Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

NETWORK Urges Biden-Harris Administration to Address Suffering in our Nation

NETWORK Urges Biden-Harris Administration to Address the Suffering in our Nation

Work for Racial Justice, Respect Immigrant Rights, and Strengthen Democracy in the First 100 Days
Caraline Feairheller
December 19, 2020

As President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris prepare to take office, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the ways our nation fails to structure a society that cares for those most in need. As both a public health crisis and an economic one, those most disproportionately affected have been communities of color and the poor. Over the years, the willful dismantling of social safety nets combined with the lack of preparedness for the pandemic have resulted in job loss, evictions, and food insecurity for millions of people.

While the injustice inherit in our system cannot be solved in the first 100 days of a new administration, a conscious commitment to alleviating the suffering can result in policies that prioritize the common good and support people and families at the economic margins.

We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize and commit themselves to systemic change in all branches of government in order to alleviate the harm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of legislative action, such as:

  • Implementing a 6-month moratorium on forecloses and evictions.
  • Providing additional cash relief payments.
  • Creating a White House Racial Equity Office within the Executive Office of the President.
  • Require federal agencies serving populations underrepresented on voter rolls to provide voter registration services to their clients.
  • And more

In addition to these COVID-19 priorities, we call on the Biden-Harris administration to take immediate action to advance racial justice, protect immigrant rights, and strengthen democracy.

 

Download the full list of NETWORK priorities for the Biden-Harris transition.

Advent 2020: Waiting for a Faithful Democracy

Advent 2020: Waiting for a Faithful Democracy

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
December 13, 2020

During this sacred season of waiting, we anticipate early reforms in the new administration, which will create a more faithful democracy. Since March of 2019 we’ve been waiting: when the For the People Act passed the House and was condemned to the McConnell graveyard. Since 2013 we’ve been waiting: when the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling gutted the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Since 2010 we’ve been waiting: when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling gave free rein for dark money and special interest donors to manipulate elections and influence elected decision makers. In some ways, you could say we’ve been waiting since 1787, when the original democratic experiment was founded within an exclusionary, racist political and economic system. The ideals of democracy articulated by the Founders are an “already, but not yet” scenario—they knew then that the creation of a more perfect union would be an unfolding process.

In 2020, a faithful democracy has never felt more distant. This year’s election was a shameful display of the influence that racism, sexism, power, and money still have in our democracy. Witnessing the fragility and exploitation of our democratic systems during such a vulnerable time in our nation has been utterly discouraging. Sometimes it feels like the democratic experiment is failing.

A new report from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Future of Democracy shows that people around the world are collectively losing faith in democratic systems. The drop in satisfaction has been especially rapid and consequential in the U.S. with a majority of citizens (55%) expressing dissatisfaction with democratic government for the first time. This marks a profound shift in our nation’s view of itself — Americans seem to be getting tired of waiting.

In 2020 our democracy is on life support. Suppression tactics to hamper voter participation have become campaign strategy. Gerrymandered districts reflect the needs of the party in power, not the constituents. It is often impossible to know the sources of campaign attacks and fear-mongering half-truths. While these weaknesses were on full display, a coordinated misinformation campaign by the loser’s party is dangerously undermining voters’ trust in elections.

In a faithful democracy, elections, campaigns, and voting are all mechanisms for a collective wisdom to break through which shapes truly representative leadership and empowers accountable decision-makers. This is the open-loop system that, at its best, brings about a more perfect union. Transformational reforms are needed to get us there, and they cannot wait another election cycle.

The For the People Act is a comprehensive package of policy fixes that are far-reaching in scope. They run the gamut from automatic voter registration and a small donor matching program to ethics rules for elected officials and ending gerrymandering. The For the People Act is the best chance we have to end the dominance of big money in our politics, to ensure that public servants work for the public interest, to make voting easier, and to protect the security of our elections.

This transformative bill will be a top priority in the next Congressional session. Its opposition has painted For the People as partisan, but that’s only the case on Capitol Hill. Elsewhere, transformational reforms that make our democracy more accountable, more representative, and more secure is the hope that voters are waiting for.

The Election Results Show Spirit-Filled Voters Chose Community Over Division

The Election Results Show Spirit-Filled Voters Chose Community Over Division

November 9, 2020
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President-elect Joe Biden helps kick off the 2014 Nuns on the Bus tour.

The 2020 election has been historic, with record high turnout and even higher stakes for the future of our country. While it demanded patience to count every vote, the results are now clear.

The people of the United States have chosen President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to lead our country and rejected President Trump’s politics of racism, hatred, and division.

This is a time for celebration, gratitude, and preparation for the challenges ahead.

Just before the election was officially called, when it was clear that President-elect Biden would secure the electoral votes needed, Sister Simone Campbell issued the following statement:

“Catholics are not single issue voters, and that’s why Vice President Biden is winning this election. Our community looked at the entirety of Donald Trump’s divisive and harmful record and chose to elect leaders who will govern with empathy and concern for the most marginalized. Catholics rejected racism, hatred, and division and embraced the politics championed by Pope Francis – a politics of love and inclusion.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in American history. When President Trump leaves office in January, he will leave behind a battered country, a biased court system, and a bitter divide in many parts of our nation.  It is up to all of us to fix what Donald Trump has broken. Unlike his administration, we are confident that a President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will listen to the full breadth of equally sacred values that multi-issue Catholic voters hold dear.

“So do not turn away from the pain and sadness of what Donald Trump has wrought. Allow it to break your heart. When our hearts have been broken open, nothing can stop us. The faithful way forward is together. We congratulate Vice President Joseph Biden and Senator Kamala Harris on their imminent victory, and we look forward to working together to create a more perfect union, caring for those who were too often left out of the Trump administration’s care.”

There is still much work to be done to create a nation driven by justice, equity, and inclusion, and as a family, we can do it together.

Together, let us congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on their victory, and look forward to creating a more perfect union, caring for those who were too often left out of the Trump administration’s care.

Catholic Sisters to President Trump: Count Every Vote

Catholic Sisters to President Trump: Count Every Vote

On November 4, 2020, over 1,500 Catholic Sisters from across the United States sent a letter to President Trump urging him to respect our democracy and count every vote.

Read the letter below, or download as a PDF


November 4, 2020

President Donald J. Trump

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,

A few weeks before this historic election, Pope Francis published a new encyclical where he wondered “what do certain words like democracy, freedom, justice or unity really mean?” Have they, as the Pope writes, been “bent and shaped to serve as tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action?”

That question has never been clearer than today, when some elected officials make the immoral choice to hold onto power at any cost, including disenfranchising thousands, denying their most sacred gift: their voice.

Each vote left uncounted represents a soul with a story. Over the last several weeks, Sisters virtually visited over 60 communities across the country where people came together to share their struggles with one another. It was clear from coast to coast that there are urgent needs to keep one another safe from disease, end structural racism, fix our broken immigration system, support social programs that pull families out of poverty, and expand health care access for all people. This election season reminded many of the equally sacred priorities of our shared faith in these challenging times.

People are afraid of losing their healthcare, looking at the ashes of a home destroyed by a wildfire, searching for solutions to end systemic racism, wondering where their next paycheck will come from, or mourning the loss of a relative to COVID-19. Across the country, these Americans took their country up on its promise: that they could vote to elect leaders and chart a new course. Now we see their votes discounted in our election process.

Americans know that thoughts and prayers alone will not end their pain and suffering and that they must act. That’s why it should be no wonder that we saw a historic number of people cast a ballot. Each of these individuals must have a say in who represents them in government. We must ensure that every vote is counted, in accordance with applicable laws, no matter how long the process takes.

Catholic Social Teaching urges us to act on behalf of those who are marginalized in our society. We have a responsibility to one another, not to help one political party win, but to live up to our values. In the words of Pope Francis we must act “In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need, whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and those of means.”

We took vows as Catholic Sisters, and you took a vow to uphold the Constitution.

Stay true to your vow. Count the votes. Ensure the United States lives up to its promise. Every voice — and every vote — is sacred, especially the most marginalized among us.

Sincerely,
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

And more than 1,900 Catholic Sisters from across the United States.

Vote! A Message from Nuns on the Bus

Vote! A Message from Nuns on the Bus

November 3, 2020

Across the country, We the People have the same message: Your vote is your voice!

Featuring:

  • Miguel Lugo, Homeboy Industries
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro
  • Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church
  • Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez, the Dream Project
  • Rob Sand, Iowa
  • Valarie Kaur, the Revolutionary Love Project
  • Senator Cory Booker
  • Ramiah Whiteside, EXPO-Milwaukee
  • Dr. Paula Hill-Collins, the Health Wagon

Another Pro-Life Value to Consider in the 2020 Election

Another Pro-Life Value to Consider in the 2020 Election

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 20, 2020

Pope Francis has urged Catholics like me to, “meddle in politics” and vote my conscience. The Catholic Church, in turn, is charged with helping me form a moral conscience, “in accordance with God’s truth”.[1] Under the auspice of pro-life teaching, however, many in the Church would make me believe that the only way I can vote in this Presidential election is for Donald Trump because of his stance on abortion, an, “intrinsic evil”.[2] As an immigration advocate, I have learned just how much intrinsic evil there is in the United States’ immigration policy, especially on our Southern border.

For decades, people have been crossing through the U.S. Southern border to seek a better life for themselves and their families. In 2019, U.S. apprehensions of migrants crossing at places other than legal points of entry reached a 13-year high. After the U.S. threatened sanctions, Mexico created stricter policies at its own Southern border and expanded the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) which allowed U.S. asylum seekers to be “returned” to Mexico to wait for their court date in the U.S.

As of November 2019, 56,000 asylum seekers, 16,000 of them children, have been sent back to Mexico. Since March, citing public health concerns from COVID-19, the U.S. has shut down the border with Mexico to everything except critical services, of which seeking asylum is apparently not, leaving people stranded often in makeshift camps. These precarious living situations leave migrants especially vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Children, who already lack adequate medical care and whose parents have reported issues from respiratory infections to communicable diseases, are particularly at-risk. Public health experts have also raised the alarm that these children could be at risk for long-term health effects from elevated, long-term stress.

Willfully sending people, including vulnerable groups like women and children into dangerous places without consistent access to safe spaces, sanitation, health, education, or food, is absolutely not in line with what it means to be pro-life.

Even though Catholics vote about a 50/50 split between Republican and Democratic candidates, there is growing pressure from church leaders, including numerous Bishops on Twitter and a nun who spoke at the Republican National Convention, that the only way to vote as a Catholic is for Donald Trump because he upholds pro-life values by not supporting abortion.[3] As a Catholic who works to advocate for federal policies in alignment with Catholic Social Justice, I know that there is no political party that perfectly encompasses pro-life values. However, those values should not be co-opted by people actively creating and enforcing policies that are against women’s and children’s health and safety.

Catholics should consider the intrinsic evil of the MPP as an urgent call of what it means to be pro-life in the upcoming election. Not only does Pope Francis call Catholics to view the poor and vulnerable among us as equally sacred to the unborn, but I believe we must honor the common good by valuing Black and brown lives, especially those of women and children, in our federal policies.[4]

There are many ways you can learn more about the Presidential candidates and their stance on the various pro-life issues. Take a look at NETWORK’s Equally Sacred Priorities for 2020 Voters. I, for one, have been talking with friends and family about what I’ve learned and the real impact we can make towards bettering people’s lives with our vote this November. I hope you’ll join me.


[1]  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. (2020). (p. 13). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

[2] Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. (2020). (p. 19). https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf

[3] Smith, G. (2020, September 15). 8 facts about Catholics and politics in the U.S. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/15/8-facts-about-catholics-and-politics-in-the-u-s/; Strickland, J. [@Bishopoftyler]. (2020, September 5). Tweets [Bishop J. Strickland]. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://twitter.com/Bishopoftyler/status/1302293048659935232.; Full Text: Sister Dede Byrne’s Speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention. (2020, August 27). National Catholic Register. https://www.ncregister.com/news/full-text-sister-dede-byrne-s-speech-at-the-2020-republican-national-convention-r4y14k2p

[4] Bergoglio, J. (2018, March 19). Gaudete et exsultate: Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. The Vatican. http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

Republican National Convention. (2020, August 27). National Catholic Register. https://www.ncregister.com/news/full-text-sister-dede-byrne-s-speech-at-the-2020-republican-national-convention-r4y14k2p

Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court, and COVID-19: A Case of Misplaced Priorities

Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court, and COVID-19: A Case of Misplaced Priorities

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 12, 2020

Right now, families and communities across the United States are in crisis. With the COVID-19 pandemic spiraling out of control and a pronounced economic slowdown, the nation’s health and economic security are at high risk. The new Census Household Pulse Survey data released last week shows that since late August the overall number of adults struggling to cover usual household expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans is expanding rapidly. Nearly 77 million adults – 1 in 3 – reported it was somewhat or very difficult for their household to cover usual expenses in the past seven days, according to data collected September 16-28. Meanwhile, federal supplemental unemployment benefits have run out for millions of people who have lost their jobs, many permanently. Without federal action, jobless workers grappling with sharply reduced incomes will face growing challenges paying their bills. As Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said recently: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses…Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.”

It is against this backdrop that President Trump and Senator McConnell announced this week they are stopping negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and House leadership on a COVID-19 relief package and instead focusing solely on plans to confirm Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Senate has failed to provide any meaningful coronavirus relief legislation since April 2020 – nearly half a year has passed with unnecessary suffering and death due to this lack of response. Urgent action should be taken to alleviating the suffering and economic distress of the people experiencing this crisis, but instead the Senate is engaged in high stakes partisan politics.

NETWORK strongly opposes a hasty confirmation process the Senate is conducting so close to a national election in which many Americans will have already cast their ballot. The timing disregards the voice of the electorate and undermines trust in our democratic institutions, which is already fragile. There is a real cost to tarnishing the national perception of Congress and the presidency by focusing on expediting a Supreme Court nominee while failing to attend to the protracted national suffering.

During this fragile time in our nation, it is vital that our national leaders act with prudence rather than political posturing. Our democratic institutions are maintained by norms and tradition to uphold the balance of powers between the three branches of government. There is no precedent for allowing a president to have such extraordinary influence over the outcome of the next federal election, which he is already threatening to contest. The one at risk of facing judgment should not get to choose the judges.

A fast-tracked confirmation process of Judge Barrett is a clear abdication of the Senate’s constitutional advice-and-consent function. It jeopardizes the rights and lives of the most vulnerable among us and it undermines the integrity of our most basic democratic norms and institutions.

October 2020 feels like a tipping point for our democracy –the fatigue and hardship of the people, the cynicism and division of the civic body, the disinformation inundating the public is palpable. Just because one party has the constitutional right to seize power in a situation does not justify the damage it will do to our civic fabric.  The rush to hold Supreme Court hearings at this time, before this particular election is ill-advised and unnecessary.  There is no constitutional requirement for the timing of this process and we urge Senator McConnell and members of the Judiciary Committee to wait until after the election has been certified.

By forcing this nomination through, in this manner, President Trump and Republican leadership are endangering what remains of our civic trust and putting our very democracy at risk instead of doing the right thing, the just thing, of meeting the real needs of our people in these difficult times.

Voting Under the Sign of the Cross

Voting Under the Sign of the Cross

Putting Our Focus on the Margins
Meghan J. Clark
August 13, 2020

In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, our communities powerfully cry out for racial justice. The global COVID-19 pandemic remains, it has not dissipated, despite growing public fatigue with mitigation measures. Amidst all of this, we struggle to maintain voting rights in primaries and in preparation for November. NETWORK and its partners have tirelessly worked on issues of racial and economic justice for decades. The issues are not new, unknown, or unstudied; and yet, something about 2020 feels different.  The collective albeit deeply unequal experience of COVID-19’s vulnerability, suffering, and death has inescapably interrupted our business as usual attitude.

Today there is a growing chorus of people demanding a more just and equitable community. A chorus that rejects returning to a business as usual that benefits only the privileged while excluding millions. At marches in Rockaway, Queens, youth leaders pair a focus on racial justice alongside voter registration and census participation. Alongside chants of “Black lives matter!” you also hear, “Don’t just hope, get out and VOTE!”

Participation in the political, social, and economic life of the community is both our right and our responsibility. While not everyone is called to be an activist, all are called to actively work for the common good. Voting, in Catholic social teaching, is a moral obligation. Yet, as Christians, we are called to vote not motivated by own self-interest but by a commitment to the human dignity of all, an all-inclusive common good, and with a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. Faithful discipleship, then, becomes a matter of solidarity and kinship in which all are equally sacred. In faithful citizenship, we are called to vote under the sign of the cross.

Beginning with the Crucified

In his first homily as pope, Francis prayed that we, as the people of God, may receive the grace to “to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified.” In focusing our journey on Christ crucified, Francis draws individuals out of themselves and towards the margins of society. The task is two-fold: to focus our attention on those excluded from our societies while also recognizing the structures by which they are rendered invisible or expendable. Beginning with the crucified Christ illustrates the ways both individual dignity and structures of sin are inextricably linked.  When Francis labels inequality as the root of all social ills in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG), it is in recognition that it is “making it practically impossible to live a human life ruled by moral principles.”

Building on both Catholic social teaching and the prophetic insights of liberation theology, Pope Francis’s decries, “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading.…those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it.” (EG 53).

Voting under the sign of the cross, then, asks us to begin our discernment from the perspective of the excluded, of those who suffer from institutionalized violence, those whom the martyred El Salvadoran Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria called the crucified peoples. For Ellacuria, the cross focuses our attention on the “collective reality, grounding and making possible individual sins.”1 Talking about the reality of individual sin is not enough. Seeing the reality of our society’s crucified peoples requires those with privilege to face the uncomfortable and unavoidable complicity in social sin, of which in the United States, racism and white supremacy are paramount.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the call for racial justice in our country today. Professing Christ crucified, in all its historical complexity, has long been central in African American Christian ethics, most notably the work of Protestant theologian James Cone, who famously described the crucifixion as a first-century lynching.2 Reflecting on the current protests, Nigerian-American Sister Anne Arabome laments that God cannot breathe; “As the protests continue, I see people on the streets — breathing in and breathing out. In their voices I hear the God of life screaming and asking for space to breathe again.”3

Living Incarnational Solidarity

“A faith that does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead, it is deceitful…faith without solidarity is a faith without Christ.”4 These provocative words, spoken by Francis on a pastoral visit in Paraguay, challenge us to see that solidarity and work for justice are at the very heart of the Christian faith. For Christians, Jesus is our model of solidarity and it is in practicing solidarity that we encounter Christ in our neighbor.

In the Gospels, both the Beatitudes and Matthew 25’s parable of the last judgement provide clear descriptive illustrations of the connection between solidarity with Jesus and solidarity with those on the margins, culminating in an uncompromising statement that whatsoever one does or does not do for the least, one does or does not do to the Son of Man himself. A radical identification of Jesus not with his followers but with those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, etc.  Visual artists like Kelly Latimore powerfully concretize this for us depicting the Holy Family as migrants crossing a militarized border.5

“Solidarity is a wrenching task,” notes theologian M. Shawn Copeland, “to stand up for justice in the midst of injustice; to take up simplicity in the midst of affluence and comfort; to embrace integrity in the midst of collusion and co-optation; to contest the gravitational pull of domination.”6 Incarnational solidarity is deeply rooted in seeing one’s neighbor as the image and likeness of God, as the face of Christ in our midst. For Francis, “Solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them” (EG 189), a difficult task because “complacency is seductive” (Gaudete et Exsultate 137). In practice, this solidarity strengthens efforts to practice good politics, in which “everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.”7

A Community of Kinship and Justice

Both the image of the crucified peoples and the focus of incarnational solidarity ask us to reflect deeply on how we view the work around us and possibly change the position from which we participate in the political community. For Christians, the task of politics is to build a community of kinship, and justice. It is the recognition that we belong to each other and that we are all diminished by the exclusion and oppression of some. In his many books and TedTalks, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ of Homeboy Industries challenges us to imagine a circle of kinship and then imagine it is big enough where no one is on the others side.8 For Boyle, Jesus does not provide us with easy answers but relentlessly asks, “Where are you standing?” The shift is at once a severe challenge but also freeing.

The fundamental starting point is where do you position yourself? With the marginalized and against marginalization? With the oppressed against their oppression? These seem like easy questions and yet for those like myself, a white woman in the United States, answering them honestly requires facing the ways in which my life has been aided by the white supremacy I recognize as sinful and evil. It requires humility in acknowledging one’s own complicity in systems of injustice, followed by a firm and persevering commitment to be anti-racist.

The Challenge of Radical Kinship and Politics

At this point, you may be thinking voting under the sign of the cross is impossible in U.S. politics. While it is true that Catholics who hold with the Church a consistent ethic of human dignity do not neatly fit into the U.S. political system, I wish to make two caveats before delving into the practical reflections on the type of political engagement envisioned above.

First, voting is always a bounded choice. There are no perfect candidates or political platforms. One advantage of Catholic social tradition’s approach to social ethics is that it recognizes the reality of both individual and structural sin. Our political engagement is aimed at bringing about greater justice and peace but recognizes that the fullness of either relies on God. By letting go of purity and perfection, we are freed to act for justice. This recognition, alongside a realistic appreciation of pluralism, also helps us act with humility, recognizing with Pope Francis that “growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others” (GE 141).

Navigating voting and political participation amidst these complexities is a challenge. It requires practicing: see (learning about candidates’ records), judge (discern), act (vote/advocate). Whenever Catholics explore the meaning of “the preferential option for the poor” the list includes: the unborn, migrants, those living in poverty, the elderly, victims of human trafficking, etc. For many in the United States today, the challenge is most acutely felt in navigating their position on abortion alongside their solidarity with marginalized and minoritized peoples.

Personally, I find Pope Francis’s approach helpful for discernment. Cautioning against ideologies within the church which either avoid talking about God or avoid social justice, he states, “our defense of the unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm, and passionate…equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned, and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking. . . we cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice” (GE 101). There is a unity and integrity to this image of “equally sacred” that is rooted in prioritizing those whose dignity is thrown away.

Equally sacred is not a capitulation or deflection. It does not deny the specific reality of injustice, the way “all lives matter” dismisses the need to specify Black lives matter. Instead it is a desire to be faithful to the Gospel, to standing with the crucified.  “A fundamental tragedy of this broken and sinful world,” notes theologian Cathy Kaveny, “is that the most vulnerable persons – the unborn, the disabled, the needy are often completely dependent upon persons almost as vulnerable as themselves.”9 The first step, according to Kaveny, is to listen and hear their voices. In U.S. politics, concern about abortion is often reduced to the question of criminal law. However, if we follow Jesus to the margins, it is difficult to treat any single issue as the only one of concern. Similarly, if we follow Kaveny alongside Boyle’s vision of kinship, it asks us to consider our policies on abortion from both the perspective of the unborn and the pregnant woman in crisis. In doing so, the nexus of concern expands far beyond mere criminalization of abortion.

Throughout his ministry, Pope Francis has implored us to pray with the Gospel, reject the throwaway culture, and be in kinship with the marginalized. When we do that, our understanding of building a pro-life community of solidarity must be a circle in which no one is left out. We position ourselves with Black Lives Matter,10 with migrants of all ages, and with those experiencing poverty and struggling to meet their basic needs.

As we head into election season, voting is one important way that we participate in the political life of our communities. It is an act of solemn discernment and conscience. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, desperate cries for racial justice, and increasing economic need, it feels as if the stakes are quite high, and they are. Still, as people of faith, we begin by making sure we are standing in the right place as we discern, our focus on promoting the common good and building a community of solidarity in which none are excluded.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Meghan J. Clark, Ph.D., is an associate professor of moral theology at St John’s University (NY). She is a senior fellow of St. John’s Vincentian Center for Church and Society. From 2010-2013, she served as a Consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. She is author of The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: the Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights (Fortress Press, 2014) and co-editor of Public Theology and the Global Common Good (Orbis, 2106).

Sources:

  1. Ignacio Ellacuria, “The Crucified Peoples,” in Ignacio Ellacuria: Essays on History, Liberation, and Salvation, Edited by Michael E. Lee, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013), p. 204.
  2. James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011).
  3. Anne Arabome, “I can’t breathe because God can’t breathe,” National Catholic Reporter, June 10, 2020 https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/i-cant-breathe-because-god-cant-breathe
  4. Pope Francis, “Visit to the People of Bañado Norte” (Address, Paraguay, July 12, 2015) https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/july/documents/papa-francesco_20150712_paraguay-banado-norte.html
  5. Kelly Latimore, “Refugees: La Sagrada Familia” https://kellylatimoreicons.com/gallery/img_2361/
  6. Shawn Copeland, “Towards a Critical Christian Feminist Theology of Solidarity,” in Women and Theology, ed. Mary Ann Hinsdale and Phyllis H. Kaminski (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1995), 18.
  7. Pope Francis, “Good Politics is at the service of Peace,” World Day of Peace Message 2019.
  8. Gregory Boyle, SJ, “Compassion and Kinship,” TEDxConejo 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipR0kWt1Fkc
  9. Cathleen Kaveny, “Could the Church take a risk?” Commonweal Magazine, August 10, 2018.
  10. Olga Segura, “What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics About Racial Justice” https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/02/01/what-black-lives-matter-can-teach-catholics-about-racial-justice
This story was originally published in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue
Orange sign that says "It's in the Constitution: Everyone Counts"

A Fair Census Count in Georgia and Across the Country

A Fair Census Count in Georgia and Across the Country

Leah Brown
July 20, 2020

The Census is a survey that collects necessary information on every person living in the United States. The invitation arrives in the mail and can be responded to, online, by phone, or email. With over 300 million people to count accurately, everyone must complete the 2020 census. Currently, only 4 out of 10 households have participated in the Census.

Last week, NETWORK Government Relations Advocate Sr. Quincy Howard spoke with Rebecca DeHart of Fair Count, Georgia. To listen to their conversation about the relationship the census has on voting rights and our democracy, watch here:

 

Not only does the Census take a count of everyone living in the U.S., it determines how many seats each state receives in the House of Representatives, which ultimately decides the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a system where each state gets a certain number of electors based on the number of representatives. Each electoral candidate is allowed to cast one vote in the presidential election.

The Census determines other vital areas such as funding for schools, hospitals, fire departments, and communities. These areas accumulate to an estimated amount of $1.5 trillion a year in tax dollars. It also informs employers about opportunities for economic development while planning new homes and improving communities. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau pushed back deadlines for people to respond to the survey until October 31, 2020. This week, census workers will resume home visits to those who have not yet responded to the survey. Visits will begin in selected locations in Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. These states were selected based on the amount of sanitation protection items such as sanitizer, masks, and gloves. The nationwide rollout of door knocking will begin on August 11 for the rest of the states.

The census workers will be working diligently, by handing out flyers outside of grocery stores, libraries, and pharmacies and assisting people in answering the surveys. The bureau relies on door-to-door outreach to gather data from commonly undercounted groups, including people of color and immigrants.

In the 2010 census, 9% of Black people were unaccounted for, which is 1 in 12 households. While it may not seem detrimental, missing data for Black households means missing funding. Missing data for people of color is a problem that has occurred for decades with the Census. Black children are twice as likely to be undercounted as non-Black children. In addition to this, since Black people are incarcerated at five times the rate of white people, the Census counts Black incarcerated people as residing in the rural areas where prisons are located, not their home communities. Ultimately, these small actions throughout the Census count end up not providing enough funding to the communities who need it.

The 2020 Census is also the first year that people can fill out the Census online. Everyone must fulfill their civic duty by filling out the census survey before October 31, 2020. You can complete your Census online even if you do not have a pin at www.my2020census.gov. Be sure to get counted!

Leah Brown is a summer volunteer at NETWORK. She will be beginning her second year at La Salle University this fall where she studies Criminal Justice and Political Science with a minor in English.

New Agreement, Old Problem for the USMCA

New Agreement, Old Problem for the USMCA

Laura Peralta-Schulte
July 14, 2020

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the updated North American trade agreement, came into effect on July 1, 2020. NETWORK and progressive allies worked with Members of Congress to ensure the new agreement contained significantly improved labor standards and labor enforcement. Unfortunately, new evidence shows labor activism remains a deadly undertaking in Mexico even though the new North American trade deal ushered in the first real legal protections for workers there. It is increasing clear that only strict enforcement of the agreement will end violence against union activists and give Mexican workers true protections and freedom to organize for better working conditions.

Since the agreement was signed by President Trump in January 2020, there have been significant threats and violations. U.S. and other multinational corporations have filed over 600 lawsuits to block Mexican labor reforms. The Mexican government has also pushed back on creating a review and redo process for Mexican union contracts.

Further, labor unionists have been the targets of violence and arrest. In May, Oscar Ontiveros Martínez, a Mexican union organizer, was murdered as he was trying to organize mining workers.  The 29-year-old’s killing sent a warning to anyone still thinking about organizing the mines where Ontiveros once helped to lead a strike. Ontiveros was the fourth organizer of the Media Luna strike gunned down in three years. A fifth colleague, Oscar Hernández Romero, disappeared in October. The murders remain unsolved, and no trace of Hernández has been found.

More recently, Mexican labor activist Susana Prieto, a prominent labor lawyer representing exploited workers in Mexico-Texas border maquiladora factories, was held without bail for three weeks on trumped-up charges of “mutiny, threats and coercion” after trying to register an independent union to replace a corrupt “protection” union. Her case reflects the myriad of labor abuses throughout Mexico, where workers fighting for independent unions, better wages and COVID-19-safe workplaces face ongoing abuse and resistance. She was released on July 1. The conditions for her release, including a 30-month internal exile, are designed to end her representation of Matamoros workers seeking independent unions and intimidate workers nationwide seeking to exercise their labor rights. She must end her Matamoros labor organizing, not leave Mexico, and relocate to the state of Chihuahua, where a prosecutor issued new warrants for her arrest.

Mexico has a long history of labor abuse. The new USMCA agreement is a significant new tool to pressure the Mexican government to protect workers, but change will not be quick. Until new labor rules are fully enforced, corporations will continue to exploit workers on both sides of the border.