Posts tagged with: usccb

January 11-13, 2013 has been set aside as a Weekend of Prayer to end human trafficking and slavery. This ecumenical event is meant to not only shed light on the issue but to also pray for victims, slave traders, “johns” and any affected by human trafficking.

According to the Weekend of Prayer website,traffickingMedium2

  • Human Trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world with an estimated 32 billion dollars made annually.
  • There are 14,500 and 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year.
  • Out of the victims of human trafficking 70% are female and 50% are children.
  • Common places where pimps recruit women and children in the U.S. for sex trafficking are parks, playgrounds, homeless shelters,bus stations, junior high and high schools.
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports an estimated 100,000 children are at risk of being commercial sexually exploited annually.
  • The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is between 12 to 14 years old in the United States.
  • The average cost of a slave is $90.00.

There are many state and regional organizations that offer aid to victims of this crime. However, one of the two national organizations that received federal funding, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently lost $15 million in federal funding because of the Church’s pro-life stance, and refusal to provide and administer abortions, artificial birth control and sterilizations. Those funds allowed agencies across the U.S. to offer educational programs, shelter, food, and other necessities to victims. The bishops continue their anti-trafficking efforts, but without any federal funding.

The Weekend of Prayer website states, “In our opinion, God calls his people to lead efforts to eradicate this modern day slavery just as religious leaders in the nineteenth century led the fight to end slavery in their age.”

I will not indulge in any sort of “what would Dorothy Day do” when it comes to thinking about the current US Catholic Bishops’ Conference taking place in Baltimore.  However, it is interesting to ponder this woman who exemplifies so much of 20th century Catholicism and the bishops’ agenda, especially as the bishops discuss cause for her canonization, while on the same day failing to pass a pastoral message on economics.

Their last pastoral letter on economics was in 1986, “Economic Justice for All”. Certainly, many things have changed since then, but as Dorothy Day knew, “the poor you will always have with you”. Her life tells much of the story of the 20th century: socialism, suffrage, labor unions, a failed live-in relationship and abortion. But it also tells the story of redemption: a love of Christ and His Church, Scripture and prayer, the Rosary and Psalms.

In 1960, Dorothy Day returned money sent to the Catholic Worker house by the city of New York – interest on the house owned by the Catholic Worker Movement. In her letter to the city, she said, “We do not believe in the profit system, and so we cannot take profit or interest on our money. People who take a materialistic view of human service wish to make a profit but we are trying to do our duty by our service without wages to our brothers as Jesus commended in the Gospel (Matthew 25.)”

She was chided for this. Some thought the money should have been kept and used for the poor. A benefactor told Dorothy that it was interest from the benefactor’s estate that was donated; what was wrong with interest? Dorothy acknowledged she was only doing the best she knew how, and that,

[o]f course we are involved, the same as everyone else, in living off interest. We are all caught up in this same money economy. Just as “God writes straight with crooked lines,” so we too waver, struggle on our devious path – always aiming at God, even though we are conditioned by habits and ancestry, etc. We have free will, which is our greatest gift. We are free to choose, and as we see more clearly, our choice is more direct and easier to make. Be we all see through a glass darkly. It would be heaven to see Truth face to face…There is no simple solution. Let the priests and the economists get to work on it. It is a moral and an ethical problem.

Dorothy Day would be the first to say her poverty was voluntary. She did not expect everyone to live as she did. She felt profound allegiance with the poor, and chose the most personal approach of all to serving them: she became one of them, lived with them, ate with them, served them.

“Let the priests and the economists get to work on it.” That sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea, from a perfectly radical follower of Christ.

(image of Dorothy Day: copyright by Vivian Cherry)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have launched a new website, First American Freedom. The website aims to inform readers on issues surrounding religious liberty, current threats to religious liberty, and actions one may take to uphold this liberty.

Religious freedom is our first American freedom. It is a founding principle of our country, protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It’s a fundamental human right, rooted in the dignity of every human person—people of any faith or no faith at all. It’s not a Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, Mormon or Muslim issue—it’s an American issue, a civil rights issue.

Religious liberty includes your freedom of belief, speech, and worship. But it also protects action—the freedom to serve the common good in accordance with your faith. It means that you and your community—not the government—define your faith. It means the freedom to help the needy in accordance with the principles of your faith. It means the freedom to participate fully and equally in public life, regardless of your faith. It means the freedom to work in business without checking your faith at the door.

In short, it means that nobody should be forced to act in a manner contrary to their own religious beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, unless it is necessary to keep public order.

The website also features media and print resources that can be shared.

Visit First American Freedom here.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement regarding remarks made by Vice-President Biden during last night’s debate.

According to the debate transcript from the Washington Post, Biden stated,

With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

The Bishops responded, in part:

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

The fact is: Joe Biden got his facts wrong.

Last week, PowerBlogger Andrew Knot and I wrote posts about American sugar policy and farm subsidies, respectively. Now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Catholic Relief Services and National Catholic Rural Life Conference, have come out with a joint letter on the 2012 farm bill that just passed the Senate. Among other things, they urge Congress to reduce agricultural subsidies, and limiting crop insurance to small and medium sized farms.

In 2010, the government gave out $96 billion in farm subsidies. As I pointed out last week, the median farmer’s income is already 25 percent higher than the median American’s. Furthermore, most of the farm money is going to a small number of the farmers. Big farms tend to get a much larger share of the handout than small and medium sized farms do. American agricultural policies represent welfare and protectionism for the already well off.

The USCCB’s letter can be read here.

Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, D.D., Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas

On Catholic World Report, Carl E. Olson interviews Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, about the HHS mandate, the Ryan budget, and what the Supreme Court ruling means for the religious freedom fight.

“There are always some people who feel that the Church is becoming partisan and political in this,” Archbishop Naumann said, referring to a collective response to the HHS mandate covering provision of contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that includes more than 40 lawsuits and the current, ongoing Fortnight for Freedom developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“But we try to point out to them that we didn’t pick the time, nor did we pick the fight,” he added. “We’re not trying to advance any agenda other than to protect what has been there. We either have to be silent and acquiesce to the mandate, or we have to make our voices heard at this point.”

Naumann has been an important figure in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Committee on Marriage and Family Life.

“Part of my concern, which I expressed at the bishops’ meeting (earlier this month in Atlanta) is that people – who have good intentions and motivations – have too often looked to massive government programs to help the poor,” he said, “yet we have a history now of almost 50 years with these programs and we don’t have fewer poor and we don’t have more people empowered. But we do have a weaker family life and weaker public morality. And so we have to look at it and ask, ‘Are these really the best ways to go about addressing the problem?’”

Read “We didn’t pick the time, nor did we pick the fight,” an interview with Archbishop Naumann by Carl E. Olson in Catholic World Report.

At least forty Catholic dioceses and organizations in the United States have filed suit against the Obama Administration for violation of First Amendment rights.  According to CNSnews.com,

The suits filed by the Catholic organizations focus on the regulation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last August and finalized in January that requires virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.

The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics should not be involved in them. Thus, the regulation would require faithful Catholics and Catholic organizations to act against their consciences and violate the teachings of their faith.

Read the entire article here.

In his new book, Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy, Fr. Robert Sirico cautions against the encroachment of government regulations and oversight of religiously-based health care institutions:

Because of the vital role of Christianity in the history of health care, we should feel the gravity of what has been happening to religious hospitals and clinics in the past several decades—and in an accelerated fashion in the past few years. Government’s increasing role in health care has tended to secularize these otherwise vibrant civil institutions—altering their meaning, culture, and mission, and compromising their effectiveness. As government reaches ever deeper into the health care sector, it forces these religious institutions to become more and more like secular institutions, until it actually begins to exclude people of conscience from remaining involved with the very institutions they created in the first place! This may strike some as merely a parochially Christian concern, but what’s at stake is relevant to everyone in this country: both religious liberty and the recovery and maintenance of vibrant, loving, and authentic health care in America.

Fr. Sirico’s words echo those of Cardinal Wuerl, who states, “The First Amendment enshrines in our nation’s Constitution the principle that religious organizations must be able to practice their faith free from government interference.”

The suit was filed after the Obama administration failed to agree to requests from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to rescind regulations forcing employers to offer artificial contraception and abortion as health care to employees.

I just completed a very short interview on Vatican Radio to discuss the current battle between the Obama administration and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It didn’t permit me to say more than that the Obama administration is making a political mistake, so I’d like to say a bit more about the serious consequences that will likely result and how we ended up with this Church-State conundrum in the first place.

As Dr. Donald Condit has already explained, the Obama administration seems to be making a political calculation that this controversy will blow over before the November’s presidential election because the conscience exemption for providing and paying for abortion, sterilization and contraception will not take effect until later next year. But the miscalculation was predictable and is now evident, with not only Catholics, but Orthodox, Evangelical, Jewish and other religious leaders taking a stand. Unless the administration relents or the Obamacare law is ruled unconstitutional, Catholic hospitals and other institutions will be faced with a choice between not providing insurance coverage to their employees and thereby be fined by the government, or pay for the provision of services that they believe are morally evil.

A journalist friend in Rome just raised an alternative reading of the story to me on the street. What if Obama is actually making a principled argument that abortion, sterilization and contraception services are a fundamental aspect of women’s health that cannot and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their own religious or individual convictions? Perhaps the White House believes, as most progressives do, that these stodgy, uptight opponents will eventually, inevitably, be overcome and we will one day wonder what all the fuss about. If so, the administration is doing much more than thinking about the next election; it’s redefining what the word “health” means to include measures that violently take away life from the most innocent and vulnerable persons, regardless of who pays for the services. This makes it much more than a religious freedom or a conscience issue and a matter of simple justice.

More generally, the whole Obamacare mess is a result of employer-provided health insurance. We would all be better off if our health insurance was decoupled from our employment, and we were free to purchase our own insurance according to our needs and wants. It is a result of state intervention in the economy, namely wage-and-price controls, that led to employers offering health insurance as a non-wage benefit to entice desired employees to their companies. Now we have the government mandating that all employers must provide comprehensive coverage to all their employees. What was once a prudential individual decision has become a government-mandated “right” that trumps the employer-employee, the doctor-patient, and perhaps even the priest-penitent relationship. Some progress.

There is some tragic irony to all this. We should not forget that many religious leaders have long-supported increasing the role of the state in health care and the economy at-large, perhaps thinking that conscience clauses would protect their institutions against any undue interference. Well, they were wrong; what the state giveth, the state taketh away. If you invite the state to “assist” more and more of your activities, it will eventually start telling you how to do things. Encouraging the Democratic Party’s efforts from Harry Truman on to socialize the health care system of the United States is likely to have dire consequences for Catholic and other religious-based social service providers. Economic ignorance among religious leaders comes at a very high cost to their own good works.

Update, Feb. 2: the Assembly of Bishops issued a press release to “adamantly protest” the HHS mandate.

On the Observer blog of the American Orthodox Institute, I look at the non-reaction of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to the recent Obama administration mandate that forces most employers and insurers to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs free of charge. More specifics here. The Assembly of Bishops, charged with the “common witness” for Orthodox Christians in America, was also missing in action during the 2012 March for Life.

Towards the conclusion of this article, I say:

… we can’t dismiss this problem by saying that the Orthodox, broadly speaking, don’t get institutionally involved in politics. Far from it. How else can you explain the churches’ long membership in the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches, Protestant-dominated bodies that exist to put a patina of theological legitimacy on leftist economic and political ideologies?

Patriarch Bartholomew is all too ready to talk about how the Church invented hospitals more than 1,600 years ago, as he did in a 2009 speech sponsored by the Center for American Progress and Georgetown University in Washington. He even noted that these Byzantine hospitals were “public institutions, free of charge and created for the public good.” Although the patriarch stopped short of backing the Obama administration’s health care initiative before this liberal/progressive audience, he endorsed the notion that “every member of society, from the greatest to the least” deserves the best quality healthcare.

But Patriarch Bartholomew and his lobbyists are nowhere to be found when 21st Century American hospitals are feeling the heat from an administration trampling on conscience protections. We’re talking about hundreds of hospitals founded by Catholics, Jews and Protestants and serving people in real need — today and not in some idealized forever-gone past.

In stark contract to the Orthodox bishops, some 135 Roman Catholic bishops in the United States — and counting — have spoken out on this mandate.

Also see this reaction from Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Associated Baptist Press: “Mohler says insurance mandate not just ‘Catholic’ issue”.

Read “Orthodox Bishops Assembly Silent on Moral Issues” on the Observer blog of the American Orthodox Institute.

The American Life League has released an investigative report on the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which, it turns out, has been funding dozens of thoroughly unchristian organizations in its fight against domestic poverty. Catholics in the pews who have given to the annual CCHD collection might not be happy to learn that the program’s efforts are frequently right out of line with its “fight poverty: defend human dignity” slogan.

At Acton, we believe that in the long run, the poor are harmed by patronizing aid schemes that, well intentioned though they may be, don’t account for the dignity of the human person whom they try to help. It’s certainly inconvenient that you can’t end poverty by giving lots of people lots of money, but we’ve tried just that for decades, and poverty is nowhere near eradicated.

People are pulled out of poverty by the creation of wealth through productive work, and that is the only way that is truly appreciative of the dignity of the poor. Marxism fails as an economic system and as a means of bettering the condition of the poor because it misunderstands human nature. It debases men and women.

It’s disheartening, then, to see that a quarter of the organizations funded by the CCHD for 2010 – 2011 are either directly involved in materialistic poverty alleviation campaigns based on false anthropologies, or else are proud partners of such organizations. They promote abortion and birth control as ways to keep the poor from reproducing, because, you know, the poor deserve dignified treatment, but we sure don’t want to deal with more of them. And then these organizations tell the poor that if only Lenin were in charge, they’d all be well-off.

In 2010, after public pressure from the American Life League and others, and an internal investigation, the CCHD promised to stop funding groups that trample on human dignity. Unfortunately, the ALL reports that “the number, and percentage, of offending organizations has actually INCREASED in the last year — from 51 to 54 groups and from 21% to 24%. ”

If the program can’t be rehabilitated, it needs to be ended, because the only kinds of poverty programs the USCCB should be supporting are those that cleave to the Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature. (See, for example, Acton’s partner PovertyCure.)