Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The President Announces New Commerce Secretary and the
Vice-President Starts Lent

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


NY's new archbishop recounts call from Obama
Calls President "Extraordinarily Gracious"

By JIM FITZGERALD Associated Press Writer
February 23, 2009

YONKERS, N.Y. - President Barack Obama called New York's new Roman Catholic archbishop Monday to offer his prayers and congratulations, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan said as he visited a suburban seminary.

The former archbishop of Milwaukee described the call as "extraordinarily gracious" and said he invited Obama to his installation on April 15. He said the president had told him, "I assure you of my prayers." There was no official word from the White House on the conversation. The new archbishop and Obama spoke briefly about the country's financial problems, Dolan said. Dolan even managed to inject some humor into their exchange, suggesting the church hold additional collections, he said.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pope to Issue Labor Day Call for Tax Fairness

Financial Times:

Vatican demands closure of tax havens

23 Feb 2009,

M Padmakshan, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: While international pressure is mounting on offshore banks to relax secrecy rules, the Vatican, the seat of the Catholic Church, wants all offshore tax havens to be closed. The official statement from the Vatican, called an encyclical, is expected to ask for a closure of such tax havens. The encyclical is scheduled to be released on March 18 by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic Church periodically issues the encyclical on various issues it is concerned with. It had planned to come out with an encyclical on tax havens last year, but postponed the date following a decision to do a thorough research on global economics and the reasons that have led to the current slowdown.

A formal release will happen on May 1, on the International Labor Day. A policy paper issued last December by the Vatican, blamed the current financial crisis on offshore centres such as Channel Islands, which are basically British dependencies. The paper, in a scathing attack on “unhealthy and inequitable financial practices," also pointed to the alarming figure of global deficit caused by offshore banking. The size of global deficit is estimated to be around $255 billion, almost three times the aid given to developing countries globally. Closure of these offshore banks, according to the Pope, should be the first step out of the current global economic crisis. It is also reliably learnt that the encyclical sees the tax havens as the main conduit for transferring money from poverty-stricken nations to the rich world and the consequent impoverishment of the people in developing and under-developed countries. The Vatican looks at the huge amounts siphoned off to these offshore banks as the money that the governments in developing countries could have utilised for helping the poor. The Church’s concern on offshore banking also coincides with the global awareness of fiscal dangers caused by tax havens.

Such havens have also featured in issues raised during the recent US presidential campaign. Democratic presidential candidate John Edward had said that deposits worth $1.5 trillion were held by US citizens in various offshore banks. Current US President Barack Obama has vowed to check tax evasion by US citizens, estimated to be around $100 billion every year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catholics and Worker Justice

Call to Reflection:

By Bishop Gabino Zavala, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

The social teachings of the Church have always held that the promotion and defense of the dignity of the laborer, created in God's image and likeness, is integral to the proper ordering of every healthy society.We are morally obliged, therefore, to stand with workers when attempts are made to compromise that dignity which issues directly from God.

As the United States now endures what is perhaps one of the greatest economic crises in its history, it is vitally necessary to recognize that we cannot recover the health of our economy and our society without ensuring that the dignity and freedom of every worker is secure. Every worker is entitled to fair wages, adequate benefits, and safe and dignified working conditions. The vital core of the American economy is the middle class, which is comprised of workers and small businessowners, and it will continue to diminish unless these rights are respected and heeded.

The right of workers to organize and join unions is essential to the dignity and welfare of workers, and it is a right that today is radically threatened. When employees begin to discuss the formation of a union, for example, they are routinely harassed and intimidated, their jobs are threatened, and many become too afraid to even speak of a union out loud. This rampant practice among too many employers deeply offends the conscience of our democracy and faith community.

Call to Action: The Employee Free Choice Act. The Catholic Church affirms the right of workers to form unions, and the majority of U.S. workers have told pollsters that they themselves would join a union if they could, to have a strong voice on the job and to work together to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions. So why are only 12% of workers in unions? Right now our labor law doesn't work very well for workers. When workers have to go through a National Labor Relations Board election, the long process gives employers the opportunity to run a campaign opposing the union, and many do everything possible to "persuade"their employees to vote no. Harassment and threats are common, and 25%of employers faced with a union organizing drive go as far as to fire union supporters. Though these practices are illegal, it may take years for the NLRB to act on a complaint, and even then the penalties are too low to discourage other employers from trying the same tactics. And even if workers win a union through an election, employers often spend years challenging the results, or simply refuse to sit down and bargain a contract. The Employee Free Choice Act would help fix these problems in three ways. First, it would give workers the choice of forming a union by signing "union authorization" cards, or through an NLRB election.Second, it would create stronger penalties for employers who violate workers' rights. Finally, it would prevent employers from stalling indefinitely during contract negotiations.

Three things you can do: 1. Educate your congregation - through sermons, flyers, bulletin inserts, information on your webpage or an email bulletin. 2. Send a letter or postcards to your representative in Congress - Send a personal letter, or collect postcards in support from your Congregation. 3. Sign the on-line petition -*

Additional Resources: *Interfaith Worker Justice Congregational Toolkit:*

Jobs with Justice Employee Free Choice Act page:

Thursday, February 12, 2009


The Holy See has announced that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI will receive in a personal audience, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Speaker Pelosi will travel to Rome later this year. The Holy Father was most gracious to the Speaker during his pastoral visit to Washington, DC, where he personally invited the Speaker to join him at the Mass held at Nationals Stadium.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Conservative Catholics, AWOL. President decides he can't wait for them.

Today, President Barack Obama will be expanding the mission of his faith based initiative to include abortion reduction. The Wall street Journal described the President's approach to the federal faith office as reflecting "his search for common ground on contentious social issues, and his willingness to dial back some of his campaign positions."

The President's plan is likely to anger some hard line secularists who want the initiative abolished entirely. But the President received a favorable reaction from David Kuo, the former deputy director of the Bush faith-based office, and who says that too much energy was spent on questions that have little impact in the real world.

The office will be given four new specific missions, including an administration effort to reduce abortions and teen pregnancies. The goals, said Mr. DuBois, the head of the initiative, will include ensuring access to health care and support for adoption.

Three months after Obama's historic victory and Establishment Pro-Life leaders are yet to make any offer to work with the Administration to reduce abortions. Even the Catholic Bishops have for the most part done nothing despite this tremendous opportunity to reduce abortions. Nothing was said in the USCCB statement after the election and only after pressure from the lay faithful was some vague mention made in the USCCB statement before the Inaugural. The bishops did not bother to meet with the Transition team, have appointed no staff person to direct or coordinate on this matter and generally been AWOL to the leading opportunity to reduce abortions. Instead they have invested money and time in a phony FOCA campaign -- a bill that died last December without any congressional action and does not currently exist.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Pope says labor unions important in resolving financial crisis

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said labor unions have an important role to play in finding a way out of the global financial crisis and establishing a new culture of solidarity and responsibility in the marketplace.

"The great challenge and the great opportunity posed by today's worrisome economic crisis is to find a new synthesis between the common good and the market, between capital and labor. And in this regard, union organizations can make a significant contribution," the pope told directors of the Confederation of Italian Labor Unions Jan. 31.

The pope emphasized that the inalienable dignity of the worker has been a cornerstone of the church's social teaching in the modern age, and said this teaching has helped the movement toward fair wages, improvement of working conditions and protection of vulnerable categories of employees.

Workers are facing particular risks in the current economic crisis, and unions must be part of the solution, he said.

"In order to overcome the economic and social crisis we're experiencing, we know that a free and responsible effort on the part of everyone is required," the pope said.

"In other words, it is necessary to overcome the interests of particular groups and sectors, in order to face together and in a united way the problems that are affecting every area of society, especially the world of labor," he said.

"Never has this need been felt so urgently. The problems tormenting the world of labor push toward an effective and closer arrangement between the many and diverse components of society," he said.

He noted that his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had underlined labor as the key component in social questions and had described the labor union as an indispensable element of social life in modern industrialized societies.

Pope Benedict has been working on his first social encyclical, tentatively titled "Caritas in Veritate" ("Love in Truth"), which is expected to be published sometime this year.