Social Justice Catholicism is a problem. It turns Catholicism and the Tradition of the Faith into a collection of truisms about social inequity and borderline socialistic politics. At times, regrettably, it is overtly socialistic, and even sympathetic to great evils, like contraceptives and anti-life initiatives. Most recently, in Edmonton, Abp. Richard Smith has made it public that the diocese will be withholding donations to Development and Peace, which is a Canadian arm of the Catholic Charity, Caritas. This organization has come under fire for its most recent initiative that aims at helping women in developing nations, which is of course a worthy cause. But, scandal has arisen upon the realization that in an attempt to serve these impoverished women, the organization has begun to shake hands with the Devil. They have begun to work with other “pro-woman” charities. These charities are pro-abortion, pro-population control, and usually funded by nefarious individuals who have a certain Secular Utopian view of society. At my parish, we are encouraged to donate to Development and Peace. Entire collections are taken for them, and people of good will are more than willing to help.
Of course, I do believe that the vast majority of laypeople are of good will when they support these Social Justice initiatives. However, this poisonous fruit has resulted in the perversion of true Divine Justice. It is nothing more than the inevitable result of milquetoast Catholicism that views religious piety as something akin to social work.
I should clarify, there are in fact legitimate social injustices, and there have been giants of our Church who have nobly fought against these evils, and they should be lauded for these efforts. Pope John Paul the Great was one of these individuals. He fought tirelessly against the evils of Communism, which manifests itself as a grave social injustice. But, there is a very distinct difference between the pursuit of St. John Paul II, and the current tome of Social Justice Catholicism that has infected the Church.
The reason that St. John Paul II was successful and justified in his Crusade against Socialism is that Socialism and Communism are objectively evil in their genesis and in their application. They always require an act of grave evil in order to begin, i.e. a bloody revolution and theft of assets. They are never universally accepted by the people, as they cannot be since they go against the nature of incentive and reward that is proper to any Catholic (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Therefore, they will always result in a suppression of freedom and most importantly, a murderous regime that condemns and demonizes the One True Faith. John Paul II of Holy Memory was not a “social justice warrior”, but instead the Vicar of Christ’s Holy Military of the Faithful. He, along with other orthodox Catholics saw the plain and scandalous evil of Communism; therefore, he rightly sought to destroy this great enemy of Jesus. As a result, our Great Pope was almost solely responsible for the liberation of a continent, and the application of true Justice. It should be noted that the European nations who were under the thumb of Communism are almost all experiencing a wonderful resurgence of Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity, while the other Western European nations who have become idle in their decadence have squandered their traditions.
If we would like to see what Jesus has to say about Social Justice, we need not look any further than the Bread of Life discourse in the Holy Gospel according to St. John. After Jesus has fed the multitudes of people with the multiplication of fish and loaves, He begins to preach about the nature of the Most Holy Eucharist, the True Manna, the Body of Christ. The crowds had gathered around him over the preceding months, and He uses this as an opportunity to teach them about the Source and Summit of the Catholic Faith. Needless to say, when Christ clarifies that providing them with earthly food will never suffice their need for heavenly food, the crowd quarrel and leave him. Even his closest disciples say, “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John 6:61). Christ does not water down his teaching, but instead He presents the Apostles with the option to leave if they will not accept the doctrine of Most Holy Communion.
Now, what does this have to do with Social Justice Catholicism? It illustrates for us, that serving the poor with food and resources is of course a good thing, but it is secondary to solid doctrine and Orthodox Catholicism. Jesus is not overly concerned with the physical hunger of the crowds, of course, He would like their bellies to be full, but He cannot compromise on the Faith. Ultimately, when He says, “the flesh profiteth nothing,” (John 6:64) He makes it clear that a pursuit of Social Justice with material satisfaction as its end will only lead to ruin. Feeding the physical needs of the entire world will never satisfy the desire of Christ when He says on the Cross, “I thirst”. He does not thirst only for a drink, but more importantly, for souls. In the same way, we are called to imitate Him in our pursuit of True and Authentic Catholic Justice. This means that we cannot shake hands with the Devil, even if he is very efficient in handing out bags of rice. We cannot compromise on matters of morals, even if a utilitarian approach will lead to a greater amount of quantifiable good. An earthly utopia is not our goal, and it is not the Kingdom commanded by our Blessed Lord. In fact, when we resort to the current social justice tactics of many Catholics, we sound much like Judas, when he says to Jesus, “ Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) After all, Christ did reply sharply to Judas and the others “For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good: but me you have not always,” (Mark 14:7). It is clear that Our Lord is less concerned with social justice than he is with personal holiness and the Kingdom of God that He yearns to build in our souls.
We cannot even think of approaching anything like Social Justice, unless we first seek Divine Justice. This means we must justly walk hand in hand with our Lord living in a state of Grace. We do this by attending the sacraments, and by charitably correcting our loved ones when they fall into a state of Mortal Sin. If the Soil of our Souls is rocky and full of weeds, then it is no wonder as to how our initiatives, like that of Development and Peace are riddled with grave evils and strange bedfellows.
I will end with an illustration as to how we can properly approach Justice as Catholics.
If we use Jesus and His Church as a means to Social Justice, which we currently tend to, then we are using Our Lord and His Bride to achieve our goals. Our goals may be noble as far as it goes, but they are ours and not necessarily His. Even if the goals are pure, we are still using Jesus, we are using a person to get what we want. We can never uses persons, divine or otherwise, to achieve a goal. Using others is never justified. In fact, John Paul the Great made it very clear that the opposite of Love is not hate, because in order to hate something we must love something else strong enough to hate its enemy, but the opposite of Love is in fact to Use. When Christ encounters St. Paul on the road, He says to him “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4) You see, Christ is indistinguishable from his Church, therefore when we use His Bride for our earthly initiatives, we make it clear that we do not truly love our Messiah. The road to Hell is not paved with major sins or lack of charity, but instead with good intentions. Instead, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) We must seek to do God’s will above all else, and we must seek to establish his Kingdom. His Kingdom does not start in bread lines or in fundraising. His Kingdom starts when we seek to build and fortify our own interior castle in order that we may prepare our souls with room for Him to Reign. For our culture, this means that like the Jews, we must go into the spiritual Desert, not only to escape Egypt, but also to rid our souls of Egyptian attachments. We must stop seeking to build structures and start organizations until we have built a Battle Plan against sin and have organized our hearts in God’s direction. Social workers and community organizers will not save the world. Politicians and journalists will not save our souls. It is Jesus and his Saints who will guide us towards heaven. It is Christ alone who will suffice in Justice.