February 14, 2007
Presenters: Tom Grenchik, Executive Director, USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities Mike Stone, Director of Justice and Peace, Diocese of Richmond
Participants were asked to identify ways that pro-life leaders and justice and peace leaders can work together more effectively. They began by acknowledging that the language we use and the distinctions are unhelpful— working to save the lives of children dying of starvation is a pro-life issue and protecting the lives of children in the womb is a justice issue. Nonetheless, for purposes of discussion, the labels were used.
The following suggestions were offered. They are in no particular order.
- Focus on the teaching of the church, which is both/and; the encyclicals reflect this.
- Make sure we’re supporting all of the teaching. Have all of the encyclicals in our offices—Evangelium Vitae and Centesimus Annus, etc.
- Structure is the message--put pro-life activities and justice and peace in the same office.
- As staff, look at the basis for CST. Emphasize that we’re not talking about different principles. It all starts with the dignity of the human person.
- Invite pro-life leaders to peace and justice events and vice versa.
- Offer to co-sponsor pro-life events. (In one diocese, CCHD helps sponsor a conference on life.)
- Always affirm that our Catholic faith should be first, not being Republican or Democrat.
- Involve young Catholics—they are very engaged in pro-life issues and in justice and peace.
- The pro-life message--women deserve better and babies deserve better—is a justice message.
- Don’t judge either group by its most radical elements.
- Recognize and respect different liturgical styles.
- Avoid divisive language—politicization/ideology.
- Incorporate pro-life leaders into committees, working groups, etc.
- Create opportunities for leaders of both ministries to meet and listen to each other. (One state is holding a statewide retreat for justice and pro-life leaders.)
- One legislative network is best. Don’t divide our people. Include pro-life and justice issues in one legislative agenda.
- Offer clergy formation and deaconate programs that focus on justice.
- Say “yes and” rather than “yes but”.
- Be careful not to confuse the church with a movement.
- Help social justice leaders learn more about how vulnerable the fetus is and the numbers involved.
- Work with more than the usual suspects:
- Eucharistic Congress
- Council of Catholic Women
- Knights of Columbus