Catholic and Evangelicals leaders meet in Washington to discuss poverty

Barack Obama, Robert Putnman, Arthur Brooks, E.J. Dionne Jr.

President Barack Obama attends a panel in Washington and speaks out about poverty in front of Catholics and Evangelicals.

John Carr, a former official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on social justice issues, and the National Association of Evangelicals, organized a high-level conference on poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. John Carr currently serves as director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at the university.

The three-day-event, called “Catholic-Evangelical Summit on Overcoming Poverty: The Moral, Policy and Strategic Imperative of AND,” gathered 120 Catholic, evangelical and other national civic and political national leaders from across the political spectrum to discuss how to overcome poverty in the United Stated and at the same time decrease ideological polarization around the theme and to build bridges.

On Tuesday, May 12, President Barack Obama participated in the event. Obama discussed poverty in a panel hosted by E.J. Dionne, Jr., a Washington Post columnist and professor in Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Other participants in the panel were Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute and Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

In his speech, President Obama urged faith-based organizations to speak out on poverty in a “more forceful fashion.” He acknowledged differences of opinions on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage between Catholics and evangelicals, but said that “I think there is more power to be had there, a more transformative voice that’s available around these issues.”

The poverty summit participants agreed that one goal of the conference is to agree that solutions are found on both sides, from programs aimed at supporting marriage to those about strengthening the safety net, for example. Political and ideological divisions around poverty, however, run deep in America. Some believe that while modern Catholics and evangelicals more or less agree on many basics of how to address poverty, the solutions rely on leaders from both faith groups getting their followers engaged.


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