Answering the call of the United States Catholic bishops for a Fortnight for Freedom, on the evening of June 21, we Occupy Catholics gathered on the sidewalk at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Though separated from our cathedral by a cage of police barricades and armed guards, we held a General Assembly on Freedoms to discuss what freedom means in our faith. The bishops have identified threats to freedom of their own, but we, as part of Christ’s church, set out to ask ourselves and each other what freedoms are most urgently under threat in our society, as well as what the obedience our faith demands of us. We announced our prayerful intentions to Cardinal Dolan beforehand, but were answered only with the power of the state.
Following the assembly, we remained through the night in vigil, in a NightFort for Freedom, joined by friends—including fellow Occupiers and the homeless—until attending the next morning’s 7 a.m. mass in the cathedral with the Cardinal. We recorded the assembly and the vigil for in our minutes, our streaming video, and our tweets, and our photos. Overnight, in prayer and sleep, we reflected on the freedoms that we’d earlier discussed, which we’d come to by the guidance of the Spirit, as human beings made in God’s image and seeking God’s justice. The threats to freedom that came foremost to our minds and hearts were these:
- Freedom from discrimination. Policies like the NYPD’s use of “stop and frisk” have the effect of criminalizing whole populations, thereby supporting a prison-industrial complex that profits from the suffering of vulnerable people. Police departments lack sufficient oversight over their increasingly militarized powers to control and subjugate. Meanwhile, women in our church are increasingly being silenced and victimized for speaking out and following their conscience in ministry. We intend to support the struggle to end such policies through our movement and in our parishes, joining with allies of other faiths and backgrounds, knowing that in God’s eyes the dignity of each depends on recognizing the essential equality of all.
- Freedom from complicity in war and the economy of the 1%. We want to be able to love our country, but our faith does not permit us to tolerate its practice of perpetual war, aggression, and domination around the world. Life everywhere is good and comes from God, and we have no right to destroy it, least of all in wanton pursuit of profits for the wealthiest, who stand to benefit from war while the poorest are the ones who die. We stand with Pope Paul VI, who said before the United Nations, “No more war, never again war!” Our church and the Occupy movement have often been silent on the evil of modern warfare, which takes ever more insidious forms, and we will work within both to be a voice for a future of justice and peace.
- Freedom to self-govern in our church and society. Electoral politics, and increasingly our own church, are mired in the tyranny of money and greed, which make society a mockery of its true, divine calling to serve the people, and the most vulnerable above all. The direct democracy practiced in the Occupy movement has inspired us to long for a richer, fuller self-government in our society as well as in our church. While respecting the church’s sacramental offices, we reject their monopoly over the leadership and the public voice of the church as a whole. We want to hear from one another, and encourage one another to lead, by the God-given wisdom invested in each member of Christ’s body. We will not tolerate the violence of faithful voices being silenced. Humanity needs the opportunity to grow and to let the Spirit guide us on the road of transformation.
These are not the only freedoms we discussed. There were others as well, including:
Freedom of assembly • freedom of speech • freedom from torture • freedom of thought • freedom not to kill • freedom of belief • freedom to earn • freedom of conscience • freedom from suffering • freedom from manipulation • freedom to love • freedom of movement • freedom from mass consumption • freedom from relativism • freedom from debt • freedom to live in a healthy environment • freedom to serve the church • freedom from predatory corporations • freedom from greed
We call upon Catholics and allies everywhere to join with us in speaking out about, standing for, and finally occupying these and other freedoms that God, through undying and unlimited love, entrusts to us, that we might share them with each other in our church and our movement.