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Laudato Si – All Praise be Yours

9 Jul

st francisPope Francis just came out with this encyclical around Climate Change and Ecology to provide input to the world around the moral dimensions of Climate Change. This is to coincide with the Council of Parties meeting to be held in Paris, France from November 30, 2015 to December 11, 2015.   The Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It currently meets once a year to review the Convention’s progress and establish the rules of its implementation. This will be an incredibly important meeting to establish specific criteria to reduce greenhouse gasses and other promoters of climate change at a time when we are at the brink of being unable to change the course.
In the Encyclical, Pope Francis uses St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation as an example of someone who understood the interconnection of our environment and human ecology. Human ecology refers to how we treat human beings on this earth. He notes how we have not only become a throw-away society when it comes to our refuse and use of the earth; we have also chosen throw-away people. The Church demands a preferential option for the poor. Yet our societies seem to have chosen a preferential option for those who are wealthy. We are not balanced in this world. He points out that 2008 would have been an opportune moment to change our economic systems to make sure that the poor in our society were protected. Yet this was another opportunity mixed.

Pope Francis does not demonize technology. Technology has offered advances in medicine, etc. “It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by immense possibilities which they continue to open before us…” 102 Pope Francis is concerned that “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.” 105 The technological paradigm exalts the use of logic to gain control over an external object. It is confrontational rather than communal. It also looks at the world as though there is an infinite supply of goods, which is just not true.

He challenges the world leaders to reach decisions to reduce our impact on climate change through treaties, etc. But to also have a sense of accountability with real consequences attached to any agreement. (He could be speaking directly to the Council of Parties.)He encourages individuals to do what they can. Every little bit we can do helps. If you lead a simple life, you provide an example that can help our planet.

Actions, demonstrations, educational events, etc. are being planned during the months of October and November leading up to the Council of Parties meeting. Stay tuned. Further info will be coming.

For more information go to http://unfccc.int Council of Parties; www.catholicclimatecovenant.org; www.globalclimateconvergence.org; to order your copy of the encyclical go to www.usccb.org

Questions for reflection:

What are you willing to do to help develop a communal approach to climate change?

What systems need to be changed in order to bring earth’s ecology and human ecology in balance?

 

 

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“Right to Work”

20 Mar

chi-fight-for-15-20130424Right now unions are under attack. Wisconsin just signed the “Right to Work” Act. There are 25 “right to work” states. Illinois’ new Governor Bruce Rauner is attempting to make Illinois 26.

“Despite its misleading name, this type of law does not guarantee anyone a job and it does not protect against unfair firing.  By undermining unions, so-called ‘Right to Work’ laws would weaken the best job security protections workers have – the union contract.

A ‘right to work’ law is a state law that stops employers and employees from negotiating an agreement – also known as a union security clause – that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them.  Right to Work laws say that unions must represent every eligible employee, whether he or she pays dues or not.  In other words, ‘Right to Work’ laws allow workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership.

‘Right to Work’ laws aren’t fair to dues-paying members.  If a worker who is represented by a union and doesn’t pay dues is fired illegally, the union must use its time and money to defend him or her, even if that requires going through a costly, time-consuming legal process.  Since the union represents everyone, everyone benefits, so everyone should share in the costs of providing these services.  Amazingly, nonmembers who are represented by a union can even sue the union if they think it has not represented them well enough!” AFL-CIO

So why are unions even needed? “CEOs Earn 331 Times As Much As Average Workers, 774 Times As Much As Minimum Wage Earners. With CEO compensation analysis season in full swing, the AFL-CIO released data this morning stating that American CEOs in 2013 earned an average of $11.7 million–an eye-popping 331 times the average worker’s $35,293.”Apr 15, 2014 Forbes Magazine.

In the meantime minimum wage workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage. Unions have supported this “Fight for Fifteen.” No longer are the jobs at McDonalds and other minimum wage jobs for students trying to pick up a few bucks. They are for all of those people who have lost jobs during the recession and because of companies moving their companies overseas for even cheaper labor.

Are these laws really “right to work” or “right to exploit.” Remember that they also called the MX nuclear missile the “Peacekeeper.”

The measure of a civilization….

16 Oct

hands-holding-bowl-of-rice-thumb12974611Mahatma Ghandi stated that “the measure of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest members.”  What happens when a civilization (a government) ignores its weakest and most impoverished members.  As I write this blog, we are commemorating the United Nations’ designated “World Hunger Day.”  We are also watching  our government in total gridlock attempting to prevent the destruction of a world economy.  There are concerns about what will happen to the stock market?  Will we lose more jobs? What about the poor?

On Tuesday, September 17, the Census Bureau released the 2012 statistics.  (You could try to verify this data through http://www.census.gov, but when I went to the site today it was closed due to the government shutdown. This analysis is from Reuters http://www.reuters.com)  The number of U.S. residents in poverty rose slightly to 46.5 million in 2012.  This includes 16.1 million children and 3.9 million seniors aged 65 and older.  The national poverty rate of 15% remained unchanged.

Although many of the number of jobs lost since the recession have been recouped (8 million), many of those jobs are in service industries that usually don’t pay well.

While the poor and working poor have been struggling to maintain the basic necessities of life, Congress has been shrinking the social safety net to reduce the government’s budget deficit.  Those citizens least able to afford it are being forced to suffer to reduce the budget. Yet those who have actually benefitted since the recession are left alone or given stimulus packages. The food stamp program has been reduced, so that recipients will have a reduction in their food stamps in November.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are fearful of the impact this will have on their already overburdened programs.

Pope Francis has made it clear where he stands. “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” …”

We know where Pope Francis stands.  We know where the original Francis of Assisi stood.  Let those in power know where we stand… with the impoverished members of our society… and we expect them to stand with us.

Amen.

Why Were the Nuns on the Bus?

21 Aug

“He began to say to himself that to refuse what was asked by someone begging in the name of such a great King would be both a shame and a disgrace. And so he fixed this in his heart; to the best of his ability, never to deny anything to anyone  begging from him for God’s sake. This he did and with such care that he offered himself completely, in every way, first practicing  before teaching the gospel counsel: ‘Give to the one who begs from you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Mt.5:42)'”

From the Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, The First Book

Sr. Simone Campbell and other religious sisters organized by Network, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, hopped on a bus to spread the news about budget priorities being proposed by Congress and how they impact the poorest of this nation.

Right now the United States is facing an increase in poverty.

According to the National Census Bureau in the year 2010 the following were the statistics on poverty in the U.S.

  • More than one in seven Americans – including one in five children – lived below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four)
  • The number of people at risk of hunger increased from 36.2 million in 2007 to 48.8 million in 2010 (according to Bread for the World www.bread.org)
  • Food banks in the United States saw a 46 percent increase in clients seeking emergency food assistance from 2006 to 2010.
  • One in seven Americans receive benefits from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly food stamps)
  • Nearly half of SNAP participants are children. 8 percent are 60 or older.
  • 85 percent of SNAP participants have incomes at or below the poverty line.

At this same time, drastic cuts are being proposed (and in some cases passed) to cut safety net programs in our national budget.

Last year the House voted to cut SNAP by $127 billion — nearly 20 percent over ten years– and recommended turning the program into a block grant. Under a block grant, SNAP would give a set amount of money to states every year which would limit their ability to respond to increases in need.  In the past food stamps were considered an entitlement.  If you fit the criteria, you received food stamps.

Congress must renew the farm bill this year which includes nutrition programs like SNAP and assistance to Mothers with Children called WIC.  We are concerned that these will be targeted for cuts, when the need is so great.

So, the nuns organized by Network — www.networklobby.org –went out into the country to call attention to the potential draconian cuts to essential programs for the poor in this country. There are more cuts in proposed budgets (one called the Ryan plan), Pell grants, job training, etc.

For more information on the budget go to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities www.cbpp.org.

So let’s all Get On the Bus!!!