From The Vaults

At the University Of Dayton, The Nuns On The Bus Urge Students To “Help Carry Out The Mission Of The Gospel”

Greeting the nuns were a group of four women holding signs saying “Abortion.” After the event I talked with them and they said they thought the nuns were “wishy-washy” on taking a strong anti-abortion stand. One woman said that, to her, there is no greater injustice than abortion. They indicated that they are Romney supporters.

Yesterday, the “Nuns on the Bus” arrived at the University of Dayton and were greeted by a group of about 150, mostly students. UD is a Marianist school and several of the nuns are UD graduates. The nuns urged the UD students to, “help carry out the mission of the gospel.”

The nuns will be in Ohio for five more days and their schedule can be seen here.

The nuns are promoting “The Faithful Budget”and scolded both Democrats and Republicans for not creating sufficient policies to help the poor. The preface to the Faithful budget states, “Our message to our national leaders — rooted in our sacred texts — is this: Act with mercy and justice by serving the common good, robustly funding support for poor and vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, and exercising proper care and keeping of the earth.”

The nuns are particularly responding to Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who is know for the “Ryan Budget” and who defends his budget in terms of his own Catholic faith. According to Think Progress, the Ryan Budget “would devastate the poor,”  and the nuns, evidently, agree.

After Ryan defended his budget in Christian terms, the Nuns on the Bus released this statement:

“As communities of faith we have long believed that the budget is a moral document and we judge each proposal not by the arbitrary fiscal support it provides, but rather by the human impact it holds. A Faithful Budget protects the common good, values every individual and lifts the burden on the poor. In light of all the religious comments around the budget debate, we hope members of Congress will look at the Faithful Budget and make an honest effort to build a more just society and a healthier world.”

But, at UD yesterday, the nuns did not mention the Ryan budget by name. They said that Christians should work to help make a world where “no one is left out.”  They encouraged the UD students that they should follow Catholic social teaching and should partner with them to help make a better society and to help the most vulnerable.

It was a beautiful afternoon and the when the big blue bus arrived at the University of Dayton, the nuns were warmly greeted.

The nuns spoke to a group of students and visitors who gathered on the lawn in front of the Jesse Phillips building.


2 comments to At the University Of Dayton, The Nuns On The Bus Urge Students To “Help Carry Out The Mission Of The Gospel”

  • Stan Hirtle

    Why does it takes nuns on a bus to get Americans, and particularly their leaders during an election season, to talk about poverty? One reason may be that we are experiencing the impoveritization of America, as the financial crisis, triggered by the creation and hall of mirrors multiplication of toxic assets based on mortgage debt, exposed a deeper crisis in employment and wage income, the culmination of loss of high paying often union manufactuting jobs which began in the 1970s as capital has become mobile enough to exploit poverty abroad and import it at home. Remember that the height of the war on poverty (marketed primarily as Appalachian white poverty) was a moral imperative at a time when the US economy was on top of the world, the civil rights movement was forcing change upon the remnants of slavery, and many Americans were willing to bring the poor into an expanding economy while it was at no cost to themselves. This ended when de-industrialization began in earnest and Americans came to view the economy as a zero sum game where advances for the poor could only come at their expense. The war on poverty ended, leaving behind more welfare social programs than ideas for economic development of the poor which were the first casualties. The next major effort was the “Welfare Reform” debate, where, in the midst of some intense political battling, the poor were treated primarily as a combination of children, criminals and alcoholics and the main emphasis was to kick them in the behind and get them off welfare and into the entry level jobs at the bottom of an expanding economy. There was some language about creating self sufficiency and increases in skills to get out of poverty, but devils in program details and budget realities kept that from serious attention. And while the recession economy has drastically reduced employment opportunities for the poor, even the misrepresented hint of loosening the draconian features of time limits and expensive work requirements unleased a political firestorm. Perhaps the other developments in the study of poverty are the “Bridges out of Poverty” movement, which emphasizes the emotional toll that accompanies getting out of poverty (and thereby assumes that the poor have emotions that others should respect), plus the idea that government’s role in dealing with poverty should be replaced by faith based organizations which may have more motivation but certainly also has less than adequate resouces to do much more than what they are already doing.

    We need to examine the role of the poor in a society where there are lower wages, more family members working, and where decisions to invest in required infrastructures and new technologies, updating plants and the like, are in the hands of small groups of owners and managers, without and legal or increasingly, any cultural responsibilities to the communities they are in, essentially playing localities off against the other the way “third world” countries have been treated. Productivity has gone way up but wages have been stagnant or worse, to the benefit of owners and managers. These owners and managers seem less willing to employ Americans and more willing to exploit cheap labor and undamaged markets overseas. As fewer Americans are desired as employees (and more in vulnerable situations as temporary or part time, without benefits) an underclass of the poor, while expensive to maintain in terms of incarceration, policing and other social costs, may also appear to those in charge to be more beneficial than what it would take to overcome it, namely education and jobs for everyone, and cultural changes that overcome the often self destructive mindsets and behaviors that accompany poverty. Poverty helps keep people in line, motivates the non-poor to go along with the program, keeps wages low and provides a potential pool of replacement workers if needed. At the same times communities, while seeking the synergies of creative classes that we are told will be the way to prosperity in the future, also consider the costs that poverty brings and that may hold their communities back.

    The nuns remind us that our dominant religious traditions have a lot of good things to say about caring for and helping the poor, often by sharing community resources so that everyone has enough, and bad things to say about excesses of materialism and greed. As with most generations, this is not always a popular message. Many Americans may resemble the Gospels’ rich young ruler, a generally law abiding person who was not going to give away his possessions and follow Jesus, and who went away sad. America (and all the people of the global economy) also face the questions of how many people will be employed, how the benefits from productivity of the people will be divided, including providing for those who are for various reasons either unable or unwanted to work, while at the same time maintaining an economy that will bring better lives to people in parts of the world suffering from disease and starvation, be environmentally sustainable, and meet peoples’ real needs.

  • Mike Bock

    Stan — You’ve given a lot to think about.

    You state, “Americans came to view the economy as a zero sum game where advances for the poor could only come at their expense.” What is amazing is that this mind-set about poverty has developed in the midst of amazing wealth, in the midst of a system that, if it should so choose, could produce astounding wealth — more than enough so that everyone could enjoy material plenty and could be certain of an economically secure future. Economic thinking has not caught up with present reality. Yes, in times past, there was a finite wealth potential. Scarcity has always been seen as a fundamental economic reality. Scarcity is the foundation for economic theory. Now, however, we live in an age of almost unlimited wealth potential and advancing technology multiplies this potential every passing year. We need to develop new economic theories based on the emerging reality of unlimited wealth potential.

    But simply creating a new economic theory is only part of the challenge. The central challenge comes from the fact that we have a system problem. We are hammered with propaganda from birth that our system is the best it can be, but, anyone who dares to see the truth understands that our system is very flawed and in need of fundamental change. We need a system that is designed to accomplish what we regularly say is our ideal: “liberty and justice for all.”

    Did you see the short video shown at the Democratic Convention? The video introduced Nancy Pelosi and supposedly was bragging that the Democratic Party wants to provide “ladders” to the poor — so they can climb up to the middle class. But, the ill conceived image the video presented accidentally told the truth: The Democratic Party is completely committed to the structure of the present system. In the big picture, all the party has to offer is marginal change. I write: “The notion that we need more ladders so that more people can have the opportunity to scale a 15 story precipice is pretty funny. The lack of ladders is not the problem. The problem is that for some crazy reason, the American Dream is 15 stories up. Who put it there and how do we move it to a place that is more accessible?”

    You write: “Poverty helps keep people in line, motivates the non-poor to go along with the program, keeps wages low and provides a potential pool of replacement workers if needed.” This is a wonderful insight, but it is an insight that leads to a pretty grim conclusion.

    Those who are “liberal” in their attitudes want to think that poverty is the result of a system that is poorly performing, while those who are “conservative” in their attitudes generally want to think the system is just fine and instead want to blame the poor for their own plight: “I made it, I built up my own wealth by my own efforts, so should they.”

    The POV you present suggests that poverty is not the result of a system functioning inefficiently, nor the result of poor choices by those who are lazy or dumb, but, instead, poverty is the result of system design. The evidence supports the disturbing thought that poverty is needed in order for the system to accomplish the actual aim of the system, and, therefore, poverty is the result of a deliberate system design.

    I keep coming back to the theme of the importance of system design, starting with my interview with Dr. Edwards Deming in 1992. And the determining factor for system design is a clarification of the aim / purpose of the system. The architect of any structure seeks to build a structure that, when implemented, will accomplish the aim / purpose of the system.

    A system often has an ostensible aim that is quite different from its actual aim. Sometimes, even laborers in a system have no understanding of what the system really is designed to accomplish, but, instead, simply buy into the propaganda advanced by the system. It’s called surviving. When, for example, we look objectively at our system of public education, we see the actual aim of the system to be something quite different from its ostensible aim.

    There are high sounding words, advanced by the American system, like, “All men are created equal,” that through the years have been used as effective propaganda. But, it’s important to understand the code. Unfortunately, we are lacking a progressive vision of what a system might look like if the aim / purpose of the system actually matched the propaganda. I asked here: How Can The System Known As The United States Be Made To Work To Provide “Liberty and Justice For All?”

    I’ve been blogging now for five years and have found that keeping a web log is valuable because over the years it reveals those ideas that are of central importance to one’s thinking. My very first post was: The Ascending Issue In Our Democracy Is Democracy Itself, and I keep going back to this theme. It seems to me, the answer to poverty is the same as the answer to all the challenges facing our nation. It is the answer to the question: How do we get our democracy to work?

    There seems no debate that the American system, from its inception, was designed to protect and advance the interests of a monied oligarchy. Throughout our history this oligarchy has been challenged and has been forced to make compromises. But the oligarchy has always regrouped and reasserted itself. And now, it seems, most every part of the system — including public education — advances oligarchic aims. The future is with the young and, it is not accidental that the group least likely to vote and the group most uninformed and disinterested in civic affairs is young people ages 18-30. I made this post some time ago: For “Our Success As A Nation,” We Don’t Need STEM, We Need CITIZEN Education To Build Our Democracy

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