As Catholic Bishops Meet, Culture Wars Trump Poverty

November 7, 2013, 11:02 am | Posted by

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.


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Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office site of protest, prayer, petition

October 16, 2013, 2:32 pm | Posted by

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.”

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Praying for Broken Hearts in the GOP

October 16, 2013, 2:24 pm | Posted by

Faith in Public Life led press outreach and helped to organize the pilgrimage to end the government shutdown.

Yesterday in the Canon House Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill, Rabbi David Shneyer led an interfaith group of approximately 150 clergy leaders, locked-out workers, and people of faith, in song.

“Of love and justice I will sing,” sang the rabbi, playing a guitar and riffing off of Psalm 101.

As the others joined in, their voices rang out powerfully and could be heard clearly a floor below.

The group had gathered to participate in an action organized by Faith in Public Life and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians and others marched on the offices of key Republican Members—including GOP Leadership—and urged a vote to immediately end the shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions. Petitions with over 32,000 signatures were simultaneously delivered to members’ home district offices around the country.

When the song ended, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, offered a prayer: “It is the common good that is the way forward for our nation…. And so let us pray for their courage that they can act on behalf of all of our people. And may our walking these halls, and praying with Congress, be the bridge that you need for healing and for some sanity in caring for all.”

The group then began its procession while singing “Amazing Grace” and other hymns. Police officers quickly told them to keep their volume low and stay to the sides of the corridors, or risk arrest. The group complied. It wasn’t that they feared arrest—many of these faith leaders have engaged in civil disobedience in the past—but that wasn’t their mission on Tuesday.

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Faith-based group delivers statement to Hurt’s office on shutdown

October 15, 2013, 2:38 pm | Posted by

Faith in Public Life led press outreach and worked with Faithful America to organize the petition and delivery. 

A faith-based social justice organization delivered a statement with more than 32,000 nationwide, online-culled signatures calling for an end to the federal government’s partial shutdown to the Charlottesville-area office of Rep. Robert Hurt.

Presented Tuesday afternoon, the petition signers included more than 150 Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders who are members of Faithful America, an online community that’s working to put faith into action for social justice.

“As Christians and citizens, we are appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families,” the 195-word statement says.


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Sister Simone Campbell Makes Capitol Hill Pilgrimage: Religious Leaders And Workers Sing And Pray For Moderate Republicans

October 15, 2013, 2:29 pm | Posted by

Faith in Public Life led press outreach and helped to organize the pilgrimage to end the government shutdown.

Like most Americans, Sister Simone Campbell is feeling desperate about the current stand-off and shut down of the government. So Sister Simone along with an interfaith group of religious leaders decided to do something about it. Over 70 prominent religious leaders joined with locked-out federal workers in a pilgrimage on Capitol Hill this morning; an action organized by Faith In Public Life together with other religious groups.

“We held a pilgrimage through the capitol to pray that Congress finds the courage to act on behalf of the common good,” the Catholic nun explained to the Huffington Post over the phone. “We called upon the offices of moderate Republicans to pray that they would exercise courage and not be intimidated by the extremes in the Republican party.”

The group processed through the halls of Congress singing ‘Amazing Grace’, unaware that the House Republican caucus had used the same song to open their session that morning. The multi-faith group visited several Republican offices that had indicated a willingness to find a solution and, according to Sister Campbell, they received a touching reception.

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