Tag Archives: catholic

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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Save the Great Lakes! Save Ourselves

10 Oct

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By the Religious Coalition for the Great Lakes

“Praised be you, My God, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.” – Canticle of Creatures, Saint Francis of Assisi

The Great Lakes provide 20% of the world’s drinking water. They are at great risk.

The Problem

As we write this statement there have been several incidents that are precursors to the potential destruction of the Great Lakes.

  • In August, there was an explosion at the British Petroleum refinery in Whiting, IN on Lake Michigan. We are assured by the company that everything is fine, but this comes after an oil spill in March, 2014. To this date, we have not been informed as to whether it was tar sands that was spilled into Lake Michigan. BP in Whiting is one of the largest refineries for tar sands in the U.S.
  • In July there was an outbreak of phosphorous induced toxic blue algae in Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio which caused drinking water in the area to be contaminated. It is estimated that over 400,000 residents were affected.
  • Enbridge Corporation is trying to transport tar sands by shipping it through Lake Superior and all the Upper Great Lakes. “Wisconsin regulators tabled an earlier permit application for a tar sands crude oil maritime loading dock in Superior after residents objected.” Eric Hanson, Midwest Energy News 4/15/2014.
  • The Great Lakes do not stand alone. Rivers flow into the lakes. The Calumet River in Illinois flows into Lake Michigan. Pet coke (Petroleum waste) has been stored along the Calumet River and has been polluting it.
  • In July, 2010, an Enbridge pipeline break poured 840,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. To date, the cleanup is not complete with over a billion dollars being spent.
  • On August 18, 2014, documents posted by the State Department shows that Enbridge wants to almost double the flow of tar sands into the Great Lakes region using a pipeline along its Alberta Clipper pipeline (Line 67). (Jim Murphy, “State Department Approves Illegal Scheme for Doubling Tar Sands Flowing through the Great Lakes,” 8/25/14. National Wildlife Federation
  • “Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.” beatthemicrobead.org

What Should Be Done

“Our mistreatment of the natural world diminishes our own dignity and sacredness, not only because we are destroying resources that future generations of humans need, but because we are engaging in actions that contradict what it means to be human. Our tradition calls us to protect the life and dignity of the human person, and it is increasingly clear that this task cannot be separated from the care and defense of all of creation.” – US Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth, 1991, p. 2.

  • According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the U.S. and Canada should enact regulations or pass laws to meet the phosphorous targets from the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Currently the Agreement does not require the U.S. or Canada to do that.
  • S. Army Corps of Engineers must stop using Nationwide Permit 12 (a process expediting approval for projects like access roads and pipelines that do not result in the loss of greater than ½ acre of waters of the United States for each single and complete project) for long pipelines like Flanagan South in Illinois and Keystone South. Instead these pipeline projects should be transparent, open to public opinion, and be reviewed for compliance with the Clean Water Act.
  • The “Halliburton Loophole” that allows a fracking exemption to the Safe Drinking Act must be overturned. Fracking also pollutes potable water.
  • Tar Sands and Fracking should be discontinued as ways to provide energy into the future. Renewable energy sources should be invested in and used.
  • The American Legislative Exchange Council must be exposed and discontinued. “Through the secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense. ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.” ALEC pushes for legislation that is friendly to fossil-fuel production. (alecexposed.org)
  • Microbeads should be removed from all personal care products.

 

What Can We Do?

  • Keep informed. Go to   un/climatechange; www.350.org ; www.greatlakes.org for Alliance for the Great Lakes; on Facebook go to Tar Sands Free Midwest and Oil Sands Truth;
  • Let your legislators, Governor, Congressional Representatives, and Senators know how you feel.
  • Join with groups in your area protesting the polluting of the Great Lakes.
  • Check your personal care products for microbeads. Go to beatthemicrobead.org to find out what other actions you can take.
  • If you have petroleum stock consider divestment or Corporate Responsibility resolutions (go to Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility iccr.org )

 

Conclusion

Water is a requirement for life. Access to water is a right rather than a privilege. When we look at the future of the Great Lakes, we are gazing into our own future. Now is the time to act to preserve the Great Lakes and indeed our own futures.

 

 

 

“Let the Children Come to Me”

26 Jun

immigrant children3 Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

There has been a lot of press as of late speaking of the influx of children coming into the United States from Central America. Since 2009, there has been an a dramatic rise of unaccompanied children coming from Central America.  Why?

Some believe that they are coming here because they are looking for a better life and have heard that the U.S. is easier on children than adults.

Why would children risk crossing deserts, going hungry, risking the possibility of being trafficked, etc.?  Why would parents allow this?

The United Nations has been asking these same questions.  Brian Resnick of the National Journal questioned Leslie Velez , senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.  “The normal migration patterns in this region have changed,” Ms. Velez stated. They are not coming for economic opportunity.  They are fleeing for their lives.”  The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America.  The report states that “no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” to a degree that warranted international protection. If the U.S. refuses these children, it could be in breach of U.S. conventions.  These are refugees no more or less than we are seeing in the Middle East. This time we are the receiving country.

Why are they fleeing for their lives?  In 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras was overthrown by a military coup ( some of whom are graduates of the School of the Americas).  The U.S. has provided support ever since in the form of arms and support for the corrupt government that emerged after dubious elections in 2009 and 2013.

“Since 2008, the U.S. has spent over $800 million in security aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador through ‘Central American Regional Security Initiative’ (CARSI) in addition to millions more in bilateral military and police aid to each country.” (SOA Watch 6/19/2014)

Violence in Honduras is so high that people are scared for their lives.  Children are being recruited by gangs and drug cartels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  They are given little choice because of their vulnerability.  Adult gang members and drug pushers feel that children provide them with safe cover.  These children  don’t want to be in gangs or to be involved with the drug cartels so they flee.  This is similar to the child soldiers we heard about in Uganda.

It is easy to think that children are coming to the United States from Central America for a better economic life.  It appears that, at least for 60% of them, they are just coming for a chance to live.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious just came out with a statement on this.  https://lcwr.org/media/lcwr-statement-children-crossing-borders-alone

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have had several testimonies given to Congress. http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/

You can also give testimony to your congressperson.  Let them know that the humanitarian approach to this is to treat the children as refugees and increase funding for immigrant services.

 

Earth Day to May Day – Global Climate Convergence

27 Feb

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http://globalclimateconvergence.org/2014/02/19/video-tim-dechristopher-climate-change-is-the-context-of-our-times/

In the past, most activism has followed the following path.  Demonstration on Immigration Reform will be held and that is the only issue referred to.  Earth Day is about the environment and that is the only issue discussed on that day. May Day is about Labor and Immigration (due to the obvious connection with labor).

This year, a call is going out to have all issues relating to people, planet and peace connect over 10 days beginning with Earth Day and ending (?) with May Day.  The reason I put a question mark after ending, is that we hope that this will really be just the beginning of a worldwide movement of making connections.

We are very much at a tipping point in our world.  We have reached a critical CO2 mass in our atmosphere of 400 parts per million .  (The Guardian, November 6, 2013) There is a shortage of potable water in California and other locations in the world.  Meanwhile, fracking and the transportation of tar sands and Bakken oil threaten Mother Earth. (go to Tar Sands Free Midwest on Facebook)

The fight for a minimum wage in order for people to have the basic necessities of life is being blocked by the desire for more and more profit.  Labor is being cut, while the average CEO is making 273 times the average pay of their employees. (Washington Post, June 26, 2013).

The social safety net is being dramatically unravelled, while the call for tax cuts for the wealthiest is often heard.

Pope Francis recognized this when he stated in “The Joy of the Gospel”Paragraph 56 : “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

Individual groups cannot really make the impact that is needed.  Combined efforts can begin to shape a new future in which everyone has what they need and the earth and all that dwells upon it is secure. A new world is possible, if only we act.

To find out about events happening in your area, please go to http://globalclimateconvergence.org .

SOA/WHINSEC Name Change — Same Shame

23 Jan

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“Stemming from our Franciscan values and the fact that all life is interconnected, members, vowed and non-vowed are encouraged to be engaged in ministry with those living on the margins of society and struggling to live with dignity.” 26th General Chapter Congregational Commitments 2013

“The 2013 November Vigil energized the movement. The weekend gathering was vibrant and featured creativity in many different facets. Many participated for the first time in the annual vigil. On Sunday, November 24, thousands walked in a solemn funeral procession and commemorated those who have been killed by SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and U.S. militarization. The procession transitioned into an upbeat celebration of life and resistance, after Oscar Romero’s last sermon was blasted through the stage speaker system, and a banner with our message, and thousands of soap bubbles crossed over the barb-wired fence. The vigil weekend included for the first time a Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) on Saturday morning. As part of the PMA, hundreds of movement activists gathered in small groups and discussed questions about the role of nonviolent direct action in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system. SOA Watch activists are taking the discussion back to their communities. The questions that we are focusing on are: is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What are your thoughts on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context? The other main question focused on our grassroots organizing strategies. The conversations continue and we are looking forward to everyone’s input.” SOA Watch

I went to the SOA Watch gathering and demonstration the weekend of November 22-24,2013.  It was amazing to see the diversity of age, gender, race represented by those present for this weekend.  Nonviolence was present throughout the weekend by the demonstrators.  Infiltration of movement by plain clothes police officers was readily apparent.  Some were the same officers who infiltrated the group last year and then testified at the trial.  We  counted about 10 officers, but the commander suggested there were quite a few more.  A police helicopter buzzed the group (flew at about 100 feet above) causing some to duck from fear of being hit and causing some of the vendors to run after t-shirts that were now flying around the concrete.

When does national security become a pretext for attacking freedom of speech?  SOA Watch has filed a Freedom of Information request with the Columbus Georgia police to get any files they might have on the demonstration/demonstrators.

Our message remains the same.  Shut Down the School of the Americas by any name.  It has caused the grief and torture of our brothers and sisters in Latin and Central America for too long.   This continues and so shall we continue to protest it.  Our faith demands this of us.

For more information go to soaw.org

No human is illegal — the case for immigration reform

11 Nov

blog_country_immigrantsNow that the Government shutdown has been lifted and the debt ceiling crisis has been averted, President Obama has insisted that immigration reform become a priority for this Congress.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the following elements to be included in any immigration reform law:

The reform

  • Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country;
  • Preserves family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system;
  • Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States:
  • Restores due process to our immigrant enforcement policies;
  • Addresses the root causes of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity

There have been some myths that have been raised regarding undocumented immigration.

Immigrants cost the country billions of dollars in services.

According to the Cato Institute: the average immigrant pays $80,000 in their lifetime in taxes than they collect in government services.

http://cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb108/hb108-63.pdf

Undocumented immigrants bring crime into the country

In reality, while the undocumented population doubled between 1994 – 2005, violent crime dropped by 34%. Property crime dropped by 32%.  This is based on documentation gathered by the American Immigration Council.

There have been over 2 million deportations during the Obama Administration.  On November 6 and 7 people in major cities in the United States called for an end to these deportations and the passing of the Immigration Reform Bill.

November 13, 2013—Feast of St. Frances Cabrini

St. Frances Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants. Honor her feast day by contacting Congress calling for Immigration Reform.

  • Join Justice for Immigrants’ national Call-to-Congress   855-589-5698 and tell them it’s time to fix our broken immigration system. Feel free to use this script:

I am from City, State, Congregation /Community and as a person of faith, I support genuine immigration reform. I urge the Representative to persuade House leadership to take up immediately  reform that creates a path to citizenship and reunites families. Give us reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Pass genuine  immigration reform before the Thanksgiving recess!

Through all of our efforts, let us remember Francis’ words in the Canticle of Brother Sun:

“Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.”

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!!!