This profile was last updated in 2005
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, is a progressive voice within the Catholic community that has worked to influence Congress in favor of peace and justice for more than 30 years. Through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching – the rich social justice tradition of the Catholic Church – NETWORK works toward a “social, economic, and political order that ensures human dignity and ecological justice; celebrates racial, ethnic and cultural diversity; and, promotes the common good.”
In December 1971, 47 Catholic sisters from around the country gathered in Washington DC to strategize how they might be heard by the federal government as a progressive Catholic voice for justice. From their myriad experiences of working with people living in poverty, they felt it critical to address not only people’s needs, but more especially the social structures that perpetuate injustice. They decided to form a lobbying network, opening a small office in April 1972. Today NETWORK is a women-led membership organization, representing more than 100,000 people, among them individuals, congregations of men and women religious, parishes and diocesan organizations. The organization understands its work as a living response to the ministry of Jesus in our contemporary context.
Economic Equity and Global Peace
NETWORK addresses a range of political issues that currently fall under the broad categories of economic equity and global peace. Under economic equity, the organization addresses: the federal budget, which it defines as a moral statement of the nation’s priorities and an instrument for the common good; affordable housing; employment at a living wage; universal access to affordable, quality health care; just welfare policies; immigration and campaign finance reform. Global peace and security priorities include efforts toward sustainable development and just international trade and investment policies.
NETWORK members are encouraged to become issue or media activists. They are also invited to join the Rapid Response Network – designed to respond to urgent action alerts. Through the interactive Legislative Action Center, members can use sample letters to express to their members of Congress their positions on issues that NETWORK is tracking. They are also encouraged to meet with and lobby their elected officials when they are in the district or state. Letters to local newspaper editors are also encouraged.
Through its affiliated NETWORK Education Program (NEP), the organization “engages people in envisioning and working toward a just and equitable society.” NEP seeks to build political will and participation through skill-building sessions on citizenship and nonpartisan analysis of issues from a faith perspective.
Catholic Social Teaching
Sister Catherine Pinkerton CSJ, a lobbyist for NETWORK remarked, “Our agenda is an economic equity agenda; our major concern is to be a voice in solidarity with persons who are economically disenfranchised, both domestically and globally. Catholic social teaching places strong emphasis on the ‘option for the poor‘ as it is expressed. The further explication of ‘option’ states that ‘the needs of people who are poor take precedence over the wants of those who are rich.’ In that light, the option for those who are poor becomes a mandate.”