Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter - 16 December 2013

Welcome to the many new members of our legislative network who have joined the past couple of months. We’re very pleased to have you on board and look forward to providing you with updates on our advocacy efforts. Don’t be afraid to take action when the time comes as your efforts are invaluable in working to secure the life and dignity of every human person. 

On to the news …

While Congress has reached a bipartisan agreement to replace the automatic budget cuts of “sequestration,” it is still working on a Farm Bill. The U.S. bishops are asking you to raise your voice and ensure that SNAP (food stamps) benefits are protected in order to feed and protect poor, hungry and vulnerable people. We also support farmers, ranchers and rural communities in receiving the support they need to thrive.

Click here for a sample email to your member of the committee worki...  Senator Tom Harkin and Rep. Steve King are the Iowa members of the conference committee.

Other issues we support in the Farm Bill include: 

  • Support Food for Peace development programs by maintaining adequate and reliable funding for programs that help poor farmers develop sustainable ways to provide food for their families.
  • Protect conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from further cuts.
  • Maintain conservation compliance to receive subsidies for crop insurance premiums.
  • Target subsidies to small and medium sized farmers and ranchers in need rather than large industrial agriculture.

Regarding the sequestration deal, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami suggests targeting this limited sequestration relief by drawing a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advance the common good, and promote human life and dignity. “This funding can also provide some certainty to charitable and social service organizations planning their budgets, and hopefully create more jobs with decent wages,” he said.

Archbishop Wenski is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

There is another call-in day scheduled for Jan. 8 to encourage reform of our country’s immigration system. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter feed for more information.


On Dec. 10, Pope Francis launched a global campaign to end world hunger. A wave of prayer was started that day and the official campaign is anticipated to last through May 2015. Many Catholic organizations are sponsoring the effort. For more information, go to


Pope Francis’ first exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), has gained a lot of attention since its release on Nov. 24. The pope covers a variety of topics in the document, including our personal responsibility to evangelize, how the church arranges its pastoral work, and our responsibility as Christians to get involved in the political process. It outlines his vision for a missionary Church, whose 'doors should always be open'. 

The best advice I can give you is to actually spend some time reading the document, which you can find at Keep in mind that the pope is writing for Catholics across the globe, not just the United States.

Here’s a few bullet points I wrote down while reading it – I particularly focused on the political aspects because that’s what I work with day to day.

  • Regarding the Church’s teaching on social questions, there is a need to draw practical conclusions so they will have greater impact on our current situation.
  • The unborn are the most defenseless and innocent among us. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving problems.
  • We should not have an economy of exclusion and inequality. We need reform to get a financial system that serves rather than rules.
  • Welfare projects that serve current needs should be considered merely temporary responses. We should attack structural causes of inequality.
  • We should not trust the economic market to regulate itself in a way that promotes human dignity. Programs specifically geared to a better distribution of income are required.
  • All should have work, education and healthcare.
  • Overexposure to our mass globalized media threatens the sacredness of marriage and stability of family.
  • Doing mission is fulfilling – there’s no room for defeatism or “sourpusses.” We must be convinced of the victory beforehand.
  • We should unite our commitment in the social field with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
  • The pope asks God to give us more politicians capable of dialogue, and supports politics as a “lofty vocation.”

Taken individually, Pope Francis’ views on public policies really aren’t much different than those expressed by popes of the past. Taken as a whole, they set a very challenging standard for our political activity!


When I talk about polling I always remind people that polling shouldn’t tell you what to stand for. However, it serves a purpose in helping outline the task ahead.

A recent University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll asked Iowans’ opinions about a variety of issues. It was found that most Iowans support the Iowa State Board of Medicine’s decision to ban telemedicine abortions. While the ban was temporarily suspended on Nov. 6 by a Polk County judge, 66.3 percent of respondents supported banning telemedicine abortions.

Support was especially high among Republicans (84.8 percent), but a majority of Democrats (52.9 percent) and Independents (64.2) also supported such a ban. Despite the recent action by the board and ensuing legal actions, most Iowans (59.6 percent) indicated that they did not know whether the state banned this practice.

A trial on the webcam rule is set for late March.


November and December is prime time for us to meet with legislators and finalize plans for the next legislative session, which is set to begin Jan. 13, 2014. Early next month we’ll send you our preview of the session. I pray you have a great conclusion to your Advent season.

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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