Occupy, Catholics meeting
Jan 29th, 2012
7:00 pm
60 Wall St., New York, NY 10005

1. Present:

Nathan Schneider, journalist, St. Joseph’s Brooklyn parishioner;

Sr. Susan Wilcox, Sister of St. Joseph, St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, Occupy Faith;

Steve Sapporito, former Catholic, seeking

John Mullen, Catholic Worker

Martha Hennessey, Catholic Worker

Kate Riley, Catholic Worker

Betsy, St. Aug, Transfiguration

Loren Hart, Catholic Worker, former resident of Liberty Plaza

Fr. Paul Mayer, non-canonical priest in E. Orange, NJ, Occupy Faith

Katie Anderson, community organizer, St. Francis NYC

Carmen, Catholic Worker

Patrick, part of Vision and Goals, Structure, and other OWS working groups.

Mary, part of Kitchen, Vision and Goals, and other OWS working groups.

2. Temperature check: Those present have various levels of familiarity and experience with the Occupy movement.

3. What brought us to the meeting tonight?

NS: seeking a way to connect Catholics to the Occupy Movement, for the benefit of both groups

JM: hoping to learn what we can hope for for Occupy in the coming days, and how supporters can take concrete action to support/join up, short of joinging a camp.

SW: has been involved in Pacha Mama programs that help people become aware of the lack of sustainability in society; sees similar “Great Turning” toward awareness happening in Occupy; wants to provide pastoral response to the pain or confusion people feel as old systems – though unjust – break down.

KR: sees natural progression from Catholic Worker (CW) to Occupy, wants to maximise that connection.

SS: wants to make a connection between the morality of Occupy, which mirrors that of the CW movement, to the mainstream Roman Catholic (RC) church in order to enrich it and bring it back to its roots.

PM: drawn to Occupy because of prior activist involvement; supports efforts to make Occupy more diverse, sensitive to religious tradition; concerned that RC community doesn’t “get” Occupy.

SS: wants to address lukewarm response, which comes from lack of vehicle for laity to be involved/have authority in the development of an official position on Occupy; wants to be creative in connecting traditional Catholic practices to support for Occupy.

JM: echoes that hierarchy reluctant to get involved as they are cosy with well-heeled RC businessmen and other donors; principles that support Occupy are present in Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and in papal and episcopal documents, but not enacted.

NS: has felt commonality in involvement with Occupy, going to church; wants to empower ordinary RC lay people to feel and reclaim that commonality.

MH: intrigued by NS’s talk at Maryhouse; was part of interfaith contingency at Tahrir Square.

KA: hoping to build on energy of Occupy to spread awareness of CST

Carmen: believes that, while there is never any moment better than now nor place better than here, the energy of Occupy makes this movement especially good; hopes that the momentum will lead the Church to become more outspoken on the mortgage crisis and economic justice, echoing previous shifts in the Church’s position on nuclear war, for example.

LH: wanted to see what others were thinking, and to brainstorm together about what this group could offer to complement the Occupy movement, amplify its message, build pride in Catholic tradition and involve other Catholics, and promote real change through practical steps.

PM: believes that activists are the “real monks” (to quote Thomas Merton) who are taking commitment to CST to its full expression; that said, CST is for everyone, even busy, ordinary laity.

Patrick: baptised Catholic who has returned the Church; concerned for future of the faith and wants to reclaim Church from those who have abused it.

MH: encourages group to focus on setting a good example, rather than criticizing

SS: believes it’s possible to do both, and that commitment to community is a way of “doing penance,” admitting what’s wrong without being stymied by it.

Mary: believes that what happened was done to the church; members of the church have caved in to sin rather than fight; we are called to fight enslavement and we can’t let sin happen to us. Furthermore, she is attending this meeting because, at the outset of the Occupy movement, she felt abandoned when she saw that other religious leaders, including a rabbi, were present to the movement, but Catholic clergy were not involved.

4. Ideas for actions:

Carmen: Promote “freedom schools,” modeled on civil rights movement, that promote teaching of CST and Vatican 2 principles; knows potential presenters. Simplest action would be leafletting after masses.

PM: Promote interfaith Holy Week/Passover event, featuring Rabbi Art Wasnell (Spelling?) and Donna Schaper from Judson Memorial Church.

SS: Affirms need for action on Palm Sunday; Pray rosary, leave slip in church that reads, “One rosary was said in hopes that Church will do something about poverty, not just say something,” or words to that effect.

SW: Sponsor a station at Pax Christi’s Good Friday Stations of the Cross

– Station 13 is available (Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross.)

– Station will be on 42nd Street near Times Square

-MH: Will there be arrestable direct action?
-SW: A planned action often follows station.

-Carmen: Pax Christi doesn’t endorse direct action, will ask to approve any signs we bring; they are well established with good numbers.

-NS: Hopes we can participate in a direct action at some point, recognizing that direct action is what go the movement started.

-Carmen: As an alternative to having direct action at our station, we could encourage participation at the civil disobedience direct action at USS Intrepid (docked nearby). Does not want to argue with Pax Christi over that; feels it is important to develop good faith relationship.

Betsy: Wonders how Occupy, Catholics can or should reach out to Catholics outside the church – her mom has gotten to know a group who have excommunicated from the RC church because of their stance on ordination of women and gay marriage, but who do a lot of great service to their community.

KA: instinct is to include all people “of good will” in the group’s work, while making it clear to Catholic laity that the principles of CST and economic justice are in no way outside of the Church’s doctrine; leaflets could include citations from Church documents.

SS: affirms need to make laity more aware of CST, make a full understanding CST and all the issues it applies to more prominent.

LH: reports on action in Georgia to occupy foreclosed church; Occupy movement in NY sending someone down to learn how it was done and to create packet to share with other groups.

Carmen: wonders if there will be time to organize an event to recognize the anniversary of MLK Jr.’s assassination on April 4th.

LH: Garner media attention by going public with our support for Occupy movement, since church leaders have not and most likely will not endorse the movement.

JM: remembers reading a statement from Archbishop Dolan expressing openness to Occupy; can we find that statement?

NS: Connect to Occupy calendar, coordinate with working groups

SS: Become Affinity Group, but not working group

5. Next steps:


-PM: Good to have priests

-LH: Will having priests limit what we can say?

-Group: No.

-Betsy: knows a nun who runs a can collection

Create leaflets, including leaflets with CST documents (KA)

Possibly leaflet at St. Patrick’s

Explore Occupy the Rosary idea (SS)

Coordinate with Pax Christi (SW)

We need volunteers to work with the website, facebook and twitter pages.

Consider drafting Declaration, Principles of Solidarity

6. Next meeting:

NS: Conversation about space: Should we move somewhere bigger? Somewhere more convenient?

SW: Can potentially offer space at Brooklyn College

PM: Near public transportation? SW: Yes

PM: Many Manhattanites don’t like going to Brooklyn…

Besty: Sometimes, the feeling’s mutual! 🙂

SW: Suggests we stay at 60 Wall St. for the time being, then revisit the idea of moving.

Time: Tuesday, February 7th, 6:00 pm

7. Announcements:

SS: working group on health care wants to discuss reopening St. Vincents, a recently closed Catholic hospital; meeting will be 1/31 at 6 pm, at the LGBT Ctr, 208 W 13th St.

SW: “Seeing the World Anew: A Framework for a New Economy,” with Maria Riley, OP and Julia Wartenberg of the Center of Concern, Weds. Feb 8, 7:00 pm, Church of St. Francis Xavier, 16th Street (Flyer posted to Occupy, Catholics facebook page).

PM: Panel at Columbia University Faculty House (off Broadway) on 2/6/12 at 7:15 pm. More info is on facebook page.

Patrick: OWS will be crowdsourcing a vision statement. Contributors are welcome.