47 Catholic leaders urge bishops to support CCHD’s anti-poverty work

November 11, 2013, 11:13 am | Posted by

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.

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U.S. bishops to select leaders as Pope urges new focus

November 10, 2013, 11:16 am | Posted by

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.

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Catholic Leaders Urge Bishops to Strengthen Anti-Poverty Campaign, Resist Attacks from Right-Wing Pressure Groups

November 8, 2013, 12:42 pm | Posted by

Washington, DC — More than 50 prominent Catholic leaders – including former ambassadors to the Vatican, retired bishops and past executive directors of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national anti-poverty campaign – are urging Catholic bishops to redouble their commitment to economic justice initiatives.

In an open letter that will be published on Nov. 11 in the Baltimore Sun as members of the Catholic hierarchy convene for a national meeting to elect a new president of their conference, the leaders challenge the bishops to take inspiration from Pope Francis and stand strong in the face of well-funded pro-life groups that “relentlessly attack” their Catholic Campaign for Human Development. (CCHD).

The bishops’ anti-poverty campaign, which funds community based organizations that focus on building economic and social justice in low-income areas, has long been a target of religious and political conservatives. But a recent 23-page report from Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington, found an aggressive network led by the American Life League has ramped up efforts to sway bishops to defund anti-poverty organizations if they are part of broader coalitions in which an organization or individual supports same-sex marriage. In recent years, Catholic bishops in several dioceses have pulled funding from these groups and tightened regulations for grant making.

“Serving the common good sometimes requires Catholic-funded organizations to work with others who are not in agreement with Church teaching on every issue,” the leaders write. “In fact, CCHD advances the Church’s mission to defend human dignity precisely by building diverse coalitions that have led to living wages for workers, quality health care, better schools and stronger communities.”

“Well-funded groups relentlessly attack CCHD and pressure you to withdraw from these effective coalitions,” they continue. “We urge you to resist this pressure and redouble your commitment to social justice ministries that lift people out of poverty. We can affirm the Catholic identity of CCHD without backing away from essential partnerships.”

The push from Catholic leaders comes on the heels of Pope Francis’ remarks that the Church needs to find a “new balance” and not only be defined by opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. In a widely read essay in America magazine, a Catholic publication edited by Jesuit priests, Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy of San Francisco argues that the Church’s advocacy for economic justice has waned in recent years. The Catholic Church, he writes, “must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as pre-eminent moral issues the Catholic community pursues at this moment in our nation’s history.”

Signers of the letter include: Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, the retired bishop of Las Cruces, NM; two past executive directors of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; Thomas P. Melady, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See in the first Bush administration; Miguel Diaz, a theologian at the University of Dayton and past U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; the presidents of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas as well as the Justice and Peace Director for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The full letter with signatories is below.

Faith in Public Life’s report can be found here: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/FPL-CCHD-report.pdf 

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Poverty is a Moral Scandal

Support the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

1 in 6 Americans live in poverty * 1 in 5 Children live in poverty *
1 in 7 Americans are “food insecure”

Dear Bishops,

As you gather for your first General Assembly in the pontificate of Pope Francis, please be assured of our interest, support and prayers. Pope Francis has inspired so many both inside and outside the Church with his spirit of humility, and his demanding challenge to embrace Christian mission in courage and hope.

“Whenever Christians are enclosed in their groups, parishes, movements, they take ill. If a Christian goes to the streets, or to the outskirts, he or she may risk the same thing that can happen to anyone out there: an accident. How often have we seen accidents on the road! But I am telling you: I would prefer a thousand times over a bruised Church than an ill Church!”

In particular, we write to support an indispensable ministry of the Church “in the streets” that has suffered unjust attacks from those who seek to limit the Catholic prophetic voice to a narrow agenda. Your Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the country, has a proud history of supporting community organizing to empower low-income citizens. This is essential to addressing what Blessed John Paul II described as “the causes of poverty and not merely the evil effects of injustice.”

Serving the common good sometimes requires Catholic-funded organizations to work with others who are not in agreement with Church teaching on every issue. In fact, CCHD advances the Church’s mission to defend human dignity precisely by building diverse coalitions that have led to living wages for workers, quality health care, better schools and stronger communities.

Well-funded groups relentlessly attack CCHD and pressure you to withdraw from these effective coalitions. We urge you to resist this pressure and redouble your commitment to social justice ministries that lift people out of poverty. We can affirm the Catholic identity of CCHD without backing away from essential partnerships.

Critics of CCHD misuse the Catholic principle of moral cooperation by distorting it into a blanket rejection of working for the common good with those with whom we disagree on other issues. In contrast, Pope Francis challenges us to the difficult fidelity that does not seek the purity of isolation, but risks working in the world – “in the streets” – to advance the Gospel.

“The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drives us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?”

As you meet to elect a new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and reflect on the Church’s mission in the coming years, we support you with our prayers. May we all by guided by the Holy Spirit. In the words of Pope Francis, let us have the courage to “take to the streets” and become a “poor church for the poor.”

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB
Bishop Emeritus of Las Cruces, NM

Bishop Sylvester D. Ryan (retired)
Monterey, CA

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton (retired)
Archdiocese of Detroit

G. Richard Fowler
Staff to Bishop Blaire
Diocese of Stockton, CA

Sabrina Burton Schultz
Director of Life Ministry
Diocese of St. Petersburg

Kent Ferris, OFS
Director of Social Action and Director of Catholic Charities
Diocese of Davenport

Timothy Collins
Executive Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development (retired)
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Marvin A. Mottet
Executive Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development (retired)
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Francis X. Doyle
Associate General Secretary (retired)
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J.
President
University of San Francisco

Patricia McGuire
President
Trinity Washington University

Miguel Diaz
University Professor of Faith and Culture
University of Dayton
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)

Thomas P. Melady
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (retired)
President Emeritus, Sacred Heart University

Stephen Schneck
Director
Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America

Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J.
Former Director, Office of International Justice and Peace
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J.
President
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Rev. Charles Currie, S.J.
Former President
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Rev. Clete Kiley
Senior Fellow
Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America
Director for Immigration Policy, UNITE HERE

Rev. Anthony J. Pogorelc
Fellow
Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America

Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ
President
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Sister Pat McDermott, RSM
President
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Kim Bobo
Executive Director
Interfaith Worker Justice

Kerry Robinson
Executive Director
National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management

Eli S. McCarthy
Justice and Peace Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Frederick Thelen
Pastor, Cristo Rey Church
Cristo Rey Community Center
Chair, Action of Greater Lansing
Lansing, MI

Vincent J. Miller
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
University of Dayton

Nicholas P. Cafardi, JD. JCD
Dean Emeritus
Duquesne University School of Law

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Sister Margaret Magee OFS
President Board of Directors
Franciscan Action Network

Marie Dennis, Co President
Pax Christi International

Bishop Kevin Dowling
Co-President, Pax Christi International

Fred Rotondaro
Chairman
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Thomas Allio, Jr.
Diocesan Social Action Director (retired)
Diocese of Cleveland

Nicole Mosher
Executive Director
Companeros: Four Corners
Immigrant Resource Center
Pueblo, CO

Mary Wright
Former Education Coordinator
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dorothy Valerian
Former CCHD Advisory Board Member
Diocese of Cleveland

Steve Callahan
Former Economic Development Program Coordinator
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Christine A. W. (Cris) Doby
Former Diocesan Social Action Director/CCHD Diocesan Director

Walt Grazer
Former Policy Advisor for International Religious Freedom and Human Rights
Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thomas Shellabarger
Former Policy Advisor for Urban, Economic Issues
Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thomas Chabolla
Former Associate Director of Programs
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J.
Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Church
Professor, Loyola Marymount University (retired)

Francis J. Butler
Founder
Drexel Philanthropic Advisors

David O’Brien
Professor Emeritus
College of the Holy Cross

Christopher G. Kerr
Executive Director
Ignatian Solidarity Network

John Gehring
Catholic Program Director
Faith in Public Life

Michael Duffy
Executive Director
Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought
University of San Francisco

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Pope Francis: “I’ve Never Been a Right-Winger”

September 19, 2013, 3:44 pm | Posted by

In a lengthy, freewheeling interview released today, Pope Francis again shows that he wants to chart a bold new course for the massive ocean liner that is the global Catholic Church. The headline moments come when Francis declares he’s never been “a right-winger” and dives straight into the hot-button issues. “We have to find a new balance,” Francis says, noting the church’s disproportionate focus on opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all of the time.”

Conservative Catholic pundits like George Weigel and Bill Donohue (not to mention a few U.S. Catholic bishops) must be wondering who took the keys away. The spin will begin soon enough from the Catholic right, which will highlight the fact that the pope has made no changes to church teaching. This misses the point entirely. Something far bigger is happening. Pope Francis is rescuing the Catholic Church from those grim-faced watchdogs of orthodoxy who in windowless rooms reduce Catholicism to a laundry list of no’s.

The Francis Doctrine, if you will, is about building a more joyful, merciful, collegial church that opens doors instead of building up walls. I’m reminded of Jesus taking on the Pharisees in all their righteous moralizing and obsession with legalism. This is a pope who recognizes that a church primarily known for what it opposes rather than what it loves is doomed to irrelevance. “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” Francis says. “Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

Pope Benedict XVI, a brilliant theologian, nonetheless perpetuated a message that a “smaller, purer” church was the future of Catholicism. With Francis, a “big-tent” Catholicism that emphasizes not simply the hierarchy of bishops and cardinals but the “people of God” is back in style in a way not seen since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

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.

There is particular resonance in the pope’s more inclusive style for Catholic progressives. Nuns, theologians, Catholic Democrats and social justice activists have been strongly criticized by church leaders in recent years. Conservatives have largely been given a free pass for ignoring or distorting church teaching on war and economic justice. Simply opposing abortion became the de-facto definition of what it means to be a ‘good Catholic.’ The church’s broad social justice agenda took a back seat. The climate became thick with fear and guilt-by-association. The air is starting to clear. A new space is opening up.

Even Catholics who have drifted away from the church – nearly 1 in 10 Americans – are being courted by the pope.

Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.

The big question? Will U.S. Catholic bishops get on the Francis train? More thoughts on that later.

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Catholic Colleges and Universities Announce National Advocacy Campaign for Common Sense Immigration Reform

September 17, 2013, 12:56 pm | Posted by

(Washington, DC) – In a sign that momentum for immigration reform continues to grow, 25 Catholic colleges released details today of a joint national advocacy effort in support of comprehensive reform with a pathway to citizenship. From a Mass on the U.S.- Mexico border led by Loyola Marymount University to vigils at Creighton University dedicated to immigrant families, Catholic students and education leaders are hosting dozens of special Masses, organizing Catholic DREAMers, sponsoring text message campaigns and contacting their local Members of Congress at their district offices.

“The advocacy of presidents, students and campus ministers from Catholic universities sends a clear moral message to elected officials that we must act now to fix our broken immigration system,” said Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University. “I hope the many graduates of Catholic universities in Congress heed this call to put human dignity and the common good before narrow-minded partisanship.” The number of Catholics in Congress is at a historic high, including 136 in the House of Representatives.

Today’s announcement of coordinated campaigns, spearheaded by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Ignatian Solidarity Network and Faith in Public Life, follows a July letter from more than 100 Catholic university presidents that urged Speaker John Boehner and the U.S. House of Representatives to fix an immigration system they described as “morally indefensible.”

The flurry of actions, Masses, forums and student organizing is taking place on Catholic colleges representing more than 100,000 students. The fall advocacy effort adds momentum to calls for common sense reform fueled by a broad coalition of religious, business and labor leaders.

“Catholic students put their faith into action when they stand up for immigrant families,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. “Young men and women at Catholic colleges bring vital energy and inspiration to our national movement for immigration reform.” In Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University campus ministry leaders will take students to the U.S-Mexico border for a vigil and Mass on Sept. 29.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network has launched a “Fall Call for Immigration Reform” urging all 28 Jesuit Catholic colleges and universities to take actions in support of humane and responsible reform.

“Campus leaders are fired up and mobilized to make sure no more families are torn apart by deportation and inhumane immigration policies,” said Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.  “Catholic colleges are organized, unified and determined to make an impact. Our grassroots movement is a reminder to those in power that immigration reform is about values and real people, not legislative procedures or political scorekeeping.”

At the University of Notre Dame, which recently announced it will admit undocumented immigrants, campus leaders are organizing a text message campaign – NDream – to help students mobilize campus events and contact Members of Congress.

“I am inspired to see the passion our students have shown in support of immigration reform,” said Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame. “Many stand with Catholic bishops in calling for Congress to pass humane and responsible immigration reform.”

At Loyola University in Chicago, campus and student leaders have created a “Safe Spaces” support network for immigrants that include training and resources. In June, the university’s medical school became the first in the country to allow undocumented students to apply under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Young aspiring Americans bravely face the consequences of our failed immigration system each day,” said Pedro Guerrero, President of the Unified Student Government Association at the Loyola University Chicago. “We can’t be silent while these outdated and inadequate policies inflict havoc on our friends, neighbors and families. As students with a stake in our democracy and as future workers who will compete in a new global economy, we urge Illinois’ Congressional delegation to give us a vote on common-sense immigration reform with an earned pathway to citizenship.”

The following is a list of advocacy actions, Masses and events at Catholic universities.

  • 20 Catholic colleges are planning special Masses for immigration reform, including Georgetown University, Boston College, Cabrini College, Canisius College, Creighton University, Fairfield University and Loyola University of Chicago.
  •  Students are launching a text message campaign to build events on campus and contact their Members of Congress at Cabrini College, Misericordia University, Neumann University, Notre Dame University and Villanova University.
  • Immigration reform town hall meetings were held at Creighton University (Sept. 4), the University of St. Thomas in Houston (9/12), and forums are being planned at Fairfield University and Misericordia University.
  • The University of San Diego, Canisius College, Fordham University, Loyola University of Maryland and the University of San Francisco have organized postcard writing drives for students on campus.
  • Film screenings on immigration themes will be staged at the University of San Francisco and Villanova.
  • Vigils dedicated to immigrant families are being planned at Creighton and the University of San Diego, where on Sept. 25 students will hold a vigil and Mass.

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