Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates




Lenten Reflection from Catholics Confront Global Poverty

During Lent, USCCB and Catholic Relief Services are partnering to offer weekly Lenten reflections. The first three reflections focus on 40 Days to Deepen Our Faith (Ash Wednesday), Journey Through the Desert (Week 1), and A Miraculous Vision (Week 2). The entire Lenten series is available here.Resources from the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD) are also a weekly feature on the USCCB Lent page throughout this holy season. You can also take action during Lent by signing up to be part of Catholics Confront Global Poverty.

PovertyUSA Monthly Feature: Our Mission

As Catholics, we have a particular call to respond to poverty in the United States, which affects over 46 million people. Visit the Our Mission section of for resources on how our faith compels us to work for justice, including the Eucharistic call to mission, the Two Feet of Love in Action, Catholic social teaching, and more. Many resources are also available in Spanish at

Environmental Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Since his election to the papacy in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has become known as the “Green Pope” for his prophetic words and actions urging all people, especially Christians, to recall their duties toward Creation. In his writings and addresses, the Holy Father reaffirms many traditional ecological teachings of the Church, including the giftedness of creation, the vocation of stewardship and the universal destination of created goods. In addition, Pope Benedict XVI has offered profound insights on the environment in view of contemporary challenges in the modern world: the need for an international climate treaty, advocacy for renewable energy technologies, and attention to environmental refugees.

Pope Benedict’s environmental legacy will undoubtedly be viewed as one of the strongest in papal history and includes consistent and emphatic attention to the modern issue of climate change.  The legacy began with his first Mass as the new pontiff (The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction.) and has continued since:

  • 2010 World Day of Peace Message: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation
  • 2009 Papal Encyclical Caritas in Veritate
  • 2012 Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See
  • Angelus- November 27, 2011
  • 2011 World Day of Food Message
  • 2010 Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps for the Traditional Exchange of New Year’s Greetings Message to 2009 Summit on Climate Change
  • 2009 Easter Message Urbi et Orbi
  • Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Occasion of the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment Movement

Also during his papacy, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences published a scientific report: Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene: A Report by the Working Group Commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which calls for bold action to address the climate change that is causing the loss of mountain glaciers.

In the weeks ahead, we will be highlighting elements of Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy on climate change. Here is one particularly powerful quote from the his letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch: Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.


Climate Change and Winter Storm Nemo

In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo that covered much of New England in two feet of snow, our friend at, Bill Patenaude, offers another thoughtful piece on massive storms such as these and points to the Union of Concerned Scientists helpful distinction between weather and climate: Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.

Bill notes: the Blizzard of 2013 shows that when tropical systems of wet, warm air intersect with very cold arctic air, the resulting “bombogenesis” (yes, that’s a meteorological word) creates strong winter storms that release the tropical moisture in intense bands of snow. Likewise, the tropical thermal energy breaks free as it collides with colder air. This creates high, hurricane-force winds.  A warmer climate adds to the moisture in the air making these big storm events more likely in the future.

He concludes with a lovely prayer for those impacted by this monster storm.  He also includes some interesting graphics in his blog so we urge you to check it out.

Georgetown Students Call University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

As part of a national movement to encourage colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel corporations as a response to climate change, a new student organization at Georgetown University, GU Fossil Free, delivered a letter to [Georgetown University] President DeGioia’s office Wednesday morning requesting that Georgetown University immediately begin a process to divest from coal, oil, and natural gas companies within five years.

The Georgetown Voice, the University’s weekly newspaper, reports that [t]he letter requested that the administration and Board of Trustees follow schools such as Harvard University, Vassar College, Middlebury College, and Swarthmore College, in “making substantial moves to begin the process” of divestment. GU Fossil Free also suggested the school immediately abstain from making any more investments in fossil fuel companies, and then continue to remove all current investments in such companies within the suggested time frame.

In an editorial titled Divest from fossil fuels to preserve values, The Georgetown Voice supports fossil fuel divestment at Georgetown since the University takes pride in its Jesuit ideals and climate change is inconsistent with Catholic, Jesuit mission. In addition, GU Fossil Free has created a short video that summarizes the divestment movement at Georgetown.

Coalition Staff Published

An article co-written by Catholic Coalition on Climate Change director Dan Misleh and project manager Dan DiLeo has been published in The Journal of Religion and Society. Their article, From the Pope to the Pew: Is Papal Teaching on the Environment a Factor in Moving Parishes to Action?”  seeks to discern the extent to which the environmental teaching of Pope Benedict XVI inspires and animates creation care initiatives at the parish level.

In the paper, the authors conclude that while there is very little hard evidence that the Pope’s teaching has an impact on parish activities, they acknowledge that once such [creation care] activities get underway, Church teaching [often] serves as a way to bolster the case for activity rather than initially drive the activity itself. The paper recommends the need for continued leadership by Church officials and the laity, for new religious language, symbols and themes to inspire this work, and to link the threat of climate change to the pro-life movement as future generations are at serious risk in a climate-compromised world.


Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

Many of the Coalition partners participated in the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering this week in Washington, D.C.  Diocesan social ministry, Catholic charities and pro-life ministry professionals meet each year at this time to understand and act on the Church’s social mission.  On Tuesday, they marched to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad.

The Gathering is a wonderful display of the breadth and depth of the Catholic community’s witness to be the salt and light for the world.  But the advocacy doesn’t end Tuesday.  Our Catholic witness must continue throughout the year.  To learn more about this issues that are of primary concern to the U.S. Catholic bishops in this legislative session, please visit:

Practice Solidarity, Support the CRS Collection

Participate in the Catholic Relief Services Collection on March 9-10 and positively affect the lives of more than 100 million people at home and abroad, particularly families affected by persecution, war and natural disasters. This year’s collection theme: “Jesus in Disguise: How will you help?” The Catholic Relief Services Collection enacts Jesus’ message of caring for the least of our brothers and sisters through providing humanitarian aid and ongoing resources.  

“The Catholic Relief Services Collection enacts Jesus’ message of caring for the least of our brothers and sisters through providing humanitarian aid and ongoing resources. This collection provides an opportunity for Catholics in the United States to help suffering families around the world,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Read more.

Conference on Peacebuilding 2013: Pacem in Terris at 50

The USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace and eleven other institutions are co-sponsoring a conference on Peacebuilding 2013: Pacem in Terris at 50, to be held on April 9-10, 2013 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Fifty years ago, Pacem in Terris broke new ground in Catholic teaching on peace by elaborating an approach to peace and engagement in the world that went beyond merely avoiding violence by using human rights as a foundation for a vision of peace that involves authentic development and a just world order. Speakers will include Cardinal Peter Turkson, Bishop Richard Pates, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and others. View the schedule now. Registration is free but required. 

Advocacy Efforts

Alternatives to Automatic Cuts Proposed

With less than two weeks before the March 1 deadline, leadership in the Senate and House continued to disagree over the path to take to avert the package of across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect.

The package of $110 billion automatic cuts to government agencies, known as the sequester, has been estimated to have a wide impact across many sectors of the economy, including putting 750,000 jobs at risk and threatening the current funding that makes Head Start programs accessible to 70,000 preschoolers.

Senate leadership offered a plan on Thursday that would change the effective date of the cuts to January 2014 by replacing the sequester with a new package that would cut defense spending and increase tax rates on households making more than $2 million annually. House leadership has made clear that, even if it were to pass the Senate, a package along those lines would not be brought up for a vote in that chamber. It remains to be seen whether the House will vote on a proposal of its own to avert the cuts.

Update on 2013 Farm Bill

The immediate action to deal with – or brace for – is the upcoming spending cuts due to sequestration. The deadline for that is March 1, and it looks like the automatic cuts will happen. For the impact on agricultural and food safety programs, see this item from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Most agree that fiscal integrity and responsibility need to return to Congress and the Administration. For their part, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently introduced a bipartisan bill that would restore fiscal responsibility in federal farm policy. Their Farm Program Integrity Act places a hard cap on farm program payments and closes current loopholes to ensure payments go to working farmers on the land. Current loopholes in program eligibility allow mega-farms and absentee investors to receive unlimited government funding. Read more about the Farm Program Integrity Act here.

Senate Sends Violence Against Women Act to House

On Tuesday, February 12, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) by a 78-22 vote. The bill extends and strengthens provisions from the original 1994 legislation to protect and assist victims of domestic abuse for an additional five years. Last year, the House and Senate passed conflicting versions of VAWA reauthorization bills that were not reconciled before the end of the legislative session.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has said that the House will take up the bill in a timely fashion, but it is unclear whether the House will consider the Senate version of the bill or a version of its own.  

Among the controversial provisions that could hinder compromise is language in the Senate bill that grants new authority for American Indian tribes to try domestic violence offenders in tribal courts. However, this year’s Senate bill does not include provisions for additional protections for undocumented immigrants, which proved a major sticking point in reconciliation attempts last year.

The bill passed by the Senate Tuesday 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, with provisions that address both international trafficking and domestic trafficking.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Immigration

On Wednesday, February 13, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing entitled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the first of an expected series of hearings as legislative efforts to achieve meaningful reform get underway.

The witness during the first session of the hearing was Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who talked about efforts to secure the border. The session consisted of five witnesses, who each represented different viewpoints on the issue of comprehensive reform: Jose Antonio Vargas, a former journalist and founder of Define American; Jessica Vaughan, an analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies; Steve Case, AOL co-founder and chairman of Revolution, LLC; Chris Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 119, and; Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

To view a webcast of the hearing or read witness testimony and member statements, please visit the hearing page on the Committee on the Judiciary website. In addition, read this post from Fr. Larry Snyder for his thoughts on the ongoing discussions around immigration reform, available on his blog, “Think and Act Anew.”


Take Action for Life and Dignity

Please consider taking action on behalf of your vulnerable brothers and sisters. With other Catholics around the U.S., your voice can make a difference!


USCCB Project Life and Liberty Postcard Campaign

In 2012, the Obama Administration’s mandate requiring health coverage to include objectionable practices went into effect for most employers. 

Congress is preparing to consider “must-pass” appropriations legislation. Needed conscience protection provisions should be made a part of this legislation.  

Under the new health care law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires most health plans to cover “preventive services for women,” including services that many citizens find objectionable for moral and religious reasons.  These objectionable services include 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 HHS mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.” On February 1, HHS released a new “proposed rule” that goes into greater detail on the “accommodation” but continues to allow only a very narrow exemption, 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. There is no exemption or delay for individuals, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.      

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