When one dreams alone, it is only a dream.
When many dream together,
it is the beginning of a new reality.
During my professional career as a social worker I was able to engage in a number of activities that focused on macro social change. As a priest in Schenectady, NY, I was on the board of several social agencies that provided an opportunity to put Jesus’ mission of making major changes in the civil and religious institutions of his time. For Jesus, his efforts to make changes on a macro level, eventually lead to his death. If he had lived during the sixties, I suspect that he would have been a Freedom Rider and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to champion the cause of civil rights. My activities in macro social change were much tamer. In Schenectady, in addition to civil right movement, I was involved with the Community Action Programs of the Office of Economic Opportunity, (which was part of the so called War on Poverty), The Laity and Clergy Against the War in Vietnam, and through my professional organization I was an advocate in for the Medicaid program in the mid-sixties.
In Arizona I was elected president of Friends of Welfare Rights, (an advocacy group for welfare recipients); was appointed to the Forster Care Review Board, (an advocacy group for foster children), by Governor Bruce Babbitt; The Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners by Governor Fife Symington III (a board that was responsible for licensing health care professionals) elected as President of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and was president of the Arizona Chapter of Parents Anonymous (an agency to prevent child abuse). I’m presently the president of Dillon Southwest, an international adoption agency. I’m not giving you this information because I’m applying for a job or tenure, but as examples of the types of macro change agencies I was fortunate to be involved in. All these agencies were actively engaged with changing systems to protect different constituencies. Some, like Parents Anonymous also provided services to individual children and parents.
Macro social work practice encompasses a broad spectrum of practice, including planning, program development, community organizing, policy analysis, legislative advocacy, program evaluation, task-oriented group work, community education, and human services management. The macro program prepares students for careers in multiple arenas with a wide range of populations and social problems. It prepared me to follow on the path that Jesus made over 2000 years ago.
Suggested Readings for Macro Social Change
- The Journal for Faith, Spirituality and Social Change—This bi-annual academic journal invites discussion on the dynamic dimensions of inter-faith dialogue and multi-faith action across a range of social change issues. All articles, which are peer reviewed, are freely accessible on-line.
- Journeys into Justice: Religious Collaboratives Working for Social Change—This website provides descriptions of a number of “change” projects that individuals might be interested in joining. It also has inspiring profiles of change agents that include the famous and not so famous and their contributions to positive social change.
- Justice, with Michael Sandel, Harvard University—This website is a course on Justice by Professor Sandel. His class is now open to the world on this website. You can join nearly 1000 students at Harvard’s Sanders Theater to view his interactive lectures about justice, equality, democracy and citizenship by clicking on “Watch Episodes” at the top of the home page; then click on “Visit Community” where he deals with issue of: affirmative action, is torture ever justified, the common good, and many more issues. This is a fantastic website and Michael Sandel is a great teacher. He has been compared to a “rock star” on a recent book/lecture tour of presentations in Asia and he inspired one university in Japan to offer a course based on his recent book, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”
- Religion and Social Justice in America by Austin Cline in “about.com,” [May 15, 2010]—The author of this article acknowledges the role that religion has played in social justice, which generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights and recognizes the dignity and worth of every human being, while contemporary fundamentalists’ “…focus on private sexual morality to the exclusion of almost all else.”
- Change.org offers opportunities to engage in a variety of social change projects or even start your own project as a change agent.
- Sojourners, faith, politics, culture—This website includes access to articles in the magazine Sojourners, blogs, and a wealth of information on putting faith into action. It’s “…mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world”.
- The Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life—This article is a brief discussion that focuses on the role of religion in positive social change and through advocacy. After defining and describing advocacy, it looks at how faith traditions can motivate, use their social capital and community base to effect change by advocating for social issues.
- Fausel, D. (2006): Globalization: Opportunities for Positive Social Change. Journal of Social Change. Vol. 1. (3-30) [PDF]—This is the first edition of the Journal of Social Change. The journal includes five articles on social change at the macro level. My article is the first one beginning on page 3. At the end of the article on pages 26 through 30 there is a section on Electronic References for Global Social Change. It provides 25 websites with brief annotations of the content for each site. They are divided into three sections: Macro, Micro and Educational social change.
- Here are two presentations from the website Heaven on Earth Creations. The first one is a preview of a DVD, The Globalized Soul. It features commentary by visionary spiritual activists, such as Rev. James Trapp, Uncle Bob Randall, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Sister Joan Chittister, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, Roshi Joan Halifax, Mirabai Starr and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The preview showcases inspirational sacred music by Enya, Philip Glass, Ravi Shankar, and Harold Grandstaff Moses. It emphasizes the potential for the oneness of our planet. The possibility of the diversity of religions becoming a spiritual e pluribus unum.The second offering is an essay by Kell Kearns, The Consciousness of the Christ: Reclaiming Jesus for the New Humanity. “A humanity free of war, oppression, and fear, born to te realm of endless potential, eternal life, and co-creation of the universe, itself.”
- This religious blog in the Dallas News includes verses of Woody Guthrie’s song, This Land is Your Land, that is often left out from renditions by popular folk singers. The article itself is interesting and shows how songs of social action can contribute to social change, and the comments by respondents are equally interesting.
- The website of the Catholic Worker founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin is a model for how she and those who followed her put into action the teachings of Jesus, particularly as they related to the poor and disadvantaged and how we can make a change in their lives. The website includes an abundance of information about Dorothy and Peter and their work and legacy in the Catholic Worker movement.
Macro Change in the Church
There are a number of catholic organizations whose major focus is making changes in the church. These are loyal Catholics, who might dissent on some issues but have the best interest of their church at heart. One of their goals is for the institutional church to acknowledge and put in action the importance of the “sensus fidelium”, which literally means the “sense of the faithful.” The term originated with the early Church Fathers and has been championed by among others St. John Henry Newman. He wrote in an essay entitled, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine:
Consulting the people is not to be regarded as just a friendly gesture on the part of the pope or bishops. Consultation is something the laity have a right to expect. Their view may serve at times as a needed witness of truth of a revealed doctrine.
Unfortunately the monarchical structure of the church has ignored the sensus fidelium more often than it has recognized it. I will provide examples in future blogs. Below are just a few of the lay movements working for change in the church.
- American Catholic Council (ACC)—As described on their website: “American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World. We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the ‘signs of the times’, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration.”ACC held an Assembly in Detroit in June of 2011, where they had close to two thousand participants from all over the country and as far away as Australia. It brought together some of the major organizations that have been working for social change for years. Their website above, has copies of the Their Mission, The Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibility, Goals, etc. as well as a complete report of the Assembly and opportunities for local groups to be involved in the future. The fact that this meeting was so well planned and it brought together a coalition of groups that had been working independently, I believe is very important sign of the old adage that there is in strength in numbers. If the Tea Party get over 500,000 together in such a short time, why can’t the “sensus fidelium” unite for change?
- Call to Action (CTA)—As they state on their website: “Call To Action draws its mission from the US Bishops’ 1976 Call To Action conference, and the ‘Call for Reform in the Catholic Church’ proclaimed by more than 20,000 signers articulates its goals for our Church. It began as a response to the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962 and 1965, for all members to ‘scrutinize the signs of the times’ and respond in the light of the gospel. The council provided a wake-up call for lay Catholics who had tended to defer initiatives entirely to the clergy.”Unfortunately, the bishops who put that movement in motion gradually distanced themselves from CTA because of some church-justice issues. There is a full discussion of the dynamics between the hierarch and the laity under About Us/Our History banner on their website. Without the same backing of the bishops it had originally, the movement became a national movement, focusing on both societal issues and reform in the church.
Voice of the Faithful—As described on their website under the banner Who We Are: “Voice of the Faithful is a lay organization of faithful Catholics, who organized in 2002 as a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. We started in the basement of a church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and have since expanded worldwide with more than 30,000 members.
- Support survivors of clergy sexual abuse
- Support priests of integrity
- Shape structural change within the Catholic Church
Our Mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. We work towards achieving our mission by pursuing three goals:
Sadly, many of the bishops in the United States did not favorably respond to the last of the tree goals. My own experience in the diocese of Phoenix Arizona was that our local group in Phoenix was not allowed to hole meetings on any of the Catholic Church’s properties. We met in several libraries. The message I got from that decision by the local bishop was, “So much for the voice of the faithful, that property belongs to me, and your voice isn’t welcome. Just follow the old cliché of “pray, pay and obey”, this is my church.” Arizona wasn’t the only place where VOF wasn’t welcomed by the “high hats” it was widespread throughout the United States.
Future Church—As described in their website under the banner About Us:
Our Mission: Future Church seeks changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership.
Our Vision: Future Church works for:
- Just, open and collaborative structures for Catholic worship, organization and governance.
- A return to the Church’s early tradition of both married and celibate priests.
- A return to the Church’s earliest tradition, modeled on the inclusive practice of Jesus, of recognizing both female and male leaders of faith communities.
- Regular access to the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life and worship, for all Catholics.
The website also contains a number of projects that they are working on. For example, A Call for National Dialogue on the Future of Priestly Ministry and has a list of articles on current issues both within the church and the broader community.
National Catholic Reporter (NCR)—Although not a membership organization like the other groups above, the NCR has a broad readership beyond diocesan newspapers. As described on their website under the banner, About Us:
“In 1964, National Catholic Reporter (NCR) began as a newspaper and is now a print and web news source that stands as one of the few, if not the only truly independent, journalistic outlet for Catholics and others who struggle with the complex moral and societal issues of the day. Approximately 23% of the U.S. population identifies itself as Catholic, the largest religious body in this country, and NCR is the only significant alternative Catholic voice that provides avenues for expression of diverse perspectives, promoting tolerance and respect for differing ideas.
NCR is a religious news source with worldly interests; and though a large amount of its reporting deals with issues of the Catholic Church, an equal amount of its coverage is a marriage of the religious, political and social forces shaping public policies and institutions. We are concerned for all people and we are committed to shaping a world that recognizes the dignity of every human being, regardless of religious belief, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other characteristic. Throughout our history, we have been a voice for the disadvantaged and the marginalized, and we have told the stories of injustice that others simply will not print.
Catholica—As described on their website is a cyber initiative that has grown organically from a small group of lay Catholics who first met about five years ago when the CathNews discussion forum was established. They were individuals characterized by a search for a deeper understanding of their faith but, in many cases, also struggling with significant challenges in their own lives.According to their editor, Brian Coyne, “they ended up forming a private cyber community and have organised retreats and meals together and continue to meet with one another both in cyberspace and in their own homes. The friendship extends across the oceans of the world and has led to myriad wonderful relationships and shared experiences. The Catholica initiative seeks to share the wonderful experiences we have had with others, particularly those who might be struggling with challenges in their lives who seek a compassionate ear.None of us pretend to have all the answers and, self-evidently, we don’t think the Church does either. We do believe God has a few answers though and as a Church community we can assist one another in hearing what God’s answers might be.”
The daily topics are interesting, stimulating, often provocative, and draws a very active interaction with a wide variety of opinions. It’s the first e-mail I open up in the morning and if I’m not careful, I could spend most of the rest of the morning, reading and often interacting with others
The National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC)—is a confederation of Catholics and community of men and women of goodwill and conscience who are linked to each other in the common pursuit to promote justice for survivors of sexual abuse especially by any clergy from any and all religious institutions.NSAC celebrates the lives of survivors indelibly marked by courageous suffering and struggle against the burdens of sexual violence and insidious denial. It stands in solidarity with survivors in their lifelong struggles for justice.The scandal of the pedophile priests and the bishops who covered up for them created shock waves throughout the Catholic and non-Catholic communities starting in 2002, when the Boston Globe brought this outrageous behavior to the public’s attention. New cases of child molestation by clergy continue to be reported on a weekly basis both throughout the United States and Europe. Despite the bishops agreement in their meeting in Dallas in 2002, to enforce “zero tolerance”, for pedophile priests, they have shown little leadership in punishing accessory bishops, who allowed this abomination to go on and on. This scandal continues to need more transparency and for bishops to take more responsibility for the actions and lack of actions.
In many cases bishops were, either accessories to the crime before it was committed (moving a known pedophile to a new parish without informing the parishioners) or an accessory after the fact.
Criminal Law Lawyer Source describes an accessory after the fact as “…an individual who knowingly shelters or aids a criminal after they commit a crime. The accessory does so in order to help the felon evade arrest or criminal prosecution.” Even though it might be difficult to legally prove this in court it would get the situation out in the open and expose the type of behavior that was going on among the “High Hats”.