Why are the Poor Paying for the Tax Cuts?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Why does it seem like this current administration is completely funding its huge tax breaks on the backs of the poor?  Maybe because of all the efforts to reduce the social safety net.  Here are some examples:

  • The administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty which could result in millions of low-income individuals and families being removed from assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and Head Start. The current poverty line for a family of four is about $26,000. Each year, the government adjusts for inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI). The administration is considering using a version called“chained CPI” which is lower than regular CPI. Chained CPI assumes that as prices of goods go up, people substitute less expensive items lowering their overall expenses.  Most poor are already using the cheapest good/services they can use.
  • The administration has proposed increasing work requirements or eliminating/reducing state waivers for safety net programs such as SNAP and Medicare/Medicaid.
  • The administration is pushing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This question is likely to reduce the number of immigrant – documented or undocumented – responses which will reduce the official number of individuals in that city or state. Since government funds are allocated based on the census numbers, cities with large immigrant populations will receive less funding than they need.
  • This administration has made dismantling the Affordable Care Act a hallmark of it tenure. These actions have eliminated or reduced the healthcare available to many working poor who are not eligible for Medicaid.
  • The current trade war with China is certainly impacting farmers and manufacturers who sell to or buy materials from China.  The next phase will be putting tariffs (taxes) on consumer goods such as clothing, furniture, etc.  These price increases will result in the poor using a larger percentage of wages going for these products.
  • Individuals with disabilities who are often likely to have low incomes will be impacted by the proposed budget that slashes funding of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by $72 billion. This is only one example of budget cuts that will impact low income families/individuals.

These are only some of the many efforts that are being proposed/implemented to make up the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that were implemented last year. Perhaps instead of catering to the rich, the administration should consider Proverbs 14:31:  Those who oppress the poor revile their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor God.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Updates – Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) invite you to a conversation with Sister Gabriella Bottani, CMS, the director of Talitha Kum. She will talk about Talitha Kum, the international network of consecrated life against the trafficking of persons, and how this global network of sister organizations is working to eliminate human trafficking.  The Zoom webinar will be on Monday, May 20 at 11 am Eastern, 10 am Central, 9 am Mountain, and 8 am Pacific. It will last for one hour.  Click here to get the flyer and information on how to connect to the Zoom link.  (Click anywhere on the flyer and you will get to Zoom.)

Get out your orange ribbon! June 7th is Wear Orange Day.  A day to remember those killed by gun violence and to work for an end to gun violence.  If you lost your orange ribbon, let me know and I’ll send you another (bkane@oppeace.org).  Why are we wearing orange?   Click here to find out.

H.R. 5 Equality Act.  Everyone, regardless of who they are or who they love is created with sacred dignity and worth. Our laws should reflect that. The House of Representatives is voting next week on the H.R. 5 Equality Act – a step forward for justice for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Faith in Public Life invites you to add your name to thousands of faith leaders speaking out. Here is the link to this petition.  H.R. 5 Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.

The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

Climate Refugees. We have heard about the refugee coming to the border because of violence and poverty. But what about those who are forced to flee their countries because of climate change?  The Jesuit Office of Justice and Ecology explain this phenomena.

Climate Refugees: Your Questions Answered

April 23, 2019 — Climate change is having significant impacts around the world and powerful weather events, often the result of climate change, have captured the public’s attention. But how is climate change impacting displacement of people? In honor of Earth Day this week, Jesuit Refugee Service USA (JRS/USA) and the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology are answering your questions about climate and displacement.

What is a climate refugee?

There is no internationally recognized definition of climate refugees, but climate refugees are generally understood to be migrants who have been forced to leave their homes due to the sudden or gradual impacts of climate change. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 250 million people will be displaced by climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, floods, famine, drought, hurricanes, desertification and the negative impacts on ecosystems.

In 2013 alone, almost three times as many people were displaced by disasters than conflict.

People who must migrate due to environmental degradation can be forced to flee temporarily and quickly due to a sudden natural disaster (e.g., hurricane, tsunami, etc.), leave because the environmental conditions in or near their home are deteriorating (e.g., deforestation, coastal deterioration), or leave to avoid future problems due to environmental deterioration (e.g., a farmer must move because crop production starts to fall).

People displaced by climate are often displaced within their own country and do not cross a border to reach a new country.

How does climate impact displacement otherwise?

Not only can climate change be a direct contributor to the displacement, but in many of today’s conflicts causing forced displacement climate change is a “threat multiplier.” A key example is Syria, where a five-year drought preceded the civil war. Some experts assert that the devastation and scarcity of resources caused by the drought exacerbated socio-political tensions that led to the war. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Climate change [is] now found to be the key factor accelerating all other drivers of forced displacement.”

Those who are displaced feel the impacts of climate change more than others. The recent example of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi made this clear. Jesuit Refugee Service saw firsthand the impact this weather had on the refugees we serve in Tongogara refugee camp in Zimbabwe, home to more than 10,000 refugees, the majority of whom fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of these refugees had already survived violence and persecution only to have their new home destroyed by a storm.

People wait in line for food at a camp for displaced people in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 30, 2019. (CNS photo/Zohra Bensemra, Reuters)

What is the legal status of those displaced by climate change?

Climate refugees are not currently classified by international law as refugees, so they do not have the same recognition or protection as those who flee persecution, war or violence.

Despite widespread recognition of the needs of climate-related forcibly displaced people — as great as any refugee — they continue to lack formal recognition.

Where are climate refugees?

No region is immune from the impacts of climate change, but some regions are being particularly hard hit. In parts of the Pacific, sea levels are rising as much as four times the global average. According to UNHCR, in 2015, 85 percent of people displaced by sudden onset disasters were in South and East Asia. That year, Tuvalu and Vanuatu saw 25 percent and 55 percent of their populations displaced during Cyclone Pam. When Cyclone Komen hit India and Myanmar later that year, 1.2 million and 1.6 million people were displaced respectively.

Villagers on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, in March 2015 after Cyclone Pam destroyed their homes. (CNS photo/Dave Hunt, EPA)

Low and lower-middle income countries have the most displacement linked to disasters, including in the context of climate change.

What does Catholic Social Teaching tell us about climate refugees?

Both climate change and the welcoming of migrants are issues that the Holy Father has pointed to as central in our time. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis draws the link between them, noting that climate is causing people, especially the poor, to leave their homes. He writes that “There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation,” calling all of us to take responsibility for our brothers and sisters who have experienced this loss.

So what steps can we take to address the needs of climate-related forcibly-displaced people?

Educate: We can share the stories of the people directly impacted by changes in global weather patterns. Millions of people have already been forcibly displaced by climate-related disasters, and we can share the stories of our brothers and sisters who are suffering, whether they have lost everything from flooding in Bangladesh or Houston, or are starving due to recurring droughts.

Advocate: The U.S. withdrew from the UN Global Compact on Migration which specifically talks about the need to address the growing problem of climate displacement. We need to urge our elected officials to re-engage in global responses to climate change.

The U.S. should also become a leader in reducing our negative impact on the environment. Encourage your representatives to support HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, which directs the President to develop a plan for the United States to meet its obligation under the Paris Agreement to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Dominican Sister of Peace Helen Wilxman

Sr. Helen Wilxman, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Helen (Basil) Wilxman, 93, passed away at Mohun Health Care Center on May 3, 2019.

Born on December 13, 1926, she was one of the four children born to Marcella Vivier and William Wilxman of Columbus, OH.

Sr. Helen first heard God’s call as a young girl of 12. She waited to finish college before she answered, entering religious life in 1948 after earning her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from St. Mary of the Springs College, now Ohio Dominican University.

Sr. Helen went on to minister as a teacher and administrator in Connecticut, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania for 27 years, and earned her Master of Arts degree in Mathematics from Notre Dame. She also received a National Foundation of Science grant in Mathematics Research at Colorado State University.

Sr. Helen’s wonderful personality and “get it done” attitude – as well as her talent for mathematics – were key in her next ministry as Director of Development at Albertus Magnus College. From there she accepted a position in Parish Ministry and fundraising for St. Rita and St. Anthony Parishes in Dade City, FL. This opened the door to what would become her favorite work – Director of Daystar Hope Center, an ecumenical non-profit that provided physical aid to the very poor.

In her homily, Sr. Thoma Swanson remembered that Sr. Helen recognized how to optimize every opportunity to meet her ministries’ goals. She convinced the Northerners who vacationed in Dade City to donate their unneeded appliances and clothing to a thrift store, then to work in the store as well. Not only did this little store provide gently-used household goods to the neighborhood’s needy families, but the proceeds from sales helped purchase medical care for the poor through the Daystar Hope Center.

In 2004, Sr. Helen returned home to Columbus, serving as a Volunteer at the Motherhouse and later in a ministry of prayer and presence at the Mohun Health Care Center.

Sr. Helen Wilxman was preceded in death by her parents, William and Marcella Vivier Wilxman, her brother, William and her sister, Sr. Louise (Sr. Mary Linus) Wilxman, OP. She is survived by her sister, Beth Schodorf.

A Vigil of Remembrance Service was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel, Columbus, OH, on Thursday, May 9, 2019. The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel on Friday, May 10. Sr. Helen is interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Columbus, OH.

Memorial gifts in Sr. Helen’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr. Columbus, OH 43219 or submitted securely at oppeace.org.

To download a printable PDF of this memorial, please click here.

Posted in News, Obituaries


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

So, let me get this straight – four elementary school teachers, flashing beaming smiles, pose with a noose and their principal reportedly snaps a photo?

I wonder who thought that was a good idea?

Just how insensitive or uncivil (or ignorant or, dare I say, racist) do you have to be to think that is okay?

And, as if taking the photo wasn’t brazen enough, one of them apparently had the audacity to circulate it online.

What is it that these educators didn’t understand about a noose symbolizing racial terrorism? (or were they fully aware and just didn’t care?).

Some parents, who were outraged and disgusted by the actions of the educators, pulled their children from the school.

The teachers in the photo and the principal have been placed on paid leave.

The superintendent was quoted as saying “I am appalled that this incident occurred … I am committed to the (school district’s) values of equity, integrity, and multiculturalism … We will not allow the hurtful actions of a few hold back our district’s pledge to do right by our community.”

While I commend the superintendent for that fine crisis management statement, I understand that the student body at the elementary school (where the suspended educators work) is about two-thirds black and Latino and that the teaching staff does not reflect the population being served. So, I’m thinking some cultural competency measures need to be put into place, as a way of making good on the district’s commitment to “equity, integrity, and multiculturalism” and the promise “to do right by (the) community.”

For me, this is yet another example of the growing number of reports of hate and bias in schools that mainly target black, Latino, Jewish and Muslim students. It is also evidence of the broader climate of incivility and hatred in our nation.

And it is one of the most recent reasons we cannot continue to ignore (or minimize the size of) the elephant in the room – racism.

It might be uncomfortable for some, who don’t want to acknowledge and come to terms with its ugliness. I say to you: until we can ALL feel unthreatened, welcome, and safe in our daily lives, the conversation about racial equity and equality is not over.

To those who are targets of its ugliness, I say to you: don’t grow weary; hold fast to your hope for better days; and continue to be part of the conversation that keeps us on the path toward racial justice.

As for the noose in the photo, let’s call it what it is: a symbol of a repugnant ideology of human hierarchy that denotes domination of one group of people over the other, namely whites over blacks.

What do you think we should call the educators in the photo?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Totally Unplanned and Totally Appreciated

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

I recently took my perpetual profession of vows. It was a very joyful celebration. As the ‘big day’ approached, I became more and more excited. I was filled with all the hyper-active energy the Spirit could provide. During the planning days, I was reminded many times, lightheartedly and at times even jokingly, to focus, and I’m sure they meant it. However, there was an unplanned happening during Mass which moved me a lot. I didn’t even need to be reminded to ‘focus’ at that time. It naturally came. This was an experience that I most likely have shared with many people in the chapel. Several sisters came to me after liturgy, expressing how grateful they were for ‘it’ and the entire celebration helped them feel like they were renewing their commitment to God within our community.

Before Mass, we told Fr. Mike Trainor, OP, our priest, that we would sing all three verses of the song: “How shall I sing to God” because we would sing it for meditation. After receiving communion, I usually start my prayer with: “Jesus, let your way be my way.” Choosing the song: “How shall I sing to God” by Brian Wren (text) and David Haas (tune) for meditation was very intentional, but it was the “it” that opened my heart and allowed me to let the Spirit work in me, tuning me into what I was about proclaim in song.

So, what was the ‘it’? What was that unexpected ‘thing’ that helped us be moved into a deeper meditation or helped to renew our vows? It was the pause and the waiting right before the song for meditation. It might seem subtle to anyone who wasn’t there, but the pause was so powerful. It was totally unplanned and totally appreciated. The pause was so perfectly timed, and it added a lot for me. I’m not talking about a usual pause between two songs. It was a pause, lasting until everyone, including extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and altar servers, would have the opportunity to sit down and tune into what we were about to sing and reflect on. That pause provided the prayerful environment to be able to allow God work in us and to be able to full-heartedly sing that song to God.

When we receive a news, whether it’s a joyful news, a sad news or a shocking news, we usually pause for a moment to let it sink in before we respond to the news. There were so much joys and emotions to handle during the celebration: professing my vows for my whole life, celebrating with so many sisters, family members, and all who have been journeying with me in faith, remembering our deceased loved ones, being inspired by the reflection of the Mass readings, receiving communion, the joyful music, the boost of the Easter joy, and the list could go on. The pause helped me to let all of these emotions sink in, and then it helped me to allow the Spirit to move in me to sing this song to God as my response to God’s call.

In the song, we sang that, whether life is filled with gladness or bleakness, either way, we would sing God’s song with love. Whether I just took my vows for my life, or the sisters who took their vows for life, or married couples who took their vows for life, or associates who took their commitments, or the women discerning vowed religious life; we all sang this song together, singing God’s love. In times of gladness, as well as in times of sufferings – we continue to proclaim God’s love until love conquers all. This is our response to God’s call in the various ministries we serve. It is a life-long commitment and a “thanksgiving sacrifice” as the psalmist writes in Psalm 116. Let me close this blog with the last line of each verse of this song: “This is my song, and I’ll sing it with love.”

If you are considering responding to God’s call as a vowed religious or as an associate, please contact us at vocations@oppeace.org.

Lyrics of the song:

How shall I sing to God when life is filled with gladness, loving and birth, wonder and worth?
I’ll sing from the heart, thankfully receiving, joyful in believing;
This is my song – I’ll sing it with love.

How shall I sing to God when life is filled with bleakness, empty and chill, breaking my will?
I’ll sing through my pain, angrily or aching, crying or complaining;
This is my song – I’ll sing it with love.

How shall I sing to God and tell my Savior’s story, Passover bread, life from the dead?
I’ll sing with my life: witnessing and giving, risking and forgiving;
This is my song – I’ll sing it with love.

Posted in God Calling?, News