Category Archives: Midterms 2022

Take Action After Watching White Supremacy in American Christianity

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 3

Reflection and Discussion Guide

Bring the content shared in the White Supremacy and American Christianity event into your everyday life.

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 2

In October 2022, ethics professor Fr. Bryan N. Massingale and author Robert P. Jones participated in an enlightening conversation ahead of this year’s midterm for an exploration on the influence of  White Supremacy in American Christianity on our politics. The conversation was moderated by NETWORK’s Joan F. Neal.

White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 1

In April 2022, NETWORK engaged experts working at the intersection of racism, nationalism, and Christianity for a conversation on the poisonous effect that White Supremacy has on American Christianity. Fr. Bryan N. Massingale, Dr. Robert P. Jones, and NETWORK’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer Joan F. Neal were joined by Georgetown University’s Dr. Marcia Chatelain.

Tell Your Senators: Reinstate the expanded Child Tax Credit!

No child should miss a meal because their family is struggling to make ends meet.

What is White Christian Nationalism?

NETWORK partner, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), released a joint project with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) detailing Christian nationalism’s prominence in the January 6 insurrection. In it, Amanda Taylor of BJC shares, “Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a ‘Christian nation,’ singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

Christian nationalism is not Christianity, though it is not accurate to say that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. Christian nationalism relies on Christian imagery and language.”

White Supremacy and American Christianity Guest Speakers

Darcy Hirsh is the Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at Interfaith Alliance, (Part 3) where she leads the organization’s policy work at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as its critical advocacy in the courts.

Dr. Robert P. Jones is the President and Founder of PRRI, and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones speaks and writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion in national media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. Dr. Robert Jones’s latest book is a New York Times best-seller. You can buy it here: The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future and follow Dr. Jones through his newsletter at https://www.whitetoolong.net/.

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Massingale is a noted authority on social and racial justice issues, particularly in Catholic spaces. Read Fr. Massingale’s Op-Ed in National Catholic Reporter, “As the election cycle cranks up, Christians need to call out white Christian nationalism” and his keynote address at the 2022 Outreach Conference: “Intersectionality and LGBTQ Ministry”

Professor Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History (Part 1) her book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America. She is a professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University and the leading organizer behind the #FergusonSyllabus, an online educational resource that has shaped educational conversations about racism and police brutality since 2014. 

You've Seen the Conversation, Now What Can You Do?

Note: These were actions to take after White Supremacy and American Christianity, Part 2 in Fall 2022.

Pray for Reparations during Black History Month 2023

A federal reparations commission must be established by March 2023 to allow 18 months of work (as prescribed in H.R.40) to be completed without risk of a new administration disbanding it. We must pray!

In November 2022, Jewish and Christian faith leaders gave spirited calls for reparations to finally repair the harm that racist policy and laws unleashed during and after slavery. Storytellers from the field shared why their communities deserve redress for education, homes, and more loss because of racist government action.

Learn why reparations are needed now. NETWORK staff and keynote speaker, Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Ph.D, tell us the history of H.R.40, give us Christianity’s faith foundation for reparations, and help us learn to talk to friends and family about race and reparations. Reparations can heal the economic prosperity divide and lingering pain from Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, discrimination in tax policy, biased home lending, restrictive covenants and more.

Keep Up with NETWORK

Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season 2
Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Young Catholics See Connections to Their Faith When They Vote for Justice

Nora Bradbury-Haehl
April 19, 2023
Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour.

 

On Nov. 9, 2022, the day after the midterm elections, President Joe Biden expressed his gratitude to young voters. “I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who voted in historic numbers,” he said, and named the issues they came out for: “They voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and student debt relief.”

Gen Z has embraced a platform of social justice — economic, racial, climate, immigration — and they don’t just care about it, they vote about it. In 2018, young people ages 18-29 set a record for voter turnout, 28.2 percent, and again this past fall they came just short of that previous performance at 27 percent. Indeed, Gen Z voters, the largest and most diverse generation of American voters in history, are making waves — and stopping them. The much-hyped “Red Wave” of Republican victories in 2022 never came ashore. The nation’s youngest voters made sure of it.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) urges that “all citizens be mindful of their simultaneous right and duty to vote freely in the interest of advancing the common good.” The Venn diagram of Catholic Social Teaching and the values of Gen Z voters has a wide region of overlap.

But do Gen Z Catholics know it?

Seeing Connection

According to Colin Martinez Longmore, they do. Martinez Longmore is the Grassroots Outreach and Education Coordinator at NETWORK, where he works on equipping young justice-seekers with faith-based advocacy skills and opportunities. A co-host of NETWORK’s “Just Politics” podcast, produced in collaboration with U.S. Catholic magazine, Martinez Longmore spent several weeks in the fall of 2022 visiting college campuses and other venues as part of NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour, making the case for multi-issue voting across generational lines.

Gen Z voters, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse generations, “are also growing up surrounded by an American popular culture that is much more accepting of diversity than before,” says Martinez Longmore. He contends that because of this, their understanding of the equity and social justice aspects of Catholic Social Teaching is more innate than previous generations.

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez, a 24-year-old studying and working in Chicago, also makes the connection between the church’s social teaching and her own vote.

“There is so much beauty and thoughtfulness in the teachings of the Catholic Church that focuses on upholding the dignity and respect for every human,” she says, naming the call to family, community, and participation as the principle that motivates both her vote and her career. She describes the latter as “focused on advocacy work against human injustices” and “working to promote the greater good for those who are poor and vulnerable.” Her current position involves supporting unhoused individuals, low-income families, immigrants, and refugees.

Ethan Carrino is a Michigan-based college student and a recent convert. He describes a “disconnect” he encounters with some older church leaders over hot-button and social issues.

Ethan Carrino

Ethan Carrino

“As a mixed-race Catholic who’s felt racism in the church, raising awareness ending bias, and having inclusion is very important.” Carrino grew up going to Catholic schools but came into the church through a campus RCIA program.

“Our church calls all cultures/ethnicities to itself,” he points out. Regarding voting, Carrino says his faith pushes him to take note of things Jesus would speak on and think about what the Gospel calls him to do.

“It’s easy sometimes to only see an issue a certain way, but being Catholic helps me to see how the issue impacts everyone, especially those in need,” he says.

According to Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement in the United States, “Youth are increasing their electoral participation, leading movements, and making their voices heard on key issues that affect their communities.” The first Gen Z member of Congress, 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, got his start organizing with the anti-gun-violence group March for Our Lives. Voters of Tomorrow, a pro-democracy research and advocacy organization, was founded in 2019 by then 17-year-old Santiago Mayer.

What is Meant by Catholic?

Do Gen Z Catholics see a connection between the church’s teachings and their vote? Christian Soenen, projects manager of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and one of NETWORK’s 2022 Social Poets, says perhaps.

Christian Soenen

Christian Soenen

“I think this largely depends on which circles of Gen Z Catholics I am in,” Soenen says. He observes that very devout Catholics on both the left and the right connect their Catholic identity with their vote but that different aspects of religiosity inform their different conclusions on politics.

“Among my friends on the right, ritual, symbol, and personal discipline are components of their practice of faith that then create a cultural lens through which to understand politics” Soenen says, which in his observations translates to conservatism. On the left, “the social message of the Gospels and the prophets form the core of their understanding of their faith.”

Among left-leaning young Catholics, this understanding manifests as a desire for a more inclusive and equitable society that prioritizes issues like poverty and healthcare.

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll, 24, is a political communications professional and former NETWORK staff member. She says her faith provides a framework for the values she cares about and votes for, “by encouraging me to always be in pursuit of justice and the common good.” Carroll says being Catholic teaches her to avoid supporting “policies and legislation that only protect and benefit people with power and privilege” and to reject policies that “intentionally marginalize underserved communities and individuals.”

Nick Cook, 24, works in Rochester, New York at a refugee outreach center. He has worked with homeless veterans and, during college, volunteered with a Catholic organization that serves the people living in poverty in rural Pennsylvania. Cook says he votes the way he does because of his Catholic faith and Catholic Social Teaching. The issues that he identifies as a part of that influence also have wide appeal among his peers: “Respect for all God’s creation — environment, option for the poor and dignity of the human person — higher minimum wage, more expansive public benefits, care for refugees, the homeless, anti-death penalty, anti-gun.”

But he also identifies two big sticking points: “I disagree with a narrative I hear that Catholic voting should lead to voting for anti-abortion candidates without regard for any other issues, especially because I believe conservative candidates have more opinions opposing Catholic social teaching than more liberal candidates.”

His other concern is also common among Gen Z voters: “Thinking about the term ‘Catholicism’ sparks ideas of a lack of openness to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, even though I and many Catholics I know are open to that. I also believe respect for the gay and transgender community should be included in respecting the dignity of the human person too.”

Where We’re Rooted

Gen Z Catholics, depending on where they worship and what movements or media they are connected to, may or may not hear their own views and values supported by church leaders. Nonetheless, those who are committed to Catholic Social Teaching seem to be firmly rooted.

Martinez Longmore describes his own sense of it: “My Catholic faith instilled instilled in me a deep sense of reverence for the inherent dignity of every person, and an awareness of God’s unique preference for marginalized and shunned communities. So I see issues like creating a just immigration process, or reforming the criminal legal system, or addressing the root causes of poverty through public policy as a very Catholic thing — even if I don’t hear those issues talked about at my local parish or by faith leaders.”

Soenen at Georgetown offers a caveat on the importance of formation: “A Catholic whose faith formation hasn’t included any significant focus on the social dimension of the Gospel will have very little reason to reject the present destructive forces in politics: populist nationalism, nativism, and romanticized notions of the efficacy of capitalism, to name a few. In this case, faith might actually become an obstacle to social justice, especially if it is understood to place morals in a dimension that is somehow separate from the public square.”

But Soenen’s thinking on young Catholics whose faith causes them to care about social justice is that they will have “an extraordinarily impactful dedication to social justice and will carry with them a moral that is more consistent, coherent, and focused on the common good than another system of social values.”

He adds, “When faith and politics are understood together, the faith adds a sense of transcendent importance to the politics, while knowing that that importance is fully expressed in human terms. My Catholicism, for me, means that a political injustice offends both God and humans, and because of that, it has a much stronger hold over my conscience than it would have if the religious component were absent.”

Nora Bradbury-Haehl is the author of “The Twentysomething Handbook” and “The Freshman Survival Guide.”

This story was originally published in the 2nd Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.
What does it look like to vote for the common good

National Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters: Vote for the Common Good

We are called to participate in politics to promote the common good. What does it look like to vote for the common good? This conversation helps us understand how important it is to use our vote to make lives better in our communities.

Our Presenters

NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization team visually displays how walls are built by some politicians and corporations to divide us. The walls of division, held firm with racism, sexism, misinformation, etc., make our communities unsafe and let those who divide us rig the economy and politics for their benefit.

Our speakers explain how when we vote for the common good we can help knock down walls of division.  And, when we rely on Pope Francis’ teachings, lessons learned from lived experiences–ours and those of others, our shared values, and respect for all of the issues (not one single issue, like abortion or climate change) that respect life, we can help all in our beloved community thrive.

Speakers:

Take the Pope Francis Voter Pledge!

Commit to using your vote as your voice to protect our democracy and promote the common good!

 

You Watched the Town Hall, Now What Can You Do?

Register to watch an interfaith call for reparations to finally repair the harm that racist policy and laws unleashed during and after slavery.

Let the words of Pope Francis be a resource as you make your candidate or ballot-issue decisions. Download and share the Equally Sacred Checklist.

Don’t forget Georgia, your vote is your voice! Be a voter. Make a plan.
Help friends and family make their plans, too.

Keep Up with NETWORK

Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season One
A youtube screenshot showing peoples' faces

An Election-Time Prayer

An Election-Time Prayer

Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU
November 7, 2022

In the third episode of Just Politics podcast, our hosts discuss the importance of being a “Pope Francis Voter” and NETWORK Chief of Staff Sr. Erin Zubal offered this prayer.

Listen to the entire episode on  Apple | Google | Spotify.

O Lord,

We turn to you in these days before our country’s elections.

We know that your ways are not our ways and that your wisdom surpasses any human understanding.

We also know that – as a wise woman once said – the Holy Spirit does not have much use for comfort zones. And the systems and structures that we associate with stability and well being, we have also foolishly come to associate with permanence. Help us in our fear, and help us to see that we too, have a part to play.

We also believe that we are working to build up your kin-dom, and that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. And we know that, when chaos and lawlessness prevail, the most vulnerable among us suffer the most harm. Help us to feel the hope that encourages us to keep laboring, to keep building, to keep trusting in you.

Free us from the defeatism that says no amount of effort will ever make a difference. Save us from the cynicism that says people will do the wrong thing if it’s in their best interest.

Be with the people of our country as we contemplate the Signs of Our Times and discern our choice of elected leaders for the years ahead. Awaken in our souls a yearning for your tenderness and compassion manifested in the world. Spark in our hearts a solidarity for those who are most in need and pushed to the margins. Quench the destructive will to power and cultural dominance that too many of us have mistaken for your Good News.

Give us wisdom as we show up to vote.

May we see you at work in whatever happens. Reassure us with your faithfulness and the constancy found only in you. Surprise us with your lavish goodness.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, intercede for us.

Amen

The Pope Francis Voter Tour Comes to Cleveland!

The Pope Francis Voter Tour Comes to Cleveland!

On October 18th, NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour stopped in Cleveland, OH and visited Esperanza Threads and hosted a Town Hall at Blessed Trinity Parish. At both the Site Visit and Town Hall, each speaker lifted up the power of community and connection. For three NETWORK staff members on tour — Eilis, Erin, and Julia — this stop was a homecoming and a chance to lift up the ministry of our community, parish, and hometown.

Founded by Sr. Mary Eileen Boyle, OSU in 1990, Esperanza Threads teaches low-income individuals how to sew industrially and works with local social service agencies and companies to place students in jobs. Many of the students at Esperanza Threads are former refugees who are looking for a job after having been resettled in Cleveland. For Eilis, this site visit was like coming full-circle. Prior to joining the staff at NETWORK, she ministered in refugee resettlement and sent many clients to Esperanza Threads for sewing and job skill training. Listening to the prophetic, community-building vision of Sr. Mary Eileen and Esperanza’s Executive Director Emily Tiell, reminded us about why we are Pope Francis voters who are committed to doing the work to build a multi-racial, inclusive democracy.

Following our inspiring site visit, on the evening of October 18th, NETWORK hosted our Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters. The Cleveland Town Hall featured three sisters from three different congregations: Humility of Mary Sister Anne Victory, Sister of St. Joseph Marilyn Nickol, and Incarnate Word Sister Margaret Taylor. Drawing on their life experiences, community charism, and ministry, each sister helped all of us see and understand the importance of multi-issue voting. In addition, our buzz question was asked by Jon Gromek, former NETWORK associate and longtime friend.

We begin each Town Hall with a buzz question. Part of that question and invitation to share with a neighbor is “What brings you hope.” Time and time again, we hear that NETWORK gives folks hope for the midterm elections. As one sister told me after the Town Hall finished, “it’s so easy to see that everything is horrible, but you all gave us hope to keep on fighting the good fight.” Another sister added, “it’s about the people and you all center that.” Each person with whom we spoke echoed this sentiment.

Sr. Margaret added to this idea when she explained her reasoning for being a multi-issue voter. She said, “My parents were faithful voters which inspires me to be one as well. We are people of good will who desire that all people have the opportunity to live a good life that promotes the freedom to vote; a life free from discrimination; a life that responds to the challenges of climate change; a life that does not tolerate racism and exclusion; a life that addresses the issues of poverty; a life that welcomes immigrants.”

The encounters we had in Cleveland can be summed up in one word: Community. It is clear that this is a place where people come together to support and celebrate one another.  The community of Cleveland shows up for each other, and we have no doubt this community will show up at the polls as Pope Francis Voters.

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

The Theology of Voting: The Right to Vote is A Sacred Right

Joan Neal
September 6, 2022

In his opening address to Congress in January 2021, Senator Raphael Warnock from Georgia said, “We believe democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea – that we are all children of God and therefore, we ought all to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it. Democracy honors the sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. The right to vote is a sacred right.”

The right to vote is also foundational to and a hallmark of a functioning democracy. And as people of faith, we believe that voting is not only a civil right, it is a covenant we have with one another and a moral responsibility.

Therefore, a truly pluralistic democracy, requires that every person/every citizen has the right to vote and that right be protected under law. And when that right is denied, when that right is abridged in any way for arbitrary reasons, it is a moral failure that people of faith, people of good will are obliged to confront. Voting and political participation in our democracy is one of the most important ways we can honor every person’s human dignity, enable our vision of justice, and contribute positively to the common good as members of society.

Our Church has a long history of speaking out about our moral obligation to be involved in politics. In their 2004 document: “Catholics in Political Life”  The USCCB said, “Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism, but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require the division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.”

They also say in their 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” (#13).

Multiple Popes have talked about the responsibility of Catholics to participate in the public square. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est reminds Catholics of the connection between Gospel values and political participation when he says, “Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity,” (#29)

Pope Francis has said in Evangelii Gaudium, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of (themselves) so that others can govern.” He went on to say, “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” (#205). Voting is a concrete way for us to ensure justice and charity prevail in our nation and our Catholic Tradition re-enforces it as a moral obligation.

But being a diverse, participatory democracy isn’t easy. Unfortunately, voter suppression efforts are not new to America. We all know the shameful history of the battle for the right to vote in this country — for African-Americans, Indigenous people, women, and other marginalized groups — which emerged out of decades, even centuries of denying their innate human dignity.

It took 251 years for African-American men to be given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment passed in 1870. 95 years later, America finally became a pluralistic democracy with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that guaranteed the right to vote for all African-Americans; provided the legal means to ensure compliance with the 15th Amendment and to challenge restrictive voting laws and practices designed to deny the free and fair access to the ballot.

Despite those challenges, over time the political power of Black and non-white citizens has grown across the country. Once again the backlash has been swift as many politicians try to prevent their fellow citizens from exercising their right to vote. So, the battle for voting rights continues and has escalated since the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision that struck down the enforcement provisions of the VRA and eliminated the pre-clearance requirement for states to change their election laws.

As a result of that decision, today, more than 20 states have passed restrictive voter laws, gerrymandered districts, made it harder to access the voting booth by closing polling places, especially in communities of color, limiting early voting, placing restrictions on vote-by-mail, requiring stricter voter ID, and by putting people in positions who will enforce these restrictions no matter the infringement upon their fellow citizens’ rights.

All of these actions are designed to discourage and suppress the Black and non-white vote, the votes of young people, poor people and people who do not share the political view of one party. Today, we find ourselves as a country facing the very situation the VRA was designed to end. Once again, the foundational principle of a functioning, participatory democracy is being challenged by those who do not see the image of God in their fellow citizens.

In addition to all that politicians are doing to prevent fellow citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote, many other citizens not targeted by these voter restrictions, have failed to fulfill their own civic, sacred duty to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, only 61% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 Presidential election. Now, clearly there are extenuating circumstances for those who, though citizens, are legally or physically unable to cast their votes, but that means 39% of eligible voters failed to vote. 39% of eligible American citizens failed to have their say in the way our country is governed and who is governing it. They failed to safeguard the common good by casting their vote.

Diane Nash, a charismatic veteran leader of the Civil Rights Movement, in an address at the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice in 1961, said:  “The problems lie not so much in our action as in our inaction… I’m wondering now if we in the United States are really remembering that this must be a government ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people’ as well as ‘for the people’. Are we really appreciating the fact that if you and I do not meet these responsibilities then our government cannot survive as a democracy?”

In her address to the National Call to Action Conference in 2012, she said: “We, the citizens, are the only ones who can change this country. We have to get to work, keep on working and force our elected officials to implement our vision of justice and peace.”

And that is the call to all of us. As citizens and people of faith, we are obligated and indeed today it is urgent, that we exercise our right to vote. Unfounded restrictions on lawful access to the ballot, excessive and undue requirements for citizens to exercise their right to vote and the undergirding white supremacist ideology that fuels these actions are a problem for all citizens, especially those of us who see participatory democracy as a way to honor the image of God in our neighbors.

That is why all of us must speak out and act against these unconstitutional attacks on the right to vote. All Americans, need to wake up now! Our democracy is on the verge of collapse under this unrelenting assault against collective rights by people who only seek their own, unrestricted power, people who do not share the vision of the Beloved Community.

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

The Theology of Voting: Our Vote is Our Voice

Joan Neal
September 9, 2022

On September 1, President Biden delivered a speech in Philadelphia on the critical state of democracy. He said,” I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now, America must choose to move forward or to move backwards, to build a future or obsess about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear, division and of darkness.”

At this crucial time in our country’s history, our faith calls us to join together to defeat those who would withhold the full rights of democracy from some citizens based on race, ethnicity, or other arbitrary distinctions.  We, the people, especially people of faith, must fulfill our moral responsibility to get involved in the public square and not only cast our own votes but also safeguard the franchise for all citizens and help as many people as possible to cast their votes as well.  Our democracy is in a critical state and ‘we the people’ are the only ones who can save it!

Most importantly, as Catholics, when we vote, we must use our prudential judgement and our political power to elect people who will safeguard the right to vote for all citizens.

Our vote is our voice and right now, we have to raise our collective voice and overcome these anti-democracy forces once and for all.  If we fail this time, we might wake up one morning and find we no longer live in a pluralistic democratic society, but an autocracy enforced by the political and financial power of a select group of people who fundamentally do not believe in democracy at all.

As Catholics, it matters that we vote and it matters how we vote.  People of faith are called to use their prudential judgement to choose and critique our political leaders and the laws they pass, so that we build a society where everyone is respected and valued, everyone can exercise agency over their own lives, and everyone can contribute to the common good.

We are called to care not just about our own personal preferences but also about how elections will affect those who are poor or economically disadvantaged, those who need access to quality healthcare and decent housing, those who are immigrants in our midst trying to find a safe harbor and a place for their families to thrive, those who need to earn a fair wage and have decent working conditions, those who are disabled and anyone in need of care, all those who are marginalized in any way. Justice and our faith demand it.

Ultimately, we participate in our democracy not just because we are citizens but because of what we believe about God and each other.  We know from the parable of the Last Judgement that God is not just concerned with the hereafter.  God is concerned with the ‘here and now’.  So, here and now, we must honor the Imago Dei in each of us and use our vote to act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers if we want a democracy that brings life for all.

The Pope Francis Voter Tour is Coming!

The Pope Francis Voter Tour is Coming!

Will you join us in your city?

Meg Olson
October 6, 2022

The 2022 Midterms are upon us and the NETWORK team is hitting the road for the election season! Throughout October, our Pope Francis Voter Tour will visit with Spirit-filled justice-seekers like you to share how multi-issue voting, guided by Catholic Social Justice principles, can help build an inclusive democracy.

Register for the event closest to you with the appropriate RSVP link below. 

 More cities and dates will be announced soon check out our events page where you can see all of our upcoming events.

Town Hall for Spirit-filled Voters: Places and Dates 

Lincoln Library
326 S. 7th St. Springfield, IL
Saturday, October 8, 3:00-4:30 PM
RSVP TODAY!

*****

Marygrove Conservancy, Alumni Hall
Madame Cadillac Building
8425 W. McNichols Rd. Detroit, MI
Thursday, October 13, 1:00-2:30 PM
RSVP TODAY!

*****

Blessed Trinity Catholic Church
14040 Puritas Ave., Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, October 18, 7:00-8:30 PM
RSVP TODAY!

For the health and safety of everyone, masks are required at all events.

I hope you can join NETWORK, local Catholic Sisters, and members of your community to talk faith, politics, and voting. Together, we’ll explore how each of us can use our vote as our voice to protect democracy and build anew.

We hope to see you on the road in Springfield, IL, Detroit, MI, or Cleveland, OH during the Pope Francis Voter Tour!

Springfield Dominicans, NETWORK team, and our hosts from Faith Coalition for the Common Good

NETWORK Hits the Road for Our Pope Francis Voter Tour

NETWORK Hits the Road for Our Pope Francis Voter Tour

Meg Olson
October 11, 2022
Springfield Dominicans, NETWORK team, and our hosts from Faith Coalition for the Common Good

Springfield Dominicans, NETWORK team, and hosts from Faith Coalition for the Common Good gather at the kickoff event of the Pope Francis Voter Tour in Springfield, Ill. on Oct. 8.

For nearly the whole month of October, the NETWORK team is on the road for our Pope Francis Voter Tour. We kicked off in Springfield, Illinois on Oct. 8, are in East Lansing and Detroit this week, then heading to Ohio, then trekking across PA, where we finish on Oct. 29 in Erie.

On this tour, we are calling on Catholics and all people of good will to protect our democracy by building an inclusive and equitable society in which all people can flourish. We believe that your vote is your voice, and with your voice can add advance a wide, intersecting range of issues that support the common good.

Our tour includes visits to social service agencies and community organizations to listen and learn from impacted people about the challenges they are facing in their daily lives, workshops at colleges, and Town Halls for Spirit-Filled Voters.

So, you may be wondering, “what’s a Pope Francis Voter?” A Pope Francis Voter is a multi-issue voter who is willing do the work to build a multi-racial, inclusive democracy. Because of our belief of Imago Dei, of the inherent dignity of every person, we know it is immoral to allow a single issue to outweigh candidates’ positions that harm immigrants and asylum seekers, low-income families, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, other marginalized communities, and the environment. Our faith calls us to position ourselves with those who are marginalized and those who have the least power in our society.

Pope Francis calls particular attention to this in Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and Be Glad). In this apostolic exhortation, he names all of the issues, such as the lives of the poor and the injustices that migrants face, that are “equally sacred to the lives of the unborn” (101-102).

Pope Francis actually has quite a lot to say about all of the issues we need to consider as we prepare for the election: racism, poverty, climate change, and even democracy itself. We here at NETWORK didn’t want you to have to pour over all of his writings and speeches, so we collected some key passages for you and put them on our Equally Sacred Checklist, our tool for the 2022 Midterms that equips you to evaluate any candidate running for office through a faithful, multi-issue lens. In fact, using the Equally Sacred Checklist is the first step in becoming a Pope Francis Voter!

Small group discussion at Pope Francis Voter Tour event in Springfield, Ill.

Springfield Dominican Sisters participate in small group discussions at the kickoff of the Pope Francis Voter Tour in Springfield, Ill. on Oct. 8.

At our Town Halls for Spirit-Filled Voters, we take a very close look at what is preventing our nation from having the multi-racial, inclusive democracy that we envision. What is actually keeping us from having a society where, no matter where we live, how much money is in our wallet, or the color of our skin, all people thrive?

As we were creating the town hall, we had an “ah-ha” moment: the very issues listed on our Equally Sacred Checklist are also the blocks that are preventing us from moving towards the world we want to see. Lately, it feels like these blocks have piled up into a wall. In our Town Hall for Spirit-Filled Voters, we name it the Wall of Division, Extremism, and Obstructionism. This wall is very real, and it didn’t just spring up during the 2016 Election. For well over 50 years, corporations, the ultra-wealthy, and their lobbyists, and some politicians have very strategically and systematically built this wall through an unrelenting assault on our collective rights and the common good. Why? Because they are seeking their own unrestricted power and wealth. And they have no problem sacrificing our democracy to get what they seek.   

Wall of Division, Extremism, and Obstructionism

So what can we do to dismantle the wall? Do the work of Pope Francis Voters! One significant task is to tell people, either in conversations or in letters to the editor, about the importance of multi-issue voting. At each of our Town Halls, we have local Catholic sisters model their “elevator pitches” for why they are multi-issue, Pope Francis Voters. At our Town Hall in Springfield, Springfield Dominican Sisters Rebecca Ann Gemma, Marcelline Koch, and Marilyn Runkel had this important role. After they shared, illustrating their points with personal stories, it was the audience’s turn to get into small groups and practice saying why they are multi-issue voters.  

As the NETWORK team listened in to the small groups’ conversations, we heard people say that when they were children, they were taught not to talk about politics. We here at NETWORK love to remind everyone that Pope Francis says, “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” It is exactly because of our belief in Imago Dei that we must participate in political life. We do this by voting, helping others register to vote, and sharing why we’re multi-issue voters. And when we take these actions and more, we can have fair and trustworthy elections, we can dismantle racist policies, and we can make sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

At the end of the Town Halls, we ask everyone to take the Pope Francis Voter Pledge. Whether or not you’re able to attend a Town Hall, you can too! Go to https://networkadvocates.org/voter-pledge and to join us this election season and beyond!

Pope Francis Voter Tour Update: Cristo Rey Community Center Site Visit

Pope Francis Voter Tour Update: Cristo Rey Community Center Site Visit

Gina Kelley
October 13, 2022

During this year’s Pope Francis Voter Tour, NETWORK came to Lansing, Michigan to visit the Cristo Rey Community Center. Members of NETWORK’s East Lansing Advocates Team have been volunteering with this incredible direct service provider and when they heard NETWORK would be traveling ahead of this year’s upcoming election, they recommended a stop at Cristo Rey.

Early in the morning, NETWORK was greeted by Joe Garcia, CEO of Cristo Rey, who welcomed us and provided a rich overview of Cristo Rey’s more than 50-year history of  service to the community.

Originally, Cristo Rey came together to support immigrant communities traveling to Michigan in search of agricultural work and the center helped families find housing, settle down, and commune as neighbors. Over time the need has changed and Cristo Rey Community Center has become an integral support for all those in Lansing experiencing poverty.

A revamped school building now houses a family health center, counseling services, a community kitchen, food pantry, community clothing closet, financial literacy support, personal hygiene and care supplies, and even a steady supply of diapers, infant formula, and other infant needs.

While containing all these services under one roof may seem overwhelming, it removes a huge accessibility barrier for many folks who rely on public transit to receive these necessary supports. With a bus stop directly outside the community center, folks without cars can reach this wide range of services all in one place.

As we toured this facility, asking questions about the community they have created as a staff and the community they serve, we were continually amazed by the breadth and depth of work. In the face of insurmountable challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and other current events, Cristo Rey has remained dedicated to providing service with dignity.

A few of the highlights shared with us about the service they provide:

  • Over 18,000 hot meals provided to Afghan refugees in the last year
  • Nearly all patients are either Medicare/Medicaid recipients or uninsured
  • All patients receive at least a 30-minute appointment, in English or Spanish, and are given the utmost attention and care
  • Community Kitchen serves over 26,000 hot meals a year
  • Distribute approximately 4,000 containers of baby formula and 63,000 diapers

This site visit was a beautiful stop on the Pope Francis Voter Tour and a reminder of the importance of working for federal policies that advance racial, economic, and social justice. To be in community with those who are pushed to the margins by our systems and structures and experiencing poverty is critical to our advocacy efforts at NETWORK. The need for affordable housing, accessible health care, and the ability to put food on the table every week are basic needs that every person should have and yet, due to systemic failures, we have amazing people like the staff and volunteers at Cristo Rey who are called to fill in the gaps left behind by our policies.

We hope everyone will keep these issues in mind when they vote in this midterm election and every election after. Being a multi-issue voter and committing to consistent advocacy for the issues that impact all of us is sacred work.

We are so thankful Cristo Rey opened their doors and welcomed us to learn about their community and the services they provide with such dignity. To support their efforts, you can see their wish lists for donated items here as well as their donation page.

RSVP for upcoming Pope Francis Voter Tour events here, including site visits in Toledo on Monday, October 17; Cleveland on Tuesday, October 18, and Cincinnati on Wednesday, October 19. All site visits will also be livestreamed.

Whether or not you’re able to attend a Pope Francis Voter Tour event, be sure to take the Pope Francis Voter pledge to join us this election season and beyond!