We invite you to read and reflect on these recent publications by our Sisters and staff, engaging in the call to “educate, advocate, and act, in collaboration with others, for the dignity of life and the care of all creation.”

Honor St. Augustine’s feast day by marching for voting rights on Aug. 28 | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D.

On Aug. 28, the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, people will take to the streets again in an event called March On for Voting Rights. The original March on Washington, directed by leaders from the N.A.A.C.P. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, took place with support from many U.S. bishops (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had not yet been formed), as well as Catholic interracial councils, parishes and other groups around the country. This year’s march deserves similar support from the Catholic community.

No surprise: Nuns are taking the lead in putting ‘Laudato Si’’ into action | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

… S.S.N.D. and other communities of women religious are among the first to make a public commitment to join the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which Pope Francis initiated in May “to help lead the world’s Catholics along a journey of intensified action in caring for creation.” Among Catholics, women religious have been leading the way on issues of environmental justice and ecological spirituality.

Can Catholics agree on anything about abortion? | U.S. Catholic (uscatholic.org) by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

Just as Jesus focuses his attention on the structural issues that contribute to the adulterous woman’s actions—on the men who objectify and exploit her, who try to make her pay the price for an injustice in which another man is at least equally complicit—so Catholics should come together around policy issues that promote gender and racial equity to empower women and their families, including their unborn children.

Catholics: Embrace being ‘woke.’ It’s part of our faith tradition. | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

Mocking the term “woke” has become an easy way to dismiss an issue or argument as exaggerated, superficial or ostentatious. … The broad repudiation of “wokeness,” however, violates a model of moral praxis affirmed in the Catholic tradition: the pastoral cycle, or “see-judge-act.” 

Migrants and refugees are victims of ‘cancel culture.’ The only antidote: authentic encounter. | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

We have all heard the term “cancel culture” ad nauseum, to the point where no two people can agree on what precisely it means. But if “canceling” is a means of removing someone from public debate, or banishing to the shadows something that causes discomfort, then critics of “cancel culture” have missed an important point: Canceling is not necessarily problematic because popular censure limits the influence of certain public figures or ideas; rather, it is dangerous because it contributes to the exclusion of our most vulnerable neighbors. Our cultural inattention or neglect has canceled marginalized groups such as the elderly (isolated in nursing homes), the homeless (removed from public view whenever possible) and those exiled to prisons or detention centers. Refugees and migrants at our southern border offer another example. We have canceled them in a way that threatens not their standing on social media but their very lives. Click the link to read more from America Media.

Georgia’s new voting law is an affront to Catholic social teaching. | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

Georgia’s recently passed voting law, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, brings into stark relief the need for Catholic social thought to inform public life. Like hundreds of similar laws being proposed across the country in the wake of 2020's presidential election, it makes it more difficult for many residents to vote, exacerbating the greater difficulties already faced by voters of color. Supporters argue that the law will limit voter fraud without unreasonably burdening would-be voters, but many of these would-be voters vigorously oppose the law, and its critics argue that claims of widespread voter fraud are unfounded.

The impeachment of truth | Opinion - nj.com, by Arlene Flaherty, OP (Director, JPIC)

For Americans, the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump should hold much more meaning than is contained in the verdict that was issued. We can, and must, see in it the deeper challenge and call to uphold personally, and collectively, the standards required by truth, no matter the cost. After witnessing the events of Jan. 6, the alternative is too frightening an option. We now know the verdict in the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump. But the jury is still out regarding America’s impeachment of truth. What will be our verdict? (Click the link to read the full article.)

We can hold Trump accountable and still have national unity. Just ask St. Augustine and Pope Francis. | America Magazine by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose the theme “America United” for his presidential inauguration—a prophetic gesture in light of the seditious attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and the subsequent impeachment of President Trump. Many of us are wondering what it will take to unite this nation and to restore public trust in our governing bodies as well as interpersonal trust between citizens. … Restorative justice, of which St. Augustine was an early proponent, is a concept rooted in the biblical vision of shalom, or “all-rightness,” and it can provide a helpful framework for us now. (Click the link to read the full article.)

Women religious can unite the church | U.S. Catholic by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

Recently, Pope Francis urged Christians in the United States to seek unity in the spirit of “the prayer of Jesus, ‘That they may all be one’—unity that is not uniformity, no. Unity with differences, but one heart.” This builds on his exhortations in Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship), and Let Us Dream (Simon & Schuster),where he emphasizes the need for openness, dialogue, and encounter to guide our decision-making as we reach for a better future. He also identifies the leadership of women as critical for motivating this type of engagement. As the church celebrates The World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, it seems appropriate to recognize the reservoirs of practical wisdom that women religious, in particular, can offer Catholics in the United States as we navigate this politically discordant time. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

Microplastics are toxic to fetal development—a reminder that the environment is a pro-life issue, too. | America Magazine, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

With the discovery of microplastics in human placentas, we can no longer look at environmental degradation as separate from, or tangential to, pro-life issues. Any person who values fetal life must not only fight against abortion but also advocate for environmental protections. Members of both major political parties should be engaged in this endeavor. (Click the link to read the full article.)

Attack on the Capitol must cause a change of heart for Catholics by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

If we continue to limit our political engagement to casting a ballot and to bristling when our respective parties are criticized, we will perpetuate our inability to see each other beyond our political persuasion. It will remain impossible to distinguish between extremists and those in the party who would censure their actions. We should instead take an active role in holding our elected officials accountable and reordering the political arena. If we act with integrity, listen to the voices of those who are marginalized, and speak out on behalf of those who are vulnerable—in accord with the principles of Catholic social thought, which never should be considered a partisan weapon—I believe we will contribute to the healing of our nation and restore the relationships broken by partisanship. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

From Mary to Jill: Titles matter, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

If we are to follow Jesus, then, we must be willing to listen to women, as he did. But this, as Matthews writes, “requires a certain audacity.” It requires a willingness to question worldviews passed on to us by patriarchal social systems, and to adopt a new framework that highlights the voices of those who traditionally have been marginalized—it requires our assent to the creative energy of God, speaking through the wisdom of the lowly. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

Where Do We Go From Here? My Post-Election Confessions. By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

While we must continue to pursue justice as our conscience prods, let us do so with grace, with love for the other, and with the hope that all will know the justice of God as closely as possible on this earth. As Pope Francis exhorts us, “Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with this ideology, with that one; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of [God] and brothers and sisters of Jesus. … By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God.” (Click the link to read more from Millennial.)

Our Immigration System Continually Violates the Rights of Children. Do We Still Care? by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)
During this year of crisis, the love of my family is what has sustained me. Now, purportedly in the name of my safety and well-being, our national policies are imposing unimaginable heartbreak upon mothers just like me—families just like mine—compounding the acute stress of the pandemic and the trauma of the dangers that motivated their migration in the first place. … So, what can I do to be in solidarity with these migrant families? And where can I find the moral energy to do it?

Pope Francis’ ‘Let Us Dream’ inspires readers to meet the challenge of our age, by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director, JPIC

Pope Francis’ Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (Simon & Schuster), written in collaboration with his biographer Austin Ivereigh, is an important addition to his textual corpus. In a relaxed and conversational tone, Francis poignantly captures the ills of today’s world and suggests practical solutions for overcoming them, both personally and systemically. Though the work does not contain much that is new—it is very much in keeping with the themes from his previous encyclicals, messages, and exhortations—it does invite readers to engage in personal reflection and nuanced dialogue on a more intimate level than his formal texts. Throughout the book, Francis deftly weaves personal anecdotes and reflection with sharp social critique and theological analysis. Readers will not escape unmoved. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

Do American kids need antiracist education? By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director, JPIC 

I want my children to learn that heroes and villains are often more complex than we acknowledge. George Washington the slave owner and Abraham Lincoln the white supremacist were products of their time and should not be unambiguously condemned for their limited moral vision. In many other ways, they were heroic and should be honored and emulated accordingly. However, if we do not learn to process the aspects of their worldviews that perpetuated the myth of white supremacy, we are in danger of limiting our own moral vision and that of our children as well.

The friendly tension between Catholic social teaching and capitalism: Does a rising tide lift all boats? By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D. (Assistant Director, JPIC)

During the Republican National Convention in 2020, speakers attempted to dispel concerns that President Trump or his supporters are racist. Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, said at the convention, “President Trump does not dabble in identity politics. He wants everyone to succeed and believes in the adage, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ ”

The “rising tide” theory is associated with capitalism—an economic and political system that prioritizes private control of goods and services for profit. Because the church calls Catholics to consider every economic and political action according to how the most vulnerable members of society are faring, it is important to evaluate the truth of this adage.

Can a pro-life Catholic vote for Joe Biden? Vatican II has an answer. By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director, JPIC

When I cast my first vote in 2008, I was not Catholic. My subsequent faith conversion and corresponding experiences (earning a doctorate in theology and working for a community of women religious) have reshaped my politics in profound ways that have made it increasingly difficult to vote my conscience in any election.

To be truly pro-life, the church must be antiracist by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D, Assistant Director, JPIC

Pro-life efforts must involve anti-racism efforts, or they are disingenuous. The protests that have erupted around our nation in response to the killings of Black people by police and vigilantes challenge us as a nation to examine the racism embedded in our social structures. As pro-life advocates, we must consider whether our efforts to protect the unborn perpetuate “racism and exclusion.” The 2020 March for Life promoted the theme “Life Empowers: Pro-life is Pro-woman,” but we must ask: Is pro-life pro-Black woman?

God is in the ties that bind, says Pope Francis in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ by Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

Readers hoping for a groundbreaking theological treatise will be disappointed—Francis has not given us that. He has, however, authoritatively elevated the import of the key themes of his papacy—encounter, openness, interconnectedness, and dialogue, to name a few—by bringing them together to enrich our understanding of the ways these gospel values ought to inform our engagement in building a just society. Fratelli Tutti offers a wide-ranging critique of our social structures and suggests a vision for reordering society according to charity in truth.

Now is the time for a new Catholic political vision By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

Though raised as an evangelical Protestant, I was first drawn to Catholicism when I encountered St. Augustine in an undergraduate philosophy course. Once I discovered modern Catholic social thought I was hooked. The beauty of this faith tradition, I found, lay in the authenticity of its view of human nature—the way faith and reason collaboratively inform a conception of human persons as intellectual, emotional, volitional, and, above all, relational. The principles of justice this view inspires capture the reality and hope of human existence. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

This election season, don’t let culture wars define Catholic advocacy By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

Our nation is engaged in a winner-take-all culture war. As Michael Grunwald says, this essentially entails “the transformation of even nonpartisan issues into mad-as-hell battles of the bases, which makes it virtually impossible for politicians to solve problems in a two-party system. Cooperation and compromise start to look like capitulation, or even treasonous collusion with the enemy.” There are various historical and philosophical hypotheses that may explain how we got here, but at the heart of the current culture war lies a difference in the import each side confers to individual responsibility and systemic constructs. Responses to the racial tensions exacerbated by the murder of George Floyd—a Black man killed by police brutality—exemplify the divergence. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic.)

Help Convert Dreams into Reality By Sister Pat Ferrick

Dear Editor: In 2012, President Obama announced that certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children (Dreamers) would receive temporary permission to remain and work or study in the U.S. but they not entitled to apply for citizenship nor for legal permanent resident status. This program is known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It affects some 700,000 young people, many of whom know no other home than the U.S. (Click the link to read more from the Brooklyn Tablet.)

World Refugee Day is June 20. Just imagine … By Sister Mary Leonora Tucker

Imagination is a wonderful gift that, as children, we use fairly often. Then, as we grow up, many of us put that gift aside. However, on June 20 of this year, every person around the globe is receiving an invitation from the United Nations to rectify that neglect by responding to the call of the 2020 World Refugee Day, a call which is — in part — for us to imagine the reality that is faced by every refugee. (Click the link to read more from NCR’s Global Sisters Report.)

We are called to embody the Spirit of Pentecost By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

In Greek, the word for Holy Spirit is derived from the word pneuma, which is also the word for breath. At the first Christian Pentecost, the Spirit was revealed in fire and expressed in unprecedented dialogue between diverse ethnic groups. This year, since the church celebrated Pentecost in the midst of a pandemic and widespread protests, these spiritual realities bear new physical meaning, and we are called to embody the Spirit of Pentecost going forward. (Click the link to read more from NCR’s Global Sisters Report.)

Refugees and Human Trafficking in the Context of a Pandemic By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

Globally, there are more than 70 million displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. A refugee is an officially recognized and vetted displaced person, who cannot return home and has some legal right to remain in a foreign country. There are nearly 26 million refugees worldwide—eighty-five percent of whom are hosted by developing countries, living in overcrowded and unsanitary camps or urban areas, with limited access to the job market, education, healthcare, and housing. (Click the link to read more from U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. 

What can St. Augustine teach us about living through a pandemic? By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

In the last years of St. Augustine’s life, in the early fifth century, he watched as Germanic Vandals marched across northern Africa, pillaging and occupying cities along the way until finally besieging his own city of Hippo. Today, as we watch Covid-19 make its way across the globe, ravaging nations and instilling fear, we can learn much from his insights. Though Augustine might seem an unlikely source of hope (given his reputation for pessimism), his spirituality can offer inspiration and guidance at this time. (Click the link to read more from America.)

The United States has criminalized asylum. Covid-19 gives us a reason to reconsider. By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC

If Covid-19 makes anything clear, it is that all of creation is connected. This pandemic is revealing the extent of our physical dependency on one another and our environment. Of course, this connection has been affirmed theologically throughout the Catholic tradition. In St. Augustine’s words, human beings are “linked together by a common fellowship based on a common nature,” and Pope Francis drives the point home in the encyclical “Laudato Si’,” emphasizing that “everything is connected.” In global efforts to maintain social distance, we are seeing, paradoxically, an incredible moment of solidarity—of recognizing our connections and acting for the sake of the common good. (Click the link to read more America.)

Partnership as a Model for Mission: Lessons on Solidarity from Augustine and the School Sisters of Notre Dame By Kathleen Bonnette, Th.D., Assistant Director JPIC
Abstract: This paper highlights the partnership approach to mission adopted by the Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (AMSSND), which is working to empower the people of Haiti through collaboration with Beyond Borders, an established NGO in the region. I explore this approach in light of the spirituality of St. Augustine that grounds the charism of unity of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). Examining the connections between Augustine and the mission and ministry of the SSND community, through reflecting on the ways partnership has been an effective means of engaging the SSND mission of facilitating unity, or “oneness,” illuminates helpful ways to conceive of solidarity. (Click the link to read more from Praxis: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Faith and Justice.)

Stay tuned for more!