Deriving its name from the Christian maxim stating that “all of life is in the 8th day of creation bringing all to full justice,” the 8th Day Center for Justice (8DCJ) was founded in 1974 by the members of six Catholic religious congregations. Growing eventually into a coalition of more than 35 Catholic congregations, the Center pledged its commitment to: (a) serving as “a critical alternative voice to oppressive systems,” and (b) “work[ing] actively to change those systems.” In pursuit of those objectives, 8DCJ regularly sponsored and participated in workshops, conferences, educational initiatives, protests, vigils, and “faith-based justice gatherings” designed to help bring “systemic change” to an allegedly oppressive American society. Among the Center’s many partners in its activism were such organizations as 350.org, the Arab American Action Network, the American Friends Service Committee, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Leadership Conference on Women Religious, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, School Of the Americas Watch, and Witness For Peace.
8DCJ undertook its first major project in 1975 when it established a Food Justice program that provided a telephone hotline for people who needed food stamps but were unable to navigate their way through the bureaucracy in charge of approving benefits. Also in the ’70s, the Center advocated for increases in all forms of welfare assistance, and for more funding for “affordable housing and homeless[ness] prevention.”
On September 12, 2001 – one day after the mass murders of 9/11 had occurred – 8DCJ issued a statement claiming that: “such an act of terrorism is a result of systemic violence” practiced by the United States; “the economic and military policies of the U.S. have resulted in untold poverty and deaths globally, which causes many to view the U.S. as a perpetrator of such violence”; and “an escalation of [retaliatory] violence as proposed by U.S. leaders will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.” By the Center’s calculus, the proper course of action for America would have been to respond “with reconciliation based on social justice rather than revenge”; with “open dialogue rather than inflammatory rhetoric”; with “peaceful nonviolent alternatives rather than plans for war”; with “respect for all peoples rather than stereotypes and blame”; and with “restraint rather than retaliation, examining the impact of U.S. policies on the global community rather than proclaiming innocence.”
In May 2005, 8DCJ condemned “the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003” as an “immoral and illegal” undertaking that was based on “inaccurate” rationales put forth by a president who willfully “manipulated the public trust.” The Center further alleged that torture had become “a normal part of the [U.S.] occupation” of Iraq; that America was routinely sending “prisoners to other countries for the purpose of torture”; that Iraq’s infrastructure had been “devastated” by the U.S. military; and that “astronomical military spending” by the American government “steals from people who are made poor through cuts in social programs.” Allying itself with a host of like-minded organizations, 8DCJ was a member of the Abolition 2000 anti-war coalition.
Identifying discrimination and bigotry as two of the ugliest hallmarks of life in the United States, 8DCJ lamented that too many Americans were being subjected to persecution and suffering as a result of their “ethnicity, religion, cultural background, gender, socio-economic class, and sexual orientation.” In January 2006, for instance, the Center claimed that one hallmark of American life was “a worldview that names heterosexuality as normative” and thereby fosters a “climate of prejudice and oppression” against homosexuals.
8DCJ also condemned the evils of “free trade” and “corporate controlled globalization,” and opposed “any effort to expand the powers of the World Trade Organization.” Instead, the Center favored a socialist economic model aimed at ensuring “a just distribution of resources.”
A strong supporter of the New Sanctuary Movement, 8DCJ was an outspoken supporter of open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens. Indeed, the Center proudly stood “in solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers,” particularly “the communities that suffer the divisions that borders wreak on all of us.”
Regarding the intransigent Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, 8DCJ maintained that after a period when “Jews and Arabs [had] lived together in the territory of Israel peacefully,” “Palestinians became strangers in their own land starting with the mass expulsion of 800,000 in 1948.”
8DCJ operated on what it called “a nonhierarchical ‘flat’ organizational model … where power dynamics and top-down relationships [do not] exist.” This model was “rooted in consensus decision-making,” where “everyone comes to the table as an equal partner with equal voice in each decision.”
One of 8DCJ’s more notable members was the Catholic priest and anti-war activist Bob Bossie.
8DCJ closed its doors permanently in 2018.
Further Reading: “Our Work with 8th Day Center for Justice” (SPSMW.org); 8DCJ’s Mission Statement (8thDayCenter.org); “What We Do” (8thDayCenter.org); “Catholic Laity and Religious on Poverty [re: Food Justice program and welfare assistance]” (by Catholics For a Free Choice, 2005); “8th Day Center for Justice Statement on the Attacks Against the World Trade Center and Pentagon” (9-12-2001); “A Catholic Voice on the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq” (8thDayCenter.org, May 2005); “A Response to the Instruction from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education [re: sexuality]” (8thDayCenter.org, January 2006); “8th Day Center for Justice Records, 1968-2009” (by 8DCJ, June 2011).