I hope you had an opportunity to be with family and have a good Thanksgiving celebration! The time between now and Christmas is a critical time when we meet with key legislators and other groups to plan for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. Our goal is to promote public policy that protects human life and respects the human person. You can take a look at our legislative agenda at www.iowacatholicconference.org.
At the federal level, negotiations have begun between the president and Congressional leaders in an effort to avoid automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in January. Unless Congress and the President decide otherwise, a “sequestration” (cancellation of budget resources) will cut federal discretionary spending between eight and ten percent. That would add up to about $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over a ten-year period.
According to the bishops who oversee the justice and peace efforts at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Congress should avoid measures that harm at-risk students, low-income families and people currently benefiting from poverty-focused international assistance.
“As you work to avoid sequestration and enact responsible deficit reduction that protects poor persons from cuts and future generations from unsustainable debts, we hope longstanding moral principles and values will inform your decisions,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a Nov. 13 letter to the House and Senate. Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops said Pope Benedict XVI warns against “downsizing of social security systems” and emphasizes “solidarity with poor countries” and asked Congress to weigh the “human and moral consequences” of numerous policy choices, including:
“We have great concerns that sequestration would negatively affect many important domestic programs that meet the basic needs of people and communities in poverty,” the bishops wrote and urged Congress to “act in a bipartisan manner to address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy and on future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively. However, this important goal must not be achieved at the expense of the dignity of poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad.”
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budg....
DOCUMENT ON ECONOMY FAILS TO RECEIVE TWO-THIRDS VOTE
In my last newsletter I mentioned that the USCCB was to consider a short draft document on work, poverty and the economy during its November meeting. The bishops discussed a document, and while it received the approval of the majority, it failed to receive the necessary two-thirds approval of the bishops present. There were a variety of criticisms of the document stated on the floor, including that the document was too long and did not offer enough of a sense of hope to those who would read it.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES MANDATE
I have received some questions about what the bishops intend to do about the “HHS Mandate” now that the elections are over. You may recall that the mandate would forbid Americans from providing or purchasing health coverage unless it includes female surgical sterilizations, all FDA-approved prescription drugs and devices for preventing pregnancy - including drugs and devices which can destroy a human life at its earliest stages - and “counseling and education” to promote these to all women and girls of childbearing age. Many church organizations would most likely be required to make contraception as a part of their insurance plans in violation of their own teaching.
This issue remains of great interest to the bishops as the “safe harbor” period for many church organizations ends Aug. 1, 2013. There are ongoing federal legislative efforts to eliminate the mandate. In addition, discussions with the White House, and lawsuits against the mandate on First Amendment grounds, may create a solution.
The Church continues to advocate for life-affirming health care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people. We do not see the current mandate as a step in that direction.
There has been a lot of talk following the election on the possibility of moving forward with a national plan of comprehensive immigration reform. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration, urged President Barack Obama and the newly elected Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
Archbishop Gomez urged lawmakers to work together on a proposal that upholds the rule of law, preserves family unity, and protects the human rights and dignity of individuals. He also urged fellow Catholics to make their voices heard in support of the issue.
There has been some discussion of a postcard campaign sponsored by the Church in the coming weeks. We’ll keep you posted.
CRS OFFERS “GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE”
Catholic Relief Services is reporting progress in the fight against global poverty. To see the report, go to newswire.crs.org.
“Too often, we focus on problems,” said John Rivera, CRS Communications Director. “We thought we’d take a different approach. Drawing on our tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, with its focus on the Common Good and Integral Human Development, we decided we would emphasize both our grounding in the Gospel as well as our effective action for improving the lives of the people we serve. Hence, Good News - For a Change.”
CRS is the U.S. Catholic Church’s overseas development and poverty assistance agency.
Now is the time when many of us think about buying those Christmas gifts. At the same time, we have an opportunity to support economic development projects at home and around the world. For more information, take a look at www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/alternative....
Iowa Catholic Conference