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Building a Culture of Life

As we move into the second half of Respect Life Month, there are several relevant headlines to consider.

A recent court ruling on a Kentucky law will maintain provisions that require accountability and oversight that could result in fewer abortions. On the national front, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking those ministering to detained immigrants to provide accounts of the conditions of detainment in the context of COVID-19 and basic human rights. May we be mindful this month—and always—of the ways we are called to understand, value, and become engaged with building a culture that cherishes every human life. 
Appeals court uphold Kentucky abortion regulations

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld previous rulings, and reversed a recent ruling, to affirm that restrictions in Kentucky on abortion providers can remain in place. Those critical of the law argued that licensing relationships with other local medical providers represented hurdles that could result in a lack of access to abortions whereas supporters cited the safety of patients as their primary concern. For more on the evolution of this case, click here.

USCCB asks DHS for investigation into immigrant detention conditions

The USCCB has been monitoring and engaging federal agencies regarding serious concerns over the dire health conditions present within the U.S. immigrant detention system. Fiscal Year 2020 has been the deadliest in 14 years in terms of the loss of immigrant detainees and staff, with 36 people dying. Additionally, due to COVID-19 there are additional reports of insufficient access to health care, protective equipment, and a lack of coordinated releases of COVID-19 infected detainees, COVID-19 vulnerable detainees as well as individuals who do not have to be detained under U.S. immigration law. 

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, has sent the Department of Homeland Security letters and requests for investigations. Justice for Immigrants continues to monitor the situation. Please email if you can provide updates regarding first-hand knowledge of human rights violations and inhumane conditions in an immigrant detention facility near you. You can also learn more about immigrant detention and enforcement here.
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The issue of work—and particularly worker safety, wages, and the function of work in the life of a community—is a recurring theme of late. In Fratelli Tutti, we encounter a comprehensive view of work that attends not only to the individual, but also to the collective:

In a genuinely developed society, work is an essential dimension of social life, for it is not only a means of earning one’s daily bread, but also of personal growth, the building of healthy relationships, self-expression and the exchange of gifts. Work gives us a sense of shared responsibility for the development of the world, and ultimately, for our life as a people. (162)

Pope Francis offers this perspective as a counter narrative to “irresponsible populism” that seeks only short-term gains rather than sustained viability through dignified work. Two news items bring aspects of this frame to our shores by exploring evolving trends with the U.S. Catholic Church and middle class and low-wage workers.

An article in America takes an in-depth look at the effects of deindustrialization and modern patterns of family life on who works, when they work, and how often those workers feel that they are able to turn down a shift or overtime in order to attend Mass.

Correspondent Kevin Clarke consults with scholars who analyze and explain different data sets from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, and Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. Dr. Ryan Burge, an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University, summarized a table showing a decline in church attendance among low-income persons by saying, “They have to work long hours at multiple jobs, and they just have scheduling conflicts or are just too tired to do one more thing.”

Paid Family Leave and Catholic Organizations

An opinion piece in Commonweal points out the stark reality that the United States is the only “industrialized nation” that lacks paid maternity leave, a gap that is then exacerbated—rather than closed—by human resource policies in private businesses and nonprofits.

Author Annie Selak, a systemic theologian, reflects on her experience as the working mother of an infant and a parent managing COVID-19 considerations at a Catholic university. She expounds on research findings about work and family health, as well as economic stability, and concludes: “By requiring a generous paid family leave policy for its organizations, the Catholic Church could visibly stand for life, supporting families as they navigate life in all its complexities.”
CMSM Justice and Peace Webinars

These free webinars are open to CMSM members and to your JPIC teams or other members who might benefit. Events are free, but you must pre-register to get the Zoom link.

Justice for Immigrants - 15-Year Anniversary Webinar Series

The Role of Race in Immigration Policy, on October 21, 2 p.m. ET

This workshop will examine the role that race has played in the formation of migration policy in both an historical and contemporary context. It will also look closely at the Church's teaching on race, particularly as understood through the recently issued pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism, and examine the Church's engagement on this issue.

Speakers will include:

  • Todd Scribner, moderator, USCCB/MRS
  • Danielle Brown, USCCB/JPHD
  • Dylan Corbett, Hope Border Institute
  • Abraham Joven, Diocese of San Bernardino
  • Julia Young, The Catholic University of America

A recording of the past webinars in the JFI webinar series are now available on JFI’s webinar page. You can register here for the upcoming JFI 15 Year Anniversary webinars, which run through Nov. 12.
Additional opportunities for reflection and action

Racial justice

Educational presentation on “Augustine on Catholic Social Teaching as Applied to Racism/Black Lives Matter” on Nov. 11, 2020 at 7:30 pm. Presenters include Terry Nance, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Villanova University, and Kevin DePrinzio, OSA, Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Villanova University. Register here.
Remembering the “Roses in December”

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the SHARE Foundation invite groups to celebrate the gift of Dorothy Kazel, OSU; Maura Clarke, MM; Ita Ford, MM; and Jean Donovan who were brutally murdered by the U.S.-supported Salvadoran military on Dec. 2, 1980, for their ministry with those living in poverty. 

Consider hosting a prayer vigil, an evening of conversation and story-telling, a retreat, or other gathering in your communities, parishes or educational institutions to honor the memory of the four “Roses in December” and all who followed in their footsteps. A Roses in December Toolkit provides materials to reflect and prepare. 

We are posting homily resources as we receive them at

Bethany Welch, Ph.D., CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace
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