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Christian Leaders Cite Pope Francis in Lead-up to GOP Debate

August 4, 2015, 9:44 am | Posted by

A presidential election should be about more than candidates scoring political points and the sharpening of partisan divides. The issues debated in a campaign are fundamentally about values and priorities. The 2016 election is an opportunity for a national examination of conscience.


Poverty, inequality, environmental damage, mass incarceration and a broken immigration system that tears families apart all undermine our nation’s values and highest ideals. These are not isolated issues, but the result of financial and political structures that perpetuate inequality, exclusion and a culture of indifference.


A healthy democracy requires a commitment to the common good. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis reminds us that “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” are one and demand a collective response. The same global economic system that puts profit before human dignity leads to the sin of environmental degradation.


“Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules rather than serves,” Pope Francis recently said. “That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.”


Candidates for the most powerful office in the world have a responsibility to clearly articulate plans for addressing two of the most urgent moral challenges of our time: economic inequality and climate change.


In Cleveland, where the first presidential debate will take place, more than half of all children grow up in poverty. Infant mortality rates in Cuyahoga County are so high that the city’s newspaper recently described them as “abysmal.” Northeast Ohio has some of the worst air pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association. Latino and African-American children in low-income neighborhoods disproportionately suffer from unacceptable levels of asthma and lead poisoning. These intolerable conditions are the reality in many cities and communities across our country and globe. It’s a reality no nation should ever accept.


Poverty, inequality and climate change are not abstractions. They are life and death issues. A five-year study from the Environmental Protection Agency found that a global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths per year by the end of the century.


We ask all presidential candidates – in particular those who identity as people of faith — to recognize and act upon our shared responsibility to be stewards of the earth and to build an economy of inclusion.


In faith,


Sister Donna Markham, OP

President and CEO

Catholic Charities USA


James Winkler

President and General Secretary

National Council of Churches


Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II


Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (USA)


Rev. Gradye Parsons

Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly

Presbyterian Church (USA)


Dan Misleh

Executive Director

Catholic Climate Covenant


Jim Wallis

President and CEO



Richard Cizik


New Evangelicals for the Common Good


Sister Simone Campbell, SSS

Executive Director

NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby


Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D.


Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities


Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza

Former President

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Francis X. Doyle

Former Associate General Secretary

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Miguel H. Diaz, Ph.D.

Ambassador to the Holy See, Ret., The John Courtney Murray University Chair in Public Service

Loyola University Chicago


Sister Sharon Holland, IHM


Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR)


Sister Ann Scholz, SSND

Associate Director for Social Mission

Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR)


Sister Pat McDermott, RSM

Leadership Team

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Sister Eileen Campbell, RSM

Leadership Team

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Sister Anne Curtis, RSM

Leadership Team

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Sister Deborah Troilett, RSM

Leadership Team

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Sister Mary Pat Garvin, RSM

Leadership Team

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


Patrick Carolan

Executive Director

Franciscan Action Network


James Hug, S.J.

Past President

Center of Concern


John Gehring

Catholic Program Director

Faith in Public Life


Eric LeCompte

Executive Director

Jubilee USA Network


John Baumann, S.J.


PICO National Network


James Birge

Interim President

Marygrove College


Rev. Dr. Serene Jones


Union Theological Seminary


Daniel Curran, Ph.D.


University of Dayton


John Smarrelli


Christian Brothers University


Kevin Wildes, S.J.


Loyola University New Orleans


Eugene J. Cornacchia


Saint Peter’s University


Stephen A. Privett, S.J.


University of San Francisco


John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J.


Regis University


Charles Dougherty


Duquenesque University


Peter M . Donohue, O.S.A.


Villanova University


Beverly A. Wharton


Briar Cliff University


Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson


Auburn Seminary


Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD


Barry University


Charles T. Strauss

Assistant Professor of History

Mount St. Mary’s University (MD)


Neomi DeAnda, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

University of Dayton


David O’Brien

Emeritus Professor of Catholic Studies

College of the Holy Cross


Anne Clifford, Ph.D.

Msgr. James A. Supple Chair in Catholic Studies, Dept. of Philosophy & Religious Studies

Iowa State University


Pam Rector

Director, Center for Service and Action

Loyola Marymount University


Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Theology

Boston College


Rev. John P. Lanagan, S.J.

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Chair in Catholic Social Thought

Georgetown University


William George, Ph.D.

Professor of Theology; Chair, Dept. of Theology

Dominican University


Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Dayton


Dennis M. Doyle

Professor of Religious Studies

University of Dayton


Terrence W. Tilley

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Professor of Catholic Theology

Fordham University


Joseph J. Fahey

Professor of Religious Studies; Chair, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice

Manhattan College


Kevin Ahern, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Manhattan College


Kathleen Maas Weigert, Ph.D.

Carolyn Farrell, BVM, Professor of Women and Leadership

Loyola University Chicago


Tobias Winright

Maeder Endowed Chair of Health Care Ethics

Saint Louis University


Ron Pagnucco, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Peace Studies

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University


Sister Leanne M. Jablonski, FMI, Ph.D.

Scholar in Residence for Faith and Environment, Hanley Sustainability Institute

University of Dayton


T. Michael McNulty, S.J.

Scholar in Residence

Marquette University Center for Peacemaking


David P. Gushee

Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life

Mercer University


Ronald J. Sider

Distinguised Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy

Palmer Seminary


Stephen Schneck

Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America


Christopher Kerr

Executive Director

Ignatian Solidarity Network


Dr. Moya K. Dittmeier

Executive Director

Conference for Mercy Higher Education


Sister Joanne M. Burrows, SC


Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati


Ken Wilson


Blue Ocean Church


Brian D. McLaren

Activist and Author

The Convergence Initative


Rev. William Kelley, S.J.

Secretary for Social and International Ministries

Jesuit Conference, The Society of Jesus in Canada and the United States


Anthony Cutcher


National Federation of Priests’ Councils


Clete Kiley

Director of Immigration Policy

Unite Here


Tom Allio

Former Social Action Director

Diocese of Cleveland


Christopher J. Hale

Executive Director

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good


Anthony Annett

Climate Change and Sustainable Development Advisor

Columbia University


Dolores Christie

Retired Cleveland ethicist


Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.

Director, The Institute for Pastoral Initiatines; Professor, Department of Religious Studies; Marianist Educational Associate

University of Dayton


Sister Carren Herring, RSM


Nuns on the Bus Ohio


Carol Devine

Minister and Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Associate Minister

Green Chalice, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


Shantha Ready-Alonso

Executive Director

Creation Justice Ministries


Richard M. Gibson


The Elizabeth Baptist Church


Sister Patricia Chappell

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

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Pope Francis Poll

July 29, 2015, 1:46 pm | Posted by

Several polls were released this week examining American public attitudes toward the Pope in advance of his visit to the US in September. The polls showed that the Pope continues to enjoy remarkably strong approval ratings with American voters of all stripes, who agree with his message of equality and inclusion and his call to do more to address climate change.

Lake Research Partners poll of religious or faith-affiliated likely 2016 voters showed that the Pope is more popular than Oprah, and that his messages of togetherness, community, inclusion, and equality have broad reach and acceptance with these voters.

Quinnipiac University’s survey of registered voters in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia found that voters agreed by a more than 2-1 margin with the Pope’s call for the world to do more to address climate change.

That’s on the heels of a Gallup survey of US adults (not just voters) that found some polarization in attitudes and a drop in favorability among political conservatives.

Faith in Public Life’s Catholic program director, John Gehring, is the author of the upcoming book The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church. John looked at all three polls, and said:

“Pope Francis brings a powerful message that is both inspiring and challenging. He is making new again what is ancient wisdom about the common good at a time when our politics and culture are too often shaped by individualism on both the right and left. The pope is connecting with people because he taps into a deeper hunger for community that goes beyond self-interest. This has implications for the values that must frame our political and policy debates. Voters are paying attention to the pope’s insistence that addressing climate change, honoring the dignity of work and building an economy of inclusion are at root moral issues.”

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Ohio Clergy Coalition to Launch Campaign to End Pregnancy Discrimination

July 28, 2015, 6:13 pm | Posted by

Faith leaders will outline legislative goals, release compact signed by over 100 clergy from across Ohio

Columbus, OH – Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8th at 1:00PM, a diverse group of Ohio clergy will gather at the statehouse to kick off a campaign to end workplace discrimination against pregnant women.

No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her pregnancy. But in Ohio it is perfectly legal to deny pregnant women reasonable accommodations that let them work safely as they carry their child. It’s time for the state legislature to stand up for workers and family values by outlawing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

A background memo on the issue will be circulated to press today.

Ohio Family Values is made up of Republicans and Democrats, pro-choice and pro-life advocates, and clergy from across the theological perspective, including Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Muslims, Mainline Protestants and Unitarian Universalists.

At the press conference, the clergy will release the Compact for Ohio Families, signed by over 100 clergy from across the state that are committed to passing pregnancy discrimination legislation.

More information about the coalition can be found at: http://www.ohiofamilyvalues.com/



Ohio Family Values clergy coalition press conference announcing campaign to pass legislation to end pregnancy discrimination


Rev. June Wilkins, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Columbus

Rev. Joshua Stoxen, Vineyard Central Church, Cincinnati

Rabbi Eric Woodward, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Columbus

Amanda Hoyt, Faith in Public Life


George Washington Williams Room, Ohio Statehouse


Wednesday, July 8th at 1:00PM

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Protecting pregnant workers is a must

July 17, 2015, 12:06 pm | Posted by

This blog post by FPL’s Amanda Hoyt originally ran in Policy Matters Ohio

No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her pregnancy. But that’s the choice some expectant mothers in Ohio are facing right now.

As a working mom of two young girls, I know firsthand the challenges women face in balancing their career, their family and all of life’s competing priorities.

But too many women in Ohio carry an unthinkable burden that no mother should have to bear — pregnancy discrimination. Thanks to inadequate federal protection and no state law, it’s legal in Ohio to deny pregnant women reasonable workplace accommodations that let them work safely as they carry a child. Temporary relief from heavy lifting, being able to sit for a few minutes every couple of hours, or being able to go to the bathroom when you need to are basic things pregnant women need on the job, but all too often do not receive.

The story of one woman in particular, Peggy Young, inspired me to fight to end this injustice. Peggy worked for UPS while she was pregnant, and per her doctor’s orders to not lift anything heavier than 20 pounds, she requested temporary “light duty” — an accommodation that had been given other workers who weren’t pregnant. But UPS denied Peggy’s request, forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose her company health care at a critical time for her health and the health of the child she was carrying. No pregnant mother should have to sue just to be able to avoid lifting 70-pound packages or losing her health insurance.

That’s why Ohio needs to protect pregnant mothers on the job with a common-sense state law. More than 1,000 women have filed complaints with the state of Ohio alleging pregnancy discrimination.  Check out www.ohiofamilyvalues.com, a resource for the initiative to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Our campaign launched this week in Columbus (See the Cincinnati Enquirer story.)

Putting adequate protections in place for Ohio women isn’t just the moral thing to do. It will also benefit the state’s economy. Approximately 75 percent of the 68 million women working in the United States will become pregnant at some point in their lives, and they are staying on the job longer than in years past. Losing a job during a pregnancy negatively impacts long-term career paths, and pregnancy is the number one factor driving women into spells of poverty.

States around the country – including West Virginia and Illinois – have passed laws to ensure that women don’t have to choose between the health of their child and their ability to pay the bills. It is time for Ohio’s leaders to take action.


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Can Francis break the US climate change stalemate?

April 7, 2015, 11:05 am | Posted by

This commentary was published in Global Pulse magazine on April 6.

A resurgent libertarian ideology drowns out authentic debate and progress

For decades now, scientists have raised increasingly urgent warnings about human-induced climate change. Headlines grow more ominous every day. Global carbon emissions are at record levels. Water shortages, including in the western United States, have reached crisis proportions. The Pentagon expects climate change to intensity global instability. The world’s poor—those least responsible for the carbon emissions in the first place—are already paying the heaviest price. Even in the face of this stark reality, a growing number of Americans say global warming is not occurring, or rank the issue low in importance. This is both dispiriting and unsurprising. A well-funded climate denial industry, politicians nestled in their pockets, casts a cloud of doubt over the overwhelming scientific consensus that our world faces a threat of existential proportions.

Enter, Pope Francis.

If anyone can help break the stalemate over climate change and reach an audience far beyond the progressive choir, it’s a global leader with approval ratings  most politicians crave and the moral gravitas they usually lack. The first pope in history to take his name from Francis of Assisi – the saint most associated with poverty and reverence of nature – is working on a highly anticipated encyclical focused on the environment, expected to be released in early summer. When it comes to the Catholic Church, Francis is not exactly a maverick on this issue.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both addressed care for the environment as a profound moral issue and called for action to tackle climate change. “The depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions,” said Pope John Paul II back in 1990. He applauded “a new ecological awareness” that “ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives.” Pope Benedict XVI, dubbed the “Green Pope” for taking steps to make the Vatican the first carbon neutral state in the world, also warned against delay. “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers?” he asked in 2010.

While Pope Francis is clearly following in the tradition of his predecessors, he will make a much bigger splash by becoming the first pope in history to issue a lengthy encyclical about the environment. From the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has linked what he calls an “economy of exclusion and inequality” with ecological devastation. “An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it,” he told a meeting of social movements last fall. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is one of several Vatican officials helping Pope Francis shape his encyclical. “The threats that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment are inter-related, and they are the greatest threats we face as a human family today,” Turkson said in a recent speech.

Expectations are high.

The encyclical will be released in advance of Pope Francis’s address to the United Nations in September and before high-stakes climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year. “We have been negotiating this issue at the political level for more than 20 years, and we look to Pope Francis to untangle this stalemate, because this issue is beyond merely a political issue,” Naderev Sano, the Philippines’ climate commissioner told Democracy Now. “It is a profound moral issue that affects the whole world.” Sano, whose country was devastated by a typhoon in 2013 that killed more than 7,000 people, thinks the pope’s encyclical will be a “game changer for the international process.”

A Wake-Up Call for U.S. Conservatives?

The first pope from Latin America will likely find his toughest audience in the United States, a country he will visit for the first time this fall. Some conservatives are already throwing punches. The pope is part of “the radical green movement that is at its core anti-Christian, anti-people, and anti-progress,” writes Stephen Moore, a Catholic who is an economist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.  Robert George of Princeton University, a prominent Catholic philosopher, argues that the pope should steer clear of an area where—in his own misguided view—the science is unsettled.

Powerful Catholic politicians are climate change skeptics. Speaker John Boehner, who invited the pope to address a joint session of Congress, routinely blasts the Obama administration for “job killing” environmental policies. “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” the graduate of Xavier University, a Jesuit college in Ohio, has scoffed.

Prospective GOP presidential candidates are also singing from a different hymnal than Pope Francis.  Sen. Marco Rubio has denied that human activity is driving climate change and saysmeasures to reign in emissions warming the planet will “destroy our economy.” Jeb Bush, a leading GOP presidential contender whose conversion to Catholicism was recently profiled in the New York Times, concedes global warming “may be real” and took steps to protect the Everglades from off-shore drilling, but is nonetheless a self-described “skeptic.”

Rick Santorum, a 2012 presidential candidate and a likely contender in 2016 who frequently invokes his Catholic faith, thinks any human role in climate change is “patently absurd.” He strongly opposed an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting mercury emissions from coal fired plants, a ruling lauded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as “an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially unborn babies and young children.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who recently announced his candidacy at Liberty University – founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell — has mocked “global warming alarmists” who he compares to “modern day Flat Earth proponents.”

Some vocal evangelicals, a pillar of the Republican Party and the religious group most skeptical of climate change, are preparing for a fight. “The pope should back off,” says Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an organization that has called the environmental movement “un-biblical.” Critics of Pope Francis need a basic theology lesson when it comes to the environment. The pope isn’t cribbing talking points from Greenpeace or sprinkling holy water on a progressive agenda. His views are rooted in a traditional religious commitment to protect the gift of God’s creation, a biblical call to be good stewards, and respect for the sanctity of life and human dignity. “A Christian who does not protect creation,” Francis says bluntly, “is a Christian who does not care about the work of God.”

Environmental justice and prudent action to address climate change should not simply be a progressive cause. Republicans Theodore Roosevelt and later Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency, understood that stewardship and conservation matter. After all, classic conservative philosophy begins with preserving what is good, and surely our fragile environment is an inheritance we don’t want to squander. As Pope Francis himself said, it’s not just a legacy from the past, but a loan for our children. Conservatism traditionally casts a skeptical eye on the notion of progress at any price, and rejects a view of human flourishing that is only measured by the standards of crass consumerism.

A resurgent libertarian ideology is drowning out the voice of authentic conservatism. It has made an idol of free-markets and a virtue of self-centered hooliganism. The bottom line is protecting children from deadly toxins, safeguarding limited natural resources and transitioning to a more sustainable energy policy should all be part of a pro-life, conservative agenda.

If Republicans can’t stomach listening to progressives in Washington, perhaps they might take a cue from the world’s most popular religious leader?

John Gehring is Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington. Anthony Annett is a Climate Change and Sustainable Development Advisor for the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City. 

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