The 2012 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace is… Ruben Garcia

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, has recognized the life and witness of Ruben Garcia, naming him the 2012 recipient of the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award.  Pax Christi USA first gave the award to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, in 1978 and has since recognized some of the most significant U.S. Catholic activists for peace and justice of the past 3 decades, including actor Martin Sheen; poet and priest Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; and Dead Man Walking author Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.  Garcia is one of the founders and the current director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.

During his career at Annunciation House, Garcia has personally welcomed more than 100,000 migrants to his home and community, putting into practice and personally embodying the radical hospitality that Jesus exemplified to the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded. In his nomination of Garcia, Scott Wright, author and biographer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, wrote that Garcia “teaches peace by embodying peace, welcoming the stranger, and inviting others to share in this community where the least have a place at the table. From the experience of welcome and hospitality, comes an awareness and a commitment to address the root causes of injustice that push migrants to flee from the political violence in their countries, or conditions of economic disparity that condemn their families to die in conditions of extreme poverty and misery.”

“PCUSA is pleased to be honoring Ruben Garcia with the 2012 Teacher of Peace Award. For more than 35 years, he has been an inspiring teacher of peace, exemplifying by his life witness the teachings of the Gospel and the spirit of the Beatitudes,” stated Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “Ruben’s faith continues to be an inspiring witness to the best of Catholic traditions, social teachings and practices.”

In addition to his work at Annunciation House, Garcia has welcomed and met with hundreds of delegations to the border, teaching by inviting them into the world of the poor and the migrant, and allowing them to see and hear firsthand the stories of immigrants.  He invites them to commit themselves to address the root causes that deny to the immigrant the justice that is due to them in their homeland and in the United States.

“Ruben’s commitment to the radical hospitality of Jesus, welcoming all to the table, with preferential option for migrants, teaches peace moment by moment,” stated Cathy Crosby, Pax Christi USA National Council member and chair of the Teacher of Peace committee. “The PCUSA National Council celebrates the opportunity to recognize Ruben’s many years of humble service.  We hope that the work of Ruben and Annunciation House continues to inspire others to work for justice and peace, as we each recognize the countless small ways we are called to build God’s kingdom here and now.”

The Teacher of Peace award will be presented at a special ceremony honoring Garcia in Washington, D.C. in September 2012.

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Notable Excerpts: Shredding the Social Safety Net

The March Global Women’s Project’s Briefing Paper, Shredding the Social Safety Net by Sr. Maria Riley, OP, provides not only excellent information but ample food for thought that may leave you uncomfortable.

In her briefing paper, Sr. Maria says in part:

Americans are living in two worlds which are often at odds with each other: the world of political rhetoric and the world of lived reality. This dualism cuts through almost all current issues be they climate change, food security, economics, social welfare, the middle class, poverty, or U.S. superiority, to name a few. One particularly pernicious example is the current political attack on people in poverty. While politicians of every stripe are debating about cutting entitlement programs from social security to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and extended unemployment insurance, the number of people in poverty is escalating.

The briefing paper includes specific information on poverty, an overview of U.S. social welfare:

The shifting focus from people to the economy and points out that in the U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral, Economic Justice for All, they said an economy is to be judged on what it does for people, what it does to people and how people participate in it (#1).  Sr. Maria observes, “Based on those simple criteria the U.S. economy is not doing very well. It is time to renew the social contract between the government and its people with special attention given to those living in extreme poverty.

The April 2012 Briefing Paper will examine alternative approaches to social protection as part of the Global Women’s Project effort to refocus the U.S. economy on human well-being and ecological sustainability.

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The Affordable Care Act

March 27, 2012

By:  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Editor of KC Olive Branch and Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community

The Affordable Care Act was passed as a reform law that would require all insurance plans to cover preventive care at no cost.  This included free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services.  This is important because many women cannot afford these basic preventive health care services; and it saves lives and money –- for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.  It is a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

It included, based on a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine, women’s preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control.  In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments.

Because some religious institutions, particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church, have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees, the original bill exempted all churches from this requirement -– an exemption that eight states didn’t already have.

In February, 2012, compromise rule was enacted.  Under the compromise rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work.  So that core principle remains.  But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.  These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services.  But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services their insurance companies pay for; and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.   We live in a pluralistic society where we’re not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief.  That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.

To overturn the Affordable Care Act to rid it of the contraception mandate, for which there is now a workable compromise, will endanger thousands of Americans.  Those already covered under the Affordable Care Act will lose their coverage.  This includes children up to age 26 who are now able to remain on their parents’ insurance, children with pre-existing conditions, restrictions to participation in Medicaid programs and the like.  It would further penalize the most vulnerable among us.  Many not-for-profit organizations who serve the poor support the Affordable Care Act for this reason.  Is it not our moral responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable among us?

 

 

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Lobbying Congress for a Faithful Budget

Note:  I participated in these days and was energized by the significant number of young adults who participated.  It give me hope for the future!  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

At the end of March, over 700 persons from many religious denominations participated in the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, to strengthen Christian voices and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.

The highlight of the three-day gathering was the release of a Faithful Budget. This promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will “protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice.”

On Monday, March 26, EAD participants delivered the Faithful Budget to their Senators and Members of Congress, and lobbied for restoring economic opportunity, ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities, prioritizing human security, meeting immediate needs, accepting intergenerational responsibility, environmental reform, access to health care, and the role of government.

Key talking points included:

  • Restoring economic opportunity: invest in programs that promote economic mobility and security, like high-quality, affordable education, sustainable jobs with living wages, policies that help families to build assets, and international aid programs that build economic security in the world’s most vulnerable places.
  • Ensuring adequate resources for shared priorities: reinstate a just tax system that calls for shared responsibility, among individuals and corporations, to ensure sufficient revenues to meet our needs and priorities.
  • Prioritizing true human security: make investments in growth, not destruction, in order to build meaningful security for individuals, families, and communities.
  • Meeting immediate need: protect the funding and structure of core safety-net programs while ensuring investments in critical human needs, social service, environmental protection, and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance programs.
  • Recognizing a robust role for government: we need the government’s continued partnership to combat poverty, reduce extreme inequality, restore economic opportunity for all, and rebuild a robust middle class. The faith community cannot meet the need alone.
  • Caring for God’s Creation sustainably and responsibly: make budget choices that protect air, water, and land – the entirety of Creation – that they might be preserved for future generations.

The Faithful Budget was spearheaded by a coalition of leading Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith-based organizations affiliated with many of the major religious denominational movements.  It is a continuation of the Faithful Budget Campaign, an effort launched in July by the religious community during the height of the congressional debt ceiling battle to lift up faithful voices on behalf of the nation’s most vulnerable in order to encourage the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty assistance programs.

The full document as well as additional details about the Faithful Budget Campaign can be found at www.faithfulbudget.org.

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Happy Birthday ObamaCare!

By Mary Ellen Howard, RSM, Executive Director of the Cabrini Clinic, Detroit, MI.  This clinic is the oldest free clinic in the U.S.

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), landmark legislation designed to provide coverage for more than half of the nation’s 52 million uninsured citizens, and to address abuses in the insurance industry.  The law is being implemented gradually.  The uninsured poor have to wait until January 1, 2014 before Medicaid will be expanded.  Until then, they will continue to defer care, or to seek it at free clinics and hospital ERs.

Since 1995, I have served as Director of the oldest free medical clinic in the nation, St Frances Cabrini Clinic of Most Holy Trinity Church.  Free Clinics are nonprofit organizations that use volunteer health professionals to provide free or low cost care to uninsured individuals.  Cabrini Clinic was founded in 1950 to provide for the primary medical care needs of Detroit’s uninsured poor families.  We have a full-time staff of five, and over 100 volunteers.  I came to the clinic following a 20-year career in hospital administration, including as CEO of two Mercy Hospitals.

It didn’t take me long, after coming to Cabrini, to figure out that free clinics were not the answer to the problem of the millions without access to healthcare in the USA, including the 200,000 uninsured persons in Detroit.  This led me to get involved in local advocacy for access, and national advocacy for changes in health policy.

In 2009, I supported President Obama’s efforts for health reform, although the resulting ACA falls far short of the single payer expansion of Medicare that I had hoped for.  ACA maintains a market-based insurance system, and does not effectively address the escalating cost of health care in this country.  Still, it promises to cover 32 million of the 52 million uninsured which deserves our support.

On January 1, 2014, Medicaid eligibility will be expanded nationally to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) which in 2012 is $15,418 for an individual and $31,809 for a family of four.  In contrast, eligibility in Michigan is at only 35% of FPL or $3,910 for an individual and $8,068 for a family of four.  If your annual income is above that, you are too rich for Medicaid in Michigan.  ACA will also cover childless adults who formerly have been ineligible for Medicaid, regardless of poverty or severity of illness.

This year, I was awarded a fellowship from the McGregor Fund to study the effect of health reform on free clinics and their patients, and to help them through the transition.  Free clinics are in a key position to help their uninsured patients apply for the Medicaid expansion and find a new Patient-Centered Medical Home.  Given the demand for service and limited resources of many free clinics, long-range planning tends not to be a strong suit.  Through the fellowship, I hope to keep free clinics aware of developments, provide tools to assist them, and encourage them to chart their destiny in this time of change.

There are many unanswered questions about ACA.  With the Supreme Court challenge to the mandate, and with presidential candidates vowing to repeal the law, will it be fully enacted?  And if it is, where will the newly insured find care?  Will there be sufficient primary care providers who will accept Medicaid patients and Medicaid reimbursement rates?  Who will remain uninsured, and where will they find care?  Will there be a future role for free clinics in the health care safety net?

Three states have received a federal waiver to expand Medicaid coverage for their citizens in advance of ACA:  Wisconsin, Vermont, and Massachusetts.  I contacted free clinic leaders in these states to learn their experience and what can we expect when Medicaid is expanded in the rest of the nation.  They reported that no free clinics closed as a result of the expanded coverage.  In fact, volume of patients seeking care at the free clinics continued to grow.  Free clinics helped enroll their patients in these new programs, and helped them find a new Primary Care Provider (PCP).  The latter proved a challenge, due to a critical shortage of PCPs and their refusal to accept Medicaid.  As a result, several free clinics are now accepting Medicaid patients, but not billing Medicaid.  Because the population served has unstable income, they frequently go off and on Medicaid, and require navigation assistance.  Dental care and prescription assistance remain huge gaps in service which some free clinics are attempting to fill.

Who will remain uninsured under ACA?  It is estimated that only 40% of the uninsured will be eligible for the expanded coverage. The other 60% are undocumented immigrants and naturalized citizens in this country less than five years.  Some persons, otherwise eligible for Medicaid, will not be able to pull together the required documentation, e.g., a birth certificate.  Others are exempt from the mandate and will choose to remain uninsured.  And some will choose to pay a penalty rather than acquire insurance.  All of them will need care.

The future of ACA is uncertain, but one thing seems certain.  The need for free clinics will not soon disappear.  Communities will continue to need free clinics, and free clinics will continue to need the support of their communities.

Health reform is a work-in-progress.  Health care advocates must continue to work for a national healthcare system which has as its goal improved population health rather than profit.  The Affordable Care Act is a step in that direction, and we must ensure its continued implementation, while at the same time working towards “Health Care for All.”

*Cover photo attribution to LaDawna Howard, Creative Commons licensed content.

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An Invitation to hear Father Roy Bourgeois in Kansas City

Note:  the following is taken from a letter sent by local event organizers to Call to Action (CTA) members and others. The letter was sent to CTA members and others known to be open to goodness and courage in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  For goodness and courage are surely the combination that Father Roy Bourgeois, MM brings to every place he visits with his message that Catholic women who are called to priestly ordination should not be denied that Sacrament.  As Father Roy says, “To deny ordination to women is sexism, and sexism, like racism, is a sin.” 

As you know, Father Bourgeois has put at risk his priesthood, his inclusion in the Catholic community, his standing as a member of the Maryknoll Order, his reputation– just about everything of value that he holds dear — to bear witness to this message, which his conscience has compelled him to promulgate.  For his efforts, he has been threatened by the Vatican with excommunication, expulsion from Maryknoll, removal from the priesthood, and likely other forms of censure and/or exclusion.  He is resisting with all the powers of Canon Law, with the Rev. Thomas Doyle as his counsel.  His defense is primacy of conscience.  We might ask is his fight our fight?

Father Roy will spend the weekend of April 26-27 in the Heart of America.  Organizers of his visit are hoping to get him a spot on Steve Kraske’s Up to Date on April 27.   An op-ed piece has been submitted to the KC Star as well as a blurb for the Faith Calendar.  This calendar notice should appear the Saturday before the event on April 27.

Father Roy will speak at Colonial Church of Prairie Village under CTA sponsorship on Friday evening, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. and at First Congregational Church in Topeka at 9:00 a.m. April 28 at the invitation of Catholics for Renewal there. We will also be showing the powerful new documentary, Pink Smoke Over the Vatican, both places.  This is a documentary about women’s ordination as priests.

For additional information, call 913-432-3675.

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Pax Christi International: Resource on an ethical approach to an Arms Trade Treaty

Pax Christi International is joining the global campaign calling for a strong Arms Trade Treaty with a new Package Paper on the Arms Trade Treaty. The main focus of the paper is a faith and ethics-based analysis of arms trade.  The paper gives an overview of civil society recommendations for a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty.

It also offers a campaign guide with an overview of prominent campaigns and resources, which facilitate spreading the message that a strong Arms Trade Treaty is crucial. A letter concern, which is tailored to government representatives and decision-makers, is included in the paper.

With your help, we can bring the message for a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty to churches, civil society and diplomats around the world!

Go here for the paper and for more information.  Or go directly to the full document.

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