Bishop calls meeting with JOSHUA, ESTHER

Local organizations' good works praised; concerns remain with national foundation

Last Fall, Bishop David L. Ricken became aware of some inconsistencies between the principles of the Gamaliel Foundation and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Gamaliel Foundation’s affiliate organization in Wisconsin is WISDOM; two local affiliates of WISDOM are JOSHUA in Green Bay and ESTHER in the Fox Cities. About 18 Catholic parishes belong to either JOSHUA or ESTHER.

On Feb. 19, Bishop Ricken sent a letter inviting Catholic leaders of JOSHUA and ESTHER to meet with him, in person, to affirm the good works of JOSHUA and ESTHER and to discuss the situation. His letter is as follows.

Dear Brother or Sister in Christ:

On January 7, 2010, Father John Doerfler sent you a letter with the invitation to a meeting to be held on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at Monte Alverno Retreat House in Appleton.  This meeting was called “to discuss the connection between congregation-based community organizing and our Catholic social tradition” in light of “the issues that arose in 2009 between some Catholics and Gamaliel, WISDOM, JOSHUA, and ESTHER.”  Because of growing concern about these matters, I have chosen to write you to communicate my thoughts regarding JOSHUA, ESTHER and the Gamaliel Foundation.

After prayer, study, and reflection, it is clear to me that principles of the Gamaliel Foundation are inconsistent with the tenets of our Catholic Social Teaching.  It is not fitting for a Catholic entity to enter into a formal association with another organization when there is such a conflict of principles.  JOSHUA and ESTHER, through their affiliation with WISDOM, are also affiliated with the Gamaliel Foundation.

In addition, it is crucial that we continue to collaborate with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters to pursue matters of social justice that we share in common.  In this vein, I wish to highlight the important efforts of JOSHUA and ESTHER in areas such as care for the homeless and immigration reform.  This good work must continue.

In order to promote the important work of justice and address the conflict between our principles and those of the Gamaliel Foundation, I have decided that we should pursue the following objectives.

First, diocesan staff should approach the boards of JOSHUA and ESTHER with our concerns and ask that their affiliation be severed with WISDOM, and through WISDOM with the Gamaliel Foundation.  Such a resolution would allow our continued involvement with JOSHUA and ESTHER in the work of justice that we share in common without the conflict of principles.

If this first objective cannot be met, then we should find alternative avenues, apart from JOSHUA and ESTHER, to collaborate with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in the work of justice that we share in common.

You will probably want time to reflect and discuss among yourselves the objectives that I have set before us.  In addition, I would also like the opportunity to discuss with you at greater length the rationale for my decision.  To provide for these opportunities, the meeting of February 24 is postponed.

Thank you for your dedicated service to the Church.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend David L. Ricken, DD, JCL Bishop of Green Bay