This semester, our group has had the pleasure of working with a non-profit called The Malchus Project. The founder of the non-profit and our community partner is Nancy Grogan, who is a Catholic woman and lawyer from Philadelphia. The non-profit informs the public about gun violence and gun laws, as well as shares dialogue about the issues from the perspective of the Catholic Faith. Through working with The Malchus Project, we have rebranded several aspects of their online presence through the creation of a new logo, statistic infographics, and an image bank. Nancy Grogan shared a glimpse of why she started the non-profit, what it means, and what effect she would like to see as a result of producing this project and conversation through our Q&A with her.
What is the Malchus Project and how did it get started? What inspired you to start it?
The Malchus Project is the result of an evolution of ideas involving gun violence and the role of faith in guiding conscience and policy. I have been a gun reform advocate for several years, working for legislative change to reduce injuries and deaths caused by guns. Although encouraged by positive changes in the law, I became struck by the enormous divide between pro and anti-Second Amendment views, as well as by the depth and emotion associated with them. In addition, I observed first-hand the frustration felt by reformers at the piecemeal pace of legislative change. I arrived at the conclusion that legislative reform, however valuable, is insufficient to effect lasting change. A more comprehensive approach is needed. Simultaneous with this conclusion, I noticed that the Catholic Church was underrepresented at every gathering, conference or initiative by faith leaders seeking gun reform. A distinctly Catholic voice was needed. I met Marvin Lim, a civil rights attorney and gun reform advocate, and together we collaborated on several written pieces, and I launched Philadelphia Catholics For Fewer Guns. In December of last year, Yale graduate and Catholic author Patrick Hayes joined our board, and the three of us launched the Malchus Project as a continuation of Philadelphia Catholics For Fewer Guns.
What do you hope to come out of the Malchus Project?
Our primary mission is to illuminate gun reform within the context of Catholic and Christian faith. My experience as a Catholic working for gun violence prevention has been the surprising realization that many Catholics are not aware that Catholic teaching on the issue even exists. It does exist, and it is firmly grounded in scripture, sacred tradition, and Catholic social teaching. The first objective, therefore, is to facilitate broad dissemination of the Catholic perspective on the relationship among individuals, society and guns. The second objective is related. We serve as a forum for research, study, reflection, and application of the type of developed analysis which Catholic social teaching has historically applied to other social issues, such as racism and poverty. The gun reform debate is difficult and there are no easy answers. However, we don’t have the luxury of pretending the problem doesn’t exist. We hope that faith will illuminate the conversation and unite diverse perspectives toward the common good.
Who is your audience – Catholics? Non-Catholics?
From what I can tell, the audience has been primarily Catholic at least in general orientation. However, our audience includes many individuals from different faiths, and the intention is not to be exclusive. I started this initiative as a Catholic because that is what I know, having been raised and educated in both the faith and tradition, and still practicing today. There are several uniquely Catholic principles in play here. First, we believe in both faith and good works, not one without the other. If we believe something, we have an obligation to work for it. Second, we are guided by the principles of Catholic social teaching, one of which is the preferential option for the poor. Gun violence affects the poor disproportionately, and for the urban poor, the threat of sudden and random death or injury is a daily reality. We cannot overlook this fallout which follows from the right to bear arms.
Pope Francis, in his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, gave a loud call for cooperation between people of all faiths. I have had the privilege of working with and learning from individuals of all faiths in gun violence prevention, as well as with those who practice no religion at all. I hope this cooperation continues, both in terms of readership and in terms of future contributors to the initiative. There is much to learn and much work to do.
How does the Catholic perspective on gun policy play into how your audience receives it?
I think that people receive messages according to their personal experiences, belief systems and values. I am fortunate in that I have no direct experience with gun violence. I do not know the personal experiences of all our readers, and I hope that our work contributes in some way to enlightenment, unity, hope and healing. What I do know from my own experience, however, is that there are many Catholics who are searching for meaning and relevance, and who wish to do the right thing in a world which often seems confusing and hopeless. These are real world problems which affect all of us, but especially the poor and vulnerable, and I think our faith has something to say. It should be stated clearly and simply.
How do you utilize Facebook and the website to get your message across?
Like many who were not educated in the digital age, electronic communication is not my “first language,” and I always have the nagging impression that there is more I can be doing to maximize the scope and impact of our message. That is why I am so privileged to work with the talented students of the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative. I have typically utilized Facebook as a means for communicating short introductory messages and links to lengthier essays, as well as links to events and partner initiatives. My goal is to learn more about adding variety to the messaging, as well as how to better utilize other social media platforms.
We are so grateful for the time we have spent working with Nancy, as well as getting to know The Malchus Project as a whole. This non-profit not only sheds light on an imperative issue in American society, but also on a religious perspective that people may not understand to the fullest. We hope that our work with Nancy and The Malchus Project has a positive impact on the community of gun reform, both now and in the future.