Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach efforts for the fast.
Faith in Public Life helped to organize the letter to the Bishops.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development deserves the full support of the U.S. bishops because of its success in fighting poverty, said a group of Catholics on the eve of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly Nov. 11-14 in Baltimore. In a letter addressed to all of the bishops, 47 Catholic leaders, including three retired bishops and former USCCB staff members, urged the prelates to “redouble your commitment to social ministries that lift people out of poverty,” especially CCHD.
It was prompted by continuing criticisms of CCHD, the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty arm, from a small number of organizations that claim local anti-poverty agencies funded by the program have worked in coalitions that include members that do not share church teaching on issues, such as its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The letter was the result of a joint effort among the letter writers and Faith in Public Life, which bills itself as “a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.” In June, Faith in Public Life issued a report charging CCHD’s opponents with undertaking a “witch hunt.” It accused groups such as the American Life League and the Reform CCHD Now Coalition of “creating a culture of fear around community organizing,” based on interviews with community development experts, nonprofit directors and national philanthropic leaders.
Faith in Public Life Catholic Program Director John Gehring was interviewed about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual meeting.
“Bishops have been stuck in a bunker fighting the culture war,” said John Gehring, who was once in the conference’s communications office and is now Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group. “Pope Francis has said we can’t just be known by what we oppose.
FPL Catholic Program Director John Gehring published an op-ed in Time Magazine ahead of the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
More than 300 Catholic bishops will convene next Monday for a national meeting to elect a new president of their conference. While the new Pope has made a remarkable start advocating for a “church for the poor” and has warned against a fixation on a few hot-button issues, the bishops’ agenda in Baltimore reads as a primer in why the Catholic hierarchy in the United States risks losing its once powerful social justice voice. The bishops will vote on a statement about pornography, but the decline of living wage jobs, attacks on workers’ rights and growing threats to the environment—all moral issues addressed by traditional Catholic teaching—will not be up for discussion. The bishops will make time to hear a report about their advocacy efforts to oppose same-sex marriage, which an increasing number of Americans and most Catholics now support, but no reports are planned about income inequality or persistent unemployment. If the bishops left their hotel in Baltimore – where nearly 1 in 4 people live in poverty – they could follow Pope Francis’ lead during his visit to a favela in Brazil, where he listened to the stories of real people and challenged government leaders to address systemic injustice and growing inequality. But there are no indications that the bishops will scrap their formal agenda.
Their diminished voice on social justice stands in stark contrast to a time when bishops were at the forefront of debates over the role of government, the economy and war. During the Cold War, a Time magazine story about the nuclear arms race – “The Bishops vs. The Bomb” – was emblematic of a time when Catholic leaders drew public attention for a broader “pro-life” ethic beyond abortion. In 1986, U.S. bishops released “Economic Justice for All,” a national pastoral letter that offered a departure from Reagan-era “trickle down” economic theories, anti-government ideology and blind faith in free-market orthodoxy.
Faith in Public Life led press outreach and worked with Faithful America to organize the petition and delivery.
About a dozen members of area religious groups stood before the shuttered downtown office of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Tuesday morning, pushing through the mail slot pages of a petition demanding an end to the partial government shutdown signed by 30,000 people nationwide.
“It’s disproportionately affecting poor people,” said the Rev. George Taylor of All-Saints Lutheran Church. “People on food stamps, people on the (Women, Infants and Children) program … a lot of people are suffering.”
The demonstration was part of a national effort led by Faithful America, an online community of Christians who say they’re “dedicated to reclaiming Christianity from the religious right.” Linda Bartholomew, priest-in-charge at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley, helped organize the event and delivered the petition featuring signatures solicited through Faithful America’s website. She said the demonstration was not about casting blame but reminding McMorris Rodgers of her Christian duty.
“My only concern is for the poor,” Bartholomew said, adding she has compassion for the position the House Republican Conference chair is in. “That’s why I’m here, it’s just so that the Bible is not misrepresented, or somehow used as a tool, to oppress the poor more.”