Holy See: Protect Dignity and Promote Integral Development of Women and Girls

Highlights from Archbishop Bernardito Auza’s statement:

Poverty and location, as the Secretary-General’s report notes, remain the greatest threats to the inclusion of girls in education, thus impeding their full participation in the social and economic life of the community.  In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, Pope Francis draws attention to “the abandonment and neglect […] experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.”[1] Women and girls often bear the heaviest burden from these deprivations.

In the area of education, significant progress has been made toward parity between boys and girls from families of relative wealth or decent economic standing. However, as the Secretary-General notes, rural women and girls living in poverty are at “the greatest disadvantage in terms of schooling, literacy, and adult education.”[2] My Delegation would like to draw particular attention to the situation of adolescent girls, who are at the greatest risk of exclusion from education due to social and economic hardships. Whenever young women and girls do not have access to education, they are hindered from becoming dignified agents of their own development.

In seeking to “eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,”[3] the basic material needs of every school-age girl living in rural areas must be addressed. In this regard, initiatives, such as providing school meals to reduce girls’ absenteeism, have proven efficient and should encourage to spread similar efforts to guarantee access to education to each and every girl. The highlighted partnership between the World Food Programme and local farmers, including women, to provide “home-grown school meals” in 37 countries is also a hopeful example of integral development: it attends to the needs of girls and boys, fosters education and increases market access for women, all at the same time.[4]…

Through poverty and exclusion, adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child marriage, and other unacceptable forms of violence. The horrifying prevalence of violence against women, thus, remains a salient and sad example of the deep connection between economic exclusion and violence….

The global migration crisis and the particular vulnerability of migrant women and girls are major concerns….

My Delegation commends all endeavors aimed at truly protecting women’s dignity, while promoting their integral development and advancement within the family and society, and remains strongly committed to this noble cause.


Christians Must Reshape How our Culture Views Poverty and the Poor

This talk was given October 1st 2017, at St. Luke’s Parish in Darien, Connecticut, as part of an ongoing speaker series about finding Christ.

Our savior was poor. “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ,” St. Paul wrote, “that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”It is hard, now, to hear just how radical that is. The din of time has mellowed the force of the fact. A different challenge presented itself to Christianity’s early preachers and practitioners: Convincing others, and themselves, that such a thing were really possible, and that it mattered.

To focus on the Latin west, it is worth noting that the ancient Roman social imagination was not organized around poles of poverty and wealth, but rather citizenship versus barbarianism. This is not to say that there were no poor people in ancient Rome; there were, of course. But their poverty itself was not a major source of social concern. “Poverty, in itself, gave no entitlement,” according to historian Peter Brown, “those who received benefits from the wealthy received them not because they were poor but because they were citizens.”

Which is not to say the ancients held the poor in high esteem — a failure to focus on poverty per se did not imply an absence of stigma. On the contrary, an ancient Roman legal text off-handedly identified poor persons among those unworthy of presenting complaints in courts of law or giving testimony; but by the middle ages, Christian authors would modify this rule on the grounds that poverty itself wasn’t a moral failure, and wasn’t “a kind of crime.”

But to get to that point, the preachers of late antiquity were tasked with reshaping the imaginations of their hearers. For them, the poor had to be, in some sense, invented, and their poverty presented as a moral issue. People that these fledgling ancient Christians had seen for years in one way, they were now asked to see in a new and peculiar light. The sermons of late antiquity, a period roughly between the third and eighth centuries, right around the time that Christianity was gaining serious ground in terms of adherence, authority and civic attention, tell the story of this reinvention.

“The poor man seeks money and has it not; a man asks for bread, and your horse champs a gold bit under his teeth,” St. Ambrose of Milan wrote, “And precious ornaments delight you, although others do not have grain.” To the pre-Christian imagination this scenario might’ve landed as gauche or petty; it’s in poor taste, after all, to notice the humiliation of a fellow citizen and carry on without mercy. But Ambrose insisted that it was worse than impolite; it was morally wrong: “Mercy is indeed a part of justice, so that if you wish to give to the poor, this mercy is justice…since the Lord our God has willed this earth to be the common possession of all and its fruit to support all.” The poor, in other words, have a claim and a right to the fruits of the earth, because God gave the comfort of nature to all to hold in common. Ambrose’s notary and biographer Paulinus commended the bishop for his own indifference to riches, so, “like a lightly clad and unencumbered soldier, he might follow Christ the Lord, who, being rich, became poor for our sake.”

The preachers of late antiquity set themselves to work upending the reactive, negative notions that developed about the poor among a newly accountable upper class. “You are often idling at the theaters all day,” said St. John Chrysostom, “or in the council-chambers, or in useless conversation. You blame many — but you fail to consider yourself as ever doing anything evil or idle. And do you condemn this poor and miserable person who lives the whole day in entreaties, teas, and a thousand difficulties?” Chrysostom elsewhere argues that the great inheritances common to the aristocracy suggest there’s no more virtue in the acquisition of wealth than the collapse into poverty: At least a poor man living in poverty doesn’t deny others use of the land.

Christ, having been Himself poor, was believed to hold the earthly poor especially close to Himself — a strange thought to a culture more accustomed to thinking of Gods favoring heroes, great beauties and bold conquerors. Almsgiving, Ambrose wrote, can “make God your debtor by a kind of pious usury,” an admittedly unsettling notion to modern ears. But God was understood to consider alms given to the poor as a gift made to Himself, so dearly did He love them. Read More


As Trump revives ‘America First’, John McCain Denounces Blood and Soil Nationalism

In his remarks at the 2017 Liberty Medal ceremony, Senator John McCain defended a values-based foreign policy and commitment to American ideals at home, contrasting them with blood and soil nationalism:

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.


Catholic Leaders Denounce Dismantling of the Clean Power Plan

Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development:

The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship, and has for several years called on our nation to help curb carbon emissions through a national carbon standard.  Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Pruitt announced that the EPA will now take steps to revoke the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030.

The CPP may not have been the only possible mechanism for addressing carbon emissions, but, unfortunately, the Administration does not propose an adequate alternative as it seeks to dismantle the CPP. Having already withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, this change in course by the EPA solidifies the already troubling approach of our nation in addressing climate change, and places at risk many people, including the poor who can least bear the consequences of inaction.

Many states have already made great progress toward carbon mitigation goals under the CPP, making this decision even more difficult. Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’, calls us to action in caring for our common home. A national carbon standard is a critical step for the U.S. at this time. Facing this shift from the Trump Administration, our leaders should heed the Holy Father’s moral call and seek new legislative solutions that will help the nation and world ‘hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ once more.

Catholic Climate Covenant:

Catholic Climate Covenant expresses profound disappointment with the decision by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to issue a proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Without a replacement that meets or exceeds the goals and targets of the current regulation, this repeal will threaten human life and dignity – especially of the poor – and all God’s creation.

Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, Dan Misleh, said, “Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and bishops’ conferences around the world have all accepted the reality of human-forced climate change. And we know that our burning of fossil fuels is among the biggest contributors to this moral dilemma.  The solution is not to burn more fossil fuels, but less. The beauty of the Clean Power Plan was its flexibility to allow states to meet carbon reduction targets in meaningful ways. This repeal now throws all of these potential gains into question.”…

The Clean Power Plan sought to reduce carbon pollution from America’s largest source, the power sector, by 32 percent by 2030.[1] By some estimates, a fully implemented Clean Power Plan could have prevented: 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths; 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children; and 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions….

Dan Misleh said, “Administrator Pruitt’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan will likely increase premature deaths and put public health—particularly in poorer neighbourhoods near power plants—at risk across the United States. The decision will also exacerbate human-forced climate change that disproportionately harms the poor and marginalized at home and around the world. As people of faith committed to protect human life and promote human dignity, especially of the poor and vulnerable, we are deeply disappointed by this action and call on the Trump administration to re-evaluate this decision and keep the air clean and healthy for all.”

Scott Wright Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach:

The Columban Center opposes the EPA’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Columban missionaries working across the globe have witnessed the horrible devastation carbon pollution wreaks on the earth and the vulnerable. This administration continues to demonstrate that they do not appreciate the extent to which the insatiable energy demands of our economy are tearing apart the web of life, with disastrous consequences for future generations.

We encourage the administration to think creatively about how we can replace fossil fuels with renewable energies. We can take care of our workers, our vulnerable, and our environment all at once. What we can no longer afford to do is ignore the realities before us and place profits over people, the interest of a small few over the good of everyone.

Sr. Patricia McDermott, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:

Our sisters in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines who are experiencing melting glaciers, rising sea levels and devastating storms have been calling on us in the United States to urge our government to take strong measures to address climate change. The decision by the Trump Administration to override the Clean Power Plan is totally immoral and death dealing. It blatantly denies climate science and the public health impact data. Most of all, it ignores the cry of the Earth, our common home, and the cry of the most impacted peoples, including here in the United States, where low-income communities of color are disproportionately located near polluting industries that contribute to climate change. We now urge members of Congress to claim leadership on this critical life issue and urgently work together to implement bold climate solutions that future generations will point to with gratitude.


Bishop Robert McElroy: Respect and Defend Life

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego writes:

The month of October is “Respect Life Month” and, while our respect for life as disciples of Jesus Christ ranges from euthanasia to the death penalty to global poverty, the issue of abortion must always demand pivotal attention in American society today. This profound obligation to sustain our attention to abortion flows from the gravity of the taking of innocent human life, which is at the core of every direct abortion and from the continuing refusal of the United States to enact the most elementary legal protections for unborn children.

You can read his full article here.


Trump’s Latest Attempt to Destroy Obamacare

via NY Times:

President Trump will scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers.

The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.

Without the subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel. Insurers have said they will need much higher premiums and may pull out of the insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act if the subsidies were cut off. Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, the subsidies were expected to total $9 billion in the coming year and nearly $100 billion in the coming decade.


Pope Francis: Be Defenders of Life, Guardians of Creation

Via Zenit:

We should all feel the great responsibility to properly guard creation and to care for it, protecting it from various forms of degradation. We have the task of preserving and delivering to the future generations the planet which we received as a free gift from the goodness of God. In the face of the ecological crisis we are experiencing, the prospect of the gift received and delivered to those who will come after us is a reason for commitment and hope….

Be men and women, boys and girls, who are defenders of life, guardians of creation, witnesses of the love given that generates good fruits for the community.