Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates




40 Days for Life
A peaceful prayer vigil began this week and will continue through Lent outside the Orlando Women’s Center on Lucerne Terrace in downtown Orlando. If you are interested in participating please contact Mary Broom at 

The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum 
The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum is coming to the Diocese of Orlando, April 9 – 11 at Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne. It will be open after all the weekend Masses.  On April 11, from 9 – 11a.m. the Museum will visit Melbourne Central Catholic High School.

The Museum consists of a cargo truck outfitted as a replica of the trucks involved in a recent slavery operation and accompanied by displays on the history and evolution of slavery in Florida. Its central focus is on modern-day slavery – its roots, the reasons it persists, and its solutions. Brigitte Gynther, recipient of the 2010 Cardinal Bernardin Award for Young Leaders and director of the Interfaith Coalition, and 2-3 farmworkers/ victims of slavery will be available to give more information. For more information visit: A human trafficking training will be available at Ascension on April 16 for those who want to learn more about ways to help.  

The Many Faces of Human Trafficking
A Human Trafficking Awareness Training will take place April 16, 2011 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne. The course objectives for this training are:

·       Develop an understanding of the many faces of human trafficking

·       Explore the issue of forced labor, sex trafficking, and domestic minor sex trafficking

·       Discuss the scope of the problems involved in human trafficking including international and domestic cases

·       Identify the nature of victimization and discuss the indicators of human trafficking

·       Develop an understanding of the need for community involvement

Contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice for more information or to RSVP at; 407-246-4819.  Click here to download the flyer. 

Illinois Repeals the Death Penalty
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulates the Illinois bishops, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Catholic Mobilizing Network, and all dedicated advocates for their work to bring about the repeal of the death penalty in Illinois.

“These advocates have worked tirelessly to ensure that Illinois joins the growing momentum to turn away from the use of the death penalty in our country,” said Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB.  With the signing of this legislation, Illinois becomes the sixteenth state in the nation to abolish the death penalty.

As Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, stated in his recent letter to Governor Quinn, the passage of this legislation helps “to begin building a culture of life in our country.”  Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor John Paul II, has called for the end of the use of the death penalty. As Catholics we are dedicated to promoting a consistent ethic of life which values all human life as full of dignity and inherent worth.

We applaud Governor Quinn for his courageous decision to abolish the use of the death penalty in Illinois. We stand in solidarity with all those who work for a just and safe society that protects its citizens and upholds the sanctity and dignity of all human life.  

Advocacy Efforts

Protect our Poor and Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters
In the coming weeks, Congress will debate deep spending cuts in the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget. Fiscal responsibility is important, and it requires shared sacrifice and a priority concern for poor persons at home and abroad in our budget choices. 

Unfortunately, the voices of poor and vulnerable people are not being heard in the debate, and they are being forced to bear the brunt of the proposed cuts. The vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget (only about 12% of the total budget)–which includes the majority of social welfare, education, and other anti-poverty funding. Some of the largest proposed funding cuts include:

  • $2.3 billion from job training programs
  • $1.08 billion from Head Start
  • $100 million from Emergency Food and Shelter
  • $875 million from International Disaster Assistance
  • $800 million from International Food Aid
  • $2.5 billion from affordable housing
  • $1 billion from Community Health Centers
  • $904 million from migrants and refugees

Very few advocate the priority claim of poor and vulnerable people, which makes our voices so much more important and prophetic.  Recently Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, as well as Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and Ken Hackett, President of CRS, sent letters to the US Senate expressing their concern with some of the cuts and calling for more attention to the needs of poor and vulnerable people.


What You Can Do:

1. Call your Senators and tell them:

  • Current proposals fail the moral criteria of Catholic teaching to protect the poor and advance the common good and the Constitutional requirement to promote the general welfare.
  • Poor and vulnerable people didn’t cause our budget deficit. They should not bear the greatest burdens in overcoming them. Don’t make them pay for it.
  • Shared sacrifice should guide budget cuts, not disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons at home or abroad.

2. Write to your Senator with the above message, telling them, specifically, how these cuts will hurt your diocese/parish/community in efforts to serve the poor and vulnerable people. You can use the bishops’ letters as an example.
3. Help your diocese, parish, community organizations, and families understand the consequences of these deficit-reduction proposals on poor and vulnerable people. See these
documents for details. For more information visit the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development. 

In the Catholic tradition, government has a positive role because of its responsibility to serve the common good, provide a safety net for the vulnerable, and help overcome discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for all. Government has inescapable responsibilities toward those who are poor and vulnerable, to ensure their rights and defend their dignity. Government action is necessary to help overcome structures of injustice and misuse of power and to address problems beyond the reach of individual and community efforts. Government must act when these other institutions fall short in defending the weak and protecting human life and human rights.   –U.S. Catholic Bishops, A Place at the Table (2002). 

Committee Approves the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
On March 3, the full House Judiciary Committee marked up the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 3. Fifteen weakening amendments were offered, and all were rejected, 14 by recorded vote (two were voted on together en bloc) and one by voice vote. On final passage, H.R. 3 was approved, 23-yes, 14-no.

If your Representative serves on this committee, please be sure to thank those who voted in support of H.R. 3, and ask those who voted in opposition to reconsider their position.

H.R. 3 was also referred to the Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees. The bill now awaits action by these committees.

Tell Congress to Defend DOMA
  On February 24th, President Obama instructed the Justice Department not to defend sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the current court cases where it is being challenged.  The principal basis for the President’s decision is that he considers the law protecting marriage as a form of impermissible sexual orientation discrimination.  This action by the Executive branch has put before the leadership of the House of Representatives the question of whether to fill the gap left by the Justice Department, and join the cases as a party to defend DOMA.   

BACKGROUND:  DOMA was passed in 1996 with bi-partisan support and by wide margins (342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate) and was signed into law by President Clinton.  It says that for purposes of acts of Congress or regulations “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

The existence of DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriages” or from extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples.  It also means that states cannot be compelled to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states.

CHURCH TEACHING:  In a September 9, 2003 statement (reaffirmed March 14, 2006) titled: PROMOTE, PRESERVE, PROTECT MARRIAGE, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “To promote, preserve, and protect marriage today requires, among other things, that we advocate for legislative and public policy initiatives that define and support marriage as a unique, essential relationship and institution. At a time when family life is under significant stress, the principled defense of marriage is an urgent necessity to ensure the flourishing of persons, the wellbeing of children, and the common good of society.”   

ACTION:  Speaker Boehner has been meeting with other members of the House leadership to explore ways to defend DOMA.  Please contact your member of Congress and let her/him know that you support the House leadership in their efforts to intervene in the lawsuits challenging DOMA, to defend the law and protect marriage. See statements of Anthony Picarello, USCCB General Counsel and Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the USCCB on the USCCB Website (

Contact your Representative by e-mail, phone, FAX letter or U.S. Mail:

  • Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
  • Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at:
  • Share this action alert with your social media networks.

WHEN: Please contact your Representative today. Thanks!

Visit to to send an email directly to your elected officials and to sign up to receive additional alerts from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lenten Observance
Be aware of how much food you discard every day. Look for opportunities to eat leftovers and avoid wasting food.  Consider participating in Operation Rice Bowl.