Category Archives: Sister Spirit

A Faithful Response to “Catholics for Trump”

A Faithful Response to “Catholics for Trump”

After postponing the “Catholics for Trump” rally previously scheduled for March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Catholics for Trump coalition is now launching online. Despite the current coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s re-election campaign is continuing to try to engage Catholics remotely.

This campaign was planned and is now being executed with the assumption that a large group of Catholics will support President Trump’s re-election campaign. I am in favor of Catholics participating in politics — as Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby, that much is clear. Even the Pope calls on Catholics to participate in politics to promote the common good, saying “A good Catholic meddles in politics.”

But I cannot understand how Catholics, following Pope Francis’s urging to participate in politics, could support our current President and his policies. In fact, I believe that participating in “Catholics for Trump” activities, online or in person, directly contradicts the most essential Catholic beliefs.

Catholics are called follow the life and teachings of Jesus, who above all else, instructs us to love our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable and marginalized in their society. The Trump administration has turned its back on that call at almost every turn.

In March, I was relieved to read Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s clear announcement that the “Catholics for Trump” rally was not hosted by the Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee were not endorsing or affiliated with the rally. As President Trump’s re-election campaign continues, I urge any Church leaders who find themselves in a similar situation to do the same.

In addition to making it clear that the Church does not endorse or support these events, Catholic leaders should continue to make it clear what “side” we are called to be on in these turbulent times. Jesus did not say to vote Democrat or Republican. Instead, Jesus taught his followers, by his actions, to heal those who were sick and align themselves with those who had the least power. That is the “side” we should be on as Catholics.

For Catholics engaging in politics during this election season, I encourage you to join us at NETWORK in being “Mend the Gaps” voters. We have an election toolkit that includes a fill-out-your-own side by side to compare candidates, an LTE writing kit, and questions to ask a candidate at a town hall, and we’re still adding more resources.

President Trump is running on policies that directly contradict long-held positions of the Catholic Church. His immoral immigration policies throw children in cages. He works to expand the death penalty, he participates in what Pope Francis calls “covert euthanasia” by stripping health care and nutrition assistance from families, and he rolls back policies that protect the Earth. His is not a campaign that Catholics can support, and our faith should not be used as a political tool to reelect an immoral President.

 

Get involved: Go to NETWORK’s 2020 Election Toolkit.

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Restoring the Right to Unionize

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
February 12, 2020

For nearly a century, the right of workers to unionize for fair pay and working conditions has been a cornerstone of a fair and functional labor market. Established as a way to protect workers from dehumanizing exploitation during the Industrial Revolution, over the decades unions have represented workers in a variety of industries. Unions can ensure that workers are paid fairly, with benefits, and under reasonable working conditions.  Unions give workers a unified voice through collective bargaining, a process of negotiations between employers and employees. When unions are strong, they are able to set wage standards throughout an entire industry. For decades, unions have contributed to a vibrant middle class and have lessened income inequality and narrowed racial and gender wage gaps.

Union membership, however, has been steadily declining. Some estimates show that union membership has decreased by 3 million workers over the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, the decline of unions is not because they are no longer needed but because the fundamental right to unionize has been eroding year after year.  Employers exploit weaknesses in current labor laws to undermine workers’ rights—and face no real consequences for doing so. The result has been stagnant wages, unsafe workplaces, and rising inequality, especially for women and communities of color.

It is time to fully restore the right of our nation’s workers to unionize. Fortunately, the House of Representatives passed a bill last week that ensures that all private sector workers can bargain for just wages and benefits: The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474 and S. 1306).

The PRO Act encourages workers to unionize and collectively bargain, and it introduces vital protections for workers who choose to do so. Even though it is illegal, there are currently no consequences for employers who retaliate against workers attempting to organize in the workplace. The PRO Act would finally hold those employers financially accountable for illegally retaliating against their employees. The PRO Act also gives workers more freedom to organize and reach an initial agreement with their employers. As the Economic Policy Institute explains, the PRO Act overrides “right to work” state laws by requiring all workers who are covered by—and therefore benefit from—a union to contribute “fair-share fees” to support the cost of collective bargaining efforts.

The PRO Act enables workers to more readily organize by streamlining the process for forming a union, ensuring that new unions are able to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement, and holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.

In order to reverse decades of damage done to our nation’s labor laws, we now call on the Senate to pass strong legislation empowering workers to organize and bargain without fear of retaliation. Passing the PRO Act will help rebuild workplace democracy by ensuring every worker has a voice and will even the power imbalance between employers and workers.

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

Sister Simone’s Testimony on Child Poverty

On February 5, 2020, Sister Simone testified in front of the House Oversight Committee Subcommittee on Government Operations about the Trump administration’s harmful proposal to change the poverty line calculation. Read Sister Simone’s written testimony below, and watch the recorded hearing at networklobby.org/ogrtestimonystream.

 

This new rule will in all likelihood lead to a poverty measure that further underestimates the material hardship experienced in the U.S., thus exacerbating what is already a dire situation for our children.  It is expensive to be poor and new studies show that it is costing more every year.  Various factors contribute to the dynamic, but inflation has a lot to do with it.  Rich and poor households experience inflation differently.  Research indicates that low-income households experience higher rates of inflation than those with middle or high-incomes.  Inflation inequality refers to this heavier burden of inflation on low-income families due to their lack of options to “shop around” and substitute lower-priced goods.  Low-income households often lack access to a diverse set of retailers due to neighborhood conditions, barriers to transportation, or lack of access to the internet.  This is exactly what people have told us repeatedly in our travels.

Therefore, the current measure of inflation already tends to under-estimates the cost burdens of being poor.  If the OMB adopts the Chained CPI it will exacerbate this invisible squeeze on people living in poverty—and that exacerbation will be compounded over time.  Moreover, the statistics generated by this adjusted measure would effectively mask the reality of U.S. poverty, thus increasing the threshold for accessing needed supports.

The Administration has glossed over the fact that these proposed changes are predicted to preclude millions of struggling families from receiving crucial social safety net benefits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines are based on the OPM.  Therefore, changing the measure would affect how HHS determines eligibility and benefits for a broad array of crucial federal social safety net programs.  Moreover, children are more likely than any other age group to participate in these means-tested programs. Below are just a few of those key programs proven to benefit children’s health, education and food security and to lift millions of children out of poverty each year. The change to the applied inflation measure would have very real impacts on how many children can access these programs.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    SNAP is the first line of defense against child hunger and food insecurity, a persistent problem for 17 percent of children in the United States. It is estimated that 200,000 participants would lose eligibility for SNAP as a result of this rule change.

WIC is an especially important program for ensuring children’s health and wellbeing by supporting pregnant and postpartum women, infants and young children who are at risk of going hungry. The program serves nearly half of all infants born in the U.S. and targets some of the most vulnerable women and children in the country. More than three quarters of WIC’s 7.6 million recipients are children under the age of 5. An estimate 40,000 children and infants could lose access in 10 years under this rule change.

  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    Together, these programs provide crucial healthcare to more than one in three children in the United States.  Adjusting the inflation measure as proposed could reduce access for 300,000 children in a decade.
  • Community Health Centers (CHC’s)
    CHC’s provide accessible, lower-cost primary care to roughly 28 million people across the country, nearly a third of whom are children. Applying the proposed changes could reduce the number of patients eligible for service.
Download the full written testimony here.

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

The cost of health care should not be a matter of life or death. But for millions of Americans, the cost of prescription medication forces them to ration their treatment or even go without medication entirely. That fact, which is completely at odds with core principles of fairness and health care as a human right, is why I joined more than 7,000 nuns to speak out against the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it’s why I am now calling for Congress to take action to lower drug costs. 

While the ACA has addressed a number of the ways insurance companies reap record profits on the backs of patients, huge pharmaceutical companies continue to control too much of our healthcare system. This goes against our values as Americans — and against Catholic Social Justice. 

Rather than caring for our neighbors, we are seeing the same kind of corporate greed we’ve come to expect from massive health industry companies who routinely pad their profits by putting patients’ lives at risk. This time it’s the giant drug corporations and manufacturers that are making the rules that allow them to set prices as high as the market can bear.  Last year, roughly 28 million Americans saw the costs of their medications rise, while pharmaceutical companies benefited from huge tax breaks and pulled in record profits. 

The numbers are especially stark for Americans with diabetes. Three Pharma giants control the country’s supply of insulin — Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi — and they are using their power to rake in as much profit as possible, no matter the human cost. Each of them charge at least $270 per-vial for insulin, meaning diabetic patients are often paying $800 or more for their monthly supply of medication. To put this in perspective, that’s three times what patients in countries like Pakistan pay. 

I recently learned the story of Nick, a 68-year-old retiree living with Type 2 Diabetes in Bellingham, Washington, who has started traveling to Canada to buy insulin across the border because his copays kept increasing. He told the Catholic Sisters that I work with that his insulin ultimately cost him $500 out of pocket for a two- or three-month supply. In Canada, he can get the same amount of insulin for $40 out of pocket. 

Over the past 10 years, the cost of insulin has tripled despite no changes to the formula itself. It’s no wonder one in four diabetics report rationing their insulin because they can’t afford the exorbitant cost. Meanwhile Eli Lilly, the nation’s largest insulin producer, continues to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medications but paid $0 in federal taxes thanks to the 2017 GOP tax law.

The greed of these corporations — and of the companies making millions off of essential drugs like those that treat cancer and HIV — is a moral crisis, and we need Congress to pass legislation that puts power back in the hands of the people and patients. 

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act (HR-3) is the first step to stopping drug companies’ from prioritizing their bottom line over our health. The legislation will allow Medicare to directly negotiate hundreds of drug prices, extend those prices to people with private insurance, and hold drug corporations accountable for charging U.S. patients many times more than what people in other countries pay for the same medicine. 

Make no mistake: Big Pharma is fighting tooth and nail against this legislation, lobbying hard to stop lawmakers from supporting it. They are even claiming new drug innovation will be negatively impacted by the bill, when the reality is that most drug research and development is funded directly by taxpayer dollars. In fact of the 210 drugs approved by the FDA for use between 2010 and 2016, all were developed with National Institutes of Health (NIH) publicly funded research. Americans are literally dying because they are unable to afford the drugs that their taxes paid to create.

Industry opposition has nothing to do with concern for patients. Companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are against this legislation because it will cut into their record profits. Rather than helping the patients he promised to protect, President Trump is pandering to the corporations and protecting the status quo. 

Trump talks a big game when it comes to lowering drug prices, but he’s dragging his feet now that there’s viable legislation to do just that. If the president really wants to help seniors and the millions of Americans struggling to afford their prescriptions, he should tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support HR-3. 

As a Catholic, I believe — I know — we are better off when we take care of each other. We are better off when we recognize that there is more than enough to go around if we share. Everyone deserves access to affordable medicine, and legislation like HR-3 is a big step toward ensuring no one is forced to choose between skipping a prescription and putting food on the table.

Our elected leaders have a moral obligation to take bold action to ensure everyone can access the medicines they need. After all, we are a country founded on principles of ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Corporations.’ It’s time we started acting like it. 

Sister Simone Campbell is executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. NETWORK is a member of the Lower Drug Prices Now coalition. 

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Restoring Trust and Faith in Our Democracy

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
November 5, 2019

We know how quickly a year passes. Today is the first Tuesday of November; we have exactly one year before Election Day 2020 and so much is at stake. The presidency and control of Congress depend on the outcome next November, but the well-being of our democracy itself also hangs in the balance.

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Over 70 years later, his assessment still rings true.

Our democracy has never been perfect, but in 2020 we are at a pivotal moment for the democratic ideals of our nation. It is time to affirm that the people elect their government and that every vote counts.  Creating a fairer, more representative democracy should always be the goal.

While our democracy has always been a work in progress, there are key ways that it’s been undermined, particularly in the past 20 years. We are watching as these broken pieces come together, culminating in very real implications for how our government works — or doesn’t — and who benefits. NETWORK and our partners in the faith community are marking this benchmark occasion with a call to Restore the Voters Covenant. Our statement of purpose highlights the moral concerns about the state of our democracy in 2020 and articulates the principles we hold dear.

We at NETWORK are working with the Faithful Democracy coalition, a multifaith collaborative effort.  We are united around these basic democratic principles and are called to draw attention to the ways that our foundational democratic systems are under threat. Our community of congregations and faith-based advocacy organizations are ready to take a faithful and hard look at the state of our democracy. Together we will commemorate this important year by highlighting some of our biggest democratic hurdles and how we can overcome them as faithful individuals, communities and policy makers. Beginning in late November 2019, Faithful Democracy will roll-out bimonthly toolkits, each focusing on a different threat to our democratic systems.  It is time to faithfully repair the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure that our system aligns with our democratic ideals.

Stay tuned for future information about:

  • Protecting the right to vote and equal access to the ballot
  • Ending the corrosive influence of money on our democracy
  • Securing the integrity of our elections systems from foreign interference
  • Ensuring that redistricting and representation is fair and reflective of voters
  • Getting out the vote!

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Advocating for Policy Change on Capitol Hill

Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP
September 26, 2019

As climate leader Greta Thunberg scolded international leaders at the United Nations and protesters shut down the streets in D.C., NETWORK and our partners hosted a rally and press conference on Capitol Hill. Following the rally, we delivered a letter to several key Senators challenging them to address the injustice in our current immigration system through the ongoing appropriations process. It’s not quite as exciting as shutting down streets or risking arrest (as Catholics and others have previously done in both D.C. and Newark), but distinct policy proposals – actionable requests of our elected officials – are also important.

For my first experience advocating on Capitol Hill, I joined Charlotte Hakikson, a Grassroots Mobilization Associate, and Kathleen and Dan from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns to deliver letters to Senators Collins (ME) and Manchin (WV). We called on the Senators to use the appropriations process to shift funding away from detention, deportation, and border militarization to refugees, asylum, and alternatives to detention, and to exert robust oversight over the use of appropriated funds. Shifting the public conversation around immigration lays the groundwork for change, but specific legislative asks will shift the reality of our policies. We do this work of justice-seeking together as we demand more of our nation and our leaders.

As climate change drives refugees and asylum seekers from their homes, we must continue to stand and say, in the words of Greta Thunberg, “We will not let you get away with this!”

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Sister Quincy Talks Faithful Democracy on Capitol Hill

Colleen Ross
September 25, 2019

Last Friday, Sister Quincy Howard, OP joined New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and interfaith partners on Capitol Hill to discuss democracy reform efforts. Video of the discussion can be found here.

From Senator Udall’s website:

“There is a direct link between our broken campaign finance system and our voting rights system that puts up barriers to the ballot box, and the issues of concern to the faith community,” Udall said. “Issues like gun violence, food security, economic justice, and climate change. The American people, in overwhelming numbers, want Congress to address these issues. But we are not because the representatives in Congress are not representing the American people…We need to put an end to the idea that money equals free speech.  And that corporations are people.  And reign in an out of control campaign finance system.”

The Faithful Democracy Coalition is an inter-denominational campaign that began in the wake of the Citizens United decision.  The Coalition advocates for ending the dominance of big money out of politics, examining the issue from both a faith-based and legislative perspective, and focuses their campaign on the issues of climate change, gun violence prevention, immigration, and private prisons.

“The faith community recognizes how our democratic processes are corrupted at every level: from gerrymandering to voter suppression to campaign finance to foreign intrusion,” said Sr. Quincy Howard, of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “In a secular democracy, elections are the closest thing we have to a sacrament.  NETWORK Lobby and our faith partners call on our government to restore the people’s faith in our democratic systems by securing our elections, ensuring fair representation of the people, and rooting out the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

Read more:

https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/_photo-and-video-udall-leads-discussion-with-interfaith-leaders-on-democracy-reform

We Are Truly One Body

We Are Truly One Body

Economic Interdependence Shows the Depth of Our Connection to One Another
Sister Simone Campbell
August 22, 2019

One of my favorite spiritual realities is that we are the body of God. All of us together make up the image of the Divine. We have different parts to play in the body, but we all serve in order to allow the other parts to function fully.

This image came to mind as I was at one of our rural roundtable listening sessions. Folks were talking about the challenge of being a farmer and only getting income once or twice a year when you sell your crops. This means that (unless you have other income) you have to stretch that money across the whole year. Dairy farmers around the table spoke up and said that in the dairy business they are paid more regularly because they sell their milk every day. For them, however, the challenge is that milk prices are so low that it is almost impossible to stay in business. The way the dairy farmers talked, it was faithfulness to their cattle that kept them going.

These farmers told us one of the big deterrents to family farms is the fact that many bills, like healthcare premiums, come on a monthly basis. This system is designed to work for salaried employees but not farmers.

I began to see that other businesses in farming communities then have different business models depending on how well the crops do on the market or the price of milk. Farming communities live, by necessity, in an interdependent economy of which I as a life-long “city person” was unaware.

As the conversation continued, I realized the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an essential boost to rural economies. When families receive their tax returns, they can make purchases at local businesses that they would not otherwise be able to afford. This boosts the local economy and supports families.

It is this interrelationship that makes me know the living, breathing reality that we are one body. We are profoundly connected both economically and socially. The Earned Income Tax Credit, and the ways we organize our tax code, are one specific instance where we can see this interdependence.

This same reality of community interdependence exists in our nation’s urban areas, but it is more difficult to see because of the size of the economy. In areas with larger economies, the EITC’s impact for the families that receive it is significant, but businesses are less likely to notice a distinct impact. Still, the impact is there.

However, while the Earned Income Tax Credit aims to supplement low-wage earners’ income and succeeds on many counts, there are some gaping holes in the system. The EITC as it is currently designed leaves out childless adults as well as people who earn less than $3,000 in a year from salaried employment. Those who fall into these categories and are left out are struggling mightily to thrive and flourish in our nation. AND small businesses in their communities are struggling too. This is how we are “one body” in our nation. We are interconnected.

For this reason, we at NETWORK believe we must expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Doing so will benefit families and entire communities. The benefit is felt most directly in rural communities, but it is also true in cities and suburban neighborhoods. We are connected in this one body.

Therefore, we are working with partner organizations, Members of Congress, our NETWORK members, and advocates across the country to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits to benefit families who are working but still not getting by in our nation. We are advocating for a tax policy that does a better job of helping the households and communities most in need. The one, interconnected body of our nation requires everyone to flourish for our nation to succeed. Federal policy should ensure that all of our families can live in dignity. Expanding the EITC would be one more step towards meeting our communal duty to our neighbors.

This communal duty is at the heart of the Gospel call to love one another. Oh one body, let us respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers and make this change for the common good.


This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

An Open Letter from Catholic Sisters to President Trump

An Open Letter from Catholic Sisters to President Trump

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
August 15, 2019

This week is yet another time when I am honored to be a woman religious! I have had the privilege of participating in this year’s LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) Assembly over the last few days.

Yesterday, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious unanimously approved an open letter to President Trump and his administration. But what is missing from the flat page is the vibrant enthusiasm of the 800 Sisters gathered for the assembly as they spontaneously leapt to their feet applauding the proposal. The text of the statement rings out powerfully with the truth and anguish of this time.

NETWORK is honored to support our Sisters in their clear call to a moral stance for the common good. We pray that the Trump administration will take these faithful words and actions to heart.


The text of the letter affirmed by 663 LCWR members was originally published on www.lcwr.org. Read the letter below:

Mr. President,

We live in a world increasingly marked by hatred, brutality, and violent conflict. We see our own country threatened by increasing disparities in economic, political, and social power. We are caught in a political culture paralyzed by ideological extremism and hyper-partisanship. These are times that require exceptional insight and courageous leadership.

In the face of these unprecedented challenges, we are outraged and heart-broken when our political leaders appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that threaten to tear the fabric of our nation apart. We cannot, we will not, let the voices of hatred and fear carry the day.

Mr. President, we beseech you to end all divisive and polarizing rhetoric. We implore you to never use language that disrespects, dehumanizes, or demonizes others. We expect our president, and all who serve this nation as leaders, to be always mindful of the common good and the dignity of each and every person. You hold a position that has the potential to inspire the best of every one of us and we ask you to use this unique status to bring about healing and never seek to create division.

The people of this pluralistic nation form a diverse polity characterized by a wide variety of beliefs, experiences, and interests. Disagreements and differences have the potential to challenge all of us to abandon easy certainty and seek a fuller truth. The problem is not our many differences or passionate disagreements. Those differences are our greatest strength; those disagreements are opportunities for growth. It is how we handle those inevitable conflicts that spells the difference between building the common good and destroying the bonds that bind this nation.

In his address to the US Congress in 2015, Pope Francis invited our political leaders to promote respect for the dignity of every human person and to renew their commitment to a spirit of cooperation.  He also addressed each of us and all who seek to lead this nation when he said, “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility . . . You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk . . . Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

As Catholic sisters, our ministries frequently require us to be in the heart of situations of discord and division, and thus we understand the great complexities and challenges that are inherent in the work of reconciliation. We too have to reach deep within ourselves to bring forth the grace and strength that are needed to not give in to the temptation of labeling or judging those who are different from us. We share with you, Mr. President, that maintaining this fundamental stance in life requires discipline and fortitude and a constant examination of our daily thoughts and deeds in light of our beliefs. We sometimes come up short, but pledge to do better each day because we are aware of the moral authority we, as sisters, bear. We ask you, Mr. President, if you would consider a similar examination of the practice of your own moral authority.

We send this letter to you as 663 Catholic sister leaders gathered in assembly in Arizona. We and approximately 700 other Catholic sisters are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and represent approximately 35,000 sisters who minister throughout this nation. We promise to never cease raising our voices on behalf of the common good and praying for the healing of this country.

Sincerely,

The Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Renewing the Promise of ‘By the People, For the People’

Renewing the Promise of ‘By the People, For the People’

During our Nuns on the Bus trip in the fall of 2018, just before the Midterm elections, we heard many stories about efforts to limit access to our democracy:

  • For every Republican office that we lobbied (or attempted to lobby) we heard constituents’ stories about their representative’s refusal to meet with them. One Republican member’s district chief of staff even went so far to say that the problem was that her boss “was incredibly shy…he was an introvert.” As if that justified it when he met regularly with donors.
  • We heard of some state legislation that would require a street address in order to vote. However, on the Native American reservations there were no street addresses so Native American people would be “purged” from the voter rolls.
  • Gerrymandering was mentioned at many stops where the Congressional district maps were drawn to benefit the majority party. In fact, it was so bad in Pennsylvania that the court had stepped in and redrawn the state’s map for Congressional representation. This was the first election under the very new map, but even that was confusing to some of the voters we met, as their districts and their representatives were now different.

I ended the bus trip worried about our democracy and how it is being undermined. The political “game” of winning has taken precedence over the commitment to let every voice be heard.

This isn’t just a “Republican thing.” In Maryland, where Democrats are in the majority, districts were drawn to benefit Democrats and reduce the number of Republicans in Congress and the state legislature.

This bipartisan desire to win at the expense of democracy underscored for us why we need to heal our democracy if we are going to “Mend the Gaps” in our nation. For this reason, access to democracy is one of the key provisions in our policy agenda.

But this work is multilayered. We initially started by thinking that it was only about the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court undermined a few years ago in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holderdecision. But as we went deeper, we realized that if the census is flawed then the data from which districts are determined is also flawed. Article I Section 2 of the Constitution mandates that there be an “enumeration…every subsequent term of ten years.” This is a mandate to count everyone without regard for citizenship or even immigration status. The Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country.

Therefore, we are engaged in making sure that there is adequate funding for the 2020 Census count and that it is carried out in a way that encourages participation. We have been fighting against including a “citizenship question” to the census questionnaire or any other actions that would push people away from responding to the census.

Whether our work is about the census, efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act, or ending gerrymandering, we do this work because every voice matters in our democracy. This is the difference between the economy and government. In the capitalist economy there are those who are “winners” and those who are left out. But in a functioning democracy everyone needs to be afforded equal dignity and opportunity to be heard. It is this dignity of the individual that is at the heart of our work…and the heart of our faith.

Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Si’: “Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also ‘macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones.’ That is why the Church set before the world the ideal of a ‘civilization of love’.” (Paragraph 231)

Let us labor in love in our society to ensure that everyone in our nation can fully participate in our democracy. This is the doorway to realizing the common good.

***

This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.