Church plays 'critical role' in development, says economist

WASHINGTON -- The church, with its proven track record of delivering basic social services, has a critical role to play in sustainable and equitable development, an Oxford University economics professor and development specialist told a meeting of Catholic social ministry leaders here Feb. 15.

"What [the field of economics has] discovered is what you've known for at least a century," said Paul Collier, director of the U.K.-based Centre for the Study of African Economies. "What makes people work properly, is not primarily incentives. It's internalizing the objectives of the organization."

"Around the world, the church has built organizations that do just that," he said.

Collier addressed a plenary session of the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which brought about 300 leaders in Catholic social ministry to Washington Feb. 13-16.

The economist said that development failures in Africa stem from two unsuccessful models. The first is based on 1950s European style state-run organizations that have proved to be ineffective, and the second, popularized in the 1990s, uses monetary incentives too closely tied to performance standards.

Carr: Cutting social programs has moral costs

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops' point-man on poverty and justice issues reminded Catholic social ministry leaders that when they met last year, a blizzard enveloped the nation's capital.

There's no snow on the ground this year, John Carr said, but the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is meeting in the midst of another storm: elected politicians ready to turn their backs on the poor.

Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, addressed the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, a four-day annual gathering of more than 300 social ministry workers from around the country.

Amid budget cuts, panel urges social ministries to refocus efforts

WASHINGTON -- Impending budget cuts and fiscal austerity measures -- whether they appear in President Obama's 2012 federal budget proposal or in a counterproposal supported by Congressional Republicans -- were an important theme Monday morning for a panel of national Catholic leaders discussing the state of poverty in the United States.

Part of the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, a four-day annual gathering of more than 300 social ministry workers from around the country, the panel focused on practical ways to combat poverty and discussed public policies that create a more equitable economy.

The group agreed unanimously that any budget cuts need to avoid targeting those who depend on them the most.

1,200 Jesuit students converge on nation's capital

WASHINGTON -- "If we do not demand the best of our church, universities and our government, we've already abandoned a sincere search for justice," Ursuline Sr. Dianna Ortiz told attendees of this year's Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, an annual reunion of Jesuit social justice activists from universities, colleges, high schools, parishes and ministries across the nation.

After years of holding the Teach-In at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., the event's organizers, the Ignatian Solidarity Network took advantage of this year's location at Georgetown University to have participants engage in direct advocacy with Congress and other policymakers.

About 1,200 people joined the Nov. 13-15 event. Two days of speeches and breakout groups on key issues culminated in a Monday morning send-off rally and public witness on Capitol Hill. In meetings with their local congressional representatives, students focused particularly on passage of the Dream Act and immigration reform, climate change legislation, and the closure of the School of Americas.