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How a radical new Catholic movement was born

The protestors' initiative that recently made headlines with "occupations" in Wall Street and other major cities has spawned the Occupy Catholics movement.

Jamie L. Manson

Jamie L. Manson

Published: July 10, 2012 09:00 AM GMT

Updated: July 10, 2012 07:04 AM GMT

How a radical new Catholic movement was born

"We are the 99%, made in God's image, seeking God's justice." So declares the Facebook page for Occupy Catholics, one of the latest additions to the pantheon of Catholic church justice movements. But rather than emerging out of Vatican II or in direct response to a particular crisis within the institutional church, Occupy Catholics might be the first progressive Catholic group to grow directly out of a popular movement. "The idea was to find ways for Catholics to support the Occupy movement and to think together about challenges the movement poses to our church," said Nathan Schneider, one of the group's founders. It's also one of the first church justice groups to be created in part by members of the Millennial generation. And it shows: Occupy Catholics has no offices, positions or leadership structure. It's an organization that reflects the value the Millennial generation places on autonomy and collaboration, as well as their mistrust of authority. "We're just people who work together, and pray together, to do stuff," Schneider, 27, said. Interestingly, it was a protest against an Episcopal church, not a Catholic church, that first brought the founding members of Occupy Catholics together. After Occupy Wall Street was aggressively evicted from Zuccotti Park in New York City, Occupiers hoped to set up camp in Duarte Square, an empty lot they found in lower Manhattan. The space seemed promising because it is owned by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal congregation that often runs large conferences on topics related to social change. (Their upcoming conference will be headlined by Sr. Joan Chittister and Fr. Richard Rohr.) Up until this point, Trinity, one of the largest landowners in the city, had been giving Occupiers small meeting spaces. They drew the line on allowing a large encampment in Duarte Square, however, because the church believed that would be breaking the law. Occupy Wall Street organized a protest against Trinity at Duarte Square. Among those gearing up to occupy the new space were Sr. Susan Wilcox, a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, N.Y., and Fr. Paul Mayer, a former Benedictine priest. Schneider, a writer and editor for the web publications Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddha, was on site to cover the protest as a journalist. The three Catholics struck up a conversation. "We were all people who have been interested in the Occupy movement, but also experienced the movement as something that resonated with our Catholic faith," Wilcox said. Full Story: Occupy Catholics seeks to make tradition relevant to a new movementSource:National Catholic Reporter

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