NETWORK’s mission and values arise out of the long and rich tradition of Catholic Social Justice. This tradition encompasses the written teachings of the Church (Catholic Social Teaching) but is also broader, including the witness of all Christians and people of faith committed to proclaiming the love of the Gospel and the justice of God’s kingdom in the public sphere. We at NETWORK are inspired in a special way by the courageous commitment of Catholic sisters living out Gospel justice. Catholic Social Justice is not a theory or an intellectual exercise, but rather how people of faith are called to live the Gospel in a broken and suffering world.
Catholic Social Justice is grounded in:
Catholic Social Justice is grounded in scripture—in the wisdom of the Hebrew prophets and in the person and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. As two of NETWORK’s former executive directors, Sister Carol Coston, OP and Sister Nancy Sylvester, IHM, have noted, the message of the Hebrew prophets was two-fold: to denounce injustice and to announce a new way of being in the world. In the New Testament, when Jesus says “The Spirit of God has anointed me to proclaim liberty to captives” he identifies himself with this prophetic tradition (Luke 4:18). Likewise, as people of faith, we are called to denounce injustices when we see them and announce new, just ways of living together in community.
Catholic Social Teaching
In addition to being grounded in scripture, Catholic Social Justice is shaped by Catholic Social Teaching, the official instruction on social issues from the Pope or Catholic Bishops. In Gaudium et Spes (1965), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World which emerged from the Second Vatican Council, we were called to address global poverty and inequality, saying it is Christians’ responsibility to “scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel” (4). This instruction to face the present situation with courage in order to fight and overcome injustices emphasizes the enduring teachings of the Church throughout the ages. More recently, Pope Francis has breathed fresh life into these teachings by challenging the world to convert from a “throwaway culture” to an economy of inclusion.
Catholic Social Tradition
Catholic Social Justice looks to the public witness of believers who have embodied its principles as additional sources of guidance, inspiration, and instruction. This includes individuals such as Sr. Miriam Theresa, SNJM (Caroline Gleason) who fought for the nation’s first minimum wage and Sr. Antona Ebo, FSM who has spent her entire life struggling for racial equality. Lay persons also, like Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez, show us how people of faith can work to create a just, more peaceful society.
Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “realities are more important than ideas” (2013). Catholic Social Justice is informed by the prophetic challenge offered by the experience of those suffering from injustice: women, communities of color, the economically exploited, and all whose dignity is denied by unjust systems and structures. Catholic Social Justice witnesses the realities in which people are living and listens to their cries.
In the spring of 2015, NETWORK carefully reflected on these foundations of Catholic Social Justice and recommitted ourselves to living out these core principles.
NETWORK commits to upholding human dignity, embracing our right and responsibility to participate,
standing with those living in poverty, bridging divisions, uniting with workers, and nurturing the earth.