April 27, 2012
As a 9th grader in 1972 I was eager to learn about issues of social justice, and how I could engage constructively in the political system. My history teacher at the Catholic high school I attended had been using a packet of materials from a brand new lobbying organization of Catholic nuns called Network, and shared it with me. Through Network I learned about the range of issues before congress, their connection to Catholic teaching, and how I could get involved and help other young people get involved in ways that made a difference. I was pleased with the openness of Network's vision--ecumenical and collaborative, not narrow and parochial. I went on to be a Catholic college professor teaching a range of core curriculum courses designed to help students develop critical thinking and communication skills on matters of public policy. I continued to draw on Network to help with curriculum development. Lately Network has been named in a Vatican investigation as an example of Catholic women religious devoting too much attention to issues of social and economic justice, and not enough to the bishops' political agenda of conservative sexual and reproductive politics. The investigators reveal their ignorance of Network's proven record of 40 years of advocating for programs and policies that improve the lives of women and children, the only really effective way to reduce the number of abortions. The investigators also contradict the teaching of Vatican II and the US bishops' encyclical "The Challenge of Peace" establishing the primacy of conscience and categorizing political policy decisions as within the realm of "prudential judgement," not "doctrine." In particular, Catholic sisters' affirmation of "Obama-care" was consistent with Catholic social teaching, and did not violate church law. I believe the current criticism Network is encountering is not doctrinally based, but rather politically motivated and malicious. In short I endorse Network's good work over many years. It is a strong contribution to the Catholic church and to the good of society. I urge everyone to contribute generously to support this valuable nonprofit. Trust that their advocacy positions are consistent with the best of Catholic teaching, promote the common good, and accurately reflect the positions of most Catholic voters. I also encourage people to speak out publicly in defense of Network at this crucial time in the nonprofit's history.
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MY ROLE:General Member of the Public