Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

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More Americans “Pro-Life” Than “Pro-Choice” for First Time

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42% “pro-choice.” This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995. View the poll results here.

INSP Network Earns PTC Seal of Approval

In a world where viewers are deluged with – and even forced to pay for! – dozens of cable networks full of offensive content, it is a relief to find a channel devoted to truly inspirational programming. One such channel is the INSP Network. INSP promotes wholesome, family-affirming ideals that millions of Americans still desire in their entertainment choices. “Created to ‘empower and entertain,’ INSP does both with through a schedule packed with inspirational programming, ranging from old favorites like The Waltons to original programs on the importance of faith,” says PTC President Tim Winter. The PTC is delighted to salute INSP for providing a welcome oasis of uplifting, family-friendly fare, and is proud to award the network the PTC Seal of ApprovalTM

Brighten Your Table through Fair Trade

Invite summer to your table by shopping our collection of beautiful, bright kitchen textiles. Featuring items made by our partners in Nepal, India, and Vietnam, our textile collection is full of hand-woven cotton, bold patterns and playful stripes.  Your purchase empowers women to earn a fair wage, receive job trainings, benefit from social programs and support their families with dignity and respect. Plus, every purchase contributes to the CRS Fair Trade Fund. Brighten your table and theirs by shopping today!

Fair Wedding Gifts

Are you attending any weddings this summer? Share your love with the newlyweds and artisans around the world by giving a gift from our Wedding Collection. Browse heirloom pieces they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives, along with unique home accents and versatile kitchen items. You might also consider a handmade wall cross from our Gifts of Faith collection, which not only expresses fair trade values, but also the love, beauty and sanctity of marriage. Browse our Wedding Boards on Pinterest for more great ideas!

Or maybe you’re the one getting married? Consider using our great Gift Registry. Simply create an account if you haven’t already, and once you’re logged in, you can add items to your registry by clicking the Wishlist button on each product page. From My Account, you can choose to make your registry public or private, email to friends, change the name of your Wishlist and update your shipping address. Give it a try!

To Order Online: www.serrv.org Phone: (800) 685.7572; Fax: (888) 294.6376; Mail: Work of Human Hands , c/o SERRV, 500 Main Street, New Windsor, MD 21776

SERRV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty wherever it resides. Catholic Relief Services and SERRV thank you for choosing fair trade!

Stewards of the Earth
Louisville, Kentucky Cares for God’s Creation

The Archdiocese of Louisville recently chronicled a variety of ways parishes, schools and agencies are more fully care for God’s Creation.  Here is a sampling:

+ Assumption High School — which has developed a “green building” at its sports complex — reported this year that its week-long “mission week” centered on care for creation.
+Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light have honored both Assumption and Trinity High Schools for their conservation and waste-reduction efforts;
+Catholic Charities has organized an electronics recycling initiative;
+ St. Joseph Children’s Home, along with many archdiocesan parishes, have undertaken energy efficiency projects;
+St. Joseph School in Bardstown, KY., also has adopted a “no-idle zone” in the carpool line to reduce emissions;
+St. Ann Church in Howardstown, KY. Participated in a highway clean-up;
+St. Ignatius Church has found a more sustainable way to print its weekly parish bulletin;
+St. Xavier High School has undergone a waste-reduction effort in its cafeteria.
+Spalding University reported a project to distribute reusable bottles on its campus
+Bellarmine University has started a student-led environmental group
+St. Catherine College is building with energy efficiency in mind and has formed a partnership with the Berry Center to offer a degree in agriculture.

 

Catholic Health Care Makes Hospitals Healthier

Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado, was highlighted as one of the 11 major hospital systems in the nation to sign on to the Healthier Hospital Initiative (HHI) that aims to improve the health and safety not just of patients but of the communities and environment around them as well, according to the Denver Business Journal

Senior vice president for advocacy for CHI Colleen Scanlon said of the nation’s second-largest faith-based health care system, All health care entities across this country are moving together to bring sustainability to their practices, programs and policies.  HHI asks partners to commit to: engaging their leadership, serving healthier foods, reducing energy use, reducing waste, using safer chemicals, and purchasing environmentally preferable products.  Congratulations to Catholic Health Initiatives.  For a full list of participating hospitals, click here.  

Franciscans and Consumption 

In a thoughtful piece titled Franciscans as Consumers: Ethical Responsibilities, Fr. David B. Couturier, OFM. Cap., research analyst at the Coalition-member Franciscan Action Network http://franciscanaction.org, reflects on the tension between following the ideal of simplicity espoused by St. Francis and the modern challenges of living in a consumerist culture. 

He acknowledges that Franciscans, like everyone else, are constantly making choices about what to wear and buy, what to purchase and use, what comes into our convents and friaries, and what ends up on our dinner table.  Fr. Couturier then asks, how do we think of ourselves as “consumers” and what drives our economic choices? What role does our Catholic faith and our Franciscan commitment play in the choices we make as consumers? What impact might our economic choices have on the lives of people around the world? 

Fr. Couturier observes that “Living spiritually” today means understanding and respecting the ethical responsibilities we have as consumers.  He concludes that Franciscanism invites us to trust and to live as brothers and sisters in the graced world of an abundant God who is good, all good, supremely good, all the time and to everyone.

Preparing for Rio+20: A Sustainable Future for All 

On June 20-22, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host heads of state, UN agencies, and global stakeholders as they convene for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development for “Rio+20.” Global leaders will meet to make commitments towards sustainable development 20 years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the 1992 “Earth Summit.” This is an opportunity to map out and begin building a “green economy.” 

Various non-governmental organizations are organizing a “day of action” on Tuesday, June 5th, as a way to raise awareness about what is at stake for Rio+20. For their part, members of the Faith, Economy, Ecology Transformation coalition have prepared a faith reflection around the idea of a green economy. The reflection process focuses on themes that will be addressed in the UN Conference in Rio.

Call to Action: Stronger Standards for Carbon Emissions 

Our friends at the Eco-Justice Programs of the National Council of Churches remind us that as stewards of God’s Earth we are called to protect and serve Creation and ensure that our choices reflect the needs of the most vulnerable. When it comes to our increasing use of energy, carbon dioxide emissions are at unprecedented levels and threatening the health of Creation and our communities. The EPA recently proposed a standard that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. This is a crucial opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases, improve our air quality and begin acting on global climate change. Click here to send a letter to EPA telling them you support this standard.

Harvest Public Media special report: “Farmer of the Future” 

Who will grow the food to feed the growing world population? There are serious questions about who will actually be able to take on the job a few decades from now. Technological, cultural and political forces are bringing immense change to those who commit to building their lives around the land.  In a special report, Harvest Public Media looks at how some of those forces may play out over the next few years.

Why Advertiser Accountability Matters 

Networks are desperately trying anything that will attract viewers to watch their programs…and more importantly, their commercials. Dean Batali, a former writer for That ‘70s Show, explained, “TV is just a delivery system for ads. The only programming that really matters to those in power is the commercials…The success of a show is not measured by how good it is, or who says they loved it, or even how many people watch. A show is a success if the people who watched it go and buy the products that were advertised during the commercials.” And former CBS and NBC programming chief Jeff Sagansky stated the issue even more starkly: “The number one priority in television is not to transmit quality programming to viewers, but to deliver consumers to advertisers.” To learn more about Parents Television Council’s Advertiser Accountability campaign, click here.  For a list of the PTC’s Ten Best and Worst Advertisers of 2011, click here.

New Study Covers Impact of Health Care Expansion on Undocumented  

While the Affordable Care Act’s status before the Supreme Court remains in question, a new study from the Urban Institute shows the impact the law will have on the number of uninsured Americans if the law is upheld. The study estimates that health care reform will help approximately 30 million Americans obtain health insurance over the next decade, leaving about 26 to 27 million uncovered. Of those, roughly one-quarter are undocumented workers and their families. Because these members of the population are not included in the law’s coverage expansion and new state-run insurance exchanges, they could be at risk of finding it more difficult to obtain health coverage, the study finds. To read the study and accompanying information, please visit the Urban Institute’s resource page at http://www.urban.org/publications/1001618.html

 

Advocacy Efforts

Student Loan, Anti-Violence Bills Remain Stalled in Senate 

While the House was out of session, the Senate attempted to move bills relating to student loan interest rates and the Violence Against Women Act. On Thursday, May 24, the Senate held competing votes to find funding offsets to maintain the current 3.4 percent interest rate of federally-subsidized student loans. Both the Republican- and Democrat-proposed funding plans failed to reach the necessary 60 votes to end debate, meaning that the loan rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if an agreement is not reached.

Farm Bill and EFSP Appropriations Update 

As reported in last week’s Washington Weekly, the full Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Homeland Security appropriations bill (S. 3216,) which contains $150 million in funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) for FY 2013. The House Appropriations Committee provided $120 million for EFSP for FY 2013, meaning that the two bills will be sent to a conference committee to reach a compromise if both are passed in their current form. Please be on the lookout for an Action Alert from CCUSA on funding for this important program. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has signaled that he could bring up the Senate 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization (S. 3240) when the Senate returns from Memorial Day recess the first week of June. Of specific interest will be an amendment to be offered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to restore the $4.49 billion in SNAP benefits cuts that the Senate Agriculture Committee approved. An estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits. Catholic Charities USA, working in coalition with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference will be in support of the amendment to restore this funding.  

 

Action Alert!

Tell Your Senators that our nation needs to feed the hungry, preserve God’s creation, support small family farmers, and help rural America thrive 

In the story of the Last Judgment, Jesus reminds us that one of the fundamental measures of our lives will be how we cared for people in need: “For I was hungry and you gave me food.” (Mt 25:35) When believers think about agriculture, we begin with the story of the Creation. “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gn 1:31). Those who provide our food are called to continue God’s plan for creation. – Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers, USCCB, 2002

Take the opportunity to visit, call, or write your Senators and urge them to support a Farm Bill that will help feed hungry people here at home and abroad, support growth in U.S. rural communities and promote stewardship of God’s creation. The Senate will vote soon on its version of 2012 Farm Bill and their decisions will impact the lives of hungry people at home and abroad and the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, have identified some positive provisions in the bill that we support as well as some provisions that need improving. We ask you to set up a district meeting with your Senators and urge them to support policies in the Farm Bill that:

  • Oppose cuts or harmful changes in domestic hunger and nutrition programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) that will harm hungry and vulnerable people;
  • Maintain funding for the Food for Peace Food Aid program to combat chronic hunger and provide nutritious foods to poor and malnourished families overseas;
  • Preserve funding for overseas anti-hunger programs that provide resiliency in the face of emergencies and are funded through the Food for Peace development “safe box”;
  • Fully fund important conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other programs that promote stewardship of God’s creation;
  • Preserve funding for rural development programs such as Value-Added Producer Grants, the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) and other programs that helps rural communities thrive and;
  • Redirect subsidies to small and medium-sized farms, especially minority owned farms and ranches that truly need assistance. Savings from reductions should be used to fund domestic nutrition and international assistance programs.

CURRENT SITUATION: The Senate is considering Farm Bill legislation that will reduce agriculture funding over 10 years by $23 billion. This includes over $4 billion in proposed cuts to the food stamp (SNAP) program and over $6 billion in cuts to conservation programs. At this time of continued unemployment and high levels of poverty, the Senate should oppose cuts to effective and efficient anti-hunger programs that help people live in dignity.  

The Senate’s proposal calls for ending some subsidies (direct payments) and this is a step in the right direction. Further reductions and re-directing subsidies that disproportionately go to larger growers and agribusiness are still needed. Savings from cuts to subsidies should be used to support hunger and nutrition programs that feed hungry, poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad.  

The bishops acknowledge that reducing future unsustainable deficits is important but remind Congress that their decisions are not just economic in nature but are “political and moral choices with human consequences.” As pastors and teachers they offer several moral criteria to help guide difficult budgetary decisions. Read their recent letter on potential SNAP cuts.

Send an e-mail to your Senators now! Or call your Senators: 1-702-577-2339; Click here for talking points.

USCCB POSITION/CHURCH TEACHING

 Last October in his Address on the Occasion of World Food Day 2011, Pope Benedict stated that “liberation from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete expression of the right to life.” The U.S. bishops join the Holy Father in asserting that food is a fundamental human right. In “For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food,” the bishops wrote, “the primary goals of agriculture policies should be providing food for all people and reducing poverty among farmers and farm workers in this country and abroad.” The U.S. bishops urge Congress to join them and other Christian leaders by forming a “circle of protection” around programs that serve hungry, poor and vulnerable people.

Take Action Now! Your voice is needed now to make sure that the Farm Bill feeds the hungry, preserves God’s creation, and supports small family farmers and rural America. To set up an appointment and meet with Senators, visit this website where you will find their websites with district office address and telephone information.

To send an e-mail to your Senators, click here. To call your Senators, dial 1-702-577-2339. Click here for call instructions and talking points.

Aging Resources

Florida Medicaid Summary – To learn how many beneficiaries receive Medicaid services, Click Here.

Social Security Summary – These quick 2-page fact sheets provide an overview of Social Security for each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Click Here.  

Social Security Report – For a summary on individuals ages 62-86 who have never received Social Security benefits, Click Here.

Grandparent Study – This report provides a snapshot of the experiences, triumphs and challenges of grandparents age 50+ as described by an in-depth interview of participants. Click Here.

Resources

USCCB Life Issues Forum Articles
This issue of Life Issues Forum can be found in both English and Spanish and is available on the USCCB website. (To access the Word documents, click on the hyperlinked text.) Back issues of Life Issues Forum can be found at www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/life-issues-forum/ (June 2011 onward) and old.usccb.org/prolife/publicat/lifeissue s/index.shtml (prior to June 2011).