Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

 

2011 St. Augustine March for Life
Join the Diocese of Orlando on Saturday, January 15 as we travel to St. Augustine Florida to mark the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade legalizing abortion in the United States.  The March begins at the Mission Nombre de Dios—The Great Cross— and concludes in the public plaza with talks by nationally recognized Pro-Life Speakers. The Diocese of Orlando will have buses leaving from Brevard, Orange, and Volusia Counties. The cost for the bus is $25 per person; children under 12 are free. Call the office of Advocacy and Justice at 407-246-4819 for more information or to register. To read more about the march, visit: www.marchforlifestaugustine.com 

Prayer Service for Christian Unity: January 25, 10:30 am
Bishop John Noonan cordially invites you to a Prayer Service for Christian Unity. The 2011 theme is One in the Apostles’ Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayer (cf. Acts 2:42). The prayer service will take place Tuesday, January 25, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. at St. George Orthodox Church, 24 N. Rosalind Ave. in downtown Orlando.  To RSVP contact Elizabeth Clayton, 407-246- 4819, advocacyjustice@orlandodiocese.org.

Living Will Forums
Do you have questions about Advance Directives or Living Wills?  Concerns about end-of-life care and Catholic teaching? Confused about designating a Health Care Surrogate?  These and other questions will be answered at an upcoming living will forum by a panel consisting of a Catholic physician, attorney and clergy. Please see below for the dates and times for upcoming forums around the diocese:

  • January 22, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 5300 Old Howell Branch Rd., Winter Park
  • February 12, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church: 359 New York Ave., Deland

Catholic Days at the Capitol, March 15-17, 2011
Join Catholics from around the State of Florida in Tallahassee for the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol under the direction of the Florida Catholic Conference. Our legislative concerns will be presented to our local senators and representatives.  We will also have the opportunity to attend the Legislative Luncheon with our bishops as well as the 36th annual Red Mass to celebrate the work of our government leaders and lawmakers. Buses are available. This is a great opportunity to form relationships and live out our calling to be faithful citizens. Deadline to register: February 26, 2011. Please call 407-246-4819 or email:  eclayton@orlandodiocese.org    for information.

CCHD Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest (ongoing, through March 1)      
Schools and parishes are encouraged to use the Youth Arts contest as a way to engage youth in grades 7 through 12 in awareness about the causes of poverty, Catholic social teaching, the two feet of social action, and the work and witness of groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The 2011 contest theme is: “Our Faith, Our Mission, Our Future: Building Community, Overcoming Poverty, Defending Human Dignity.” All types of art (e.g. video, song, painting, acting, writing, etc.) are welcome. Entries must be turned into the Office of Advocacy and Justice by March 1, 2011.  The Arts Contest Program offers dozens of pages of lesson plans and activities that can be used across disciplines—by theology, art, English, social studies, government, music, and other teachers—as well as in youth ministry and catechetical programs.  The spring semester is an excellent time for parishes and schools to begin implementing the contest/program. For more information contact eclayton@orlandodiocese.org or call 407-246-4819.  We hope many new schools will participate in 2011 and check our website www.orlandodiocese.org for the current 2010 national winning entry.

Catholic Relief Services and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Action Item: Peace in Sudan
This is a reminder about several new resources available for your use in supporting a peaceful referendum in Sudan.  Voting on this critical referendum begins on Sunday, January 9, 2011 and continues through January 15.

  • Use the homily notes, prayers of the faithful, and bulletin notice on January 9 to focus on the referendum on this special Sunday when voting begins in Sudan.
  • Print this letter from Bishop Howard Hubbard and Ken Hackett in your diocesan paper, parish bulletin, and other media.
  • Gather your faith community with a simple prayer service before and during the referendum.
  • Begin/conclude your next meeting with this short prayer for peace and new growth throughout the voting.
  • Let us raise our voices in prayer to our Savior who has come to bring peace to God’s children!
    Pray every day with the people of Sudan.
    Learn about the referendum and underlying issues.
    Advocate by sending brief emails to the Administration and Congress.
    Give to support CRS’ peacebuilding programs in Sudan. 
    We are frequently updating www.peaceinsudan.org leading up to and throughout the voting process.  Check out the newest blog stories, photo slideshows, and updates from CRS staff in Sudan.
  • Poverty Awareness Month
    January is Poverty Awareness Month!  Use Poverty Awareness Month as an opportunity to inform your diocese about poverty by writing an article for your diocesan paper, hosting an event, and sharing resources with parishes and schools.

    Justice for Immigrants New  Year’s Resolution
    JFI New Year’s resolution resources that you and your parish(es) may use as a tool as we head into 2011.  The documents are also posted on the www.justiceforimmigrants.org website. Download them here: http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/documents/NYR-combined.pdf and here: http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/documents/New-Years-Resolution-Pledge-Sheet.pdf

    Catholic Faith Formation and Climate Change
    Dan DiLeo writes in Catholic Campus Ministry Association’s Crossroads magazine about maturing in Catholic faith and applying Catholic Social Teaching to the issue of climate change. Read article here.  

    Training Catholic Climate Ambassadors
    In reflecting on his primary role in the recent Catholic Climate Ambassador training, Dr. Glenn Juday of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said, in part:  “The Catholic Church is one of the major moral opinion-shaping organizations in the US and has gradually engaged on the issue…The time seems to have come when this large institution is moving on the issue of environmental stewardship in general, with climate change as a particular case. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have written and taught directly on these matters in a serious way, and with some sense of urgency for action by Catholics in their lives and by society in general…[T]he historical record indicates that members of Catholic Church have been institution builders, with decisive roles in inventing the university, hospital, modern law, and other institutions. While nothing so momentous may emerge from the Catholic Church’s attention to this issue, you never know with those folks, so it’s interesting to see what’s going on.”  Read more here.

    Penalty for Environmental Pollution
    A big news story coming out of the Vatican at the end of the year was the announcement of new penalties for financial misconduct.  Less noticed were new penalties for environmental pollution.  The new law establishes a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of $3,500 to $35,000 for anyone who pollutes the soil, water, or the atmosphere. The jail term rises and fines increase if the pollution occurs with hazardous substances.  The Vatican typically leaves it up to Italian authorities to enforce the Vatican’s criminal laws. This is yet another example of why Pope Benedict has earned the nickname the “Green Pope.”
    Read more here.

    Viewing Climate Change: A Point of No Return?
    Columban Fr. Shay Cullen of the Philippines issues a wake-up call in an article for the Missionary Society of St. Columban: It’s vitally urgent for humanity that progress be made in reducing world levels of carbon dioxide, methane emissions, and deforestation. The greenhouse gases emitted rise into the earth’s stratosphere and form an insulation blanket that traps the earth’s heat leading to an overheated planet causing the climate to be affected, violently at times. This year alone, millions of people have suffered the consequence of the highest temperatures on record in many countries. Forest fires raged beyond control in Russia, Greece and Portugal. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of woodland have been destroyed, 18,000 hectares in Portugal alone. Such a loss of green shade adds to the rise in global warming. In China, Pakistan, and India, devastating floods resulted; millions are still homeless. Perhaps the unusual heavy melting of ice on the Himalayas was one cause, and super powerful typhoons caused by the warmer oceans evaporating the sea and raining down a billion tons more water another. Everything in this amazing and beautiful planet is connected and interacts. Living creatures are the most affected, that means you and me and every plant and animal.  Read entire article here.

    National Catholic Rural Life Conference Reviews New Book
    The book is Stewardship of Creation: What Catholics Should Know about Church Teaching on the Environment by Marie George.  George is a Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University in New York where she teaches Environmental Ethics and Science & Religion – all that according to the back cover. Not mentioned is the fact that she received her training in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Laval University in Québec. Insiders know that Laval was famous for emphasizing the importance of the natural philosophy of Aristotle within the theological work of St. Thomas. Translation: the questions surrounding the meaning of the natural order and our place within it go very deep in George’s outlook. Readers are spared the technical issues lurking at these deeper academic levels; instead they are provided a reliable and thoughtful tour of the fundamental questions at stake. These are not the musings of a disaffected Luddite; but of an accomplished Catholic philosopher– in a very accessible format. Each brief chapter includes a synoptic “Take Home Message,” as well as discussion questions. In the hands of a competent parish Catechist, the book could be put to great use.  Read more of the review here.

    Dominican Sisters Dedicated to Cultivating Biodiversity
    Santuario Sisterfarm is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 by Dominican Sisters of Adrian, MI, and Latinas of the Texas-Mexico Borderlands. Located in the Texas hill country and rooted in the rich multicultural legacy of the Borderlands, Santuario Sisterfarm is dedicated to cultivating biodiversity and cultural diversity — and living in right relationship with the whole Earth community… Santuario Sisterfarm has created a small-scale, replicable model of sustainable living on the seven acres in which the organization is located, using Permaculture practices that stress Earth care, people care, and fair share.  Read more here.

    The Virtue of Rural Life: Our Call to Uphold
    Over the National Catholic Rural Life Center’s (NCRLC) history, we have been a witness to the fact that our farming needs to be conducted as stewards of the earth acting on behalf of God’s creation. Besides producing food for all, we must do so one generation to the next and according to fairness and justice. Needless to say, it’s not an easy task to build an agricultural system that expresses such values.
     
    As our long-time members know, farming is dynamic and continually changing due to new technology, husbandry practices, weather patterns, trade policies, and generational expectations. And well we know the sharp difference of opinions that are voiced on market operations, consumer food choices and the amount of government intervention in the farm economy.

    In setting our policy positions, we begin with the firm belief that there is a virtue of rural life to contemporary American society. We cannot and should not lose our rural roots and character. Read a commentary on this at our website under our Catholic Rural Ethic. This ethic will guide us as we move forward in 2011 and advocate for a new Farm Bill that helps “build a new earth, a home of righteousness”.

    Advocacy Efforts

    Domestic Successes in the Last Congress:

    • Assistance for Unemployed and Low-Income People: We are happy to report that thanks to your advocacy efforts and the bishops’ letters to Congress and the Administration, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act (H.R. 4853), which was signed into law in December, includes three provisions that we requested. To benefit unemployed persons, the new law extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for thirteen months, through December 31, 2011. To benefit low-income persons, the new law extends for two years improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit that reduces the marriage penalty and increases the benefit for low-income families with three or more children. It also extends for two years the Child Tax Credit, which increases the value of the credit for low-income workers and makes it accessible to more people. Thanks for your advocacy!
    • Child Nutrition: We asked you to urge Congress to make child nutrition a priority by renewing funding for child nutrition programs during the lame duck session. In December, the Senate version of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S.3307) was signed into law. The legislation provides $4.5 billion dollars over ten years for improved child nutrition through more afterschool and summer meals; higher reimbursement rates to school lunch providers; and improved administration of the WIC program including easier enrollment process for children and funding for programmatic improvements. USCCB applauds these successes but is opposed to the food stamp reduction (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP) contained in the bill and will work for the restoration of food stamp dollars during the 112th Congress.
    • Housing: We asked you to urge Congress to provide funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) as a way to build and rehabilitate affordable housing for extremely low-income individuals and families. Funding for the NHTF was not included in any bill that Congress passed during the lame duck session. There may be opportunities to fund the NHTF in the 112th Congress, but the initial price tag–$1.065 billion–makes it challenging in the current economic and political climate. On a positive note, another housing bill, the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act (S. 118), was enacted and will implement key reforms to housing programs for the elderly (commonly referred to as “Section 202” programs). Funding from these programs will go to rehabilitating older buildings and providing supportive services for elderly residents. Many Catholic Charities programs, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations throughout the country rely on Section 202 funding for their projects.

    A Preview of Domestic Issues in the New Congress:

    • Federal Budget: The leadership of the new Congress has indicated that the Congress will operate under new budget rules that will make it very difficult to maintain adequate spending levels for safety net programs and other programs that benefit poor and vulnerable people. Many safety net programs are already inadequately funded; additional cuts will leave even more people underserved and also harm state budgets. New House budget rules could require caps on entitlement spending, such as health care, and may also require any legislation creating a new spending program to include the elimination of an existing program. Catholic advocates will have to work hard to ensure that the needs of the poor and vulnerable are seen as a priority.
    • Health care: The bishops will continue to prioritize their three moral criteria in any health care legislation: (1) Ensure access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; (2) Retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and (3) Protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access. In the new Congress, we will work to improve and fix the health care law so that it reflects the above criteria, while not undercutting the provisions in the new law that expand coverage for the uninsured; expand access to health care; and make health care more affordable. The new Congress will be more supportive of improving the new health care law by fixing the deficient protections for prohibiting federal funding abortion coverage and improving conscience protections. However, there will be threats to reduce coverage and expansion of care, which will need to be opposed.

    International Successes in the Last Congress:

    • Nuclear Weapons:  We are happy to report that thanks to your efforts and those of many other advocates, the Senate ratified the New START Treaty with a solid bipartisan vote of 71 to 26 just days before we observed the birthday of the Prince of Peace.  New START reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals in verifiable ways.
    • Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Due to your successful advocacy efforts, companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to take steps, including regular audits, to ensure that the minerals used in their products are not financing militia violence in the eastern Congo.  The law also allows companies to label goods as “conflict mineral-free” and directs the U.S. government to develop a strategy that addresses the links between human rights abuses and illegal extraction of minerals from the Congo.  Thanks to your advocacy efforts, the prayers of the Church and people in DRC have been answered.
    • Accountability and Extractive Industries: In part due to your efforts,  companies registered with the SEC that are involved in the extraction and commercial development of minerals, oil, and gas are also required to publish what they pay to the governments of the countries in which they work.  This requirement will make it easier for civil society in those countries to hold their governments accountable for how these revenues are used and for investors to more fully take into account the risks of certain projects.  Your successful advocacy efforts help ensure that poor and vulnerable people throughout the world will benefit.
    • Haiti:  We asked you to urge Congress to provide much-needed emergency relief and funds for long-term reconstruction in Haiti. Congress passed the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP, S. 3275 and H.R. 5160) and the Haiti Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery Act (H.R. 4573 and S. 2961), and both pieces of legislation were signed by the President.  These are huge victories that will help Haiti to recover and rebuild.  We are deeply thankful for your support of Haiti as it struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake.
    • FY 2010 Supplemental Budget Request:  Thanks in part to your advocacy on the Emergency Supplemental, Congress approved $ 2.8 billion for Haiti, of which $1.23 billion went to relief and reconstruction, $943 million to debt relief, and $150 million to food assistance.  Of the $1.597 billion we requested for global emergency needs, Congress approved $165 million for migration and refugee assistance and $460 million for International Disaster Assistance.  Although the amounts allocated for global emergency needs did not reach the levels requested by USCCB and Catholic Relief Services, in these difficult economic times the additional funds are welcome and will save lives and help protect human dignity.

    A Preview of International Issues in the New Congress:

    • International Assistance:  Although poverty-focused international assistance is less than 1% of the national budget, maintaining our nation’s commitment to poor countries and communities will face an uphill fight.  The popular misperception that our nation spends 10 to 15% or more of its budget on international assistance may add to public pressures to cut what people incorrectly perceive as a “bloated” international assistance budget.  Catholic advocates will need to work hard to maintain funding for humanitarian assistance, morally appropriate health services, and development programs that touch the lives of poor persons throughout the world.  The changed makeup of Congress will likely make it easier to preserve “conscience clauses” and other provisions in foreign assistance programs that allow faith-based groups to be partners in delivering assistance. Maintaining the bipartisan consensus on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other programs is critical. We may also have opportunities to promote provisions that reduce poverty and enhance efficiency, promote transparency, and encourage local participation, especially of civil society.
    • Human Rights:  Human rights and religious freedom may receive increased attention and there may be an effort to address the scourge of violence against women, especially in areas of conflict.  In addition, the International Religious Freedom Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, legislation strongly supported by the U.S. bishops, will be up for reauthorization.
    • Trade:  Trade agreements are likely to come before Congress, including the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement.  Catholic advocates will want to be sure that protection of poor persons, indigenous communities, the environment and labor rights are addressed.
    • Urgent Situations:  In addition, there will be specific advocacy related to a number of countries, especially those in conflict or suffering from natural disaster, including:  Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, and Sudan.  Sudan faces uncertainty as Southern Sudan holds a referendum on unity or secession in January.  It will be important to promote flexible assistance to Sudan to deal with the eventual outcomes of the referendum.  It continues to be important to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, security and recognition for Israel, and a viable and independent state for Palestinians, and to ask Congress to “do no harm,” e.g. denying funding to the Palestinian Authority as they struggle to build the structures of a future state.  It also remains important to advocate for continued support of Haiti reconstruction and long-term development efforts, especially by the efficient and accountable disbursement of aid already appropriated. There are many other international issues that may be on the agenda, including: food security, climate change, debt relief, and torture.  And there are other country-specific situations that may be addressed, including: the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Lebanon, Honduras, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
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