Black Lives Matter

Posted on 17. Aug, 2016 by .


Black Lives Matter


In the last week, we have seen, in horrific detail, the murders of two black men at the hands of police. The murders of five police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas only compounded the tragedy.

The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile serve as a stark reminder of the ways white supremacy and systemic racism stack the deck of the criminal justice system against Black people. Police officers take black lives. Mainstream media smears the victim. Prosecutors tip the scales in favor of police offenders. Killers face no consequences.

Eliminating the daily threat to Black lives posed by law enforcement will require systemic change, and demands action from all of us. We will each have to commit to doing our part, but there is also more that our leaders, especially the Attorney General, can, and must do. The Department of Justice (DOJ) must step in to ensure the full investigation and prosecution of the police officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and any law enforcement officials who brutalize or kill Black people.

More/Leave a Comment

Provincial Letter on Orlando and Gun Violence

Posted on 17. Jul, 2016 by .


Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 11.42.29 AM

 June 17, 2016
May the Lord give you peace!
This is the traditional greeting of St. Francis of Assisi, one that has been adopted over the eight centuries of the Franciscan Order by its members. It signals one of the main themes in the life of our founder and his followers: the call to be instruments of peace.
This week, here in the United States, we once again find ourselves dealing with yet another instance of the seemingly endless stream of senseless violence in our land. This time with 49 innocent deaths, and an equal number of injuries, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There have been 182 mass shootings this year alone. These shootings have taken the lives of 288 people and injured another 673. Six of these shootings have taken place since Orlando. These tragic moments serve add to a culture of fear in our nation that makes us suspicious of anyone we define as “other.”
As Franciscan friars in the United States, we of course, join our voices to the chorus of those offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in Orlando. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy. To them we say clearly: we stand with you.
But, there is another chorus we would like to join our voices to today; that of the voices calling for sensible gun reform in America. Discussion of gun reform always seems to lead to loud voices on both sides, so loud that no one really listens. We often try and reduce the public discourse to a simplistic black-and-white version of the issues. This is not helpful or productive. But, surely, we can all agree that there are some acceptable, sensible measures that can be enacted right now.
More than 35,000 people die in the United States each year to gun violence. When it comes to mass shootings, the weapon of choice has become assault-style weapons which have one purpose alone – to kill large numbers of people. There is no place for this type of weaponry in the daily life of citizens. It is not a weapon of defense or of sport. It is only a weapon of mass killing. We encourage our President and our legislators, to once again ban these assault-style weapons in our country.
There are also sensible measures that can be taken on the issue of background checks. It should not be more difficult to vote, get a driver’s license, or purchase cold medicine at the drug store, than it is to buy a gun. Universal background checks for all gun purchases no matter where they happen is a reasonable expectation when buying a weapon.
These two common sense reforms enjoy the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, and are a sensible first step in reducing the violence of a gun culture run amok in the U.S.
It is time that we stand up as a people and say enough is enough. We strive to live up to our call to be instruments of peace in our world. We support these sensible measures to help us become a more peaceful, less fearful, society.
It is time for the President and the Congress to act. We ask them to act now!
May the Lord give us peace!
Very Rev. David Gaa, OFM
St. Barbara Province Oakland, California
Very Rev. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe Province Albuquerque, New Mexico
Very Rev. James Gannon, OFM
Assumption BVM Province Franklin, Wisconsin 
Very Rev. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province Cincinnati, Ohio
Very Rev. Kevin Mullen, OFM
Holy Name Province New York, New York 
Very Rev. William Spencer, OFM
Sacred Heart Province St. Louis, Missouri
Very Rev. Robert Campagna, OFM
Immaculate Conception Province New York, New York

More/Leave a Comment

Human Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth

Posted on 11. Jun, 2016 by .


The following is from Polaris:

Nearly 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, in comparison to 7% of the general population. These youth may face homelessness for different reasons: family rejection, prior abuse or neglect, bullying in school, or social discrimination and marginalization.

resources-lgbtq-sex-traffickingYouth without safe shelter and social supports are at higher risk of trafficking and exploitation. Traffickers exploit their needs and vulnerabilities to compel them into sex or labor trafficking. LGBTQ youth may be trafficked by intimate partners, family members, friends, or strangers.

The coercion and control that traffickers hold over their victims, in combination with the stigma of commercial sex, may prevent youth from disclosing their situation. LGBTQ youth may fear the repercussions of reporting their situation, particularly if they worry others will mistreat or not believe them because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQ youth service providers may be in a unique position to recognize indicators of sex trafficking among the youth they serve and connect them with much needed services.

Sex Trafficking and LGBTQ Youth, made possible by the generous support of the Palette Fund, provides an introduction to sex trafficking for LGBTQ youth providers and others who are new to the issue of human trafficking. This resource provides indicators of sex trafficking, recommendations on how LGBTQ organizations serving youth can get involved in anti-trafficking efforts, and information on how to get assistance for LGBTQ youth survivors of sex trafficking.

Follow this link: LGBTQ Sex Trafficking to learn more about LGBTQ youth and human trafficking.

More/Leave a Comment

Restorative Justice Bill

Posted on 11. Jun, 2016 by .


Support AB 2590!

Despite our overcrowded prisons, recidivism remains at an unacceptably high rate. Last year, a broad array of faith-based and community organizations convened and agreed that the current criminal justice system, founded upon the sole purpose of punishment, has failed.  Along with Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D- San Diego) they created AB 2590.

drawing_restorativejusticeThis bill considers effective alternatives to incarceration, specifically restorative justice solutions, as well as opportunities for rehabilitation for those already incarcerated.

Specifically, AB 2590 would declare that the purpose of sentencing is public safety and this can be achieved through accountability, rehabilitation and restorative justice.

Prisons cannot hold offenders forever. Most will need to be reintroduced into society. In order for them to be productive citizens that can become important contributors in communities, it is the public’s best interest to rehabilitate them.

We believe that both victims and offenders are children of God.  We believe a Catholic vision of crime and criminal justice can offer some alternatives. This bill which offers an alternative to punitive justice will create change within our criminal justice system and places on emphasis on public safety.

This bill will be heard on Friday, May 27 on the Assembly floor. Please ask your member to consider supporting AB 2590.

To learn more about restorative justice please visit: restorejustice.com

Click here to take action!

More/Leave a Comment

Wage Gap Continues to Increase — Take Action!

Posted on 03. Apr, 2016 by .


The following is from the Coalition on Human Needs:

Acton steps are at the bottom of the article!

A new report confirms what many Americans feel every day: the wage gap between the top and everyone else continues to grow. The good news is that real hourly wages (or, in non-economist speak, wages adjusted for inflation) grew across the board in 2015. However, the folks at the Economic Policy Institute found that wage growth was largest for top wage earners, meaning that wage inequality grew for the 35th year in a row.

As the EPI’s graph below shows, the wage gap between folks in the lower wage groups and those in the middle has remained pretty stable (the report says since about 2000). But the gap between the folks at the top and everyone else continues to grow. The report found that overall wages grew by 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, but wages for those in the top 5 percent grew by nearly 3 times that – 6.4 percent. For men in the top 5 percent, the wage growth was even higher at almost 10 percent.

According to EPI, wage inequality has risen since the late 1970s in part because of policies that have let the value of the minimum wage fall and eroded workers’ rights to collectively bargain. To this first point, the report shows that wage growth at the bottom of the wage scale was faster in states that increased their minimum wage. Twenty–three states and DC saw increases to their minimum wage in 2015, either through legislation or through automatic increases because those states’ minimum wage is indexed to inflation. As the EPI figure below shows, low-wage workers in states that didn’t increase their minimum wage saw a lower wage growth than workers in other states. This shows how strong labor standards in general and a stronger minimum wage in particular can improve circumstances for low-wage workers and help reduce inequity.

As our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, too many low-income Americans are still being left behind. To ensure that a rising tide really does lift all boats, we need to raise the minimum wage and expand overtime protections for low- and middle-income earners. The latter, which would benefit 13.5 million workers, became closer to reality earlier this month when the Department of Labor moved its proposed changes to the overtime rule to the next step towards final approval.

Take Action!

To take action, use this tool from the National Partnership for Women and Families to tweet at your members of Congress and urge them to support the #RaiseTheWage Act, and follow developments on raisetheminimumwage.com. You can also follow developments on the overtime rule by using the hashtag #FixOvertime and visiting fixovertime.org.

More/Leave a Comment