Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

Pray for Reparations during Black History Month 2023

Pray for Reparations during Black History Month 2023

Pledge to pray for reparations NOW!

Pray for Reparations

During Black History Month, we invite you to pray that President Biden establishes a Commission to Study Reparations. The H.R. 40 commission is a research study that will be the development of a report and a set of data that will quantify and assess the damage systemic racism has inflicted on the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States. The study will also make recommendations on the path to repair this damage.

For the past year, you have attended Vigils for Reparation and educated yourselves about H.R. 40 (Commission to Study Reparations).

NETWORK partners in faith, let’s join together and pray that the path to reparations begins this month.

See the prayer here!

Pledge to Pray for Reparations

Joining our prayers, we can urge President Biden to sign the executive order for a reparations commission.

Watch Faith in Reparations Again...and Share it with Friends and Family

Faith leaders led a Spirit-filled call for reparations in November 2022. Watch, re-watch, and share!

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Racism, Reconciliation, and Repair

Racism, Reconciliation, and Repair

Racial Justice is Central to Renewing Society, Politics, and Church

February 1, 2023
On June 15, 2022, NETWORK advocates organized a prayer vigil for reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland, Ohio.
On June 15, 2022, NETWORK advocates organized a prayer vigil for reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a consequential election year, the re-election of Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia finalized the composition of the 118th Congress. His election, in many ways, symbolizes how the U.S. struggle toward progress is bound up in how the country deals with racism, white supremacy, and reparatory justice. The election of a Black man in a former Confederate state, while certainly symbolically powerful, doesn’t capture the work undone in securing racial justice in U.S. politics, including in elections themselves.

The first cornerstone of NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda is “Dismantle Systemic Racism,” and its placement rightly suggests that racism must be confronted at every level of our social structures for economic injustices and other wrongs to be fully addressed. The many in-person and online actions taken by NETWORK in 2022 also reflected the central prioritization of racial justice in Catholic Social Justice.

Talk About White Supremacy

Fr. Bryan Massingale

In the second installment of NETWORK’s  White Supremacy and American Christianity event in October, Fr. Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, author of “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church,” dialogued with Dr. Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. They discussed data gathered by Jones that showed almost half of white evangelicals and almost four in 10 white Catholics in the U.S. believe that their country should be a place that privileges people of European descent and that God intends this.

“That attitude has become hardened and more dangerous,” said Massingale. “What we’re seeing now is a willingness among those who hold that ideology to use any means necessary to achieve that end… a country that says only white Americans are true Americans and all others are Americans only by exception or toleration or not really at all.”

Massingale referenced the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, with a growing number of people questioning the legitimacy of elections themselves and adopting the position of “If my candidate loses, then by defi­nition it was an illegitimate election.” This, coupled with very open use of voter restrictions and voter suppression, as well as the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, made clear to Massingale that “any means necessary” includes political violence.

Concerned that the normalization of political violence is the next stage after voter suppression and election denial, Massingale cited the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing a connection to the rhetoric of Christian nationalist rallies across the country in the weeks preceding the attack.

“God’s angel of death is coming,” Massingale noted one rally speaker proclaiming in reference to their political opponents. “Let’s connect the dots here. … One needs to understand that even though people don’t necessarily call for overt political violence, if you say enough about divinely inspired victory and gun rights and God’s angel of death, then we can’t be surprised when people take violent means.”

Massingale also cited the “failure of religious leaders to connect the dots,” noting that Catholic bishops offered only cursory statements in response to the Pelosi attack.

Dr. Ansel Augustine

Massingale’s observations also reflect a Black Catholic doing the work of educating a white, predominately Catholic audience, about the pernicious implications of racism. This is an unfair burden placed on Black people, says Dr. Ansel Augustine — to educate colleagues on racism, while continuing to endure its effects.

Author of the new book, “Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back?,” Augustine told Connection, “Ministering in the church, which at times perpetuates this ‘original  sin,’ constantly has us questioning and renewing our commitment to the faith,” Augustine told Connection. “It is tough having to be an ‘expert’ on something that is trying to destroy your dignity as a human being, especially within an institution that is supposed to empower you and be your safe space to simply ‘exist.’”

James Conway, a cradle Catholic in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, notes that the last two years have been different for Black Catholics.

“People no longer seem to be afraid to show any racist tendencies that they may have secretly harbored for years,” he told Connection. “Now it’s just blatant and in your face under the guise of being cultural ignorance.”

He also sees “an uptick in instances of racial aggression and microaggressions against minorities in the church.” He was told by a now former member of his parish that, because they sing gospel music, she would be taking her money and her family elsewhere, and that the parish would be closed within six months without her fi­nancial support. Two years later, the parish is still open.

Focus on Reparations

Sr. Patricia Rogers, OP

The church not living up to its own teaching on human dignity when it comes to race is a problem that goes back centuries, Sr. Patricia Rogers, OP shared in a conversation on NETWORK’s “Just Politics” podcast in November.

She asked, “Why is it that Black Catholic children were denied a Catholic education before the Civil Rights Movement? I never saw a Black nun, and then I learned that the first Black nuns had to establish their own congregations because they were not welcome. And it still makes me wonder, what happened to the dignity of all humans? You just don’t know what to do with that sometimes.”

This raises the question of reparatory justice for harm inflicted over generations and the need for reparations in the U.S. today. In that area, NETWORK has hosted and participated in numerous events, including a June action near the White House calling on President Biden to take executive action to set up a commission on reparations, as called for in H.R. 40, a bill first introduced in Congress in 1989.

Cleo and Yvonne Nettles speak at the June 15 prayer vigil for reparations at St.
Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland.

In June, NETWORK also helped organize an in-person event Repair and Redress: A Vigil for Reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland.  The parish and school community, Sisters, the Cleveland NETWORK Advocates Team, justice-seekers, and NETWORK staff together made a stand for reparations for Black Americans and called for a reparations commission by Juneteenth.

Rev. Traci Blackmon of The United Church of Christ spoke to the theological call to repair a society broken by the sin of chattel slavery and the racism that has followed in its wake, as well as of the need to atone and provide redress.

Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General
Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries
for The United Church of Christ, speaks at
NETWORK‘s reparations vigil in Cleveland.

“The reason we have not reckoned with racism in this country,” she said, is that “decision-makers have decided that God cannot be Black, that God cannot be Brown, that God indeed must be white. And therefore we have created a fractured… society.”

NETWORK continued the push to set up a reparations commission by executive action following the November elections with the event Faith in Reparations.”

“I’m so sick of living in a nation that treats white rage as a sacrament and black grief as a threat,” Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, said at that event.

“White rage is why we had Jim Crow. White rage is why we had redlining. All of the structures in our nation are built around white rage’s disdain for Black people’s beauty and body and joy,” she continued. “I’m so tired of the permanent pernicious nature of white supremacy in this nation that is now in a wicked dance with Christianity, blessing with Jesus’s name and in the name of God this vile hatred that is always directed to my people.”

Sr. Anita Baird, DHM

Sr. Anita Baird, DHM, founding director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice, said:

“Reparations are…about America fulfilling her promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice for all. And until this injustice is acknowledged and rectified, there can be no healing and no moving forward. The Biden administration must uphold its promise to African Americans. It is a matter of justice. It is a matter of life. Now is time.”

The NETWORK community will continue calling on Congress and President Biden to act on their commitments to dismantle racist laws, policies and frameworks, and advance racial equity.

Leticia Ochoa Adams and Elissa Hackerson contributed to this feature.

This story was originally published in the 1st Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

The National Black Sisters’ Conference Calls for “Justice for Tyre!”

The National Black Sisters’ Conference Calls for “Justice for Tyre!”

Mary J. Novak and Joan F. Neal
January 31, 2023

On January 30, the National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) published a powerful statement addressing the murder of 29-year old Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers. We join the NBSC in grieving the loss of Tyre Nichols’ life and calling for the immediate passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and reforms to policing at all levels.

Read the National Black Sisters’ Conference Statement on the murder of Tyre Nichols:

Listen to Season 1 of Just Politics Podcast!

Listen to Season One of Just Politics Podcast!

January 23, 2023

Just Politics podcast season 1 logo

Our first season of the Just Politics podcast, produced in collaboration with U.S. Catholic magazine, is complete! This exciting new avenue for our political ministry wrapped up its inaugural seven-episode season earlier this month.

Throughout Season 1, our hosts — Colin Martinez Longmore, Sr. Eilis McCulloh HM, Joan F. Neal, and Sr. Emily TeKolste SP — spoke with Catholic Sisters, Members of Congress, and other justice-seekers on the path toward building a more just politics.

Episodes explored topics at the intersection of U.S. politics and the Catholic faith, including racismelections, immigration, and care for families.

You can listen on the U.S. Catholic website, as well as on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and join the conversation about #JustPoliticsPod on social media!

STAY TUNED: We’re happy to share that the first episode of Season 2 will start Monday, February 6! 

2022 Voting Record

2022 Congressional Voting Record

At the start of each new year, NETWORK staff compiles an assessment of Congress’s voting record. The 2022 Voting Record is our evaluation of Members of Congress based on the votes they cast to advance, or thwart, social justice policy and our Build Anew agenda. Take action for justice and deliver your Members of Congress’s 2022 Voting Record results in January or February 2023.

Webinar Recording & PDF
Let Congress know what you think about the 2022 Voting Record

Email Congress

We’ve got great news: 270 current Members of Congress scored 100% on the 2022 Voting Record! Can you act now to reach out to Members?

Legislators who scored 100% deserve praise, and it is vital that we hold those who received a less-than-perfect score accountable. And, as new Members begin their work on Capitol Hill, advocates must let them know about NETWORK’s Voting Record!

Will you send a quick email to let your Members of Congress know how you feel about their Voting Record? Don’t worry about what to say, we’ve prepared a message that you can edit. Click below!

Deliver the Record

NETWORK advocates (like you!) will deliver Voting Records to Members of Congress in January and February in-person, on Zoom, and by email. Thank you for helping to create the multi-faith, multiracial democracy we must build anew so that we can all thrive.

Note: NETWORK creates special Voting Record certificates of excellence for Members of Congress with a 100% Voting Record score. 

There are three ways to deliver the NETWORK 2022 Voting Record. Be sure to sign up for one of them. Click below!

Download the 2022 Voting Record

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Christian leaders gather across from the U.S. Capitol Building for a sunrise vigil marking the second anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. Photo courtesy of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Healing Our Politics

Healing Our Politics

We Can Build a Better World by Participating in the Systems That Shape Our Destiny

Joan Neal
Jan 11, 2023
Christian leaders gather across from the U.S. Capitol Building for a sunrise vigil marking the second anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. Photo courtesy of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Christian leaders gather across from the U.S. Capitol Building for a sunrise vigil marking the second anniversary of the January 6 insurrection. Photo courtesy of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

With the 2022 midterms behind us and a new Congress coming into session, it’s fitting for people of faith to survey the “Signs of the Times.” Where is God speaking to us and trying to lead us as a people as we enter a new year, with a new Congress, in one of the oldest democracies on earth? The answer that NETWORK has discerned in the face of an increasingly volatile political landscape is that we must work to heal our politics.

Our political life has suffered a wound, a laceration that has exposed us to further injury and infection. This wound is reflected in the divisions in our society today that allow hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric to become normalized, and violent, resentful action to become a part of everyday life. The Signs of the Times are clear: We are a divided country. Even the composition of the new Congress – with the narrowest of majorities in both houses – suggests a body politic that has been torn asunder.

This situation has been building for a long time. The fact is, we are witnessing the ugly final acts of a power struggle in the U.S. that began half a century ago as an effort to strip away the gains made toward equity and justice for anyone who is not white, male, and socioeconomically privileged.

This struggle has played out in every aspect of our politics and now, most concerning, in our judiciary. For the first time in our history, we are seeing recent rulings that take rights away from Americans instead of expanding them, rulings that seem wholly untethered from any sense of the common good and even reflect bias toward a particular political ideology. Sadly, we also see allegations of corrupt dealings between justices and right-wing groups. Even the objectivity of our judicial system seems caught up in this fight.

The repercussions of this power struggle have been as painful as they have been predictable: stratospheric economic inequality; the dismantling of the power of organized labor; the rise of Christian nationalism with its view that America is only for white Christians; increasing threats to our planet and our public health; rising homelessness, and so much more. These are signs that our politics and our society are in desperate need of healing and repair.

As we look back on 2022 and the legislation passed in the second session of the 117th Congress, we can imagine each bill as a tiny swatch of material trying to patch the frayed social fabric of our current reality. The field hospital imagery of Pope Francis is apt language as we try to bind societal wounds while also addressing their root causes.

This is where we see our mission. At our core, NETWORK is a political ministry, which calls us to respond first with empathy and then with truth-telling and concrete actions that lead to economic and racial justice.  We decry the divisions and seek to be a prophetic voice for peace, reparatory justice and reconciliation in order to reshape our politics and center the voices of those whose voices are not heard – those who are not privileged; those who lack the money and power to wield influence; and those who are most impacted by the evils of unfettered capitalism, white supremacy and extreme individualism in our politics and in our society.

At NETWORK, we have endeavored to do this by first listening to and seeking out other justice-seekers, such as the National Black Sisters’ Conference, to partner with us in raising an authentic witness for the common good. We have also sought to amplify the call for justice through our new podcast. “Just Politics,” a collaboration of NETWORK and U.S. Catholic magazine, launched in September 2022 and will have its season 2 premiere in February. We have used this new platform to center the voices of women religious, impacted communities, and other justice-seekers.

In his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis argues for “a better kind of politics” and makes a key distinction between political movements that are populist – the forces that weaponized people’s anger for personal gain – and those that are truly reflective of “the people’s voice”. Our work seeks to put the Pope’s words into action, to insure that our politics includes the needs and voices of all people in order to build a more inclusive and equitable community. Through healing our politics, we can all play a part in shaping our common destiny and building a better country, a better society, a better world for everyone.

Joan F. Neal is NETWORK’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer.

This story was originally published in the 1st Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

Take Action to End Child Poverty with the Child Tax Credit

Watch the #CTCNow press conference and share it with friends. Scroll for call-in and Tweet details to take action to end child poverty with the Child Tax Credit.

Child Poverty is a Policy Choice

2021’s expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted a historic number of kids out of poverty. It is poor policy, and morally repugnant, to extend tax breaks for corporations without also enacting robust expansion of the CTC. Congress must pass a fully refundable, monthly Child Tax Credit before the New Year.

Call the Senate: 1-888-738-3058!

Submit the Tweet below.

Call Your Senators NOW: 888-738-3058! *Dial twice to reach both of your Senators* 
Tell them no tax breaks for corporations without including the Child Tax Credit.
When you call, here’s what you might say:

“Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] from [YOUR TOWN]. As your constituent and a member of NETWORK, I ask you to support the expansion of the Child Tax Credit in any end of the year tax package. This is urgent. Millions of children who were lifted out of poverty by the expanded credit are now living in poverty again. This is a moral outrage. Will the Senator support passing the expanded Child Tax Credit before the end of the year?

After you call, send a tweet, too! Use the form below to direct a tweet to Congress.

Resources to support you when you take action to end child poverty.

Blogs
Talking Points
  • Last December, Congress allowed the expanded credit to expire, pushing nearly 4 million children back into poverty.
  • Census Bureau surveys found that 91 percent of low-income families—those with incomes below $35,000—used their monthly CTC payments to cover the cost of basic necessities such as food, housing, utilities, clothing, and education
  • Critics charge that the extended CTC is too generous. Some claim it reduces the incentive to work. They are wrong! Data conclusively shows that the CTC did not precipitate workforce reductions. Ironically, many parents who thrived in the workforce when the CTC was in place have left jobs since it expired.
  • The expanded CTC was an anti-poverty program AND a middle-class stabilization tool. Payments were a crucial financial lifeline to millions of families across the country; a wide range of families across income levels, racial and ethnic groups, and education levels received and benefited from these payments in 2021. Middle-income families, white families, and those without a college degree made up larger shares of recipients than low-income families, families of color, and those with a college degree.
Advocate’s CTC Testimonials

Many families with young children that I know, including my own, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and the significant inflation that we are facing has caused many of us to deplete our savings and increasingly rely on credit cards to get us through the month. With interest rates as high as they currently are, this is digging us into a deeper financial hole. An expansion of the Child Tax Credit could help us avoid using credit at a time when financial experts advise us to do so.Natalie M., Shaker Heights, OH

“[The CTC] will allow my children the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and expose them to new experiences and friends, promoting the growth of their whole self.” Ivelisse C., Cleveland OH

“I have nieces in Ohio who are struggling to make ends meet to feed and clothe their children and also to afford daycare so they can get a job. The Child Tax Credit helped them before and it can help them again!” Sr. Joyce K., CPPS, Dayton, OH

“Several of my church families along with others in the community are struggling to make ends meet and to provide for their children. Some are looking at the loss of homes and eviction. The expanded Child Tax Credit will help to minimize theses effects of inflation and low paying work situations.” Rev. Karen B., Jeffersonville, IN

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Take More Action

Take Action for Justice in Drug Sentencing (The EQUAL Act)

It's time for cocaine sentencing policy justice

The 117th Congressional session ends this month. Legislation that we have lobbied for, the EQUAL Act (which would bring equity in crack and powder cocaine sentencing), has a chance to pass — if the Senate can be persuaded to take bold action before the end of the year. LEARN MORE.

Call the Senate NOW: 1-888-436-6478

Tell them to support the EQUAL Act by the end of the year.
When you call, here’s what you might say: 

“Hello, I am [YOUR NAME], a constituent of Senator [SENATOR’S NAME] from [YOUR TOWN]. As your constituent and a NETWORK Lobby advocate, I am calling to ask that you support including the EQUAL Act by the end of the year. The disparity in the lengths of sentences for crack and powder cocaine crimes has led to an immorally high mass incarceration rate in our country. And, the people that are most severely impacted are Black and Brown people. Families and communities have suffered long enough–now is the time for fair, equitable sentencing reform. Will the Senator support passing the EQUAL Act before the end of the year and affirm that every person is entitled to equal justice under law?”

ACT NOW for Other Policy Areas

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Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set the Oppressed Free

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set The Oppressed Free

Min. Christian Watkins
December 5, 2022

Reflection:

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims the words of the prophet Isaiah and in doing so, makes very clear why he’s been sent among us:

“…to proclaim liberty to captives and to set the oppressed free…”

During Advent, as we prepare to welcome him with the observance of Christmas, these words should challenge us still. If Jesus is sent to proclaim liberty to people in captivity and freedom for those oppressed, how can we claim that he is with us in the U.S. today?

In a culture that seeks to denigrate and ignore entire groups of people, including the elderly and the sick, the U.S. holds some especially dubious distinctions when it comes to incarcerated people. With over 2 million of our people in prisons, the U.S. is the most incarcerated country in the world – not only in raw numbers of people behind bars but also our incarceration rate (639 per 100,000 people, according to the World Prison Brief).

Is this really the land of the free?

It’s even worse when race is taken into account. Despite being only 12 percent of the adult population, Black people account for over a third of those incarcerated in the U.S. That number climbs to over half when Black and Latinx people are counted together. The horrible combination of overly punitive drug policy, excessive sentencing, and the use of for-profit prisons makes for, in many ways, a form of legal slavery. It’s so bad that reform of the U.S. criminal legal system actually enjoys some bipartisan support.

Emmanuel means “God with us,” so for us to gather near to Jesus this Christmas season, we should remember the “with us” that Jesus himself said he came to proclaim his Good News to. Jesus is our melaninated Savior from the southern part of Jerusalem who was unjustly imprisoned shortly before having his life snuffed out in a shameful, public, state-sponsored execution. However, as his followers comprise the Body of Christ still in the world today, we can cooperate in his saving work by helping bring “liberty to captives and freedom from oppression.

Call to Action:

The EQUAL Act is bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration. It would apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced. As people of faith, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, brutality and hyper-militarization in policing, the loss of future generations to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. We affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equitable justice under law.

Help us ensure that the EQUAL Act is included in the Senate’s must-pass legislation by the end of this year.