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Catholic Leaders Call for State Department Commission to be Dismantled

July 22, 2019. Over 125 Catholic theologians, community leaders and activists have sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlining strong concerns to the recently announced Commission on Unalienable Rights. Mary Ann Glendon, a Catholic known for advocating “natural law” as a basis for policy, has been tapped to head the commission.

The letter’s signers state, “Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being. We staunchly support the fundamental human rights of all people and proudly carry on the long tradition in our country of advocating for expanding human rights around the world. Our concern is that this Commission will undermine these goals by promoting a vision of humanity that is conditional, limiting, and based on a very narrow religious perspective that is inconsistent with the beliefs and practices of billions in this country and around the world.”

The letter outlines the endorsers’ concern that the Commission as currently constituted “will lead our State Department to adopt policies that will harm people who are already vulnerable, especially poor women, children, LGBTI people, immigrants, refugees, and those in need of reproductive health services. These policies will be embedded in everything from visa and immigration laws to international aid programs and will further undermine true human rights in the name of a very partial version of Christianity that is being promoted by the current Administration.”

The letter was born out of discussions among four Catholic leaders, Miguel Diaz, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Mary E. Hunt, and Bryan Massingale. “We were appalled by what we heard and read about this Commission and its appointees, said Mary E. Hunt. “We felt we had a duty to act, and to create a forum that would allow other Catholics to make their objections and concerns known.”

Bryan Massingale, James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University added, “It should be unthinkable that a U.S. Cabinet member would question a landmark principle in our nation’s founding document, the ‘Declaration of Independence.’  To undermine the conviction that all human beings, created in the image of God, possess inherent rights to life and liberty, is both disturbing as an American and offensive as a Christian.”

 “The four of us had just participated in an international gathering, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics held as part of DignityUSA’s 50th anniversary commemoration, in which leaders of the Catholic LGBTI movement from around the world outlined the challenges, often horrific challenges, they face,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke. “Throughout the meeting, there were five chairs facing everyone present, empty except for the names and countries of delegates refused visas by the U.S. government. All of them were from Africa and were victims of the exclusionary and racist policies of this Administration. It was very clear to us that this type of discrimination may very easily be expanded under this Commission. As American Catholics, we reject this and welcome global colleagues to our shores.”

“Care for the most vulnerable and the rejection of human indifference must inform the soul of our nation and must guide us to enact just laws and policies in the area of U.S. international and diplomatic relations,” said Miguel Diaz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, currently John Courtney Murray University Chair in Public Service at Loyola Chicago. “We have an ethical obligation to love our neighbors and protect their unalienable rights, regardless of their particular ways of being human with respect to gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religious perspectives, ethnicity, physical ability, immigration status, and any other particularity used to discriminate.”

Diaz continued, “The defense of fundamental human rights has been enshrined in our country’s most cherished documents.  As Catholics we also draw from the recognition and commitment to a broad range of human rights due to all persons expressed in Catholic Social Teaching. All human beings have been created in God’s image and all have been endowed by their Creator with the fundamental right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. No person speaking in the name of government or in the name of God can do so to undermine or deny this right.”

The signers call for “the immediate dismantling of this Commission and for the development of a broadly consultative process that will examine the important human rights issues our country encounters in our international engagements, and make recommendations that reflect the diversity of faith perspectives on human rights that exist within our country.”

 

TEXT OF LETTER AND SIGNATORIES BELOW

SENT VIA OVERNIGHT MAIL

 July 19, 2019

The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary, U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

We are Catholic theologians, community leaders, and advocates working on a variety of human rights concerns. As persons who live and serve in this nation, we cherish and affirm the American Declaration of Independence’s assertion of the truth that all persons “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We write to express our strongest objections to the goals and composition of the new Commission on Unalienable Rights.

Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being. We staunchly support the fundamental human rights of all people and proudly carry on the long tradition in our country of advocating for expanding human rights around the world. It is our belief that this Commission will undermine these goals by promoting a vision of humanity that is conditional, limiting, and based on a very narrow religious perspective that is inconsistent with the beliefs and practices of billions in this country and around the world.

Of most urgent concern is that the composition of the Commission indicates that it will lead our State Department to adopt policies that will harm people who are already vulnerable, especially poor women, children, LGBTI people, immigrants, refugees, and those in need of reproductive health services. These policies will be embedded in everything from visa and immigration laws to international aid programs and will further undermine true human rights in the name of a very partial version of Christianity that is being promoted by the current Administration. We cannot allow this to happen in our names and pledge our ongoing efforts to prevent this from being how our nation’s human rights stance is communicated to the rest of the world.

We call for the immediate dismantling of this Commission and for the development of a broadly consultative process that will examine the important human rights issues our country encounters in our international engagements, and make recommendations that reflect the diversity of faith perspectives on human rights that exist within our country.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request.

Sincerely,

Jorge Aquino, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco

Regina Bannon

Barbara Battista, SP, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Indiana

Trevor Bechtel, University of Michigan

Elizabeth Begley

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle

Mary A. Breen

Deacon Amy Bruner, RCWP

Ken Butigan, Ph.D., Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies, DePaul University

Fr. Jose Gabriel Castro, Iglesia Catolica Ortodoxa de America

Dolores L. Christie, Ph.D., CTSA Executrive Director (retired)

C. Cook

Francis X Clooney, SJ, Parkman Professor of Divinity, Harvard University

Margaret Cooper, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference

Professor M. Shawn Copeland

Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi Ambassador for Peace

Mary Grace Crowley-Koch, RCWP, Co-coordinator, Women-Church Convergence

Charles E. Curran, Professor, Southern Methodist University

Paula vW. Dail, Emerita Research Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy

Sister Patricia Daly, OP

Antoinette L Daniele

Rev. Marie David, RCWP

Maria Teresa Davila, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Practice, Merrimack College

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry

Nick De Los Reyes, Co-Chair Executive Committee, CORPUS

Marie DesJarlais, FSPA

Miguel H. Diaz, Ambassador

Mary Kay Dobrovolny, RSM

Anne Doucette

John Doyle

Heather DuBois

Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA

Heidi Erdmann

Orlando O. Espin. Th.D., Professor of Theology, University of San Diego

Theresa Evans, OPA, Tacoma Dominican Associates

Dr. Joseph J. Fahey, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice

Ruth Steinert Foote

Dr. Peter R. Gathje, Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean, Memphis Theological Seminary

Mark Gotvald, Christ the King Church, Faith In Action committee

Leo Guardado, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Jeanette L Hagelskamp, Sisters of Providence

Hille Haker, Richard McCormick Endowed Chair of Catholic Moral Theology, Loyola University Chicago

Eleanor Harty

Brenda Hepler

Jacqueline M. Hidalgo, Associate Professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion, Williams College

I.J. Hill

Mary E. Hines, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Theology, Emmanuel College

Rosalind Hinton, Religious Studies Teacher

Bradford Hinze, Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Dr. Elizabeth A. Johnson CSJ, Distinguished Professor, Fordham University

Suzanne Holland, Ph.D., University of Puget Sound Department of Religious Studies

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Andrea and Spencer Johnson, Treasurer, CORPUS

Zach Johnson, Executive Director, Call To Action USA

Dr. Thomas Kelly

Gail P. Kennon

Mary Beth Klingel, SP

Alice M. Knowles, Immediate Past Vice-President, DignityUSA

Rev. Mary Kay Kusner, RCWP

Elizabeth Linehan, RSM

Fr. Bernárd J. Lynch

Daniel C. Maguire, Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology, Marquette University

Linda and Phil Marcin, Secretary, CORPUS

Bryan N. Massingale, James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics, Fordham University

Dannis Matteson, Loyola University Chicago

James P. McCartin, Fordham University

Rev. Maria Thornton McClain, RCWP

Dugan McGinley

Tom McLoughlin

Ginger Megley

Gina Messina Dysert, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Rev. Dr. Susan Mielke

Alex Mikulich, Catholic Social Ethicist

Mark Miller, Associate Professor, University of San Francisco

Dr. Diann Neu, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Cheryl Nichols

Darlene Noesen, Chicago Women-Church

Jon O’Brien, President, Catholics for Choice

Rev. Jennifer O’Malley, Holy Wisdom Catholic Community

Kate Ott, Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Drew Theological School

Elaine Padilla, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion/Latinx and Latin American Studies, University of La Verne

Beatrice Parwatikar, Pax Christi Ambassador of Peace

Russ Petrus, Co-Director, FutureChurch

Christopher Pett, President, DignityUSA

Linda Pinto, Co-Chair Executive Committee, CORPUS

Dolores Pomerleau, Co-founder, Quixote Center

Dr. Virginia Kaib Ratigan, Religious Studies, Claremont College (Retired)

Pastor Kathy Redig

Kathleen Blank Riether

Sergio Romero

Deborah Rose-Milavec, Co-Director, FutureChurch

Patricia Russell

Joseph A. Sannino, Community of the Christian Spirit

Roe Sauerzopf, Vice President, Call To Action Metro New York

Karen J Scheer, RSM, MD

Rev. Kathleen Gibbons Schuck

Dr. Karen Schwarz, Coordinator, San Francisco Bay Area Women-Church

Rev. Irene Senn, RCWP

Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP

Robert Shine, Associate Director, New Ways Ministry

Ursula L. Slavick, SHSD Haiti Project

Prof. William H. Slavick, Pax Christi Maine

Melinda Spataro

Lewis Speaks-Tanner, Immediate Past President, DignityUSA

Lisa Stallings, Sisters of Providence

Jeffrey Stone

Anthony Suárez-Abraham, Dominican University

Leonard Swidler, Professor of Catholic Theology, Temple University

Jonathan Tan, The Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor of Catholic Studies, Case Western Reserve University

Emerita Tejano

Yannik Thiem, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Columbia University

Terrence Tilley, Emeritus Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Cristina L.H. Traina, Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Northwestern         University

Rev. Dr. Joanna Truelson, RCWP

Rev. Roger Vaughn, Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

Rt. Rev. Dr. Lynn Walker, Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

Kathleen Maas Weigert

Katherine Wojtan, Executive Director, Mary’s Pence

Rev. Constantine Wright, Orthodox-Catholic Church of America

Mary T. Yelenick, Esp.

Theresa Yugar, Ph.D.

Martin Zatsick

 

Signed after letter was sent:

 

Margaret Farley, RSM

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, National Coordinator, National Coalition of American Nuns

Peter Mena, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego

Paula Trimble-Familetti, D.Min., International Feminist Theology, St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Community

 

To follow up, please contact Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA, P.O. Box 376, Medford, MA 02215, execdir@dignityusa.org or Miguel H. Diaz, Ph.D., Ambassador to the Holy See, Ret., The John Courtney Murray Chair in Public Service, Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660, 773-274-3000

 

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Source: DignityUSA

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