Farm Bill to be Reauthorized Soon

Every five years Congress must reauthorize the Farm Bill, which includes provisions relating to agriculture, conservation, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps, and more. This year’s bill expires at the end of September.  

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed (213-211) its version of the Farm Bill which cut $20 billion in SNAP benefits, restricted eligibility and imposed harsh work requirements. It is estimated that more than one million low-income households could lose their current level of benefits if it becomes law. By contrast, the Senate passed its version by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 86-11.  It maintained the current level of SNAP benefits while reducing barriers to enrollment and improving the integrity of the program’s operations. A conference committee is now reconciling the two versions of the bill.

We are urging the Missouri Catholic Advocacy Network (MOCAN) to write to their U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative through this Action Alert, urging them to support a conference committee report with the Senate bill’s strength. Let them know that you oppose time-consuming and expensive weekly documentation of work hours. The earnings of people are already reported at recertification, and most food stamp recipients who are able to work are already doing so.

For more background information about the Farm Bill, read the latest MCC Messenger.

Treatment Courts to be Discussed in Special Session

During the upcoming special session, which Governor Parson has announced will begin on September 10,  the General Assembly will take up two bills, one of which focuses on treatment courts. Treatment courts, which include drug courts, DWI courts, veteran courts, family courts, and juvenile courts, are part of a unique program designed to keep individuals out of jail and on the road to a healthy, law-abiding lifestyle. Treatment courts usually involve screening and assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring, graduated sanctions and incentives, and treatment or rehabilitation services. They are usually managed by a multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers, and treatment professionals.

Treatment courts are a proven cost-effective method for diverting offenders from incarceration in prison.  They lower recidivism rates while allowing offenders to stay in their communities and support their family and pay taxes.

The bill before the legislature would establish best practices for treatment courts across the state. It would also allow counties unable to set up their own treatment court the ability to transfer defendants to another county. Treatment courts are often operated with a mixture of federal, state, and county funding.

Congress to Continue Work Through October

The U.S. House will be in session until October 12th before turning their attention to their home districts and the upcoming midterm election. The House is comprised of 435 members, all of whom will be up for re-election in November, as they hold office for two-year terms. Currently, the Republicans have control of the House with 236 members (218 are needed for a majority). Democrats hold 193 seats and there are six vacancies.

The U.S. Senate, whose members are elected to six-year terms, will be in session through October 26th. Currently, the Republicans hold the majority with 51 seats. Democrats hold 47 seats and there are 2 Independents who caucus with Democrats. Thirty-three Senators are up for re-election in 2018, including 23 Democrats, two Independents, and eight Republicans.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

As we face the upcoming midterm elections in November, Catholics are called upon once again to participate in the political process by going to the polls to cast their votes. But how do we, as Catholics, decide for whom to cast a ballot?  

The U.S. bishops have put together a guide for Catholic voters to use to help form their conscience so that they can actively participate in the democratic process and help shape the moral character of our society. “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” is the bishops’ teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. It offers guidance for Catholics on how to exercise their rights and duties as participants in U.S. democracy.  
The document does not instruct Catholics for whom or against whom they should vote. The purpose of the document is to “help Catholics inform their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.” The bishops recognize that a single document alone is insufficient to form one’s conscience, and state that this document is “intended to complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teaching of bishops in our own dioceses and state.”  After all, developing a well-formed conscience is a lifelong task.

In the Catholic tradition, participation in the political arena is a moral obligation and Catholics should “as far as possible…take an active part in public life.” The Church equips its members to address political and social questions by helping them develop a well-formed conscience, encouraging the virtues of prudence and civility, and by helping to guide them to do good and avoid evil.

Over the next few months, the MCC will be featuring portions of Faithful Citizenship in order to familiarize our network with the document.  More in-depth information about it is available online and we encourage our Missouri Catholic Advocacy Network (MOCAN) members to take advantage of these materials, which include videos and podcasts in both English and Spanish.

Our next MCC Messenger, which will be published ahead of the election in mid-October, will also dive into the Faithful Citizenship guide.

Annual Assembly Workshop of the Week: Immigration Law

Next up in our lineup of featured Annual Assembly workshops is Immigration Law: Understanding a Complicated System. The Honorable Justin Howard, Immigration Judge in the U.S. Immigration Court of Kansas City, will be presenting this engaging workshop, pulling from his experience from years in the courtroom.

Immigration law is complicated to decipher on your own, so come hear the facts from a Missouri immigration judge who has been immersed in these issues for years in the courtroom. This workshop will outline basic immigration law and regulation, address what happens in Immigration Court and how cases are fought on appeal, and finally, answer questions about how people apply for immigration benefits outside of Immigration Court.

Join the MCC and Catholics from around the state to participate in this engaging lineup of workshops. Descriptions for other workshop offerings can be found on the MCC website. If you haven’t yet registered for the event, be sure to do so at no cost by calling (800) 456-1679 or by registering online.

National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children

Saturday, September 8th is the sixth annual National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. On this day, pro-life Americans are called to honor the gravesites of aborted children.
Solemn prayer vigils will be conducted at these gravesites, of which there are 51 across the United States, as well as at dozens of other sites dedicated in memory of aborted children. In Missouri, there are three official services dedicated to this day; one service will be held in Holts Summit at St. Andrew’s Church at 10 a.m., another at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis at 11:15 a.m., and the last service will be at Mount Olivet Cemetery in St. Joseph at noon.

Click here for more detailed information about the events.

St. Louis Arch Grounds Get Facelift

If you haven’t been to downtown St. Louis in a while, you are in for a surprise! The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has a new name: The Gateway Arch National Park. Over the last five years, the park has been undergoing a $350 million renovation. Updates include a landscaped bridge connecting downtown to the park so that visitors don’t have to cross traffic, a new entrance to an expanded and interactive museum, and 2,400 new trees with new walkways and bike trails. For a bird’s-eye view of the new park grounds, click here.

The original Catholic cathedral located on the park ground was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi, and has also undergone a renovation thanks to donations to the Archdiocese made by the faithful of St. Louis. Originally a one-room log structure, the cathedral stands on land deeded to the people of St. Louis in 1764 by city founders Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau.  A restoration photo gallery can be seen here. The “old cathedral”, as it is known, is still an active Catholic church with daily and weekend Masses. It is a popular site for weddings.

Rendering courtesy of CityArchRiver

Happy Labor Day

Most of us will celebrate the long weekend by visiting family and friends, resting, and/or taking advantage of the extra day to catch up on household chores.  Labor Day, however, is also our opportunity to celebrate the dedication of laborers and workers who help keep the U.S. economic engine running and to consider the hardships they face in the modern economy. Take a moment to reflect on this statement from Bishop Frank Dewane, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, on just wages and their contribution to human flourishing.  In it he reminds us that the Church’s traditional teaching “holds that wages must honor a person’s dignity and ability to contribute to the common good of society and family well-being.”

Many Americans Struggling in Good Economy

According to a recent survey conducted by the Urban Institute, about 40 percent of American families are struggling to meet at least one of their basic needs. Even with a strong economy, many families have trouble paying for food, health care, housing or utilities, the nonprofit research organization noted in a report issued this week.

The report found food insecurity was the most common challenge. More than 23 percent of households struggled to feed their family at some point during the year, followed closely by 18 percent who had trouble paying a medical bill. The report found that among households with at least one working adult; more than 30 percent reported a hardship.

2018 Poverty Summit to be Held in Jefferson City

Join difference-makers from across the state for engaging dialogue about building resilient communities in Missouri. The 2018 Poverty Summit brings together knowledgeable speakers who will discuss the five elements of poverty: economic and family security, education, food and nutrition, health, and housing and energy.  Keynote speakers for the 2018 Poverty Summit are Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Dr. Jason Purnell. The conference will be held Thursday, Sept. 20 at Capital Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Jefferson City. To find out more detailed information and to register online, visit  www.MOEndPoverty.org