CSMG: Archbishop Kurtz Blesses Advocates Going Forth to Congress

school

USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz celebrated mass this morning with participants of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC.

Since Sunday, over 500 Catholics leaders from communities, parishes, initiatives supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development have gathered in Washington, DC at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering to pray, study and celebrate the Eucharist together. The intense experience of discipleship, fraternity and encuentro climaxes today, when these same leaders go to Capitol Hill to visit legislators and share a vision of society grounded in justice, fairness, respect for the human person and solidarity.

At their concluding Mass this morning, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, sent these advocates forth with the blessing of the Church. Recalling the words of Pope Francis to him during his recent meeting with the pope, he said, “Our faith in Jesus Christ is more powerful than the throwaway society that threatens to overtake us,” and he encouraged participants “to have the courage to stand for their convictions.” Before the final blessing, he told the advocates, “The farther you go to seek the forgotten, the closer you’ll be to the heart of Christ.”

CSMG participants go to Congress standing in unity with the bishops of the United States in their call for a just society. They also visit their lawmakers firm in their solidarity with those across the country and around the world experiencing poverty and injustice.

These are the top line messages that they will bring to Congress:

  • Protect poor people at home and abroad in the federal budget.
  • Reduce unnecessary military spending.
  • Support U.S. leadership for a two-state solution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine and do not punish Palestinians by cutting aid essential to strengthening peace there.
  • Oppose efforts to roll back the President’s executive actions protecting immigrants and their families. Instead, pass all the elements of comprehensive immigration reform and address the root causes of migration.

Check out the full Message to Congress here. Follow today’s events on twitter with the hashtag #togoforth.

CSMG: The Globalization of Solidarity

“To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity.” Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium #180)

Untitled

Dylan Corbett, USCCB

The 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is in full swing. Hundreds of leaders in the Catholic community from across the country and as far away as Cameroon, Australia, Canada and Vatican City, have come together for this annual conference sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The climax of the gathering will take place when these leaders bring an agenda driven by justice, truth and the common good to lawmakers in Congress this coming Tuesday. These latest blog entries have attempted to throw into relief the different issues that CSMG participants are praying about and discerning in the light of Catholic social doctrine. This one will briefly explore spending priorities in the federal budget.

Last evening, Father Daniel Groody, CSC, from the University of Notre Dame, laid bare for CSMG participants what he considers the heart of Catholicism. According to Fr. Groody, “Catholicism is about bringing fractured humanity back into unity and communion.” It’s humbling to consider that Christ’s work of building solidarity is taking place mysteriously even now, in hearts, families, charitable works, in the Church’s work of prophetic announcement of the Kingdom of God and in the prophetic denouncement of injustice and fractures to the community of humankind.

Injustice, division and poverty are scandalous contradictions to the Kingdom. Our response to each of these defines us as believers. This is no less true when considering our efforts as a nation to address the fractures in our own commonweal.

The bishops of the United States have identified significant imbalances in the allocation of our nation’s resources to promote our common good, particularly in the federal budget. We are all familiar with the pervasive economic imbalances that continue to generate poverty, unemployment and underemployment. We’re also familiar with the need to resolve the problem of our federal debt. But because of the politically motivated rhetoric that often distorts perceptions of federal funding priorities, it’s not as commonly known that over half of the federal discretionary budget goes to defense spending.

This real imbalance comes at the expense of programs at home and abroad intended to address poverty and create opportunity. Not only does our nation’s discretionary budget devote disproportionate resources to the military, but the United States spends disproportionately relative to other countries. Indeed, the U.S. spends more on military and defense than the next 10 highest countries combined, most of those being U.S. allies. Investment in nuclear weapons modernization programs, currently being pursued by President Obama, undercuts the long-term goal of working for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The needs of national security cannot be denied; however, one ought not pit national security against the common good and the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Indeed, recent events around the world have given the lie to the belief that peace can be achieved by military force alone. Even national security is only at the service of the common good. Nuclear weapons modernization is but an example of the unnecessary spending that undermines both national security and human security.

When the bishops speak out on these and similar issues, it is commonly objected that they lack the necessary competence on matters of economy and federal spending. One ought to consider the consistency over the decades with which the bishops have raised these issues and the degree to which their words have been prophetic. Pope Francis’ words are also instructive here:

The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven.

The serious immediate and long-term challenges facing our national economy demand a just and equitable balance of needs and resources. These choices have real consequences on people’s lives.

Dylan Corbett is manager for mission & identity outreach at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Go deeper:
Check out the USCCB backgrounder, A Peace Economy: Rebalancing Spending Priorities.

CSMG: Bishops Not Backing Down on Immigration

Ralph McCloud of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development visits the US-Mexico border.

Ralph McCloud of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development visits the US-Mexico border.

This year’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering takes place fifty years after the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. That document spoke of the the Church’s need to “recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics” and to “scrutinize the signs of the times… interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

CSMG brings together bishops, clergy and religious and lay leaders in the Church and society to do just that. The economy and poverty, war and peace, religious freedom, the Church’s relation to society and the individual Catholic’s role in community life are all themes for prayer, discernment and studied action.

Immigration is a central theme for people of faith. The bishops have made clear for decades that the biblical command to “love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19) has consequences for how we ought to understand immigration in the United States. Those who come to CSMG next week will go to Congress to stand with the bishops in their call for our nation to respect the humanity of the migrant.

What will they ask?

  • Congress should enact laws that will offer those persons without documents the opportunity to earn a path to citizenship.
  • More than lip service should be paid to the bedrock importance of the family; the contribution of immigrant families should be recognized and Congress should pull back from proposals to reduce family-based immigration visas.
  • Some proposals would diminish safeguards for low-skilled immigrant laborers, including those who harvest the food placed daily on American dining room tables. Those workers, too, deserve appropriate protections and options to earn citizenship.
  • Efforts to roll back the President’s recent executive actions to protect certain categories of immigrants should be opposed.

The bishops have noted to the House of Representatives that rolling back executive action would be devastating for millions of hard working immigrants and that the threat of deportation would unnecessarily threaten family unity. Congress should instead focus on passing all the elements of comprehensive immigration reform.

Of course, migration is a complex phenomenon, and more and more people around the world are migrating, in large part due to economic inequality between nations, conflict and even climate change. Pope Francis has pointed out that “solidarity with migrants and refugees must be accompanied by the courage and creativity necessary to develop, on a world-wide level, a more just and equitable financial and economic order, as well as an increasing commitment to peace, the indispensable condition for all authentic progress.” For that reason, participants will also stand with the bishops of the United States in calling for efforts to address the root causes of migration, including just trade policies that respect people’s right not to migrate and for efforts that address the economic imbalances and violence, especially in Latin America, that compel them to come to the United States in the first place.

While questions of borders, sovereignty, legality and amnesty are important and unavoidable, the Christian views the question of migration differently. Indeed, in the death of Jesus on the Cross, all of us—immigrant and non-immigrant—are debtors and beneficiaries of the greatest amnesty of all. As Pope Francis has said, “Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to redeem it, loving the Father unto death on the Cross, has through his resurrection made of us a new humanity, in full communion with the will of God, with his plan, which includes the full realization of our vocation to fraternity.”

UntitledDylan Corbett is manager for mission & identity outreach at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Go deeper:
Check out the USCCB backgrounder on the root causes of migration.

The Catholic Church Sends a Message to Congress

CSMG logo 2015

Beginning this weekend, February 7-10, over 500 Catholic leaders from across the country, including Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, will be in Washington DC for the 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the collaboration of 16 national Catholic organizations, sponsors this annual event, which explores contemporary Catholic social engagement and the current political landscape. The gathering’s theme this year, To Go Forth: Encountering Christ in the Heart of the World, takes its inspiration from Pope Francis and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes.

Together, leaders and rising leaders in the Church will prayerfully consider Catholic social teaching and discern its implications for faith and public life today. Bishops, clergy and religious, lay leaders in the field of social justice, university students and those involved in the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will advocate with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on issues of vital consequence for poor and at-risk communities in the United States and around the world.

The message participants will bring to Congress will prioritize empowerment for those families, communities and individuals pushed to the margins and living in desperate situations. Their message will strongly endorse protecting programs in the federal budget that empower communities to overcome poverty and that aid those around the world affected by disaster and violent conflict, as well an overdue reduction in unnecessary military spending. To relieve the pressure on those experiencing the effects of poverty and a mixed economic recovery, participants will ask legislators to maintain and strengthen anti-poverty programs like SNAP, child nutrition programs, Medicare and workforce development programs. Participants will also advocate for the need to protect international assistance programs, including assistance to the Palestinian people in the face of Congressional efforts to punish Palestinians for joining the International Criminal Court. Advocates will also emphasize support for US leadership for peace in Israel and Palestine and a 2-state solution to the conflict there. On immigration reform, advocates will oppose efforts to roll back executive action and support legislation that advances all the elements of comprehensive immigration reform.

In the coming days, this blog will take a closer look at the different positions that advocates will take from the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering to lawmakers in Congress. Stay tuned, and if you are unable to join us in Washington DC, keep up with CSMG here and on Twitter @togoforth.

UntitledDylan Corbett is manager for mission & identity outreach at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Go deeper:
Join the USCCB Justice, Peace & Human Development Advocacy Network.

#Synod14 also talked family economics

Now that was something!

Dylan Corbett

Dylan Corbett

For the last couple weeks, the Church has been digesting the Synod on the Family, a meeting in Rome of bishops and families from around the world with the Holy Father.

Never has more ink—digital or actual—been spilled on such a meeting. Every word, press release and sound bite has been scrutinized, dissected and interpreted.

And yet, if you weren’t paying close attention, you may have missed some of the substance that didn’t generate as much media attention.

The Synod had some pretty incisive things to say about the relationship between the family and the economy. In fact, it offered a powerful critique of the world economy.

It wasn’t all good. The Synod Fathers had some pretty harsh words for the “economic systems”, “unemployment”, “culture of prosperity” and “disinterest” on the part of government that today “weakens the dignity of people”. This is what they said in their final report:

There is also a general feeling of powerlessness in the face of socio-cultural realities which oftentimes end in crushing families. Such is the case in increasing instances of poverty and unemployment in the workplace, which at times is a real nightmare… Families often feel abandoned by the disinterest and lack of attention by institutions. The State has the responsibility to pass laws and create work to ensure the future of young people and help them realize their plan of forming a family.

That’s tough stuff. But that’s where the Church has to dwell, because that place of family pain is where God dwells. Evangelization must take people where they’re at. As the Synod Fathers said:

… evangelization needs to clearly denounce cultural, social, political and economic factors, such as the excessive importance given to market logic which prevents authentic family life and leads to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence.

In a complex world where relationships and institutions are increasingly fragile, pain and hope are felt and lived by those at the bottom. For many, the family is the last buffer in a world dominated by “the logic of the market”, where communities are fast evaporating, job security and pensions seem anachronistic, and loneliness and insecurity are more pervasive. Make no mistake, families are being put through the sieve. If that’s the case, perhaps the Church and the State need to think seriously about exercising a preferential option for the family.

As Cardinal Erdő of Hungary said during the days of the Synod, “the family is almost the last welcoming human reality in a world determined near exclusively by finance and technology. A new culture of the family can be the starting point for a renewed human civilization”.

Dylan Corbett is manager for mission & identity outreach at the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

“It doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”

Immigration MapPope Francis has a knack for punchy turns of phrase that get a point across. He’s saved some of his most poignant language to talk about immigration.

During his famous Lampedusa homily commemorating the immigrants who died at sea on their trek from Africa to Europe, the pope asked whether sometimes we’re all living in soap bubbles. When you’re in a soap bubble, you’re pretty immune to reality around you, and it’s easy to turn a blind eye to folks’ suffering. As Pope Francis put it, “it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business.” Perhaps by putting his finger on indifference, Pope Francis knew just where to start for a discussion about immigration.

Many of us cherish fond family memories and have a respectful veneration for the sacrifices that our immigrant parents, grandparents or great-grand parents made to come to America. Many of them did it according to the law, and maybe the law back then wasn’t as rigid and unforgiving as it is today.

Immigrants still come to our country for many reasons—to find a job and raise a family, to flee violence and war, to reunite with loved ones. Because today’s immigration law isn’t as accommodating as it could be, immigrants sometimes come with their suitcases full of dreams and anxieties but without the right papers. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and use allegiance to the law, broken as it is, as a means to keep from recognizing the humanity of a brother or sister in need. Like Pope Francis said, it’s easy to stay within our soap bubble and ignore our neighbor.

Over 11 million of our neighbors without the right documents can’t legalize their immigration status. Those neighbors live just outside our soap bubbles of indifference, in constant fear of deportation and tragic separation from family.

Guadalupe 2

CCHD supports justice for immigrants.

Where does CCHD fit in? The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the national anti-poverty program of the Catholic bishops in the United States. For CCHD, the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth and affluence, but a community of solidarity. Solidarity dissolves soap bubbles and indifference. Solidarity means that our shared humanity, our shared dignity as children of God is greater than any identity of national origin.

This year, collaborating with 50 dioceses and nearly 300 parishes, CCHD is working to create communities where immigrants and non-immigrants live side by side in solidarity, in dignity and without fear. Through CCHD, the bishops recently invested more than $4 million in immigrant communities. There CCHD is promoting economic empowerment that benefits all, advancing comprehensive immigration reform, and building parishes, neighborhoods and cities where immigrant families and refugees can thrive.

There are lots of reasons that we might live indifferent to the suffering and fear of those around us today—the toxic political climate, anxiety over a bad economy, confusion about what we can do or just plain sin. Only solidarity can get us out of our soap bubbles of indifference; only the sacred memory that all of us together have been beneficiaries of the greatest amnesty of all, the forgiveness of the Cross.

Corbett headshotDylan Corbett is manager for mission & identity outreach at USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Go deeper:
Learn about the USCCB’s advocacy for immigrants and follow @DylanCorbett23 on twitter.

Check out organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development working for immigration reform.