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February 15, 2017

"Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump" Recap

A little less than a week before the inauguration, more than 400 leaders and staff in advocacy, policy, activism, Church outreach and a range of Georgetown students, staff, and faculty gathered for a dialogue on “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump.”

As noted by The Hoya in their coverage titled “Panelists Advocate Role for Catholic Social Values in Trump Presidency,” the panel featured a range of perspectives on Catholic social thought and the new administration , including Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK; Jessica Chilin-Hernandez, a staff member at Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor; Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington; Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL), member of the House of Representatives for Florida’s nineteenth district; and Joan Rosenhauer, executive VP for U.S. operations at Catholic Relief Services.

A significant portion of the conversation centered around the issue of immigration and the refugee crisis. Representative Rooney articulated the core conundrum facing policy makers on this issue: “How do we balance the conflicting values of the protection of human rights protection of migrants and unifying families, which is at the core of Catholic Social Teaching, with an equally important concept of state sovereignty and respect of territorial boundaries, which the Vatican has also supported ever since Charlamagne?” Chilin-Hernandez also reflected on the role that Catholic principles need to play in legislature concerning immigrants and refugees. Amidst a deeply personal and passionate reflection, she pointed out, “If we are to take the idea of imago dei seriously, that is, the image of God is reflected in our human likeness in all of its diversity, then we are called to care for our refugee, asylum-seeking, and migrant neighbors in the same way we would also care for God.”

Beyond the topic of immigration, panelists also pointed to the importance of Trump’s approach to the issue of poverty in America. Catholic media outlet Crux, reporting on the event, decided on the byline “Panel to Trump: To ‘make America great again’ remember the poor.” As Sister Campbell pointed out, “No one can be left out of our care. We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.” Father Enzler echoed these sentiments with an anecdote about Pope Francis from his 2014 visit to the United States. When he was in Washington, the Holy Father opted out of a congressional luncheon after his address at the Capitol to eat lunch with Washington, D.C.’s homeless. In the words of Father Enzler, in this moment, Pope Francis “taught us a lot about how we’re called to live, and how we’re called to love.”

Although ranging across the political spectrum, the panelists all expressed the same desire for the new administration to work for the common good, as noted by Catholic News Service’s coverage in the article “Catholic panel addresses need to find common ground with Trump administration.”

The panelists also acknowledged that our country is facing one of the most intensely polarized political climates in its recent history. Citizens are divided on issues surrounding race, gender, socioeconomic background, religion, and political ideology, to name only a few.

Despite these divisions, Father Enzler also provided hope that faith and the ideals expressed by Catholic Social Teaching can act as a unifying force moving forward. To close, Enzler offered these thoughts: “I’m hopeful, knowing this is going to be a huge uphill climb, that we can find a way to listen, that we can find a way to make sure the things we believe in every day and live every day, we live that also under our new president, who will be challenged hopefully to follow the gifts of our Church, the gifts of our teaching, and the gifts of life itself.”

Photos of the Dialogue can be found on the Initiative’s Facebook page.