Archive for July, 2013

The Catholic Tipping Point: Helmut Schüller Calls for Reform

Helmut Schüller opened a 15 city tour in New York City on Tuesday night, calling for a range of reforms in the Catholic Church and for priests to join in reform efforts side-by-side with concerned laity. Some background: Fr. Helmut Schuller is the founder of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, (Pfarrer-Initiative) organized in 2006 to address a deepening shortage of priests forcing many Austrian parishes to close. His work inspired the establishment of similar priest groups in Germany, Ireland, France, the United States and Australia. Schüller’s U.S. Tour comes in the midst of a steadily worsening priest shortage. A 2009 study from the National Federation of Priests’ Councils found that for every 100 U.S. priests who retire, only 30 are available to replace them. In June 2011, the Pfarrer-Initiative issued a “Call to Disobedience” calling for lay leadership and preaching in parishes without a priest, permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive sacraments and support for the ordination of women and married men. Schüller’s tour is sponsored by 10 organizations, including the Quixote Center. His schedule can be viewed here.
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Food Aid Reform Update

Back in April of this year the Obama administration proposed significant reform to the way the United States government delivers food aid around the world. The two key components of the reform: The first part of the proposal is to allow more flexibility in the delivery of emergency food aid, by allowing the food to be purchased in the country or nearby countries rather than purchased in the U.S. and shipped abroad. Currently food aid is purchased in the U.S. and shipped overseas. Over half of the cost of food aid is shipping (53%). The proposed reform would allow for more food to be delivered more quickly, reaching potentially 4 million more people without raising the cost of the program over current levels. The second proposal is to phase out the practice of food aid monetization. Currently, non-emergency food aid is given to non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations who then sell on local markets to finance anti-poverty programs. The program has been a valuable source of money for these groups, but puts them in direct competition with local producers who may be crowded out of the market. The reform would allow for direct grants to these groups rather than giving them food to sell. These proposals are not new, though the Obama administration’s plan is perhaps the most comprehensive effort to date for reform. For example, included in the proposals was a recommendation to place food aid under the jurisdiction of international relations committees rather than agricultural committees where the programs currently reside in the House and Senate. One might think that delivering more food for less money would be an easy sell in a Congress rhetorically committed to reducing deficits. Yet, the devil is in the details. Food aid is a tiny part of the federal budget – about .05%, or about a nickel on every $100 spent. Yet the programs remain a significant stream of revenue for shipping companies, agricultural corporations, and some non-government organizations involved in the distribution of food aid. The food aid reform was first taken up in the appropriations process for FY2014 where this coalition of groups defeated it – at least for the first round. Both appropriations bills await floor debate where further action can be taken. Food aid reform was then taken up in the farm bill. On the Senate side, a modest reform was passed allowing for an increase in local and regional purchases. Monetization remains in place, and the idea of changing committee jurisdictions is pretty clearly going nowhere soon. On the house side a more significant reform proposal was voted on as an amendment to the farm bill, but was narrowly defeated. With 203 votes in support of the reform, however, there is good reason to believe if addressed again, either through the 2015 appropriations bill, or a stand-alone bill that is being discussed, food aid reform is within reach. Currently the modest reform passed on the Senate side remains in the farm bill which is now heading to a conference of Senate and House leaders who must negotiate a conference report that bridges the differences in the farm bills passed by each chamber. It is likely that the conference committee will not get a final bill until September. We’ll keep you posted. Our hope is that the Food Aid Reform Act, which takes on comprehensive reform in one bill, will get a hearing and garner support in Congress. As things stands, we cannot support the current version of the farm bill. The House passed the farm bill without including authorization for the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP), more commonly, if incorrectly, known as food stamps.
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Amnesty Urgent Action: LGBTI Rights Activists Targetted in Haiti

    Activists of Kouraj a group working for the rights of the Haitian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, have been receiving threats related to their work. The threats seem to be related to a march against “homosexuality in Haiti”, scheduled for 26 July. The Haitian coalition of religious and moral organizations (Coalition haïtienne des organisations religieuses et morales) publicly called a march to protest against homosexuality and the threat of the expansion of the rights of the LGBTI people in the country. Since the call for a march was announced on 26 June, Kouraj, a Haitian organization working to raise awareness about LGBTI rights and create public debate about the stigma surrounding homosexuality in Haiti, started to receive threats. They have received leaflets at their premises in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, warning the organization to stop their activities with messages like “we don’t need groups like Kouraj in Haiti” (“pas besoin de groupes comme Kouraj en Haïti”). Charlot Jeudy, president of Kouraj, has been targeted in some of the threats. One of the leaflets left at Kouraj’s premises stated “If Charlot doesn’t shut his mouth, we’ll shut it for him” (“si Charlot ne ferme pas sa gueule, on va lui fermer” [sic]). He also received anonymous calls accusing homosexuals of being the source of the country’s problems, including the 2010 earthquake which struck Haiti and killed 200,000 people. He has also received threats on his Facebook page. Fearing for their safety Kouraj’s activists have decided to close their office. They feel particularly unsafe as the date for the planned march, 26 July is approaching. Please write immediately in French, Haitian Creole or your own language: n Calling for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the threat made against Charlot Jeudy and other activists of Kouraj, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice; n Urging the authorities to take immediate steps to fully provide appropriate protection to Charlot Jeudy and other activists of Kouraj in accordance with their wishes; n Reminding them that human rights defenders have a right to carry out their activities without any unfair restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 30 AUGUST 2013 TO: General Director of the Haitian Police Godson Orélus Directeur Général de la PNH Police Nationale d’Haiti Port-au-Prince, Haïti Email: Salutation: Monsieur le directeur/ Dear Director Minister of Justice and Public security Jean Renel Sanon Ministre de la Justice et de la Sécurité publique 18, avenue Charles Summer Port-au-Prince, Haïti Email: Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre/ Dear Minister
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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)