Educating Catholic Workers about WTR

| Real Life Stories

by Lincoln Rice

group photo with four small children sitting on a bench in front of a group of over 50 adults standing on porch stairs

2017 Sugar Creek Catholic Worker Gathering. Photo by Mary Farrell.

Every September for about forty years, there has been a Midwest Gathering of Catholic Workers near Preston, Iowa. Attendance ranges from 75 to 200, with representatives from around two dozen Catholic Worker communities. The weekend is a chance for autonomous Catholic Worker communities to share stories and hold roundtable discussions on topical issues and concerns. In the twenty years that I have regularly attended, there has never been a session on war tax resistance (WTR). Most Catholic Workers try to live simply and are anti-war, but do not intentionally practice WTR. Most are WTRers by default—by earning under the taxable limit. In recent conversations with younger (30 years and under) Catholic Workers about WTR, I realized there was interest, but they did not know much about it.

Many of the younger folks have kids, have income, and are interested in cooperatives, owning small business, or being on farms. And many plan on making above the taxable limit. Generally speaking, this sets them apart from their Catholic Worker elders who practiced WTR by earning under the taxable limit. Therefore, it is common for younger Catholic Workers to not know anyone who is refusing to pay federal income taxes.

With all this in mind, I held a WTR session at the gathering. A group of nearly 20 Catholic Workers attended, mostly in their twenties and early thirties. We had a lively session and the rest of the weekend I was regularly accosted with additional questions. I share this update because I think younger Catholic Workers may be a good group to invite if you are having an Introduction to WTR session in your area.

It is very common for most folks joining a Catholic Worker to move on after a couple years. So even if they do not have taxable income when they are at the Worker, they will probably make above the taxable limit after leaving. And what better time to introduce someone to WTR than while they are living in a radical intentional community?

Catholic Worker logo in a woodcut black-and-white art style. Showing a cross behind Jesus in the center, with a light-skinned woman on the left holding a basket and carrying a baby on her back, and a dark-skinned man on the right holding a pickaxe.

Catholic Worker logo.

During the last weekend of July, the Catholic Worker in Rochester, New York will be hosting a national Catholic Worker gathering. I plan on holding another Introduction to WTR session there. About ten years ago, the Worcester, Massachusetts Catholic Worker hosted a gathering that attracted around 500 Catholic Workers. So I am hoping to introduce WTR to a sizable crowd.

Why am I sharing all this? One of the responsibilities for the NWTRCC coordinator is to focus on outreach. It can be difficult to find willing listeners and converts to WTR. Limited resources and time can make outreach potentially frustrating. I share this story to recommend to any affiliates, counselors, or local contacts that have Catholic Worker communities in your area to use them as a resource and pool of potential WTRs.

One thought on “Educating Catholic Workers about WTR”

  1. LarryBassett says:

    I must admit I had always assumed that people living in Catholic Worker communities were earning below a taxable income and that war tax resistance was a part of their lifestyle. From what you are saying, I was grossly uninformed! Many people who are connected with the CW movement are incredibly dedicated and determined people who are willing to undertake civil disobedience and suffer the consequences. I sometimes think that their apparent willingness to suffer the consequences must make it difficult to recruit new people. Since you have a foot in the door maybe you can turn the ship a bit.

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