Tag Archives: voting

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!

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, speaks at a reparations vigil in Cleveland in June 2022.

We Do Not Live Single-Issue Lives

We Do Not Live Single-Issue Lives

The Struggle For Justice Calls on All People To Recognize Our Interconnection
Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
October 8, 2022

As an undergraduate student, my history classes introduced me to the activism of the 1960s: civil rights, voting rights, women’s liberation. I distinctly remember listening in awe to a guest speaker who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and thinking, “Wow, to have been a part of something that changed the course of this country…”

I naively thought that the era of fighting for our rights had passed, that we were on the right side of the moral arc of the universe. Of course, this is far from the case. The last six years have shown us that la lucha sigue, the struggle continues. Except now it’s more existential than it’s been at any time in my life, or even in my parents’ lifetimes.

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, speaks at a reparations vigil in Cleveland in June 2022.

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, a NETWORK Education and Organizing Specialist, speaks at a reparations vigil at a parish in Cleveland in June 2022.

It’s 2022, and I can’t believe that we’re fighting for the future of democracy. I had thought that was put to rest with the defeat of fascism in World War II, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But no, we somehow face an onslaught of people in the U.S. who think that we should abandon the practice of upholding free and fair elections, and their vision of this country beyond elections are equally chilling.

The result is a long list of things I’m continually surprised to find myself advocating for today. We’re still fighting for voting rights, for an end to systemic racism, for immigration reform, for the acknowledgement of — let alone meaningful action on — climate change, for indigenous rights, for access to adequate health care, housing, and nutrition. In 2022, it’s easy to ask incredulously, how did we get here!?

In his Sept. 1 address in Philadelphia, President Biden said that “blind loyalty to a single leader” is a lethal threat to democracy. And renewed attempts to suppress the vote and overturn elections, and stripping away rights for all people, but especially women and non-white people, bears this out. But another blind loyalty to a single candidate or policy has also abetted this corrosive process. It’s the decades-long phenomenon of people, especially many Catholics, who engage in single-issue voting as their primary political engagement rather than working toward the common good.

Father Bryan Massingale offered the best rebuttal of this: “The crises that face us — militarism, racism, ecology and poverty — are interlocking, overlapping and compounded. … Single- issue groups and struggles will be neither effective nor compel people’s attention. To paraphrase the great Audre Lorde [a 20th-century Black writer and civil rights activist], many people do not have the luxury of engaging single-issue struggles because they — we — do not live single-issue lives.”

I would go a step further: Single-issue voting is conveniently racist. It’s like wearing blinders; it blocks out one’s view of the peripheries. To ignore systemic racism is to ignore active attempts at voter suppression and the lack of equal representation in our politics. Granting power to single-issue voters means that we silence the building up of inclusive communities. The rights of people of color, women, immigrants, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ community, and any other minority community are whittled away in the name of single-issue voting.

As Pope Francis reminded us in his 2018 letter in Gaudate et Exsultate, “Rejoice and Be Glad” that the lives of all people who are marginalized in our communities are “equally sacred.” That includes all kinds of people who are already born: people in poverty, people who are ill, the elderly, and victims of human trafficking. This is the call for all people: If we continue to only focus on a single issue, we will be responsible for the fall of our democracy, for the death of our planet.

The bitter fruits of the insurrection, blatant racism in our institutions and policies, election deniers, and attempts to suppress the vote should scream out to us. They beg of our attention. We must call on all people of faith and goodwill to be multi-issue voters and work to uphold and advance Gospel values.