Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates



Multi-Media Youth Contest Announced

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has announced the theme for the 2012-2013 Multi-Media Youth Contest: Be a Disciple! Put Two Feet of Love in Action. Our churches and our world need youth who are well formed in their faith and strongly motivated to act on it. Through the contest, young people learn about poverty, its causes, and our faith response and then creatively communicate what they have learned.

Click here to find materials to help you promote the contest in parishes and schools in your diocese. Watch the introductory webinar and find out all about the contest by clicking here. There are two levels of competition and winners from high school (Grades 10-12) and middle school (Grades 7-9). Contact Catholic school teachers and principals, catechists, Directors of Religious Education and Youth Ministers to start organizing now. For questions not addressed on the website, please contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice,

Catholic Church Engagement Before, During and After the Conference

The Rio+20 Conference (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development), was held June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The conference brought together world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups to discuss the future of environmental sustainability.  EcoJesuit offered extensive coverage of the Conference, and all are encouraged to visit their website.

Before the Conference

Catholic News Service reported how the Catholic Church was preparing to be a strong advocate at the conference and will bring in to focus key themes of Catholic social teaching and backed by the Church’s vast experience serving those most in need around the globe.  From Archbishop Francis Chullikatt the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio and permanent observer to the United Nations, to Bernd Nilles, secretary-general of CIDSE, the international alliance of Catholic agencies, Catholic representatives were clear that sustainable development and economic progress must be characterized by a world of social and environmental justice, in which human rights are respected, in which policy and decision-making are transparent and inclusive, in which the economy serves people and respects the planet.’ 

Archbishop Chullikatt said if a new economic model is to be created at Rio+20, then it must be based on such principles as responsible production and consumption; promotion and sharing of the common good; access to primary goods (food, water, sanitation, education, health care); and the unity of the family. 

Caritas Internationalis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew added their voices as well.  You are urged to read the Patriarch’s statement in full, as it is quite powerful. His conclusion: For many people, these issues [of environmental sustainability] are now a matter of life and death.  Unless those who represent the nations of the world can see beyond ideology and the surface of issues in order to make the necessary changes or corrections, nothing will happen.  The health and future of millions of people hangs in the balance.

During the Conference 

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Commission of the Bishops Conference of the European Union (COMECE), urged world leaders to place the human person as the basis for sustainable development during the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

EcoJesuit reports that one of the Conference’s side panels was organized by the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis, Franciscans International, Catholic Relief Services, the Association of Volunteers in International Service and CIDSE (Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity) … The panel was preceded by the intervention of Cardinal Scherer, Special Envoy of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and Archbishop of São Paulo. 

Twenty international Catholic bishops joined dozens of CIDSE personnel and partners and signed a statement calling on nations and world leaders to recommit to sustainable development.   

The statement particularly addressed climate change, saying Climate change is rapidly advancing and we will not be able to undo it unless we act now. The poorest and most vulnerable people around the world are most affected, even though they are least responsible for its causes…More ambitious action must be taken, based on the principles at the core of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Learn more about CIDSE’s Climate Justice program here.

After the Conference 

The final document produced by the Conference is entitled The Future We Want.  In response, the Caritas Internationalis Director of Policy and Advocacy said, Caritas welcomes that the fight against poverty is put at the forefront of all concerns for achieving sustainable development and that a ‘Common Vision’ starts with the commitment to free humanity from hunger and poverty. However, many of the important points mentioned throughout the document, related to poverty, remain declaratory in nature

Progressio, the UK-based Catholic overseas development agency, sent a delegation to the Conference and Daniel Hale, head of the delegation, told Vatican Radio the document we have at the moment, to be fair, makes some good strides forward…but from my view and the Progressio point of view it really doesn’t do enough in terms of implementation. 

According to Fr. Jose Ignacio Garcia, SJ of EcoJesuit, It’s a long 49-page text and will require more time to make a more detailed analysis.  Fr. Garcia offers a first glimpse of this document, highlighting some of the controversial points, and his analysis is available here. 

Evangelicals and Catholics Connect Human Life & Creation Care

In his 2010 Message to the Diplomatic Corps, Pope Benedict XVI “[H]ow can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn?”  The website, Catholic Ecology, is working to respond to this question and reports that a group of Christians from the Evangelical and Catholic traditions have developed [a] Joint Declaration on Life. Our goal is to build a bridge between those who seek to defend human life and those who seek to protect creation. The document is being sent to many for signing, and soon a website will be developed for wider distribution. But for now, read through the text and, if you’re interested in signing it, email your name and affiliation to
Read the entire Joint Declaration on Life and sign your name in support here.

Caritas Pakistan Addresses Climate Change

Caritas Pakistan, the humanitarian organization of Catholic Church in Pakistan, organized a one week campaign to combat climate change from May 29-June 05, 2012. Campaign activities included a poster competition among school children, tree planting, and training workshop organized by the Major Religious Superior’s Leadership Conference of Pakistan (MSLCP) for the religious community leaders to become “Climate Change Ambassadors”.

Virtue of Prudence in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 

In the Spring & Summer 2012 newsletter (p. 4), Catholic Ottawa, John Dorner is pleased that [t]he Archdiocese of Ottawa takes seriously the need for strong and meaningful actions to respond to the climate crisis that continues to unfold.  Echoing the US bishops, Mr. Dorner says, We must respond to the concerns raised by the National Academy of Sciences which reports that approximately 97% of the most prominent climate science experts believe humans are causing global warming. If we wait for the resolution of all scientific uncertainty, we impose risk for harm on the poor and future generations, which is inconsistent with our moral obligation to serve as stewards of creation. 

The article describes some of the Archdiocese’s creation care efforts including the promotion of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change’s St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.  To learn more about what the Archdiocese of Ottawa is doing to Care for God’s Creation, visit the Environmental Stewardship section under Pastoral Services on [its] website:

The Orthodoxy of Catholic Ecology 

In a thoughtful article, William L. Patenaude, a columnist for the Rhode Island Catholic and member of the Diocese of Providence’s Committee for Evangelization, reflects on The Orthodoxy of Catholic Ecology.  He notes that Pope Benedict XVI’s [m]agisterial references to ecology are noteworthy because the subject appears to be a new species within Catholic social thought. This “newness”—and the unfortunate politicization of such issues as climate change and the use of fossil fuels—have led to confusion and more than a few heated debates about whether a good Catholic should be discussing ecology at all—and if so, how.

Patenaude’s logic prevails, however: given that Benedict XVI is a good Catholic, one can assume that his flock can also speak of ecological concerns from a foundation of revelation and magisterial teachings as well as scientific discoveries. Catholics throughout the Church’s ideological continuum can and should engage in ecological discourse because, in part, it is a topic that evangelizes, unites, and teaches what it means to be human.  Read the entire article here.

Advocacy Efforts

Because of your continued advocacy, we have been able to ensure that protecting human life and dignity, especially of “the least of these,” has remained a topic of debate in Congress’s work to address deficits and debt. Catholic advocacy and the letters and testimony offered by the U.S. bishops and their Catholic partners have also been instrumental, in the Farm Bill debate, in reminding Congress of the need to feed hungry people at home and abroad and promote the well-being of rural communities and foster stewardship of creation. Read more about what you have helped accomplish

Senate Passes Farm Bill Legislation

The Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 in a vote of 64-35 on June 21. USCCB and Catholic partner organizations including Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, worked hard to protect programs that serve hungry and vulnerable people at home and abroad, promote stewardship of creation and help rural communities thrive. The Senate version of the Farm Bill maintains strong structural support for domestic hunger and nutrition program despite some reductions and implemented unprecedented reforms to agriculture subsidies while enhancing some subsidies for crop insurance that still mostly benefit large, agri-businesses over smaller farms. Attention now shifts to the House Committee on Agriculture which is scheduled to begin working on its version of the Farm Bill on July 11. Get more information on the USCCB’s new Farm Bill webpage: Click here.

Senate Protects Children from Mercury and Toxic Air Pollution 

In a vote on June 20 the Senate defeated a resolution intended to block the implementation of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a rule to limit mercury and other toxic air emissions from power plants. USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development worked closely with the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, Catholic Health Association, Franciscan Action Network and ecumenical partners, including the Evangelical Environmental Network and National Association of Evangelicals, to protect these long overdue standards. Our efforts were critical to this major victory for public health, especially the health of unborn babies and young children who are uniquely vulnerable to exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment. As Bishop Blaire said in a December public statement welcoming these standards, “In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations.”


Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship  

Parish Guide: At the USCCB Publishing website, you can now order the Parish Guide to Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This guide is intended for parish leaders to educate parishioners about how to form their consciences and live out the call to participate in political life. It includes a monthly planning calendar, ideas for how parishes can form consciences, and a comprehensive appendix of resources. Order the Parish Guide now.

Fortnight for Freedom

  • Bulletin inserts for the Fortnight for Freedom, which continues through July 4, 2012, are available here. The campaign addresses conscience rights, religious freedom, and the HHS coercive mandate in particular.  Homily notes, prayers of the faithful, and additional prayer resources for use in your dioceses and parishes are also available on the website.
  • National Catholic Partnership on Disability, in collaboration with the National Catholic Bioethics Center, has compiled resources to aid in joining our US Catholic Bishops in taking action during this important Fortnight for Freedom. Please click here to be taken to our resource page for the Fortnight initiative.