Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

NETWORK Lobby Advocates for Catholic Social Justice

Ecological Justice Means Racial Justice

Laudato Si Week Calls Us To Recognize Our Interrelatedness

Virginia Schilder
May 24, 2022

This is part one in a three part reflection on Laudato Si Week (May 22-29, 2022), which celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and care for creation by inviting all people of goodwill and prayer and study to on how they can tackle the climate crisis.

Read Part Two Here |Read Part Three Here

Ecological justice is about more than ending climate change and restoring damaged landscapes. It is about recognizing our interrelatedness and interdependence with one another, with land, air, and water, and with the non-human life forms alongside us — and then creating social and economic structures that affirm this reality.

At NETWORK, ecological concern permeates all of the policy areas we work in. As we promote the Build Anew agenda specifically, what does it mean to prioritize ecological health and cultivate an ecological orientation?

On one level, it means that our policies must always keep ecological impact in mind. No policy can be fully just if it comes at the expense of our lands, waters, air, or other living beings. This is especially true for job creation, which does not truly help our communities if the new jobs are in the business of exploiting the very resources we need to live. It is critical that as communities grow – with more housing, schools, libraries, parks, and food markets – that development is focused on meeting real needs instead of ceaseless land conversion that depletes natural spaces, pushes out long-term inhabitants (both human and non-human), and accelerates pollution.

Dr. Kate Ward, assistant professor of theology at Marquette University, wrote last year in Connection magazine, “Integral development is a distinctively Catholic reassessment of economic development. Just like national budgets can be both moral and immoral documents, so also economic development can impede or impel authentic human development.”

Rather than alienate us from ecosystems, all forms of development should strengthen our ecological relationships and uphold ecological well-being. All policies have ecological effects, meaning ecological impact should be at the forefront of all policy discussions.   But going even further, an ecological orientation in our policy work means a holistic, multi-issue commitment to transforming the structures that denigrate human beings and the Earth alike.

The intertwining exploitation of people and land is evident in the way that women, the economically marginalized, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately harmed by ecological destruction. While climate change affects everyone, these populations are made especially vulnerable to inadequate infrastructure, poor water quality, deforestation, hazardous waste, and increased exposure to climate change-driven disasters and displacement.

Environmental racism refers to the reality that communities of color bear most of the burden of environmental degradation. Communities of color frequently face restricted access to clean air and water, green spaces, and nutritious and locally-sourced food. These forms of racism severely threaten the health of communities of color, especially as toxic waste facilities and highways are overwhelmingly (and intentionally) built in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

Environmental racism implicates housing, food, public health, and economic policy. Measures such as creating accessible, affordable housing and ending racist zoning practices have not only racial but also significant ecological justice dimensions.

Virginia Schilder, a graduate student attending divinity school in Massachusetts, completed a one-year fellowship with NETWORK’s Communications team in early May 2022.

NETWORK Mourns the Lives Lost in Uvalde

NETWORK Mourns the Lives Lost in Uvalde

May 24, 2022

We grieve the murder of innocent children in Uvalde, Texas. The loss of so many lives to gun violence in our country is a tragedy that must not be acceptable to us or to our elected officials.

This perpetual violence in our society is evil. We must envision, and create, a better future. May we come together to transform our politics and transform our country so that we consistently affirm and protect the God-given dignity of every person,

We hold the children, families, teachers, and entire Uvalde community in our prayers  and all whose lives have been impacted by gun violence.

Prayer: Let the Shooting End from Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Social Poet Award Winners | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of Justice

Social Poets are Writing the Future

In Young Activists, NETWORK Sees What Pope Francis Sees

Don Clemmer
May 22, 2022
Social Poet Award Winners | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of Justice

NETWORK’s 2022 Social Poet awardees at the 50th anniversary gala, Justice Ablaze.

On his 2015 trip to Bolivia, Pope Francis addressed social activists gathered there for the second World Meeting of Popular Movements. He told them that “popular movements play an essential role, not only by making demands and lodging protests, but even more basically by being creative. You are social poets: creators of work, builders of housing, producers of food, above all for people left behind by the world market.”

The following year, addressing these same groups gathered in Rome, he added that the popular movements “are sowers of change, promoters of a process involving millions of actions, great and small, creatively intertwined like words in a poem.” In his 2021 address to the same gathering, he began simply, “Dear social poets.”

Pope Francis’ messages to the Popular Movements have included some of the most striking rhetoric of his pontificate, decrying demagogues who exploit people’s anger and fear to demonize immigrants and other people pushed to the margins of society. In 2021, he said that protests following the murder of George Floyd most reminded him of the Good Samaritan in the world today.

NETWORK joins Pope Francis in centering the importance of young activists in the work of writing a better future for the world, one that dismantles systemic racism, roots the economy in solidarity, cultivates inclusive community, and transforms politics. So for NETWORK’s 50th anniversary, we honor four young activists as “Social Poets.” The four inaugural recipients of this award write with their lives the challenges and transformative potential that the decades ahead hold for those pursuing justice in the name of the Gospel.

Taylor McGee | Catholic Social Poet
Taylor McGee celebrates her social poets award with her mother at NETWORK's Justice Ablaze gala

Taylor celebrates her social poets award with her mother at NETWORK’s Justice Ablaze gala.

A faith-based justice-seeker studying at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Taylor McGee has a gift for convening people from different backgrounds in faith contexts and using the encounter to open up old or familiar ideas about God and the world in new ways. As a faith and culture leader for St. Edward’s campus ministry, McGee, 20, has led an Earth Day event featuring discussion of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’; a fish fry that invited local Black-owned businesses to campus and featured Black gospel music; and — her favorite — a virtual art exhibit, “Mirroring Mary,” which curated images of Mary from the various cultures represented on the St. Edward’s campus.

“I’ve been so blessed to have a great community given to me and understanding the similarities and differences within that community,” says McGee, adding, “If this is a community that I’m trying to serve, then I need to be in that community.” A Black woman and a cradle Catholic who has had to step back to see the eurocentrism of her own experience of church, she has majored in religious studies because, in part, “As a Black woman, you have to have that credibility.”

She credits Pope Francis for being explicit in his naming of problems in society, since working around problems without naming them leaves room for people to mute them. “I’m still in the South, and I know how things are,” she notes. But still she sees “Do everything in love” as what it is to be a social poet. This means “to be explicit in love and to not condemn and to not condemn people for their unlearning,” which can be challenging in activist spaces. But God invites everyone.

Ivonne Ramirez | Catholic Social Poet

Ivonne Ramirez uses educIvonne Ramirez, Catholic Social Poet Award Winner | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of Justiceation and advocacy in her efforts to change the hearts and minds of fellow Catholics regarding the plight of DACA recipients like herself living in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. “If you are a devout Catholic, you should be with us, not against us,” Ramirez, 27, says of the need for the Church to be in solidarity with immigrants, especially young people who do not have documented status in the U.S. “These are your neighbors. … We need to teach people what is DACA and what it looks like in our parish.”

Ramirez is a catechist at Our Lady of Guadalupe, a predominantly Spanish speaking low to moderate income parish in Ferguson, Missouri, and also chaperones teen events and is a frequent speaker at parish teen retreats. Her mentor and role model is Sr. Cathy Doherty, SSND. “We’re starting a movement. We’re slowing and surely starting to see,”

Ramirez says of her efforts to educate priests and other church leaders to address immigration with their communities. This includes a recent meeting of several DACA recipients with St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski to share their stories.

As DACA recipients can’t vote, she especially wants to communicate to people that they have power to help their neighbors and that who they elect matters. Ramirez also says the popular term for DACA recipients – “Dreamers” – is a misnomer. “We’re not dreaming. We’re actually working for something,” she says.

Marie Kenyon, director of peace and justice for the archdiocese, agrees: “Ivonne is a breath of hope to Hispanic youth in the parish, especially those without permanent legal status. Over the years she has found her voice in expressing and witnessing immigration issues to the church and the region. Her energy, creativity and ways of expressing her faith are just what is needed in our church today. … She is a true servant leader!”

Christian Soenen | Catholic Social Poet

Christian Soenen, Catholic Social Poet Award Winner | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of JusticeChristian Soenen has learned the weight of what it means to accompany people on their immigration journey, most recently as an education and advocacy intern at the Kino Border Institute in Nogales, Arizona. “You think that you understand the kinds of things that people are going through,” says Soenen, 23. “I thought I knew what was going on, and then I got to the border. I personally felt very disarmed. … You get very invested in the present, in the people who are suffering presently.”

A graduate of University of Texas at Austin who has engaged in immigration advocacy since high school, Soenen’s experiences at the border confronted him with the crushing impact of a broken system. During his time at Kino, Sr. Tracey Horan, SP, served as a collaborator and guide. “He demonstrates a sincere humility in his awareness both of what he has to offer the movement toward dignified migration and that his efforts are part of something bigger that is beyond him. I have been particularly impressed by his growth in identifying and empowering migrant leadership,” Horan says of Soenen.

“The moment you step away [from the border] it is so easy to forget the weight of that,” Soenen says of the end of his time with Kino. “I don’t think we can allow ourselves to forget.” The border experience has shown him how many dehumanizing structures people acquiesce to on a daily basis, and he adds, “I don’t know how you break out that.”

Despite the hopelessness of the circumstances, Soenen does see the Gospel alive in the struggles of migrant people and those who serve them. “Liberation is the fundamental focus of everything that is prophetic and Gospel,” he says. And the life and death of Jesus shows where God identifies: “We have had the ultimate symbolic example, and we’re still waiting for the world to realize what that means.”

Jennifer Koo | Catholic Social Poet

Jennifer Poo, Catholic Social Poet | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of JusticeJennifer Koo first learned about Jesus when she was 17, in a high school history class. Now the only Christian in her multi-faith family of Southeast Asian immigrants, Koo, 24, says her newfound faith “offered me some hope and comfort in trying to grapple with all the inequity and brokenness that I was seeing all around me.”

Koo grapples with human brokenness all the time through her work for RESULTS, an anti-poverty advocacy organization, which she serves from Connecticut. As Koo discovered grassroots advocacy as a young adult, she also discovered a vocabulary to describe the oppression she’d experienced growing up, which “reminded me that I’m not alone in this journey towards justice.”

But while she’s not alone, she recognizes that the journey is different for people of color, people with disabilities, and others. “The stakes of the work that we are involved in, it’s not the same for everyone,” she notes. “This work can be incredibly exhausting and painful and tiring, and it can be very exhausting to feel as though you are being tokenized in a movement.”

One of Koo’s numerous endeavors has been to create self-care resources for activists. “I take this approach of seeing the people inside the advocate. We are not advocacy tools. We are people with our own lives,” she says. Upon learning that she is one of four Social Poets honored by NETWORK, Koo’s first response was to learn about the organization, which led her to being “overjoyed to see that this kind of space exists.”

This includes NETWORK’s commitment to growing as a multicultural, anti-racist organization that prioritizes looking at the person within the advocate. She also appreciates NETWORK giving her “help to contribute in making waves in this movement.” Each Social Poet is receiving $500 and will participate in the Advocates Training as part of NETWORK’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Don Clemmons is NETWORK’s content and editorial manager. This article originally appeared in Connection, NETWORK’s quarterly magazine (Second Quarter 2022 – “Celebrating Sister-Spirit: Our 50-Year Justice Journey”  *Special 50th Anniversary Edition*).

Social Poet Award Winners | NETWORK Lobby Celebrates 50 years of Justice

Gratitude and Memories from Our Spirit-Filled Celebration

Gratitude and Memories from Our Spirit-Filled Celebration

Joan Neal and Mary Novak
April 25, 2022

We are full of joy, hope, and gratitude for the NETWORK community! Our time together at the Advocates Training and Justice Ablaze Gala was the perfect way to honor the 50 years of work we’ve done together.

We have selected a few favorite photos to share with you, with more to come in the weeks ahead! Thank you to those who celebrated in D.C. and those who held us in your hearts. We are on this sacred journey together.

Celebrate 50 Years! Get your NETWORK Zoom Background

Celebrate 50 Years with a NETWORK Zoom Background!

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NETWORK Lobby invites you to join your Lent 2022 journey with ours. Our weekly Lenten lesson includes reflections and a video series on individual bias and racism and racist policy built into the US tax code

Lent 2022: Lent Calls Us to Atone

Lent 2022, Week 6: Lent Calls Us to Atone

View earlier Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday | Week 1Week 2Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 

Mary Novak
April 8, 2022

Watch Tax Justice For All

The Conclusion (starting at at 38:37)
As Lent gives way to Easter, we must ask ourselves, how can we atone for our part in the systemic evils that oppress so many? How can we carry the lessons that we’ve learned this Lent with us? One practical exercise is found in NETWORK’s Tax Justice Calculator. In the final video installment, our interactive tax calculator lets you simulate the impact that a more just tax code could have.

Questions for reflection:

  1. How can I incorporate what Tax Justice For All taught me about racist policies and laws into my daily life?
  2. How can I continue to do the work of recognizing racist structures and policies and (if applicable) how they directly or indirectly benefit me?
  3. What would it look like for our society to be transformed into one that has eradicated racist structures and policies?

What does it mean for us to atone?

This Lenten season, NETWORK invited you to journey with us in exploring racist impacts hidden in something mundane: the tax code. Through our Tax Justice for All resource, we examined how tax policies historically and systematically disadvantage Black and Brown families and disproportionately benefit white people and the ultra-wealthy.

We all have a part in this. Those of us with the right to vote to bear a responsibility for who we elect and the policies they enact. And Catholics and other people of goodwill have a moral duty to see that our government policies benefit people pushed to the peripheries of society. Pope Francis calls this a lofty form of love.

As we journey through Lent in preparation for Holy Week, the language associated with Jesus’ suffering and death becomes familiar: atonement. But this complex concept is too often oversimplified as Jesus dying “for our sins.” Accepting this shortened summary fails to capture the pernicious nature of sin in our world and convey what is demanded of us as participants in God’s transforming grace. This is why we have focused on one aspect of structural sin with our Tax Justice For All series.

It is important to reflect more broadly as well. On April 9, 2022, NETWORK will host a special conversation on “White Supremacy and American Christianity,” featuring Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain of Georgetown University, the recipient of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History. Watching this conversation can also serve as a form of penance, educating ourselves about the reality of white supremacy in U.S. Christianity. 

Many people do not realize that the Catholic Church did not abolish ‘penitential days’ on Fridays year-round. In fact, the Bishops’ 1966 statement says “Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year.” Today, in place of — or in addition to — fasting from meat on Fridays, people are encouraged to engage in other personal penance.  

As someone who holds many privileged identities in our society, I can think of no worthier personal penance than the reflecting on systemic racism, examining my own complicity in it, and finding paths forward to end the sin of racism.  

In the hope of Easter, I believe accepting this work of penance will allow each of us to atone and be transformed. 

Good and gracious God, as we prepare ourselves to share in the joy of Easter, open our hearts and minds. Help us to see what we would rather not see, especially the suffering caused by the injustice of systemic racism. Help us reflect on these painful realities and see them for what they are. Help us to avoid despair and to move from reflection to action, galvanized by your Spirit. Grant us the courage to speak out and the clarity to cooperate with your grace in building the world anew. Amen. NETWORK Prayer to Move from Reflection to Action
NETWORK Lobby invites you to join your Lent 2022 journey with ours. Our weekly Lenten lesson includes reflections and a video series on individual bias and racism and racist policy built into the US tax code

Lent 2022: Lent Calls Us to Remember Our End

Lent 2022, Week 5: Lent Calls Us to See True Gifts

Inequity hurts our country. More importantly, it hurts the broader Body of Christ when generations of families are ensnared in cycles of financial hardship. A new status quo is needed! As we enter Lent’s final days, let us be mindful of how we can advocate for justice that extends past our earthly lives.

View earlier Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday | Week 1Week 2Week 3 | Week 4

Watch Tax Justice For All – Week 5 (starting at at 29:50).
This week, we explore family, housing and taxes to explore advantages that contribute to wealth: imputed income, mortgage interest deductions, and home equity gains.
The system of penalizing poor families and rewarding wealthy ones supercharges the already growing racial wealth gap. We know that this type of inequity hurts our country, but more importantly, it hurts the broader Body of Christ by ensnaring generations of families in cycles of financial hardship.
Questions for reflection:

  1. How have you directly benefited from the efforts of a previous generation?
  2. What do you hope to pass on to future generations?
  3. How can reflecting on the end of our earthly lives help us become better advocates for justice?

Thank you to NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization team members Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP for co-leading us through these lessons. We’ll watch the end together next week!

A month ago, on Ash Wednesday, we heard the priest say, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent reminds us of our death and calls us to focus on the last things. This includes how we will be judged before God, but it also includes how we find ourselves and our families at the end of our lives.

Recently, my wife and I were married at our home parish, surrounded by the community that raised us. After the big day, we eagerly shifted our focus to the next chapter—starting our household together. With new jobs, a new city and a new apartment, we kicked off the New Year with a blank canvas, ready to create our version of a Holy Family.

She and I are first generation Americans and college graduates. Thanks to the incredible sacrifices of our parents, and several strokes of good fortune, we found ourselves in the position to do what our families could not: build wealth.

As we combined our budgets and planned for our financial future, we were grateful for the sacrifices our families made to provide us with this opportunity. However, at the same time, we were mindful that our financial plans would have to account for the fact that neither of our parents have retirement savings. In a few years, we will have to support them in old age.

Unfortunately, in our country, this situation is not unique. We can see it illustrated in the mixed-citizenship status family with parents who don’t hold retirement assets, or in the single mother heading into old age with a high personal debt-to-income ratio due to emergency expenses. There are countless families who find themselves in the cycle of an upward generational transfer of wealth, where younger generations are financially supporting their parents, rather than receiving wealth from them.

Our tax code does not reward this spending framework. It also disadvantages these families by not offering help, in the form of interest deductions, on certain debts like medical bills, credit cards, or personal loans. Many families are limited in their ability to save, invest, build wealth, retire comfortably and pass down wealth to future generations.

In contrast, wealthy—and overwhelmingly white—families enjoy a very different set of rules in our tax code when it comes to passing down wealth. The “stepped-up” basis loophole for inherited assets protects these families. They can dodge taxes on their wealth when transferring it from one owner to the next. The value on investment assets gained during the original owner’s possession is not taxed upon being inherited by the new owner. In other words, the assets are “stepped-up” in value and the new owner is able to realize tax-free gains. On top of that, estate and other inheritance loopholes allow wealthy families to avoid taxes on up to $23 million when passing down wealth.

The system of penalizing poor families and rewarding wealthy ones supercharges the already growing racial wealth gap. We know that this type of inequity hurts our country, but more importantly, it hurts the broader Body of Christ by ensnaring generations of families in cycles of financial hardship. A new status quo is needed! As we enter into the final week of Lent, let us be mindful of how we can continue to advocate for a justice that extends past our earthly lives.

Good and gracious God, as we prepare ourselves to share in the joy of Easter, open our hearts and minds. Help us to see what we would rather not see, especially the suffering caused by the injustice of systemic racism. Help us reflect on these painful realities and see them for what they are. Help us to avoid despair and to move from reflection to action, galvanized by your Spirit. Grant us the courage to speak out and the clarity to cooperate with your grace in building the world anew. Amen. NETWORK Prayer to Move from Reflection to Action
NETWORK Lobby invites you to join your Lent 2022 journey with ours. Our weekly Lenten lesson includes reflections and a video series on individual bias and racism and racist policy built into the US tax code

Lent 2022: Lent Calls Us to See True Gifts

Lent 2022, Week 4: Lent Calls Us to See True Gifts

Wealthy white people cling to the narrative that they’ve earned their wealth and shouldn’t have it taxed, while Black and Brown families whose sweat and blood built that wealth for white families face heavier tax burdens and fewer tax benefits. The reality, though, is that all we have is gift. The whole of Creation and our very lives are unearned gifts from God.

View earlier Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday | Week 1Week 2Week 3

Emily TeKolste, SP
March 25, 2022

Watch Tax Justice For All – Week 4 (starting at at 19:06).
This week, we explore the impact of tax codes on employment-based income and reveal preferences enjoyed by the well-resourced. Areas like Joint filing bonuses, Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, and corporate CEO compensation are discussed. Did you know that in the last 40 years, CEO’s compensation has increased 1,070%; but typical workers’ compensation has increased by 11%?
Following his election nine years ago, Pope Francis spoke of desiring “a church that is poor and for the poor.” We must always remember whose Good News we proclaim – Good News for the poor.
Questions for reflection:

  1. Do our policies live up to that promise of good news for the poor?
  2. How can we be for those who are unjustly burdened by our system?
  3. How can we witness to the actions of Jesus and reflect the values of the Good News that casts down the mighty from their thrones, lifts up the lowly, and sets captives free?

Thank you to my NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization teammate, Colin Martinez Longmore, for co-leading us through these lessons. We’ll watch more together next week!

Today we celebrate the Annunciation, the feast of the shocking announcement of an angel to a young Palestinian girl that God would enter into and redeem human history in the humble form of a child born to her. Her response “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” could be read as ‘I have done nothing that could have caused this to happen.’ It’s a reaction of amazement and grace, recognizing the great generosity of God.

This past weekend, I participated in a discussion group for one of my sisters who is preparing to profess final vows this summer. A group of eight sisters – some who have lived religious life for over 50 years – gathered to discuss the vow of poverty and reflect on the related chapter from Sr. Juliet Mousseau’s new book, Prophetic Witness to Joy: A Theology of the Vowed Life. One theme that stuck out for me from this reading and the discussion was that of believing that all we have is gift.

In communal ownership, the vow of poverty, women religious abandon the idea of the need to earn basic sustenance for ourselves and for all in society. 

As Sr. Juliet says, “A practical result of this common ownership and sharing is to remove the connection between what I have earned and what I can spend. No longer is personal worth or worthiness equated to financial income.” She continues, “In disavowing personal wealth and ownership, we also recognize that all we have is gift…Because those resources are recognized as gift, they must be used for the benefit of the society as a whole.”

In my work over the past couple of years, particularly in researching and teaching about injustice in the U.S. tax code, I see how little the attitude of gift is reflected in our society, especially in light of the giftedness that wealth and it’s preferential treatment in the U.S. tax code are to white people in our country. White families benefitted from stolen land and stolen labor to build their wealth and then built a tax code that preferences the ultra-wealthy while taxing most Black and Brown families at higher rates due to their lower levels of wealth.

Wealthy white people cling to the narrative that they’ve earned their wealth and shouldn’t have it taxed, while Black and Brown families whose sweat and blood built that wealth for white families face heavier tax burdens and fewer tax benefits. The reality, though, is that all we have is gift. The whole of Creation and our very lives are unearned gifts from God.

Perhaps this is why immediately after the angel announces to her the gift of Jesus, Mary proclaims the “Magnificat,” a prayer that declares and celebrates a God who casts down the mighty and lifts up the powerless. This prayer is a continuation of the entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures and a precursor of the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus’s life.

Good and gracious God, as we prepare ourselves to share in the joy of Easter, open our hearts and minds. Help us to see what we would rather not see, especially the suffering caused by the injustice of systemic racism. Help us reflect on these painful realities and see them for what they are. Help us to avoid despair and to move from reflection to action, galvanized by your Spirit. Grant us the courage to speak out and the clarity to cooperate with your grace in building the world anew. Amen. NETWORK Prayer to Move from Reflection to Action
NETWORK Lobby invites you to join your Lent 2022 journey with ours. Our weekly Lenten lesson includes reflections and a video series on individual bias and racism and racist policy built into the US tax code

Lent 2022: Lent Calls Us to See Injustice and Build Anew

Lent 2022, Week 3: Lent Calls Us to See Injustice and Build Anew

Now that we’re aware of government discrimination, we may balk at feeling responsible for it. But, we’ve seen it. The discrimination has been laid bare. We can’t unsee the injustice.

View other 2022 Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 4 | Week 5|
Week 6

Meg Olson
March 18, 2022
Watch Tax Justice For All – Week 3 (at the 14 minutes and 24 seconds mark).
This week, we see how wealth and education intersect to impact economic outcomes for our families. Consider how tax codes and laws can cause real harm. We’ve compared current marginal tax rates to those of the 1960’s and have seen how the 1960’s tax schemes contributed to equitable economic prosperity. Today we tolerate a destabilizing stratification of wealth where the ultra-wealthy and wealthy are favored under the tax code. Why should those who earn exponentially more than the rest of us, like CEOS, be exempt from paying their fair share of taxes?

Questions for reflection:

  1. When is a time that I have benefitted from something I didn’t earn?
  2. When I encounter someone who is suffering some misfortune such as poverty, do I assume they somehow deserve it? Does my opinion change based on that person’s race?
  3. What am I prepared to do to ensure that structures in my world are more equitable?

Thank you to NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization team members Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP and Colin Martinez Longmore for leading us through these lessons. We’ll watch more together next week!

View earlier Lenten Reflections: Week 1Week 2Ash Wednesday

When we encounter something unpleasant, we sometimes say we ‘can’t unsee’ that, and residual trauma can linger for years, or even decades. Seeing can change us forever – so it’s important that we do it. When we navigate through life with blinders on, we don’t see the harm we cause, but Lenten repentance relies on clear and honest reflection. Without clarity, how can we achieve true conversion and foster a deeper relationship with Jesus and His Father?

We know that you want to create change that makes life more just. But before we advocate for policies that dismantles systemic racism, we must free ourselves from harmful biases, like the idea that wealth correlates to deservingness. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus underscores this point: “Those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!” (Luke 13:4-5). It’s a striking comment on our culture that people are tempted to expect bad things to happen, like drive-by shootings or failing schools, in rougher neighborhoods; and good things to happen, like new single-family homes and dog parks in good neighborhoods.

Federal, state, and local laws have negatively impacted economic progress for Black and Brown people. From post-WWI federal public housing policy, red-lining, and the tax code to the ‘War on Drugs’ and school funding, the dire gap in wealth disparity between white and Black families can be traced to government intervention. A 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston showed that the median net wealth of Boston’s white households is nearly $250,000, while that of Black households is $8. Let that sink in. All Black and Brown people aren’t prevented from wealth-building opportunities like buying a home, contributing to a child’s 529 college savings plan, and saving for retirement. But as the Boston data shows, far too many have been unable to overcome the obstacles of discriminatory lending, housing, and tax policy to live the liberative, dignified life that God wants for ALL OF US.

Now that we’re aware of government discrimination, we may balk at feeling responsible for it. But, we’ve seen it. The discrimination has been laid bare. We can’t unsee the injustice.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a market spawned for on demand, short term contracted work. This “gig economy” boomed during the COVID-19 shutdown as services like Lyft, Uber Eats and dog walking were in high demand. The people in these jobs may  provide vital services, but they don’t enjoy wages, benefits and labor protections that traditional employers must provide. A significant portion of gig economy workers are Black, Brown, and immigrants. Their wages are unpredictable and stagnant and they are practically barred from the opportunity to build wealth.

St. Joseph’s feast day is tomorrow. Use his example to see the sacred character of all who seek to make a home for themselves and provide for their families. Consider how what we’ve seen together in the Tax Justice For All resource can help us Build Anew the economic and social structures that are just for all, especially those who struggle to overcome racist policies and laws.

Good and gracious God, as we prepare ourselves to share in the joy of Easter, open our hearts and minds. Help us to see what we would rather not see, especially the suffering caused by the injustice of systemic racism. Help us reflect on these painful realities and see them for what they are. Help us to avoid despair and to move from reflection to action, galvanized by your Spirit. Grant us the courage to speak out and the clarity to cooperate with your grace in building the world anew. Amen. NETWORK Prayer to Move from Reflection to Action

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay 

Gina Kelley
March 15, 2022

This year Equal Pay Day is March 15th, symbolizing how far into the year women have to work to earn what men earned the year before [1]. Women are not a monolith, a woman’s race, assigned gender at birth, ability, or sexuality can widen the gap. Therefore we mark multiple ‘equal pay’ days throughout the year to raise awareness for the persistent gender and racial income gaps that have become the norm.  

May is AAPI Women’s Equal Pay Day, marking the 85 cents Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women earn for every dollar a white man does. June and July have LGBTQIA+ and Moms Equal Pay Days respectively. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in September marking the 63 cents they earn in comparison to white male counterparts.  

Both Native and Latina equal paydays are in December with Native women earning 60 cents on the dollar and Latina women earning 57 cents. Meaning that Native and Latina women have to work over two years just to earn what a white man earns in one. 

Cents on the dollar can seem abstract. A recent study found that in 2021 the difference in median earnings nationally found that in U.S workers employed full-time last year women earned $10,000 less. This difference in median earnings varied by states with states and territories like Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Utah having gendered wage disparities of more than $15,000.  

In an even bigger picture, some reports have estimated that women earn over 400,000 dollars less than their male counterparts do over the course of a 40-year period. The total wage differences between men and women on average is more than $799 billion every single year. 

These gender and racial discrepancies are harmful examples of the ways our society undervalues women and communities of color. There are multiple ways labor laws and employment practices create this loss of women’s wages.  

Blatant pay is discrimination is only one of the ways these inequities are formed. Job segregation is a subversive way that women are overrepresented in lower-paying (and often) service-providing industries due to assumptions about the types work different genders are best suited due to an imagined inherent gendered quality. However, compounding on top of job segregation is that across occupations women are most often employed at the lower end of the wage distribution. A powerful example of this is that women make up 52.8% of legal positions in the U.S but only 37.4% of lawyers are women—meaning that women disproportionately occupy lower-paying positions like legal assistants and paralegals.  

NETWORK continues to actively support policies that address economic inequalities. This includes major labor law reform like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act because we know that collective bargaining agreements and implementing standard wage policies are critical steps to closing these gaps for women and people of color. We also know that creating a national paid family and medical leave program is instrumental in making sure women are not punished for the caretaking responsibilities they disproportionately hold. We also support legislation that implements equitable employment practices like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Schedules That Work Act, and the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights.  

This Equal Pay Day and this Women’s History Month we have to recognize that labor issues are women’s issues and these issues matter and demand prioritization. Women’s issues require our attention now more than ever and what women need is economic stability and just labor laws.  

 

1 All studies referenced compare women’s earnings to non-Hispanic white men—even if something more general like “male counterparts” is used. There are also harmful disparities between men of color and white men.