Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

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Stewards of the Earth

Caring for the Earth Helps Confort Global Poverty

In its Summer 2012 Quarterly Newsletter the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative—a joint project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)—focused on climate change and the work of the Coalition in its lead story:

Climate change takes a toll on weather patterns, sea levels, growing seasons and cycles of flooding and drought. It has also has an impact on the Catholic Church’s work. For CRS, responding to climate change means helping vulnerable communities adapt to its effects and decrease its impact…In the United States that means helping Catholics to understand how recognizing the sources of climate change in their own lives is a matter of faith and a call to action.

Dan Misleh noted in the article that much could be done to lower our carbon footprint both individually and collectively.  Parishes can and should use less energy and allow these actions to become teachable moments: sharing Catholic social teaching on the environment and solidarity—how our actions have global reach.

Addressing climate change has been one of the key goals of the Catholics Confront Global Poverty Initiative.  The article also highlights the Coalition’s Sustainability Toolkit for Catholic colleges and universities to use to implement policies around sustainability.

Faith Must Be A Single Moral Voice on Climate Change

In a powerful article, Faith Must Confront Climate Change with a Single Moral Voice, Michael Stafford addresses the important role faith must play in addressing the challenge of a warming Earth. 

Stafford notes that due to the adverse consequences of climate change, the world won’t merely be degraded materially and economically – it will be damaged in a spiritual sense as well because we are destroying things of beauty in nature that serve to uplift our spirits and inspire our souls, and ultimately bring us into contact with our Creator God.  And while poor people bear a disproportionate burden of the worst impacts of climate change, rich nations will not be spared.

Stafford affirms that addressing climate change today isn’t just a moral issue – it’s a moral imperative.  As such, people of faith, their leaders and their institutions must respond.

Kateri Feast Day Draws Native American Catholics Eager for Own Saint

Catholic News Service reports that as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha’s sainthood draws near, Native Americans are eager to rejoice as evidenced by a special celebration this past July 14—Tekakwitha’s feast day. 

Blessed Kateri, known as “the Lily of the Mohawks,” was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 along the Hudson River in what is today upstate New York. A Jesuit missionary baptized her in 1676 when she was 20. A year later she fled to Canada and died there in 1680.  She astounded the Jesuits with her deep spirituality and her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She took a private vow of chastity and devoted herself to prayer and to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and elderly.

In June 1980, she became the first Native American to be beatified, giving her the title “Blessed.”  Although not mentioned in the article, Kateri—along with St. Francis of Assisi—is recognized by the Church as patroness of the environment and ecology.  Learn more about Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha from the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center, formerly known as the Catholic Conservation Center.

Philippine Nun Threatened for Environmental Justice Efforts

Catholic News Service reports that Benedictine Sister Stella Matutina has been ‘red-tagged’ for work on environmental justice issues .  Most of her work is on the southern island of Mindanao.  Since 2007, Sister Matutina has accompanied the people as they fight the logging and mining corporations whose unsustainable practices have led to landslides, floods and human tragedy.

Sister Stella started getting death threats in 2009 after she helped a community block the entry of heavy mining equipment.  The article describes how she was detained by members of the Philippine army’s 67th Infantry Brigade during a nighttime raid Feb. 16, 2009, in the remote village of Taytayan, in eastern Mindanao. Along with three companions, including one novice from her congregation, she had gone to the village at the invitation of community leaders to lead a discussion about local environmental concerns.  Sister Matutina says, In the landslides and flooding and deaths, I could hear the cry of the poor and the groaning of creation…, and she expressed her commitment: In our struggle we have death threats, but we continue because we have to stand with the people.

Sister Matutina’s experience appears similar to that of the late Sister Dorothy Stang, S.N.D., an American-born nun who was murdered in Brazil for her environmental advocacy on behalf of poor locals in the face of exploitative logging and land ownership.  In her honor, Sister Stang’s home Archdiocese of Cincinnati established the Spirit of Sister Dorothy Stang Award.

Aging Resources

New Disease Added to Social Security Compassionate Allowances  Program

The U.S. Social Security Office will allow symptomatic Huntington’s Disease to its Compassionate Allowances program for adults by the end of the year. The Compassionate Allowances program fast tracks disability decisions to ensure Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years. Click here for more information.

Internet Use Growing Among Older Adults

For the first time, research shows that half of adults age 65+ are online and one in three online seniors use social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Click here  to view the Pew report.

The MetLIfe Study of Elder Financial Abuse

This report finds the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion annually.  Click here to view the report.  

Health Benefits of Volunteering for Older Americans

This report provides great statistics on the rewards that individuals age 55+ receive from volunteering in the community.  Click here to view the report.

Home Foreclosures

This AARP study found that among people age 50+, the percentage of loans that are seriously delinquent increased 456% from 2007 – 2011. As of December 2011, 16% of loans to 50+ households were underwater. For the full report, Click here.

Advocacy Efforts

Farm Bill Extension Could Be Tied to Drought Relief

Last week, House leadership indicated that the five-year reauthorization of the farm bill is unlikely to be brought to the floor for a vote before Election Day. However, the severe drought affecting farmers across the U.S. could provide a vehicle for a one-year extension of the programs that it funds.

Some members of the House have indicated their unwillingness to vote for the version of the bill that was passed by the House Agriculture Committee, saying the 10-year, $950 billion price tag was too high. However, some members of Congress made it known that with nearly half of the U.S. corn crop in poor or very poor condition, they will push for a one-year extension of agriculture and nutrition programs attached to a drought aid measure before the end of the summer.

This extension would postpone consideration of the full five-year farm bill reauthorization until after the induction of the new Congress. Leaders in the Senate, however, indicated that they are committed to the five-year package that was passed earlier this summer.

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on CCDBG

On July 26, the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing entitled “CCDBG Reauthorization: Helping to Meet the Child Care Needs of American Families.” The hearing was the third in a series of discussions on the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which has not been reauthorized since 1996.

The panel included HHS officials and child service providers discuss the unevenness of child care and early learning programs across the states, and improvements undertaken through Head Start, Race to the Top, and partnerships across federal agencies to provide better integrated services. They also discussed the desire to make eligibility determination more consistent with other federal programs and raising awareness about other federal programs.

Additional information on this hearing include the list of witnesses/panelists and testimony can be found on the committee website.