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An Open Letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The USCCB has laid off 50% of the staff of departments focused on international policy, domestic policy, environmental justice, racism, education and outreach, as well as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an office supervising grants to U.S. community organizations working on systemic solutions to poverty issues.

The Ohio Sisters Justice Network, of which the Dominican Sisters of Peace is a member, has sent the following letter to our Bishops asking that they reconsider this decision, and continue to support the true work of the Church in helping the marginalized and working for peace.

The Ohio Sisters Justice Network is a collaboration across the state of Ohio of justice advocates of congregations of women religious, their allies and their community partners.  Moved by the pain of inequities among peoples and environmental degradation, the Ohio Sister Justice Network is compelled by their commitment to Gospel values to advocate and act for a just and peaceful Earth community.

We ask that you join us by reaching out to your own Church leaders to encourage actions for peace and justice as called for by the Gospels of Christ and by Catholic Social Teaching.

The Devaluing of the Work of Justice and Peace 

Dear Bishops,

We, the religious communities and lay faithful of the Ohio Sisters Justice Network, who have been involved in the work of Gospel justice for many decades believe deeply in the Church's dedication to the Gospel call of service and justice on behalf of all who are vulnerable and oppressed by unjust systems. 

The recent decision to reduce the budgets and eliminate the staff of several offices dedicated to the work of justice and peace has broken our hearts – and left both members of our organization and many members of the Church at large bewildered. On June 14, Archbishop Timothy Broglio told a press conference "in all the discussions, the bishops' ongoing commitment to the vital work of fighting poverty was clear." However, on June 24, less than two weeks later, the Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development was cut by 50%. 

This sends a mixed message to Catholics throughout the Church – that talking about Peace and Justice is more important than supporting it with funds and people.

In the book of Luke, Christ said "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor (Luke 4:18).” Where is that spirit today, as the USCCB chooses to deprioritize justice, peace, and anti-poverty initiatives at a time when they are needed so desperately? What work does the USCCB and the Universal Church have that is more important than caring for the people of God?

All our Congregations’ histories have witnessed the Gospel response to the needs of each era, from the Benedictines giving hospitality, to Apostolic American Congregations building schools, hospitals, and social service agencies when our country was not responding to the needs of immigrants and the poor.  Our very beings – the very business of our Church and the Gospel- are rooted in the Catholic Social Teachings.  

Sadly, Social Justice (should we say Catholic Social Teaching) has not been, and is not today, effectively preached from the pulpit or taught in schools and seminaries. Still the wisdom of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching give guidance to many faith-based groups and non-profits as well as justice-seeking government leaders.  

We are disappointed, and yes, even ashamed, that the leadership of the US Church seems to devalue Gospel justice. As women religious and lay associates, we will continue to work for justice for all people. As we did in the past, we will help to midwife the birth of new justice movements – new ways to care for the poor and vulnerable, to protect God’s creation, and to build peace. If our Church walks away from the work of justice, we will partner with those working for justice and peace across religious denominations and traditions as well as in secular spaces. 

Jesus taught us, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).”

In the words of Pope Francis, “over and above business, logic and the parameters of the market is the human being; and that something is men and women in as much as they are human beings by virtue of their profound dignity: to offer them the possibility of living a dignified life and of actively participating in the common good (Address to the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, 5/25/13).”

Saint John Paul II declared that "the needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits (Centesimus Annus, 35).”

We respectfully call on you, our shepherds, to go further. Reconsider your decision to defund the work of justice and peace. Christ’s church on Earth should not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth – and those who lead the flock must lead the way. 

Follow the way of our Savior in costly discipleship by ensuring that the Church remains a strong, active, and credible advocate for justice and compassion. 

Your Sisters in the Service of the Gospel,

Ohio Sisters Justice Network

11 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

  1. That is a wonderful and strong (and truthful) letter. I feel so proud of all of you. Thanks for being direct and caring.

  2. Thank you for taking action–rather than complaining –about the importance of Justice work: the Gospel lived daily in the midst of our human realities today: poverty, homelessness, lack of affordable housing opportunities,
    the lack of support from the wealthy, etc. I believe it is
    time to speak the truth to one another.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I can’t believe the Bishops. When scores of younger people are leaving the Church because there is not enough emphasis on social justice, they do this? Wow.

  4. Excellent letter! Thank you for taking a stance on behalf of the work for peace and justice to God’s people.
    Bishops, we all need to hear what Jesus says: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for Me,”

  5. Thank you, Sisters for speaking out for the voiceless and those affected by the clergy’s decisions! Will pray they listen and act.
    So very proud of ya’ll and of the work you are doing on our behalf. Gracias y Dios las bendiga.

  6. My dear sisters,
    Blessings on your courage to speak the Truth so clearly and scripturally. Now we pray the bishops will be open and hear the Word for the common good of all our people.

  7. Dear Sisters,
    Thank you so much for your clear and beautifully written letter. I pray that our brothers in the USCCB may “have ears that ear and eyes that see” and be open to its message.
    Peace and all good,
    Pat McMahon, osf.

  8. Delighted that such a letter has been sent to the
    bishops in the USCCB; we must continue to advocate
    in word and deed. Thanks for speaking truth to power. Rachel,OP

  9. Once again we’re grateful that our Sisters are leading the way, reminding the Church that the work of justice is indeed constitutive of the preaching of the Gospel, and holding us all accountable. Onward!

  10. I ask why, why, would our bishops take such a stand? Then I say, Amen, Praise the Lord for our Women Religious who take action and speak the gospel truth. Thanks for the beautiful letter.

  11. July 14, 2024 at 8:15pm
    I ask myself why, why, would the bishops take such an action? Then I say, Praise God for Women Religious who will take action to speak the Gospel truth.

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