Immigration rally draws hundreds

October 6, 2013, 1:22 pm | Posted by
Associated Press
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FPL led press outreach for the event. 

Organizers say several hundred people took part in an immigration- reform rally in Ohio outside U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

It was one of dozens of rallies across the nation to call for reforms in the nation’s immigration laws.

The events Saturday were part of the “National Day for Dignity and Respect.”

Immigrant families, religious leaders and union representatives were among those attending the rally in Springfield in southwest Ohio.

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Marchers seek immigration reform passage

October 5, 2013, 2:14 pm | Posted by
Andy Sedlak, Dayton Daily News
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FPL was responsible for media outreach for the event. 

An estimated 500 people met in downtown Springfield Saturday afternoon and marched about a quarter-mile to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office with the message that legislators should show urgency and pass immigration reform legislation.

The marchers – mostly made up of various labor, religious and community organizations – withstood soggy weather to chant in favor of reform and legislative action.

The gathering in Springfield was one of several across the country as part of a National Day for Dignity and Respect.

“(We’re) hundreds strong in Springfield, Ohio of all places,” said Troy Jackson, of Ohio’s Prophetic Voices. “We’re not going to rest until this bill becomes a law in the United States.”

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Pope says Church must end obsession with gays, contraception, abortion

September 19, 2013, 2:22 pm | Posted by
Philip Pullella, Reuters
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John Gehring, Faith in Public Life’s Catholic Program Director, was quoted in an article on Pope Francis’s criticism of the Catholic Church’s focus on divisive social issues. 

The interview was not didactic and formal, in the way of past popes, but easygoing, familiar and friendly. He even spoke of his favorite author, Dostoevsky, painter, Caravaggio and composer, Mozart.

“What is clear is that he does not think like a classicist who sees the world in unchanging categories. He is a story- teller like Jesus, not a philosopher,” said Father Tom Reese, an American Jesuit and author of several books on the Vatican.

John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in the United States, said:

“This pope is rescuing the Church from those who think that condemning gay people and opposing contraception define what it means to be a real Catholic.

“It’s a remarkable and refreshing change.”

The interview took place over three sessions in August in his simple quarters in a Vatican guest house where he has lived since his election instead of the spacious papal apartments, and was released simultaneously by Jesuit journals around the world.

Francis alluded to criticism of him within the conservative Catholic establishment.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he said.

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Pope criticizes Church emphasis on abortion, gays

September 18, 2013, 2:21 pm | Posted by
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
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John Gehring, FPL’s Catholic Program Director, was quoted in an article on Pope Francis’s criticism of the Catholic Church’s focus on divisive social issues. 

“Catholic progressives are wondering if we’re dreaming and going to wake up soon,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. “It’s a new day.”

The interview also showed a very human Francis. He seemingly had no qualms about acknowledging that his tenure as superior of Argentina’s Jesuit order in the 1970s — starting at the “crazy” age of 36 — was difficult because of his “authoritarian” temperament.

“I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems,” he said.

The key, he said, is for the church to not exclude.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” he said.

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My Word: Vatican must work to heal nuns’ wounds

August 16, 2013, 3:19 pm | Posted by
John Gehring, Orlando Sentinel
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Catholic sisters have gathered for a national meeting in Orlando this week under close scrutiny. An archbishop tasked by the Vatican with overhauling the organization that represents most U.S. nuns will be keeping a watchful eye on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The Vatican issued a report last spring criticizing the sisters for promoting “radical feminist themes” and not doing enough to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.

The high-profile scolding prompted widespread displays of support for nuns across the country. Americans have signed petitions and opened their checkbooks to show support for these women of grace and grit. This outpouring of respect and admiration is well-deserved.

Nuns in the Orlando area have long been on the front lines of low-income communities. In Apopka, Catholic sisters are helping farmworkers and migrant families by providing literacy and citizenship classes, social services and spiritual care.

Catholic nuns’ tireless support for immigration reform, living-wage jobs and effective programs that help struggling families underscores that being “pro-life” doesn’t stop with defending life in the womb.

Now that Pope Francis is drawing rave reviews for his engaging style and emphasis on social justice, could there be an opening to repair the breach between nuns and the Vatican? The pope sparked a flurry of media coverage recently for his comments about gays. “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?” he asked.

Less noticed was his candid acknowledgment that the Catholic Church lacks “a truly deep theology of women.” A woman’s role does not “end just with being a mother and with housework,” he told reporters, noting that in church history Mary is more important than Jesus’ male apostles.

These words are not revolutionary. Women run corporations and serve as heads of state. The pope’s comments may even sound quaint. But for a global church that frequently operates like a monarchy, this pope has signaled the need for greater dialogue and collegiality.

The Vatican has every reason to begin healing the wounds caused by its heavy-handed treatment of women religious. For a church that has struggled with headlines filled with scandal, nuns are good news.

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington.

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