Category Archives: Midterms 2022

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!

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!

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

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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!

A good Catholic meddles in politics -- Pope Francishe best of hiself, so that those who

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

Add your name to this important statement from Faith in Public Life, the Sisters of Mercy, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Franciscan Action Network, and Catholic scholars and leaders across the country.

Catholics Speak Out for Democracy and Our Freedoms

As Catholic social justice leaders, sisters, clergy, theologians and Catholic university presidents, we are compelled to speak out at a time when democracy and the future of our nation’s freedoms are threatened by powerful interests.

White Christian nationalism —  an ideology heretical to authentic faith — represents a clear and present danger to building a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. Testimony and evidence from Congressional hearings on the violent insurrection against our country last January 6th have only strengthened our urgency to confront attacks against the principle that voters choose our leaders in free and peaceful elections.

We are increasingly alarmed by the signs of the times. Threats of political violence and dehumanizing rhetoric toward elected officials have increased in recent years.The Supreme Court, which in 2013 dismantled key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, will in its upcoming term hear a case that experts warn could empower gerrymandered partisan legislatures to override the will of the voters in the 2024 elections. Lawmakers in states across the country have passed dozens of laws, many based on completely false political premises, specifically designed to make voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens — a shameful echo of our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination.

Catholics must not be silent in the face of growing threats to voters, fair elections and democratic principles.

Our faith tradition teaches that every person deserves equal access to participate fully in our democracy. Pope Francis has said that “democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.” The Second Vatican Council declared in Gaudium et Spes: “It is in full accord with human nature that juridical political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.”

Powerful institutions and political leaders are working to rig the system and erect racially discriminatory obstacles to voting and full participation in American life. Voter suppression is a sin and silence is complicity. The struggle to ensure our government represents and serves all regardless of color, class or creed is a defining moral challenge of our time. We urge our elected officials in Congress and in state legislatures, especially our fellow Catholics, to support legislation that protects and strengthens the freedom to vote without barriers or interference.

Democracies are fragile. In recent years, this timeless truth has been shown in stark ways as demagogues and nationalists in the United States and around the world have attacked the very existence of pluralistic societies. It’s now time for a renewed commitment to the common good that makes full, equal participation in political life a moral priority.

This action alert is now closed. Thank you for your participation!

Be a Multi-Issue Voter, a Pope Francis Voter and Improve Our Economy, Reduce Racism, and Safeguard Freedoms

Be a Multi-Issue Voter and Be a Pope Francis Voter. Sign Up to Learn How!

Election Workshops Teach You How to Be a Pope Francis Voter and Transform Politics!

Are you a multi-issue voter who is ready to be a Pope Francis Voter and build toward a multi-racial, inclusive democracy? Not sure what that means, but interested in how you can connect your faith, Catholic Social Justice, and voting? Then “Transform Our Politics! Becoming a Pope Francis Voter,” a virtual three-part election workshop series, is for you!

Each week, you will explore one of NETWORK’s Cornerstones to Build Our Country Anew: Dismantling Systemic Racism, Cultivating Inclusive Community, and Rooting Our Economy in Solidarity. The vision and skills you’ll acquire will help you during this election season and beyond. Download the Build Anew Agenda.

Your vote is your voice! Prepare with NETWORK staff to be a multi-issue Pope Francis Voter and transform our politics! We hope to see you at each 90-minute workshop. Session will be recorded.

Workshop I: Dismantle Systemic Racism

Learn how single-issue voting can be a cover for racism, nationalism, and extremism. Key policies that have begun to dismantle systemic racism in the U.S will be highlighted, and we’ll explore more that needs to happen.

Message training will help you take what you’ve learned into conversation with friends and family. Election season can complicate relationships, and so can talk of dismantling racism. NETWORK staff will model how you can use effective messaging to engage in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 12, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 14, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop II: Cultivate Inclusive Community

Explore your understanding of ‘inclusive community’ and break open the Catholic case for democracy. Some assert that inclusive communities create division and foster animosity toward people outside of the group.

NETWORK staff will show how inclusive communities are not exclusionary and are the polar opposite of White Christian Nationalism. We will envision how we can be part of creating a multi-racial, inclusive democracy this election season.

Mon., Sept. 19, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 21, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

Workshop III: Root Our Economy in Solidarity

Learn about policies that address the racial wealth and income gap so that everyone has the economic stability needed to thrive. NETWORK staff will help you practice promoting these policies with the people in your life.

Engage in a discussion on the power and benefits of cross-cultural relationships and understanding to build racial solidarity. This must happen to bring NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda into existence so we can build an economy of inclusion that values people and planet over profit. Participants will also learn how storytelling plays a role in transformative conversations.

Mon., Sept. 26, NOON Eastern/9:00 AM Pacific

Wed., Sept. 28, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific

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 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.