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Pope Francis, Economic Justice and the Catholic Challenge to Libertarianism

April 11, 2014, 10:19 am | Posted by

New guide helps university students bring the Catholic social tradition to political debates over minimum wages, inequality and role of government

As Pope Francis denounces “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” Faith in Public Life is releasing a new guidebook and website that will help Catholic university students make the connection between the Church’s social tradition and current political debates over minimum wages, taxes, inequality, unions and the role of government.

In this Together: Catholic Teaching and a Moral Economy, a guide that references Church  teaching on labor, workers’ rights and a broad array of economic justice issues, will be distributed to more than 100 Catholic university campuses over the next year. It challenges the recent surge of libertarian, anti-government ideology as incompatible with a Catholic vision of the common good.

The guide includes facts about poverty and inequality with quotes and resources from Pope Francis, Catholic bishops, prominent Catholic theologians and the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. An accompanying web site, www.InThisTogether.org, provides more in-depth analysis and videos of prominent Catholics talking about the Church’s economic justice teachings on popular programs such as The Colbert Report.

The effort is endorsed by NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; The Conference of Mercy Higher Education; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice; the Franciscan Action Network; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach.

“Catholics have a centuries-old tradition that offers a powerful antidote to the anti-government ideology and free-market fundamentalism that distort our political debates,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “Catholics should know that efforts to oppose living wages, attack unions and slash food aid to struggling families are an affront to Catholic values. This guide can help provoke reflection and encourage students to put their faith into action.”

In This Together has already been distributed to administrators, campus ministers, theologians and social justice directors at the University of San Diego, Creighton University, John Carroll University, the University of Dayton, Santa Clara University and Villanova University. Catholic students at Yale University, Stanford University and Michigan State University have also received the guide.

“I’m grateful for this important effort to stimulate more awareness of the Church’s economic justice teachings at a time when young Catholics are struggling to find their way through a culture that puts individualism and materialism before the common good,” said Moya K. Dittmeier, Executive Director of The Conference for Mercy Higher Education. “I hope this project will encourage Catholic students and others to become citizen-advocates who put our Catholic social tradition into practice by standing in solidarity with those on the margins, especially women and children.”

“Catholics can’t remain passive spectators when workers’ rights are under attack and inequality is soaring,” said Joseph J. Fahey, Chair of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice and a Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. “Catholics have always been at the forefront of struggles for economic justice. A new generation of Catholics must now take the lead in fighting for a moral economy.”

“This timely resource will help our university’s ongoing efforts to encourage students to engage with current moral and political debates by using the wisdom of Catholic social teaching as a foundation,” said Carmen M. Vazquez, Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of San Diego. “As Catholics, we have a responsibility to be faithful citizens who bring our commitment to human dignity and a preferential option for the poor to the public square.”



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More Catholic than the Pope?

April 1, 2014, 3:08 pm | Posted by

I recently wrote in the National Catholic Reporter about Catholic leaders who never got the memo from Pope Francis. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison is the latest to make you wonder how long it’s going to take for those refreshing winds blowing in Rome to be felt in U.S. dioceses.

Pope Francis angered liturgical traditionalists by washing the feet of women and Muslims during last year’s Holy Thursday liturgy. It was the first time a pope had included women in the rite, which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the night before his crucifixion. Bucking centuries of tradition, the pope also held the ceremony at Casal del Marmo, a prison on the outskirts of Rome, instead of the swankier digs at St. Peter’s or the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

From the Wisconsin State Journal this week:

Three years ago, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino issued guidelines that gave priests the option of either using only men or not celebrating the ritual at all. Given the heightened attention to foot-washing last year, some parishioners thought Morlino might re-evaluate his position. That has not happened. Brent King, the spokesman for the Diocese of Madison, said priests have the same two options this year — men only or no ritual.

Does Bishop Morlino fancy himself more Catholic than the pope?

This isn’t the first time the Wisconsin bishop has made news. When parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in his diocese raised strong concerns about a new group of traditionalist priests, Bishop Morlino took the unusual move of threatening those raising objections with formal church censure.

“This is a situation where push has come to shove and the bishop is asserting his authority and letting the people know, as it were, that he ‘owns the buildings and calls the shots,’” Dennis Doyle, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton, told the State Journal at the time.

Bishop Morlino, who sparked criticism from some theologians after his unusual interpretations of church teaching during heated debates over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, has also warned that Catholics in the United States face “sophisticated persecution.”

Pope Francis wants a less defensive church that opens doors and is “bruised, hurting and dirty” after being “in the streets.” The leadership style of Bishop Morlino sends the message that Catholic identity and evangelization are best served by wielding authority like a club and drawing dividing lines in the sand.

I’m putting my collection-plate money on the fact that Pope Francis has a more effective, and more authentically Christian, strategy for renewing the church.

H/T The Deacon’s Bench


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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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Building a movement

January 15, 2014, 2:09 pm | Posted by

One of the central struggles in American politics right now is between a pro-family justice movement rooted in faith and a right-wing campaign to punish the poor and consolidate as much power in as few hands as possible.

Last year, this conflict manifested most clearly in North Carolina, where the Moral Mondays Forward Together movement brought thousands of people of faith to the state capitol to resist a vast array of unpopular, immoral policies rammed through the Republican-controlled legislature. Week after week, clergy and lay leaders marched, spoke out and were arrested in acts of civil disobedience. Meanwhile, lawmakers’ approval ratings plummeted.

Now Moral Mondays is spreading. At the Georgia state capitol on a rainy Monday this week, 200 people, including dozens of faith leaders, joined hands to pray that Gov. Nathan Deal consider the moral consequences of rejecting Medicaid expansion. His current refusal not only blocks 650,000 low-income Georgians from health coverage, but means that more than 600 Georgians will likely die from lack of care. As in North Carolina, Moral Mondays leaders in Georgia are pledging to march weekly until justice is done for their most vulnerable neighbors.

What happens in these state capitols matters for all of us. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Atlanta isn’t just the capital of the South, it’s my hometown and the cradle of the civil rights movement. Seeing a diverse, clergy-led movement spring up there now is inspiring beyond words – not only because of its symbolic significance, but also because it portends a future when justice once again rolls down like a mighty stream.

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In memory of Thomas P. Melady

January 7, 2014, 1:09 pm | Posted by

Former Vatican Ambassador Thomas P. Melady died yesterday at the age of 86. His passing is a significant loss for the Catholic community in Washington and anyone who cares about public service. Tom was a true gentleman who believed in civility, building bridges across ideological divides and finding common ground with Catholic progressives like myself. A moderate Republican from Connecticut, he served his country and the Catholic Church by carrying himself with a gentle dignity that is all too rare in a city of strutting partisan peacocks.

While almost 50 years separated us, Tom became a friend because of our love for the Catholic Church and the conviction that serving the common good means a lot more than whether you voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. At times the politics of the Catholic Church can feel even more polarized and nasty than the battles waged on cable news and Capitol Hill, but Tom never let labels or blind partisanship stop him from reaching out to progressives. He even joked with me a few times that he was willing to take heat from his friends on the right for his eagerness to make common cause with more liberal Catholics.

Tom was a man of integrity and clear moral vision. He spoke up as a pro-life Catholic who opposed abortion but also called the scourge of gun violence a sanctity-of-life issue. While some conservatives and a vocal minority of bishops argue pro-choice Catholic elected officials should be denied Holy Communion, Tom rejected turning a sacrament into a political bludgeon. He joined other Christian leaders to denounce Uganda’s shameful efforts to dehumanize gays and lesbians. He spoke out for comprehensive immigration reform. He challenged the powerful and all of us not to forget the growing ranks of the poor and hungry. Tom knew that politics could be a noble calling, not simply a blood sport for the self-serving and ambitious.

I will miss his stories over lunch at The Army-Navy Club and his impromptu phone calls to talk about politics or the Church. Our country will miss his spirit of service.

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