John Gehring

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life Action. He is the author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope's Challenge to the American Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @gehringdc

Recent Articles

Francis Revives the Workers’ Church

The Catholic Church in America—once an ally of workers and their unions—grew deferential to big money in recent decades. Now, prompted by the Pope, a new generation of labor priests and bishops is trying to change that.

L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
This article appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Jorge Ramirez still remembers his Mexican immigrant father coming home with a bloody face after trying to organize his fellow workers in the Back of the Yards, a storied industrial area in Chicago. “My mom would stitch him up in the kitchen,” says Ramirez, 46, now the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. “It was brutal, but we always had the Catholic Church. There was always a Catholic priest around.” As unions face an increasingly hostile political climate and grapple with fresh approaches to becoming relevant to a new generation, there are signs that an old ally is once again stepping up. The Catholic Church, which has an imperfect but long history of using its institutional muscle and moral voice to defend workers’ rights, is getting a serious pep talk from a pope who has put labor rights back at the forefront of the Church’s public agenda...

Koch Brothers’ Latest Target: Pope Francis

Better known for their high-dollar political spending, the billionaire Koch brothers have also poured millions into Catholic University’s business school to promote a free-market orthodoxy sharply at odds with the teachings of Pope Francis.

(Photo: AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
On a spring night in downtown Washington earlier this year, hedge fund managers and CEOs mingled with religious scholars and priests at a cigar reception on the 11th floor of the Renaissance Hotel. The occasion was a $1,700-a-person conference, hosted by The Catholic University of America, focused on integrating Catholic social teaching and business. Among the well-heeled guests was a lobbyist from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a $130 million trade group aligned with the powerful industrialists Charles and David Koch. As the cocktail chatter turned to complaints about government regulations and the power of markets to help the poor, the scene felt more fitting to a conservative political fundraiser than a conference at the nation’s only Vatican-chartered university. But free market orthodoxy is becoming a familiar staple at Catholic University’s business school, which has accepted nearly $13 million from the Charles Koch Foundation over the last three years. The...