BY CHRIS KERR | August 7, 2016
More than 5,600 Catholic Sisters signed a letter asking the US presidential candidates “to engage in political dialogue that reflects the principles and values upon which this nation was founded.”Written by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the letter asks that the candidates refrain from rhetoric that stokes the fires of fear and engage in constructive dialogue during this campaign season. LCWR, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States, has about 1,350 members, who represent nearly 80 percent of the approximately 49,000 women religious in the United States.
The 5,600+ signers of the letter are Catholic sisters from across the country who serve persons in need through education, healthcare, and other pastoral and social services.
Calling for Discourse and Decency in the Election
“Unfortunately, it seems in this particular political season commitment to political discourse that preserves the dignity of the human person and promotes the common good is in short supply,” said Sister Joan Marie Steadman, C.S.C., executive director of LCWR. “This is why LCWR is calling for civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction.”
Copies of the letter will be delivered to presidential candidates Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Donald Trump, Governor Gary Johnson, Dr. Jill Stein, their running mates and party chairs on August 8.
The letter to the presidential candidates reads as follows:
On behalf of the 5671 Catholic Sisters across the United States who have signed this letter, we ask you to join us in calling for civility in our discourse and decency in our political interaction that promotes the common good, reaches out to others, engages in constructive dialogue, and seeks together the way forward. We ask you to join us in promising to engage in political dialogue that reflects the principles and values upon which this nation was founded.
In his September 24, 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis reminded all who seek to serve that, “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”
Unfortunately, we live in a time when our politics is too often marked by self-interest and demeaning rhetoric. We seem to be caught in a political system paralyzed by ideological extremism and hyper-partisanship. Those on all sides of the growing political divide too often appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that tear at the fabric of our nation. We cannot let the voices of hatred and fear carry the day.
We need courageous leaders willing to speak the truth. We simply ask that all who seek to lead refrain from language that disrespects, dehumanizes, or demonizes another. We pray that all who seek to influence public opinion will be mindful of the common good and respectful of the dignity of each and every person.
Citizens of this pluralistic nation form a diverse polity characterized by a wide variety of beliefs, experiences, and interests. Our differences have the potential to challenge all of us to abandon easy certainty and seek a fuller truth. The problem is not our differences. It is how those disagreements are handled that spells the difference between building the common good and destroying the bonds that bind us.
We urge you to join us in pledging to engage in careful listening and honest dialogue that honors the dignity of those with whom we disagree and treats all with the respect that is their God-given right. Please join us in promising to seek the common good, to desire only good for all others, and to offer our own truth with equal measures of conviction and humility.
We know that you offer yourself in service of the people of the United States at great cost to yourself and your family. We promise you our prayers in the weeks and months ahead.
Catholic Sisters Play Significant Role in Jesuit and Ignatian Network
Catholic sisters serve at Jesuit ministries across the United States, including teaching and administrative positions in Jesuit universities and high schools, as well as pastoral ministry in Jesuit parishes, and social ministry in Jesuit-sponsored social apostolates. In addition, over the past few years, Catholic sisters have played an important role in engaging attendees in faith and justice messages during the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Women religious speakers have included Srs. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., Simone Campbell, S.S.S., and Peggy O’Neill, S.C. ISN has also honored Sr. Prejean and Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C. with national faith-justice leadership awards in recent years.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.