Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

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.

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

Keep Up with NETWORK

NETWORK Welcomes H.R.51 for D.C. Statehood Re-Introduction

NETWORK Welcomes H.R.51 for D.C. Statehood Re-Introduction 

Update:

On January 24, 2023, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, led a group of Senate Democrats in reintroducing S.51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state and give Washington D.C. citizens full representation in Congress. This legislation is the Senate companion to H.R.51, introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia.

Minister Christian Watkins
January 18, 2023

On January 9, 2023, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) introduced H.R.51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, to the 118th Congress. The bill was introduced with 165 original cosponsors, which Rep. Norton noted was the most cosponsors of any bill introduced that day.

Rep. Norton has introduced this bill on the first day of every Congress for decades. Each time it has gained more support. In June 2019, the D.C. Statehood Bill passed the House for the first time and it passed again in April 2021, with NETWORK Spirit-filled justice-seekers adding their voices to the call for D.C. Statehood.

NETWORK strongly supports the movement for D.C. statehood to uphold every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process as an expression of their inherent human dignity.

D.C. Statehood is a Racial Justice Issue

Voting representation is the foundation of our democracy, and if passed into law, this legislation would finally extend it to the people of D.C. With a majority Black and brown politically active population currently disenfranchised from representation, D.C. statehood is a racial justice issue.

The District houses nearly 700,000 citizens, a larger population than states like Wyoming and Vermont. All D.C. residents pay federal taxes and fulfill all other obligations of American citizenship and yet are denied full representation in our Congress and full local self-government.

As Rep. Norton noted when introducing the bill, “The United States was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed, but D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot vote on the laws under which they, as American citizens, must live.” Many believe that establishing The District as a state will abolish the permanent seat of the federal government. But H.R. 51 does not abolish the national capital — it only shrinks it, making a new state of the District’s non-federal area.

Last year, the Biden administration committed its “strong support” for H.R.51 in a statement of administration policy and President Biden has promised to sign it into law if passed by Congress. Ending the continued disenfranchisement of a non-minority Black jurisdiction that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans without representation in Congress must become a reality. Congress must take this opportunity to correct this injustice and pass D.C. Statehood in both the House and the Senate during the 118th Congress.

 

* Currently, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton serves as a delegate, a non-voting representative to the United States House of Representatives. In the 118th Congress, the House has six non-voting members: a delegate representing the District of Columbia, a resident commissioner representing Puerto Rico, as well as one delegate for American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Delegates can introduce legislation and vote in committee, but generally cannot vote the passage of legislation in the full House.

What does it look like to vote for the common good

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

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

Our Presenters

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

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

Speakers:

Take the Pope Francis Voter Pledge!

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

 

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

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

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

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

Keep Up with NETWORK

Equally Sacred Checklist - text graphic

Download and Share the Equally Sacred Checklist

The Equally Sacred Checklist is Here!

October 25, 2022

How can we know that we are voting for candidates who promote the common good? Pope Francis has given clear instructions for how Catholics and all people of good will are to position ourselves and prioritize social issues.

In his writing and speaking, Pope Francis makes it clear: abortion is not the only issue that matters. Catholics are called to be multi-issue voters in the 2022 midterm elections and in our continued participation in public life. Use the Equally Sacred Checklist as a guide to reflect on the concerns that Pope Francis says are “equally sacred” to the defense of the unborn.

Share the Equally Sacred Checklist with your friends, family, fellow activists, and faith community members.  

Check out these sources to learn more about what Pope Francis says:

What does White Supremacy in American Christianity mean?

Actions to Take to After Watching White Supremacy in Christianity

What does White Supremacy in American Christianity mean? What are the beliefs of What Supremacy? Ethics professor Fr. Bryan N. Massingale and Author Robert P. Jones give viewers understanding in an engaging conversation moderated by NETWORK’s Joan F. Neal.

Our Guest Speakers

Robert P. Jones is the President and Founder of PRRI, and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones speaks and writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion in national media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others.

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Massingale is a noted authority on social and racial justice issues, particularly in Catholic spaces.

Tell President Biden

NOW is the time to sign an executive order for a reparations commission.

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

Add your name to the Pope Francis Voter pledge and commit to use your vote as your voice to support multiple issues of justice.

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

Reparations were denied to freed Black citizens after the Civil War and Black people have been treated as “less than” in the law, economy, etc. ever since. It’s time for reparations!

Keep Up with NETWORK

This Saturday: White Supremacy and American Christianity

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Earlier this year, thousands of justice-seekers joined us to hear from experts working at the intersection of religion and race — Fr. Bryan Massingale, Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain.

Join us this Saturday as Fr. Bryan Massingale and Robert P. Jones return to speak with NETWORK for a follow-up conversation on white supremacy and American Christianity, this time in light of the upcoming midterm elections. Together, we’ll continue learning about the intersection of white supremacy and American Christianity, with a focus on our politics.

If you’ve already registered — help us spread the word!
*Retweet Here*  * Share to Facebook*

White Supremacy and American Christianity
Saturday, October 29, 2022 | 12:30-2:00 PM Eastern

This event will take place on Zoom.
Co-Sponsored by the National Black Sisters’ Conference

Register and invite your friends and family!

 

Meet Our Speakers

Fr. Bryan Massingale, Robert P. Jones, Joan F. Neal headshots

Robert P. Jones is the President and Founder of PRRI, and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones speaks and writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion in national media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others.

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Massingale is a noted authority on social and racial justice issues, particularly in Catholic spaces.

Joan F. Neal is the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer at NETWORK where she shares overall leadership of the organization and leads strategic planning and racial equity and justice transformation work. Joan F. Neal is an experienced organizational leader and an authority on the intersection of faith, justice, and federal policymaking.

“Time for a Renewed Commitment to the Common Good”

“Time for a Renewed Commitment to the Common Good”

Joan F. Neal Speaks on Catholic Panel on Protecting Democracy
October 18, 2022

Joan F. Neal, NETWORK Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer, spoke on a panel last week organized by Faith in Public Life, Protecting Democracy & Voting Rights: A Conversation with Catholic Activists.

Joan spoke with fellow Catholic activists Jeanné Lewis, CEO of Faith In Public Life; José-Arnulfo Cabrera, Co-Executive Director of Programs and Policy at the Young Latino Network; Milton Javier Bravo, Vice President for Mission, Values and Inclusion at Edgewood College; and Sr. Bridget Bearss, Associate Director for Transformative Justice, Leadership Conference Of Women Religious. The panel was moderated by John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.

As we approach midterm elections, the dangerous and unjust effects of racist voting restrictions and suppression tactics are as clear and urgent as ever. Joan and her fellow panelists discussed how their faith compels them to act—and how Catholics can take action to uphold voting rights and promote democracy. As Pope Francis says, “Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.”

National Catholic Reporter covered the event, quoting Joan:

“As Catholics, we are called to be multi-issue voters,” Neal said. “Whatever else you do, make sure that you vote.”

Missed the event? No problem! You can watch the conversation here:

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

NETWORK Hits the Road for Our Pope Francis Voter Tour

NETWORK Hits the Road for Our Pope Francis Voter Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wall of Division, Extremism, and Obstructionism

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

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

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

The Pope Francis Voter Tour is Coming!

The Pope Francis Voter Tour is Coming!

Will you join us in your city?

Meg Olson
October 6, 2022

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

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

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

Town Hall for Spirit-filled Voters: Places and Dates 

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

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