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

Posted on 25. Sep, 2016 by .

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 .


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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The Kiss of Joyful Suffering

Posted on 23. Sep, 2016 by .


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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Exposing Sex Trafficking in U.S. Cantinas

Posted on 18. Sep, 2016 by .


Confinement. Economic abuse. Threats. Sexual violence. Around the United States, Latina women are prisoners of the sex trafficking industry in cantinas and bars. These are just a few of the ways traffickers trap young women and girls in an especially horrendous form of sex trafficking in our country.

Polaris released a new report, “More Than Drinks for Sale: Sex Trafficking in U.S. Cantinas and Bars,” which exposes the brutal exploitation young women and girls face in these criminal networks. They also created an interactive dashboard to learn more about who the victims are, how traffickers operate, and where trafficking occurs. 

While federal law enforcement has prosecuted several of these cases in Houston, much more work is needed to end this kind of trafficking. Shining a light on how it happens and who it affects, we can change the equation.



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Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline

Posted on 18. Sep, 2016 by .


Franciscan Friar Kiernan Cronin O.F.M. writes: “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness. The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis.”

Today, immediately after a federal judge rejected an injunction sought by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, three federal agencies ordered a halt to construction of the pipeline through the Tribe’s ancestral lands until the government can reconsider the original approval.tribe-group-photo

The Dakota Access pipeline would carry 450,000 barrels of oil through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois — cutting through communities, farms, sensitive natural areas, wildlife habitat, tribal lands, and the Standing Rock Sioux’s ancestral lands. The pipeline’s planned route takes it close to the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the town of Cannon Ball within it, which means it would cross the Missouri immediately upstream, endangering, protesters say, the reservation’s drinking water and threatening sacred sites. At Standing Rock, they have put their bodies between the water and the oil.

At its confluence, a protest encampment – really a series of camps, on both sides of the Cannonball, strewn with kitchens and canteens, portable toilets, stabling for horses, sweat lodges and tall teepees, and stands selling indigenous art – has sprung up. The population of the camp ebbs and flows. Many have given up jobs and brought their families here, and a core of between 500 and 1,000 people live here semi-permanently. The inhabitants are there to blodakota_access_protesters_590ck the planned $3.7 billion Pipeline. It is an unprecedented gathering. Members of more than 90 Native American nations and tribes have a presence here.

Madonna Antoine Eagle Hawk, a member of the Sicango Rosebud Sioux, arrived last Friday and quickly assumed the role of head chef of the Rosebud camp. The children, she said, call her “Unci”, the Lakota word for grandmother. “I’m proud to be here,” she said. “It’s a powerful feeling. Right now, all these different tribes – this will never happen again in our lifetime,” she said. “If we don’t make a stand, who else will?”

More information at Sierra Club at www.sierraclub.org

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