Church Advocates on the Alert As Transition Begins in Washington

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., shows Melania Trump and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump the Mall from his balcony on Capitol Hill in Washington Nov. 10. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

“Two priorities that we have are unity and governance,” said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “So this divisive election—we somehow have to get to the other side. That will not be easy, but it’s essential to governance.”

Healing and unity must be achieved among elected officials as well as voters, he added.


Brian Corbin, executive vice president of membership services at Catholic Charities USA, echoed Mr. Reyes. “As we’ve done for 100 years or more, Catholic Charities will continue to work in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion with the House and the Senate and the administration,” Mr. Corbin said hours after Mr. Trump’s win was confirmed. “Helping families and persons who are poor is a nonpartisan issue. Everyone should have a stake in it.”

Officials who work on legislative issues for Catholic Relief Services are looking to learn more about the future Trump administration’s positions on a variety of fronts. Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at C.R.S., said the agency has closely worked with congressional Republicans and Democrats on foreign assistance bills funding H.I.V./AIDS treatment, human trafficking and hunger. Mr. O’Keefe said he hopes those good relations will carry over to the Trump administration, especially when it comes to the effects of climate change on poor farming communities and the need to assist refugees from the world’s war zones.

“The incoming administration does not have a clear record on many of these issues, and we do look forward to contributing our Catholic experience and our approaches as they form their plans and policies,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “We will be seeking meetings with the [Trump] transition team with the objective of sharing our experience and helping them see the importance of the really wonderful bipartisan efforts to help the poor around the world.”

Two other advocates said the anger that many voters have felt will not be easy for the country to overcome. Eric LeCompte, a Catholic who is executive director of Jubilee USA, and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, would like to see the new Congress and the incoming administration go to the people who have felt neglected by the country’s policies on jobs and trade especially.

“Part of what this election shows is there is deep suffering in the country and there are so many people left out by the political system and the economic system,” Mr. LeCompte said.

Sister Campbell said the anger that fueled the Trump victory “is based on the result of failed economic policies” since the 1980s. “It has left a swath of our nation struggling,” she said.

Mr. LeCompte hopes that the practices of predatory hedge funds, trade agreements that fail to consider the needs of workers and corporate tax avoidance that his agency has addressed with Congress and past White House administrations will resonate with Trump’s staff. “We expect all of our issues we work on in terms of how the global economic system works [will receive] a welcome from the White House,” LeCompte said.

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