“An empty soul”?

March 13, 2014, 1:11 pm | Posted by

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) always provides a useful window into what’s resonating with the movement’s activist base. One moment from this year’s conference, held last week in Washington, struck me as particularly important.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has a history of using faith to justify an agenda that takes food and health care away from struggling families and seniors, accused proponents of a strong safety net of offering “a full stomach – and an empty soul.”

He went on to tell a false story about a child in poverty to attack the free school lunch program that keeps students from going hungry.

After years of receiving powerful rebukes from faith leaders over his immoral federal budget proposals, his misuse of Catholic teaching and his allegiance to Ayn Rand, it seems that Ryan is trying to rehabilitate his image while clinging to his ideology. It’s no surprise that Ryan, a Catholic, would make a moral argument, but it’s shocking that he’d characterize safety net provisions supported by Catholic nuns and bishops as offering “an empty soul.”

This is more than just Ryan’s personal crusade. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of rhetoric from conservative politicians in the months ahead, but they still strongly oppose effective anti-poverty measures like raising the minimum wage and tax fairness policies like closing massive loopholes for big corporations that don’t pay any taxes.

What they’re left with, then, are empty moral platitudes in service of the same old extremist agenda. We have to counter that with a vision for an economy that honors the dignity of work and enables all families to flourish.

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Paul Ryan Pontificating about Poverty Once Again

March 6, 2014, 5:29 pm | Posted by
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a well-earned reputation as a politician who uses faith to justify policies that kick struggling families when they’re down. So it’s hardly surprising that his remarks about poverty at the Conservative Political Action Conference today included religious and moral arguments. Raw Story has the footage:

It’s interesting that he accuses safety-net supporters of offering “a full stomach and an empty soul.” As a Catholic, is Ryan accusing nuns and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of advancing an agenda of spiritual bankruptcy? I ask because these leaders vocally defend protections like SNAP and extended unemployment insurance that help hard-hit families put food on the table.

And Ryan’s remarks about families that count on free school lunches are just as troubling. I taught in a school where most students received free or reduced-price lunches. Much like kids at middle-class schools across the country, I’m sure many of them would’ve preferred a homemade meal over the cafeteria cuisine. But Ryan’s suggestion that the 31 million American children who get free or reduced-price lunches aren’t “cared for” by their parents is contemptuous and foolish. Ryan, who is a millionaire, appears to be completely out of touch with the struggles and sacrifices of families trying to get by on the $290 a week that a minimum wage worker brings home.

Ryan should stop pontificating about low-income families — and stop trying to make it even harder for them to meet their most basic needs.

(h/t TPM)

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This Lent, a deeper hunger for justice

March 6, 2014, 3:48 pm | Posted by

For me, Lent is always a powerful time of reflection and prayer on self-sacrifice. Those who strive to build the beloved Community bring new life out of the ashes of sin and brokenness.

Last winter the “Fast for Families” movement put immigration reform back on Congress’ agenda. This month faith, immigration and labor leaders launched “Fast for Families Across America, a seven week bus tour that will visit 75 Congressional districts to help change the hearts and minds of members of Congress who continue to oppose long overdue immigration reform. Twenty-eight Catholic college and university presidents who fasted on Ash Wednesday reflected: “As we begin this sacred season and remember Christ’s journey of suffering the desert wilderness we pray for immigrants who hunger and thirst for justice.” You can sign up to join the fast here.

Fighting for family wages

Yesterday as I stood with faith leaders and U.S Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to call for raising the minimum wage, I met a mom who reminded me of the sacrifices mothers and families are making in an economy that fails to honor their work with living wages. The prophet Isaiah said, “My chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands,” yet today millions of workers cannot enjoy the fruit of their labor by seeing their families thrive.

A bold rebuke in Arizona

Last week evangelical leaders issued a statement boldly calling on their own communities to oppose legislation like Arizona’s SB 1062, which would have discriminated against gay people in the name of religious freedom. Their statementsaid in part: “We believe that the current position that many Evangelical leaders are taking on issues of discrimination toward the gay community directly contradict that posture of radical love and grace that Jesus so powerfully embodied in his life and teachings.” As other states consider similar bills, they will have to contend with strong opposition across the religious spectrum.

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28 Catholic College Presidents join Ash Wednesday Fast for Immigration Reform

March 4, 2014, 9:36 pm | Posted by

Catholic college presidents from 28 Catholic college and universities signed a letter committing to fast in solidarity with the “Fast for Families Across America” campaign. “Fast for Families” reignited the immigration debate last November when Eliseo Medina of SEIU, Dae Joong “DJ” Yoon (NAKASEC), Rudy Lopez (FIRM) and Cristian Avila (Mi Familia Vota) fasted for 22 days in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall. Joined by faith, labor and immigrant rights leaders and thousands across the country who fasted in solidarity, the movement drew national attention, including the support of President Obama and both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress.

Students, faculty and administrators at Catholic colleges and universities joined the first phase of the “Fast for Families” campaign in December as a show of solidarity with those fasting on the National Mall. Now, many of the presidents of these universities and colleges have drawn inspiration from the sacrifice of their own students who fasted as well as the national leaders with the “Fast for Families”.

This is only one instance of a spate of actions by Catholic organizations calling for comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. In February, over 150 students from nine Catholic universities met at Loyola Chicago University for a Student Summit on Immigration Reform. This week, Notre Dame is hosting a conference focused on the Catholic Church and immigration. And this past July, over 100 Catholic college presidents sent a letter to Catholic Members of Congress calling for swift passage of commonsense immigration reform.

As Christians around the world enter the season of Lent this Ash Wednesday, this distinguished group of leaders are joining thousands of fasters across the country in a unified call for addressing the broken immigration system.

The college presidents’ letter reads:

As leaders of Catholic universities, we stand with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in strong support of immigration reform that protects immigrant families and workers, and creates a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.

We draw encouragement from students on our campuses who work tirelessly to turn this vision into a reality. Brave DREAMers are inspiring their peers to join them in the struggle for justice and dignity. Catholic students are praying, mobilizing and calling on Congress to act.

Immigrant and native-born students alike have joined the Fast For Families, a nationwide movement of fasting and prayer to awaken the consciences of lawmakers who stand in the way of immigration reform. On our campuses, a new generation of leaders is finding its moral voice.

On Ash Wednesday, we pledge to join the Fast for Families and fast for 24 hours as an act of solidarity and prayer for those who still suffer because of cruel and impractical immigration policies. As we begin this sacred season and remember Christ’s journey of suffering in the desert wilderness, we pray for immigrants who hunger and thirst for justice.

We invite our students, faculty and fellow administrators of our respective colleges and universities to join this communal act.

Rev. Michael J. Garanzini
Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, IL

Fr. Peter Donohue
Villanova University
Villanova, PA

Dr. Mary Lyons
University of San Diego
San Diego, CA

Donna M. Carroll
Dominican University
River Forest, IL

Dr. Thayne M. McCulloh
Gonzaga University
Spokane, WA

Dr. Thomas Keefe
University of Dallas
Dallas, TX

Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, SJ
Loyola University New Orleans
New Orleans, LA

Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
DePaul University
Chicago, IL

Rev. Bernard F. O’Connor
DeSales University
Center Valley, PA

Antoine M. Garibaldi
University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, MI

Rev. Stephen Privett, SJ
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Dr. Thomas Botzman
Misericordia University
Dallas, PA

Br. Michael J. McGinniss, FSC
La Salle University
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr.
Saint Leo University
St Leo, FL

Sr. Rosemarie Jeffries, RSM
Georgian Court University
Lakewood Township, NJ

Dr. James Dlugos
Saint Joseph’s College of Maine
Standish, ME

Dr. Thomas Foley
Mount Aloysius College
Cresson, PA

Dr. Jane Gerety
Salve Regina University
Newport, RI

Dr. Laurie Harmen
Mount Mercy University
Cedar Rapids, IA

Dr. Julie Sullivan
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN

Nancy H. Blattner, OPA
Caldwell College
Caldwell, NJ

James E. Collins
Loras College
Dubuque, IA

Dr. Mary Meehan
Alverno College
Milwaukee, WI

John Smarrelli Jr.
Christian Brothers University
Memphis, TN

Joanne Burrows
Clarke University
Dubuque, IA

Sister Mary Cecilia Jurasinski
Manor College
Jenkintown, PA

Deb Takes
Interim President
Cabrini College
Radnor, PA

Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale
St. Thomas University
Miami Gardens, FL

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Catholic College Students Gather for Summit on Immigration Reform

February 25, 2014, 5:19 pm | Posted by

Last Saturday, more than 150 students from nine Catholic universities across the Midwest came together for Lighting the Pathway: Student Summit on Immigration Reform. The day long conference, co-organized by Faith in Public Life and the Ignatian Solidarity Network, was hosted by Loyola University Chicago and brought together students, administrators and DREAMers from DePaul University, Dominican University, Lewis University, Loyola Chicago, Marquette University, Notre Dame University, St. Mary’s College, John Carroll University and St. Xavier University.

From coast to coast, Catholic colleges and their students have been a vital part of the escalating campaign for immigration reform. Student leaders have put their faith into action by urging fellow students to act, fast, and pray to move the hearts and minds of members of Congress who continue to oppose immigration reform. Showing true moral courage and leadership, more than 100 Catholic college presidents have led the movement on campuses and late last year released a letter demanding Congress act to pass reform legislation.

In addition to workshops focused organizing skills, grassroots advocacy, and building a stronger movement, students heard from several inspiring speakers.

Veronica Soto, a DePaul student, spoke eloquently of her personal journey as a DREAMer and the obstacles undocumented status presents for her education, her family, and all those who aspire to a better life.

In the keynote address, Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy of Nuns on the Bus echoed the words of Pope Francis when she spoke of the clear call of the Gospels to be ‘our brother’s keeper.’

Students also heard from the legendary Sisters Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch, who have led a weekly prayer vigil outside the Broadview Deportation Facility for 8 years. “We are always very polite and respectful and we never take no for an answer.” the Sisters said of their unique brand of prayerful activism.

In addition, Faith in Public Life presented three ‘Moral Courage’ awards for leadership on behalf of aspiring Americans:

  • Srs. Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch, of the Sisters of Mercy and Interfaith Committee for
    Detained Immigrants.
  • Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine for it’s decision last year to admit DACA-eligible students. The award was accepted by Dr. Mark Kuczewski, Chair of Medical Education, who was one of the catalysts of the change.
  • President Donna Carroll of Dominican University for her leadership in making Dominican one of the first Catholic universities to openly welcome undocumented students.

Their collective work shows in stark terms that Catholic Social Teaching truly means welcoming the stranger among us. It was a humbling moment.

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