday morning, March 5, 2013 in Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-318.

The text of Archbishop Lori’s letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Letter-from-Archbishop-Lori-to-Congress.pdf

With No Deal Reached, Sequester Cuts Take Effect

Despite a face-to-face meeting between Congressional leaders and President Obama, a series of across-the-board spending cuts went into effect on March 1, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the impact of reductions to programs such as Head Start and meals for the elderly.

The automatic cuts will reduce government spending by $85 billion this year, an outcome that hits domestic and defense spending while leaving largely intact entitlement programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security. Competing bills to restructure the impact of the sequester were voted down in the Senate.

Administration officials hope to reverse some or most of the spending cuts in upcoming discussions over the continuing resolution that authorizes government spending, set to expire on March 27. However, House leaders have indicated their plan to keep funding at the level mandated by the sequester for the rest of the fiscal year while providing more flexibility to department heads to pick and choose which programs should face funding reductions.

Violence Against Women Act Passes House

On February 28, the House passed legislation re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), sending the bill to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The 286-138 vote ratified the same text approved by the Senate two weeks ago, negating the need for a reconciliation conference to hammer out differences between the two chambers. This year’s bill does not include provisions for additional protections for undocumented immigrants, which proved a major sticking point in reconciliation attempts last year.

VAWA will authorize up to $660 million in annual funding for programs, which is a 17 percent reduction from the 2005 re-authorization. The funding will go towards prosecuting sexual assault and domestic abuses cases, as well as assisting victims of those crimes. The funding is authorized for the next five years.

The bill also included an amendment reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This act is the key piece of federal legislation in the fight against human trafficking in the United States and around the world.

 

Census Report Sheds Light on Those Receiving Assistance

On February 26, the Census Bureau released a report, Disability Characteristics of Income-Based Government Assistance Recipients in the United States: 2011, which offers information about the occurrence of disabilities among people 18 and older who received income-based government assistance.  

Among the findings was the fact that 30.4 percent of adults who received income-based government assistance in 2011 had one or more types of disability. This rate was highest in West Virginia, where 41.7 percent of adults receiving income-based government assistance had a disability.

The report also highlights the employment and income gap that exists between adults with disabilities and non-disabled adults including the fact that only a third of adults with disabilities were employed in 2011, compared to three fourths of the non-disabled adult population. Moreover, the median annual earnings for adults with disabilities was $19,735; significantly less than the median earned by adults without a disability: $30,285.

Justice for Immigrants Action Alert

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and other Catholic partners in the Justice for Immigrants coalition in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform on behalf of the immigrants and refugees among us. The USCCB has released a new Action Alert calling on the 113th Congress to pass just and compassionate immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented persons and preserving family unity as a cornerstone of our country’s immigration system. More information is available at www.justiceforimmigrants.org

Sequester and the 2013 Farm Bill: What Happens Next?

As it now is, the sequester will reduce farm bill spending by more than $6 billion over the coming years, with the largest amount of cuts from Commodity programs. The second largest share of cuts slice into Conservation programs. Both nutrition assistance programs and crop insurance are exempt from the sequester.

It appears that no significant action on a new Farm Bill will happen until May, after Congress resolves the federal budget and debt ceiling battles. However, somewhat worrisome is the fact that House leadership has still not yet shown any indication of bringing a farm bill to the floor this year.

If a comprehensive budget deal was reached in May or June, and if it included clear instructions for the size of farm bill spending cuts, then that would offer hope of a new farm bill this year. Otherwise, we could see a repeat of last year when House leadership failed to bring a House Ag Committee-passed bill to the floor.  For more information about the Farm Bill, see the National Catholic Rural Life Center website:

NCRLC positions on Farm Bill programs.

Is Monsanto Undermining Protections from GMOs?

Last year, Monsanto lobbyists attached riders to the Farm Bill to prevent its GMO products from being regulated. Monsanto wants full immunity from federal laws that are placed on genetically modified crops while communities wait for results from environmental impact studies. Monsanto also wants to block the USDA’s ability to regulate the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

You can help keep Monsanto in check. Corporate Accountability International is partnering with the Organic Consumers Association on a campaign to build grassroots pressure on Congress to counter the corporate lobbyists: 

Click here to sign the petition

Pew Campaign on Human Health & Industrial Farming 

Doctors routinely instruct patients that antibiotics should be used only to treat bacterial infections, using the proper dosage, and for the full course of treatment. Otherwise, failure to follow these rules increases the likelihood that some of the bacteria will survive and mutate to become drug resistant.

Yet even if patients follow these medical instructions, they still may suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections. That is because many large producers of meat and poultry feed antibiotics to their healthy food animals to offset the effects of overcrowding and poor sanitation in CAFOs. Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States go to healthy food animals.

Visit the Pew Campaign site to learn more.