#170 | Joseph Catenaci | Deeply Concerned

Submission 170
Joseph Catenaci
UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore (Pomona, NJ) 6027

What is your suggestion or idea?

I am deeply concerned with the prospect of removing the original 7 Principles and 6 Sources, as I fear that the language outlined in the new Article II overtly focuses the mission of The UU into a political entity as opposed to a spiritual entity. I am genuinely concerned that the mission of The Unitarian Universalist Church will have changed from a place where seekers of truth come to discuss their religious and spiritual journeys with one another into a meeting house for progressive politics. There is nothing wrong with those politics, but I do not like when right wing, evangelical churches rally their congregants to turn out to vote for The Republican Party, and I dislike it equally that The UU Article II revision seems to try and turn us into the left wing equivalent. We presently exist in a state of heightened tension along political lines in this country, and I think we should endeavor to be peacemakers and meeting places of those seeking refuge from the crashing and calamity that is modern American society.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

I am deeply concerned that the only place where I feel I belong is going to be removed in favor of the desires of certain congregations who wish to wield the broader church as a cudgel in favor of their own personal ambitions and goals. Unitarian Universalism IS liberalism as a religion. Progressive politics and it’s adherents have countless places to go to practice, including countless chapters of The Democratic Socialists of America or other entities that provide them with safe spaces, and they also presently are members of our congregations and are welcome. I just am concerned that we are throwing out the few principles that we hold dear in favor of providing special privileges for this political faction within the church.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

I have had to work on Sundays in recent time, so I have only had digital services for a long time.


While I do want UU to be prominently involved in social justice work, we do get together theoretically because we have a spiritual impetus. A community, and a ritual container to hold our joys and our sorrows for the world, expressed in a diversity of ways, but still in a reverent way, is part of what UU should be.

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Even though part of what makes me feel at home in UU (and motivated me to raise my son in the UU community) is the dedication to racial justice and the way we translate our principles/values into politicsl action, by the same token I’ve always been concerned that the minority of conservatives felt less and less welcome surrounded by the dominent politically liberal UU’s. If we can’t embrace those who aren’t politically aligned with us, what does that say about our values?

I call on UU leadership–and all progressive UU’s–to find ways to consciously respect and nurture the political minority in our faith community.


I see you point, but kindly disagree. We have become less of a refuge for the conservative minority because of their intent to limit our liberties and freedom. It’s hard for us to be in alinement with people who would limit a person’s right to choose their medical needs or people siding with state sanction violence.


Our willingness to drown out the violent rhetoric of the right-wing, evangelicals brings joy to people being harmed by it. Seeing people light up at pride as our church members marched in the parade showed that religion doesn’t have to be harmful or damming. We can bring joy and love everywhere and accept people of good will from all backgrounds.

The DSA isn’t a spiritual space, a space of healing, or growth. That is the joy of being UU. The right church can help you blossom.

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I understand and agree about the extreme conservatives, but I am thinking of the folks like one lifelong member of my society, Central Unitarian, who is very proimmigrant, prodemocracy, strongly supportive of our efforts against poverty and homelessness, and also identifies as a Republican; he once commented on feeling a bit out of place, but was not willing to write the newsletter article I suggested on being conservative in 1990s liberal UUism. Including that sort of hard-to-categorize individual as part of our community seems worthwhile, even possibly important, to me.

Regarding “drowning out the violent rhetoric”, I remember the protests at GA 2016 in Columbus, when the Floridian UUs brought an AIW against gun violence after the Pulse mass shooting the week before, and we had a group of people wearing angel wings go outside the convention center to block them out of the social witness process. We outnumbered the small protest group, and it changed the atmosphere from stress over the announced protest of GA to joy watching the “angels” prepare to go out to protect our event.

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I hear your concern. It is unfortunate that the Board did not choose at least one other amendment along the lines you suggest.

I think I understand where you are coming from with this, AND I think the problem is not with our faith community nor with the proposed revisions to Article 2. I think the problem is that values like inclusion, bodily autonomy, and nonviolence, and recently even the right of conscience and the democratic process, have been politicized and tagged as “left wing” or “big-D Democrat” ideas. I personally do not see a political agenda in any of the proposed revisions, although I absolutely understand that a number of recent events with political ramifications have brought about the need for this conversation.

it should be possible – in fact, it should be logical – for a person who believes in smaller government, lower taxes, strong economic growth, and so on to be in favor of sensible immigration reform, robust health care systems, and empowering every American to reach their full productive potential regardless of race, gender, age, size, orientation or ability. These are not political issues at root. UU has an opportunity to be a forum for thoughtful, meaningful conversations about these things, free from tribalism or polemic. Keeping that aspiration foremost in our hearts and minds as we fine-tune all of this language will serve us well for years to come.


I see that the UUA has announced the closure of these threads in about 8 hours (2 PM PDT). Our public lay-led Facebook group, Blue Boat Passengers (created for discussing Article II and GA), will remain open for commenting a couple weeks longer (and still be visible for viewing as a public record afterwards). Those who wish to comment there may do so. Please be sure to review the rules and the announcement about the planned suspension of the group before commenting. Thank you.
Blue Boat Passengers: Info & Constructive Discussion re Article II, etc. | Announcement: This group will soon be suspended | Facebook

Those who want to use the group (during the remaining time it is open for comment) to find others and coordinate for the 15-congregation amendment process may do so. Here are some comments about the 15-congregation amendment process, from Donald Wilson, who used to be on the GA Planning Committee:

"“Unlike how the amendment process was run for this GA (ie at the discretion of the moderators and board), the process you’ve mentioned is bylaw and subject to little to no interpretation. I wouldn’t wait however. You need to get the petition from the UUA Board Secretary in the next couple weeks, and you have to have it turned Into the Board before February 1st.”

“If one congregation has a thought, send an email to 50 others and say “we are discussing X. What do you think?”
That is also the kind of thing that we have District and Regional assemblies for, both in person and virtual.
That is also the type of thing your religious professionals should be talking about at their regular meetings with their colleagues like minister Association chapter meetings.
It is the responsibility of your board president and other trustees to be deeply aware of the affairs of your closest congregations.
You discover by being in relationship and talking to one another.
You coordinate by email and phone call, same as we have for the last quarter century.”

“You don’t even have to have a congregational vote. You just have to get their board to sign off.” ETA: You must check this. Some congregations do require a congregational vote. Also, look for the UU Governance Lab on Facebook to connect with Donald directly for more info.

Also, a comment from another member who was participating on Discuss:
Some of us are connecting on Slack, mainly to remain in contact with others interested in specific amendments or the amendment process in general at GA 2024.