Sunday, October 28, 2012

Report: "Church Should Focus More on Social Justice" (sigh!)

The Catholic Review reports that Catholics across the country noted in a recent survey that they want the Church to focus more on "social justice."  They note:

In interviews during September, a majority of Catholics told pollsters that they would prefer it if the church would focus its public policy statements "more on social justice and the obligation to help the poor, even if it means focusing less on issues like abortion and the right to life."  Sixty percent of Catholics concurred with that statement.

It is hard to put into words how frustrating it is to read such a statement.  I've been putting together a series of presentations on the Church's Social Teaching (social justice) trying to correct such misconceptions, and so to read these results from a national survey is just another reminder of how far we have to go.  I guess the Titanic, when going in the wrong direction, takes a long time to turn around.

This survey further illustrates that for most Catholics "social justice" is JUST care for the sick and the poor.  The Church's ACTUAL teaching on the subject is that "issues like abortion and the right to life" ARE social justice too!!  Care for the poor, care for the vulnerable and elderly and homeless is inextricably and intrinsically tied to the right to life, abortion, contraception, religious freedom, etc.  Not only are they linked,but the Church's teaching on "social justice" is CRYSTAL CLEAR on the idea that "abortion and the right to life" is MORE important than any other issue, INCLUDING care for the poor.  Is the Church saying care for the poor is not important?  NO!!!  What the Church is saying is that when the right to life is not respected, it is WRONG to place more emphasis on some other issue.  Listening to Catholics say "we need less preaching on abortion and right to life stuff, and more preaching on (fill in the blank)" is like watching people standing in the middle of a room that is on fire talking about how they need to vacuum the room more.

No one, looking back on it, would say "I wish the German bishops during the Third Reich would have preached more about the poor and less about the dignity of the person."  There is a hierarchy to the values that we ought to have as Catholics and we must shout this from the mountaintop because it doesn't seem to be sinking in!

I  think what people mean when they say they want the Church to "focus more on social justice" is that they want a neutered, non-political, toothless hippy Church of Jesus Christ that ONLY cares for the poor and doesn't speak up about any injustice besides economic injustice.  Well, folks, that wasn't who Jesus was, that isn't who authentic Catholics were in the past, and that is not what authentic Catholics will EVER be.  A person who actually has read the Church's social teaching will know that a Catholic fights against ALL injustice - economic injustice, religious persecution, the stripping of religious freedom, the ripping apart of embryos, abortion, infanticide, etc.

The other revolting part of that statement is that people would decide for themselves what they ought to be hearing from the pulpit.  That sounds a lot like a lot of the people in the Old Testament who, when a prophet showed up, had already determined for themselves what the prophet OUGHT to be saying before he arrived.  That's a completely backward understanding of what a prophet is.  What kind of prophet would a bishop be if he said, "let's take a survey of the people and find out what they would like me to teach and preach about"?

Given most people's understanding of Catholic Social Teaching, in order to help Catholics realize what the Church ACTUALLY says on social teaching, we have "miles to go before we sleep."


  1. The sixty percent...are they going out every day and performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Because that is where the rubber meets the road. It isn't "the Church's" responsibility to go out and seek "social justice" that gussied up, important sounding, social science emoting term that simply means YOU going out and LIVING the corporal and spiritual works of MERCY. And if self-same people want "the Church" to shut up about the wholesale slaughter of the innocent, well then, they're being disingenuous. They just don't want their religion to cost them anything. Which goes to show how much it actually means to them.

  2. Social Justice begins in the womb (no-brainer!)...yeah, this is a frustrating thing Fr. Hollowell. I agree with you.

  3. Its like Matthew 25... Whatever you do unto the least of these...
    You know the rest. We serve Jesus in the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the sick and the most defenseless among us: THE UNBORN!!!
    We need to do it all, we cant subtract the whole "abortion" thing because it makes people uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable, it should make you furious at the injustice!
    Mother Teresea served the poor and the leper, and she also was PRO LIFE...

  4. Yes, social justice begins in the womb. But in a chicken-and-egg argument; I'd argue that the fight against abortion begins with the care of the womb itself- long before a child begins to grow there.

    In other words, it is very true that to be an authentic social justice Catholic, you can't be for telling the pregnant woman in the soup kitchen that she must abort her 5th child before she can feed the other four; but likewise, as a pro-life Catholic, when you see a poor teenage girl living on the streets you should give her a home before she falls into the commercial sex industry that would cause her to become pregnant in the first place. Likewise, when you see a teenage father, give him a job with a living wage so he can take care of his spouse and children, rather than forcing the poor girl to abort them.

    Life isn't that simple- and neither should we be.

    1. Every Catholic should be in FAVOR of doing exactly what you are talking about and in fact the works of mercy you speak of ARE being done by Catholics, by Catholic Charities, and indeed by people of good will across the country. We could do it even better if the government wasn't taking so much and selling the populace the false narrative that the government is taking care of everything.

    2. Fr. John--could you point me to an encyclical, a line from the catechism, or anything else that says that abortion is more important than any other other social justice issue. By "social justice" issues I do not mean just taking care of the poor, but also issues such as the use of torture (which was practiced in the Bush Administration in the form of water boarding and, I understand it, is intrinsically and gravely evil), wars (such as the unjustified war in Iraq and the unjustified use of drones under the Obama Administration), racism, immigration, etc. I am not trolling--I am unaware of any part of church teaching that CLEARLY states that abortion is more important than all of those issues, even all of those other issues combined.

      One last thing: I find with some Catholics, their allegiance to the Republican (or Democratic) Party becomes so strong that it clouds their understanding of Church teaching or what the Church emphasizes. What I mean is, as an example, some Catholics identify themselves with the Republican party so much that they develop views shared by the Republican party but that very much conflict with Church teaching. As an example, think of all the Catholics who agreed with the use of torture and the War in Iraq, both of which were denounced by JPII and Pope Benedict. Do you share that concern as well?

      I worry that partisan politics are dividing our Church and that is yet another evil we face.

    3. The first right presented in this list is the right to life, from conception to its natural end,[318] which is the condition for the exercise of all other rights and, in particular, implies the illicitness of every form of procured abortion and of euthanasia.

      Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine, paragraph 155

  5. The American people spend an average $61,000 per year on the "Poor" through taxes alone. How "poor" are the "poor"? They have, on average, two cars, color TV and satellite service, cell phones and services, eat well enough to become obese on food stamps, and receive free medical care, rent, fuel, clothes, toys and whatever else. Doubt me? Hang around a Goodwill store, Helping Hands, Catholic Charities, Wal-Mart, or Emergency Room. I've seen too much and know too much. They SELL the stuff they get from charity on e-bay and craig's list!! The only things they buy are their drugs and booze . . . and gold rims and grilles. What we have is a massive abuse of the system; they play us like fish and wave the club of 'white guilt' over our heads.

    $61,000 a year is more than I make or either of my sons make, and we pay taxes on what we make, to support those on the take. I am as willing as any to help anyone DESERVING. But I am no longer willing to contribute to these massive felonies, frauds, and outright thefts. I'm sick to death of 73% illegitimacy rates, of 70% drop-out rates, of 90% violent crime rates; all after sixty years of 'Free Sh*t'.

    Jesus didn't say we have to fall for frauds, scams, or play the sucker forever. help who NEEDS help, to hell with the rest. They choose their way.