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The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S.

Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by .

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Despite recent U.S. Census Bureau data showing reductions in the poverty rate and increases in household median income, millions of Americans still face double jeopardy in today’s economy. They live below the poverty line, and they face high costs in areas such as rent, food, child care and predatory lending.
That’s the finding of a The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S., a new report released today by the Coalition on Human Needs. Among the report’s highlights:
  • 59 percent of U.S. households with annual incomes below $20,000 spend more than half of their income on rent alone – and child care accounts for another exorbitant expense.
  • Anti-poverty programs help many. Programs such as low-income refundable tax credits, SNAP, free or reduced-price school lunch and child care subsidies have helped lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty.
  • But many anti-poverty programs don’t reach many who are eligible and other programs would do more good if their benefits were higher or if more people were eligible.

“It is good news that the poverty rate is down, median household income is up, and more Americans are finally benefitting from an improved economy, coupled with federal programs that increase income or reduce expenses,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “But the more troubling news is that the poor and near-poor live in a precarious situation. The simple fact is, it is expensive to be poor in the U.S.”

The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S. found many ways in which it is expensive to be poor: Rents consuming huge proportions of income, higher food prices because of lack of access to markets, late fees for unpaid rent and evictions, poor housing conditions leading to health issues, which in turn lead to missed days of school or work; lack of paid sick days, paid leave, and unpredictable work schedules; and predatory lending practices such as pay day lending.

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Archbishop Cordileone Issues Statement on Death Penalty

Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by .

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Three years ago at this time I was part of a delegation of California bishops who paid a pastoral visit to San Quentin State Prison.  While there, we had the opportunity to meet with a number of the inmates on death row, hearing their stories, learning of the misfortunes in their lives, and becoming sensitized to their deep spiritual yearnings and innate desire for God.  The experience put a human face on a tragic human condition that we very comfortably can – and usually do – completely ignore.

This experience also highlights the challenge we as a society face in determining how we can foster peace in this increasingly violent and complicated world.  The answer is certainly not by inflicting more violence.  As we, the Catholic bishops of California, said in our statement reaffirming our opposition to the death penalty: “Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime….  As we pray with them and mourn with them we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing.  It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already.”

We teach on this sensitive matter aware of the complexities of this issue, but also in communion with the bishops throughout the United States, with conferences of bishops throughout the world, and with the consistent teachings of the Popes of our time.  As Pope Francis has recently stated: “The death penalty is an offense to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it … does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance… the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender” (message to the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty, June 2016).

As California citizens we have an opportunity to make our voices heard on behalf of the inviolability of human life and for rehabilitation over retribution.  I ask you to join me in voting to end the death penalty in our state by voting Yes on Proposition 62, and voting No on 66.  Doing so will put to end the myths of capital punishment – such as the assertion that it serves as a deterrent to violent crimes – and also to the flaws it perpetrates, such as its disproportionate use on the poor and minorities.  Most tragic of all, though, is the finality of the sentence: no restitution is possible for a wrongful execution.  Since 1973, 151 people have been released from death rows in the United States due to evidence of their wrongful convictions.  How many were not so fortunate?

Voting Yes on Proposition 62 will be a vote affirming the human dignity of those on death row, affording them the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.  I also ask you to join me and my fellow California bishops by opposing Proposition 66.  This Proposition would expedite executions in California.  A rush to streamline that process will inevitably result in the execution of more innocent people.

In a decisive historical moment for the ancient people of Israel, when they were about to cross the Jordan River to occupy the Promised Land after wandering forty years in the Sinai Desert, Moses told them: “I set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you … may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

We are likewise at a decisive moment in our country and state, and we, too, are given the same choice, a choice we will make when casting our vote this November.  Let us choose life, then, that we may live.

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Haitian Immigrant Policy

Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by .

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After six years of suspended removals following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, undocumented immigrants will now face the same “expedited removal” policies as other nationals.

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World News This Week in Prayer: September 22, 2016

Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by .

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“The Bible says little about the temperature of hell nor the furniture of heaven”. This quote from the great German theologian Reinhold Niebuhr fits in with the story of the rich man and Lazarus where we are made aware of the dangers of being mean with our money and uncharitable to others. This is echoed by the scam artists who have been using Italy’s earthquake disaster for profit by selling T-shirts and claiming the proceeds will go to the victims and their families. We, as human beings must adopt a just and moral outlook to life and realize that bad deeds have consequences and bring regret, and yet also know that God is at our side, protecting us and forgiving us when we show remorse and hold steadfast in our beliefs.
• After a ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ march in London, England, let us pray against the exploitation of thousands of refugees in places such as the Middle East and South Sudan who can be ruthlessly stripped of their life’s savings to risk their lives to escape from war and poverty for a better life. The UN estimates there are over 65 million people worldwide who have had to flee their homes, 34,000 every day, nearly half of which are children. Many are missing and are feared to have fallen victim to human traffickers, sexual abuse or modern slavery.
Merciful Lord, defend and protect those innocents, and let peace override greed and power…
• We pray for those affected by the world’s natural disasters of floods, fires and typhoons: in the U.S., Taiwan, China, Greece and North Korea.
‘For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…’ (2 Corinthians 5.1)
• Let us also pray for the 9 people stabbed at a shopping centre in Minnesota,U.S. in a suggested religious attack. For the 29 people in the U.S. who were injured in an explosion in Manhattan, New York and those affected by the explosion in New Jersey. We pray, too, for the cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, which are reeling from the deaths this week of two black men killed by police, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, and ask, Loving God,  that peace and wisdom may prevail, and hearts may be opened.
• We pray for the dozens of aid workers and truck drivers killed by two air strikes near Aleppo, Syria.
• We pray for the 13 dead after a boat capsized north of Bangkok, Thailandand the 43  migrants who perished off the Egyptian coast, with hundreds still missing.
• Let our thoughts turn to the 20 killed in rebel fighting in Central African Republic and those suffering from warfare throughout the continent.
Gracious God, bring comfort to the victims and help turn the hearts that hate…
Help us Lord, to take pride in helping others, to put our trust in you instead of money and put it to good use. We can then be rich in ourselves and our souls if we are generous to those less well-off whether they be family, friend or neighbour, close by or far away. Let us take inspiration from those people; such as the man from Yorkshire, England who ran 75 marathons in 75 days, at the age of 75, raising £75,000 for a special needs school.
Lord, we give thanks and praise to those who inspire us; bless them all.
Amen.

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The Kiss of Joyful Suffering

Posted on 23. Sep, 2016 by .

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This #FriarFriday reflection was written by Friar Michael Della Penna, OFM, a Franciscan missionary.

While in Africa this summer, I found myself asking how is it that the poor are so joyful when they suffer so much and have so little? How can children laugh and smile and be filled with such joy when they live in such utter destitution. While the term “joyful suffering” may seem to be an oxymoron, the great saints understood that these two seemingly opposite realities are really more like two sides of the same coin.

When St Francis decided to explain perfect joy to a cold and wet Br Leo, he gave a litany of conventional examples of what perfect joy wasn’t which included: all the brothers giving a great display of holiness and edification; performing miraculous deeds like curing the lame etc, or even raising the dead. Francis then described a miserable scene of them knocking on the door of a friary and not only being rejected, called a liar and left out in the rain while being hungry, muddy and cold, but even being driven out with “oaths and blows”, as “vile impostors” and “robbers.” He concluded saying “If we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.”

This puzzling Franciscan parable about finding joy in suffering is meant to disturb us and even turn our idea of suffering inside out. It challenges our very understanding of happiness, which is often defined in materialistic or hedonistic terms, and so measured by the yardstick of consumerism where “more is better.” Our happiness, however, does not depend on any exterior circumstance but rather is an “inside job” rooted in our relationship with God.

“Suffering,” Mother Theresa said, “will never be completely absent from our lives. So, don’t be afraid of suffering. Your suffering is a great means of love, if you make use of it, especially if you offer it for peace in the world. Suffering in and of itself is useless, but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love.”

Our incredibly generous God mysteriously allows us to share in his suffering and pain as a means of greater union with Him.  Mother Teresa believed that while God is a God of love and does not want his children to suffer, our acceptance of pain can be redemptive for us and for others. “If we pray, it will be easy to accept suffering,” which, she said, is “the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.”

The post #FriarFriday — The Kiss of Joyful Suffering appeared first on US Franciscans.

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