The Catholic University of America

Category: Social Justice

Sep 21 2011

Poverty Rates Climb… And Congress is Silent. Why?

The U.S. Census Bureau has released some disturbing new numbers measuring poverty in the United States.  More than 46 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line – a whopping 15% of the U.S. population.  Not since the early 1990’s has the percentage been this high.  And even worse, the data show sharp declines in real income, a record number of people without health care insurance, and particularly harsh economic conditions for women.

Yet despite widespread media coverage of these alarming figures, the reaction from Congress has been surprisingly muted.  Why?

To be sure, the current political environment is not conducive to Congress taking action.  The talk in Washington is about debt reduction, not federal spending.  Congress is sharply divided along partisan lines – Democrats control the Senate, Republicans the House – a recipe for policy gridlock.  Democrats, thinking to the next presidential election, worry that pushing the issue may only further connect Obama with the struggling economy.  And Congressional Republicans, an increasingly conservative party, do not want to lose the support of activist Tea Party groups, most of which are so opposed to government programs and regulations that they sometimes sound like the Anti-Federalists of the 1780’s.

But there are three bigger reasons that Congress is less likely to deal with poverty than it should.


0 comments - Posted by Matthew Green at 10:16 AM - Categories: Social Justice | Education | Government & Civil Society

Feb 9 2011

Housing Our Heroes...And Helping Our Economy

The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program is the only permanent housing program that is focused solely on helping homeless veterans find appropriate housing.  The Obama Administration, as well as activists, has made it a priority to end homelessness among veterans.  Veterans make up 1 percent of the American population, but they are ten percent of the homeless population. The VASH program is useful as it provides vouchers for homeless veterans once the veterans are screened and understand what the program means for them.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the agency that dispenses these vouchers. There are threshold factors for eligibility, such as the applicant should not have pending litigation that might make paying rent a major problem.  According to HUD, approximately 10,000 VASH vouchers have been handed out in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

There is, however, a larger population of concern amongst veterans than those who are homeless. The “at-risk” veteran, returning from Afghanistan or Iraq, returns home to an unstable economy, and is “at-risk” of falling into poverty. Some veterans may re-enlist and some may not, but they all face the same economy here in the United States. According the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there have been 2,176,410 veterans that have served since September 11th, 2001.  That is a very interesting number when you consider that there are approximately 2,136,868 homes that are currently in foreclosure in the United States.


0 comments - Posted by Anthony Stasi at 1:43 PM - Categories: Economy | Social Justice

Apr 30 2010

The Ethics of the Obama Administration’s Nuclear Weapons Policy: Catholic Perspectives

“Are you going to the conference on the ethics of nuclear weapons being held at our Catholic U.,” I asked? “I didn’t know there was a conference,” was the reply. “I do know, however, that any discussion on this topic is far more important than the discussions we are having on the economy, global warming, and other so-called significant issues making the news,” was the follow-up observation. In this conversation with a parishioner, who also teaches at Catholic U., we talked about the devastation created by the Iceland volcano and how this pales in comparison to the destruction a nuclear war would create.

With these in mind, I attended the Conference on Nuclear Weapons Policy, which was sponsored by the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among the many aspects of the issue discussed at the conference, one common theme seemed to emerge, at least from my perspective: is getting rid of nuclear weapons a moral imperative?...


0 comments - Posted by Eugene F. Hemrick at 12:29 PM - Categories: Social Justice | Education | Peace & Environment | Government & Civil Society

Apr 26 2010

Understanding the Hispanic Presence

On April 19, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, in conjunction with university departments and institutes involved with Hispanic work hosted the conference, Hispanic Presence in the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Region. As I listened to the presenters, I couldn’t help but recall all the Hispanics I see on a daily basis. Across the street from St. Joseph on Capitol Hill Church, which I serve, is the U.S. Senate parking lot. Most of its car attendants are Hispanic. Walking over to the Union Station to catch the Metro, I pass teams of Hispanic landscapers tending the lawns of the Thurgood D. Marshall Judiciary Building. And it never fails, when driving to work, that I see young Hispanic construction workers carrying their lunch boxes or repairing streets.  Even though this is a daily occurrence, I often feel we are like ships passing in the night...


0 comments - Posted by Eugene F. Hemrick at 4:51 PM - Categories: Social Justice | Government & Civil Society | Religion & Culture & Society

Apr 23 2010

Dispatch from Edinburgh

I've been more or less nicely stranded in Edinburgh this week, courtesy of an 'act of God,’ or so the airlines demur when you ask them for compensation.  It's a good place to be (...) Still, it's fairly depressing for a Catholic to walk around this marvelous city, which, like so many others in Europe, is filled with old churches now operating as community centers, theaters, cafes, offices, art galleries, or simply boarded up.  (...) As I think of my distance from home, I’m reminded that in my diocese of Baltimore, priests are fewer and fewer, Catholic schools merge and close, and many parishioners are deeply troubled in a moment recently estimated by Hans Küng to be the Church’s ‘worst credibility crisis since the Reformation.’  (...) The way things are going, it's hard not to feel as if I'm on a walking tour of the Catholic future.  Küng's open letter to the Bishops last week has great merit in my opinion, but I'd prefer to offer a few reflections closer to my lay pay grade and academic métier, sparked not just by my dismay at the Edinburgh commercial real estate market, but by the news I’ve had time to catch up on in my geologically imposed exile.  I doubt I’m alone in finding that the Good Friday homily by Fr. Cantalamessa referred to by Küng--which has been understandably interpreted by many as entitling priests, the pope and the church to a victimary status on par with that of 20th century Judaism--was as historically in error as it was rhetorically deaf.  Not just tone-deaf, but simply deaf, uncommunicative...


Posted by Stephen J. McKenna at 10:47 AM - Categories: Social Justice | Religion & Culture & Society

Apr 12 2010

Are Catholic colleges and universities doing more harm than good?

The question was raised by Dr. Mark Gray & Melissa Cidade, MA of Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in a presentation to the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies [IPR] at The Catholic University of America. According to the data, no evidence exists that harm to a student’s Catholic faith or education is done. Although the study that reported this was not as far ranging as would be desired, the questions it generated were conscious-conscience-raising challenges today’s Catholic youth need to address. They ranged from attitudes on abortion, affirmative action/Call to Action, same sex marriages, improving the human condition, to attitudes on military spending, capital punishment, praying, reading sacred texts, attending religious services, and spirituality.


1 comments - Posted by Eugene F. Hemrick at 10:09 AM - Categories: Social Justice | Religion & Culture & Society

Oct 23 2009

The debate over health care reform

The debate over health care reform, though at times uninformed and uncivilized, has again focused attention on the longstanding issue of government’s proper role in a (predominantly) market economy.  It is not my intent to address this issue per se except to admit without apology that I am a firm believer in and strong proponent of private markets.  (...) When the issue is narrowed to the proper role of government in the provision of health care, however, serious complications arise that the market, without broader government involvement, cannot resolve...


4 comments - Posted by Ernest Zampelli at 4:04 PM - Categories: Economy | Social Justice | Government & Civil Society