Jesus of the Billboard: Catholic Sisters Launch Midwest Campaign

Pro-immigrant billboard campaign in Iowa

As Iowa considers taking up anti-American laws targeting immigrants modeled after Arizona, Catholic sisters in throughout the Midwest are leading a public education campaign about what Jesus says about the situation.

“Rooted in the Gospel and the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare,” say the Franciscan sisters of Dubuque, “we publically proclaim that immigrants have God-given rights to be treated with respect and dignity, to work and to access services that satisfy their basic needs. Basic human rights, the right to life and to migrate in search of the means to sustain life, are conferred not by citizen ship but by person hood. We support comprehensive immigration reform that will respect these right.”

Read more below:

Iowa Billboards Show Sisters Support for Immigration Reform

Catholic Sisters Launch ‘Welcoming Communities’ For Immigration Reform

Ten Communities of Catholic Sisters Launch Immigration Campaign

What’s a Personalist and How Do I Become One?

Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin

New Hope Catholic Worker Farm and Agronomic University in LaMotte, Iowa, is hosting its second week-long intensive on “Growing Roots: Peter Maurin & Economics” July 17-23, 2011.

They included the excellent article Distributism: Ownership of the Means of Production and Alternative to the Brutal Global Market by Louise and Mark Zwick as part of the reading list. Below I’ve highlighted a few sections, but I commend the full article to your reading.

On the Catholic Worker View of Economics

It is very much in the tradition of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to write about economics. Under the editorship of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker criticized an unbridled capitalism which put the majority of money and resources in the hands of a few big corporations and individuals. The Catholic Workers not only disagreed with industrial capitalism on a massive scale, but presented an alternative economics called distributism-a person-centered economics.

As personalists, Catholic Workers believed there had to be a better way than to have the world run by Standard Oil, General Motors and Henry Ford (today we have the global market, giant corporations, sweatshops, maquiladoras).

Peter and Dorothy recommended the works of G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P., on distributism and R. H. Tawney on capitalism, and their ideas were published in the paper. These writers insisted that all people were created in the image and likeness of God, and should not be treated like cogs in a machine or made to work twelve hours a day in back-breaking work as wage slaves (in coal mines, for example), while large corporations and their directors became fabulously wealthy.

Chesterton, theorist of person-centered economics and critic of the excesses of capitalism, shared the views of the Catholic Workers. He knew that the opinions of Henry Ford (who said that most people preferred the mechanical action of the assembly line and were only fitted for it), were against Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person. Ford made it clear that most people were not smart enough to do anything except repetitious work. As Chesterton put it in The Outline of Sanity, “It will be noted that Mr. Ford does not say that he is only fitted to mind machines.”

Chesterton argued that the Catholic Church taught that every human being was worth saving. He insisted on “respect for the humanity and dignity of ordinary, shabby, ignorant people.” (Margaret Canovan, G. K. Chesterton: Radical Populist, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, p. 9).

On “The Invisible Hand” of the Market

Since Adam Smith, the proponents of wealth creation have promised heaven on earth if their ideas were followed: Just believe religiously in the market and allow it absolute freedom, then salvation will come. It is hard to imagine a heaven where one’s creativity and destiny are squandered working on an assembly line or at McDonald’s.

Pope Pius XII went so far as to call the idea that the invisible hand of the market will on its own rather like fate control the world, a “superstition. (Dorothy Day, “Distributism vs. Capitalism,” Catholic Worker, October 1954).

What Are We Talking About When We Say “Capitalism”?

Chesterton knew that when most people spoke of capitalism, they had in mind something quite different than a few very wealthy people controlling everything. To clarify for his readers what he was criticizing, he first described the situation where a few people hold the wealth and all others struggle: “When I say ‘Capitalism,’ I commonly mean something that may be stated thus: ‘That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.” He emphasized that others had something quite different in mind when they spoke of capitalism: “The word… is used by other people to mean quite other things. Some people seem to mean merely private property. Others suppose that capitalism must mean anything involving the use of capital.

“If capitalism means private property, I am capitalist. If capitalism means capital, everybody is capitalist. But if capitalism means this particular condition of capital, only paid out to the mass in the form of wages, then it does mean something, even if it ought to mean something else.

“The truth is that what we call Capitalism ought to be called Proletarianism. The point of it is not that some people have capital, but that most people only have wages because they do not have capital.”

Read the whole article.

DOMA Left Out in the Cold, Obama Administration Won’t Defend

The Obama administration is bowing out of the fight to maintain a constitutional definition of marriage as one man and one woman. It will no longer defend DOMA, a law the administration thinks is unjust.

The Justice Department announced this afternoon that it will drop all its legal involvements with Public Law No. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419 (aka the falsely named “Defense of Marriage Act”) passed in 1996 that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

This is the law that was signed under Clinton (along with “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the military) that mandated the federal government to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman (DOMA, Section 3). Attorney General Eric Holder said this afternoon:

Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.” Read the whole statement here.

The Obama administration has been strongly in favor of civil and equal rights for gays and lesbians, but was forced to act as “the government” in many lawsuits aimed at proving DOMA unconstitutional.

With today’s declaration, the administration is bowing out of the fight. It will no longer defend a law it thinks is unjust. It’ll let the states and lower courts work it out.

And, for a powerful video on a similar issue in the Iowa House of Representatives, watch The Hawkeye Kid defend his moms.

Nine More Go To Jail For Universal Health Care

wellmark-protest-cw-by-m-gillespie

A single-payer system that provides universal health care is what most Americans want the Obama administration to support in the way of health care reform.

The Obama administration –  not to mention the Republican party –  is terrified of this direction because of what it will do to the health insurance industry and, particularly, the campaign money contributed by Big Health. (Check out this lovely info map from the Sunlight Foundation on Max Baucus’ [D-MT] tie-in to the health insurance industries. Baucus is the head of the Senate Finance Committee and at the center of crafting the “reform” legislation.)

To learn more about Single-Payer Health Care and the bill HR676 that already exists in Congress supporting it, go here.

I was very glad to see that the Des Moines Catholic Worker is focusing nonviolent civil disobedience against Iowa’s largest medical insurance company. Nine were arrested in the Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield offices last month. I’m grateful to Fr. Frank Cordaro for his years of witness to justice and it was great to see Frank in the photos of this recent action. Below is an excerpt from David Swanson’s article about the protest:

Following a pattern of civil resistance in Washington D.C. and around the country, citizens in Des Moines Iowa on Monday risked arrest to press for the creation of single-payer healthcare, the establishment of healthcare as a human right, and an end to the deadly practices of Iowa’s largest health insurance company, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, who has herself gone to jail for single-payer in our nation’s capital, was on hand to speak in Des Moines. She called me with this report. Nearly a month earlier, on June 19, 2009, Des Moines Catholic Workers had delivered a letter to Wellmark addressed to its CEO John Forsyth requesting disclosure of Wellmark’s profits, salaries, benefits, denials and restrictions on care. The letter had not been acknowledged by Monday, and the Catholic Workers and their allies decided to take action again.

Thirty people arrived in the Wellmark lobby in Des Moines and asked to see Forsyth or any of the members of the board of directors or the operating officers. They were told that none were available, and instead the police arrived. Nine of the 30 refused to leave and were arrested. Flowers did not yet know what the charges will be but suspected trespassing. The nine latest supporters of single-payer to go to jail for justice are:

Ed Bloomer, 62, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Kirk Brown, 29, former Catholic Worker of Waukee, Iowa
Robert Cook, 66, Des Moines, Iowa
Frank Cordaro, 58, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Renee Espeland, 48, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Christine Gaunt, 50, Grinnell, Iowa
Mona Shaw, 58, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Leonard Simons, 67, Athol, MA
Frankie Hughes, 11, Des Moines Catholic Worker

These nine and others like them around the country represent, I think, the incredible potential to energize the American public on behalf of a struggle for the basic human right of healthcare, a potential being blocked by the work of activist organizations that reach out from Washington to tell the public that single-payer is not possible, rather than reaching into Washington from outside to tell our public servants what we demand.

Updated news shows that they were all charged with misdemenor “criminal trespass.”