“Oh Brave New World:” Creating a Social Utopia

by Mary Ann Kreitzer   

One of the most famous quotes in the Bible is Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” In the U.S. today love of money and power is fueling the headlong race toward socialism and the moral decay of our culture. “Progressives” in government, with their siren song of unlimited goodies for “the poor,” use class envy to manipulate the mob in order to consolidate their own power. Behind the scenes in the recent Wisconsin recall and the Occupy Wall Street movements around the country lurk socialist movers and shakers: George Soros, liberal politicians, unions, and community organizing groups pour money into the destruction of the family and the promotion of liberal ideology: abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, forced income redistribution, etc. They foment crises to incite a revolution that bears more resemblance to Paris in 1789 than Philadelphia in 1776. And the end is likely to be the same: violence, anarchy, and dictatorship.

To a Catholic, the most depressing aspect of this move toward socialism is its enabling by Church leaders who have been corrupted by government money. The Church bureaucracy has also been infiltrated at all levels by socialists. Many dioceses today proudly teach a social gospel at odds with the social justice teachings of the Church. This essay will examine some of the ways parishes and dioceses have allowed the flock to be misled through flawed teaching and the influence of bad groups who preach false doctrines antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, doctrines based rather on the philosophy of Walter Rauschenbush, founder of the Social Gospel Movement.

Ruaschenbusch, a Fabian Socialist, wrote in 1893, “The only power that can make socialism succeed, if it is established, is religion.” In his philosophy, faith was little more than a tool to be used to establish the socialist Utopia. The problems in the world, he believed, were not due to personal sin, but societal sin. Socialism was the solution. This is a far cry from authentic Catholic social doctrine which emphasizes the rights of man, as created in God’s image and likeness and the duty of Christians to ensure those rights for the needy, but always with saving souls the first priority.

All men need food, clothing, shelter and the means to obtain them. Three parables summarize Catholic social teaching well. First, the parable of the talents - each of us is blessed by God with talents to be used to advance His kingdom. The purpose of the gifts is to increase the Master’s “treasure.” And what is that? St. Lawrence illustrated it well when, responding to a Roman tyrant’s demand for the Church’s wealth, he gathered the poor and presented them to the emperor. We do, indeed, owe the poor our special concern including helping them to develop and use their own God-given talents. In the second parable, Jesus told the story of Dives and Lazarus to remind us we must help our needy neighbor “at the gate” or risk losing our own souls. The parable emphasizes personal, not government, responsibility. And who is our neighbor? The third parable, The Good Samaritan, makes that clear. Whomever God places in our path is our neighbor. He may be a family member, a friend, or a stranger. If I find him battered and bleeding from life’s hard knocks I have a duty to respond. There is a hierarchy of obligations, of course. Duty to God always comes first. But after Him come our immediate family, our extended family, our neighbors in the community and our neighbors in the world.

We can fulfill our obligations in many ways, but the Church offers specific direction through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works urge us to meet the needs of the body. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead. But people need more than physical assistance as Christ made clear in the Sermon on the Mount. We also must practice the spiritual works. Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, bear wrongs patiently, admonish the sinner, comfort the afflicted, forgive those who offend us, and pray for the living and the dead. Any Catholic committed to the corporal and spiritual works can be sure he is on the right road of authentic social justice.

Unfortunately, some groups in the Church, while using a veneer of Catholic truth, teach socialist utopianism and liberation theology. They believe man can bring about the Kingdom of God on earth by government coercion and violent revolution. At the national level, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is rife with these groups especially within the department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development. Offices under their umbrella include the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), well known for promoting socialist organizations and CCHD’s educational partner, JustFaith, a consciousness raising group active in hundreds of parishes throughout the country. Just Faith teaches Catholics that a primary duty of those concerned with social justice is to lobby for more government subsidies, a form of forced charity through taxation which is not charity at all. Another suspect group is the Environmental Justice Program (EJP) which replaces Catholic responsibility of stewardship with politically correct environmentalism. The USCCB avoids a direct link to the worst nonsense by letting its partners provide the “tools” on their own websites giving the USCCB plausible deniability about what they are doing. The claim that, “We know nothing,” a familiar mantra at CCHD for decades, rings hollow after repeated use.

Let’s take a deeper look at a few of the USCCB groups and how they are undermining Catholic beliefs. JustFaith (JF), the brainchild of Jack Jezreel, began in Louisville, Kentucky in 1989. CCHD began partnering with JF in 2000. They proclaim on their website that, “CCHD, along with other JustFaith partners, provides resources for the curriculum, especially resources related to domestic poverty and the social justice efforts of the [USCCB]. Consequently CCHD is an integral aspect of JustFaith Catholic and JustSkills, Practices and Tools for Parish Social Ministry programs.” Simply put, JF is the educational arm of CCHD presenting what they purport to be Church teachings on social justice. The group goes into parishes forming small base communities that interact for thirty weeks of intensive study, two weekend retreats, and four Saturday hands-on social action experiences. JF has a specifically Catholic version, JustFaithCatholic, that “explores, in depth, the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching that has so deeply shaped the Catholic Church.”

Sounds great! And it has been bought lock stock and barrel by hundreds of parishes at a cost of around $250 per participant including books, videos, stipends for guest speakers, etc. The problem is that the program is steeped in liberation theology and the writings of dissenters. Those immersed in the program are formed, not according to the deposit of the faith and the Church’s interpretation of social justice, but according to the social doctrine of liberalism.

Willaim A. Borst, Ph.D. historian and writer described JF in a recent article in the Mindszenty Report. “JustFaith reduces Catholicism to an unofficial set of economic and political solutions to the gamut of social problems that afflict this country. It overemphasizes aspects of Catholic social teaching or takes them out of context to the point that they become easy fodder for their secular political and economic agenda. The JustFaith syllabus contains grave doctrinal errors, regarding the ordination of women and other questions on the divinity of Christ. Its facilitators have been known to reject personal salvation and sin in favor of collective salvation and social sins, such as poverty and racism.”

JF demonstrates its lack of fidelity to the Church through its connections to dissenters and dissent groups, its use of objectionable materials that distort or replace Church doctrine, and faulty methods of teaching. Stephanie Block has written extensively on JF and has a series of article at SperoForum.com. Jezreel himself is a regular speaker at Call to Action meetings, including a keynote address in 2007. CTA is a national dissent group that advocates abortion, contraception, homosexuality, remarriage after divorce without annulment, and a host of other positions in direct conflict with Church doctrine. As writer and researcher Stephanie Block says, Jezreel’s strong affiliation with CTA is a big problem because the group “disseminates a liberationist – not a Catholic – perspective about social justice. For CTA to invite Jezreel to speak the first time could have been a mistake…but to invite him back to speak requires some significant appreciation for what the man had to say. That doesn’t speak well of Jezreel, any more than collaboration with a fellow who has been the keynote speaker for the Ku Klux Klan would speak well of someone appointed to a Commission on Racial Reconciliation.”

    But CCHD and Just Faith are only the tip of the iceberg at the USCCB where liberalism is firmly entrenched, especially in the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development which oversees not only the CCHD, but environmental issues, immigration, welfare, etc. Distortion of Catholic social teaching is rampant. The Environmental Justice Program (EJP) reeks of politically correct language and sources used by extremist population control organizations. A major problem with the USCCB take on the environment is accepting, as a given, unproven, questionable, and controversial “facts.” The bishops’ 2001 document, Global Climate Change: a Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good. (How many bishops actually voted for it?) accepts without question that we are in an “environmental crisis.” The document reads, “As Catholic bishops, we make no independent judgment on the plausibility of ‘global warming.’ Rather, we accept the consensus finding of so many scientists and the conclusions of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a basis for continued research and prudent actions…. the evidence of global climate change and emerging scientific consensus about the human impact on this process have led many governments to reach the conclusion that they need to invest time, money, and political will to address the problem through international action.” (Italics my stress) The document reads like an Al Gore press release, but, in reality, there is little “consensus” and much controversy among scientists on climate change. In fact, the IPCC has been involved in one scandal after another over the past decade including falsification of data, defamation of colleagues who dispute man-made global warming, and censorship of scientific articles submitted to peer reviewed journals if they disagree with the IPCC agenda. All this has had no apparent impact on the bishops’ staff at the USCCB.

They continue to produce background papers touting the liberal party line on climate change recommending reducing greenhouse gases, taxing carbon emissions, promoting Earth Day, etc. The backgrounders on the website mention favorably many Congressional actions to reduce the carbon footprint. The language echoes the global warming extremists.

While few would dispute that there are serious environmental issues that need addressing, the USCCB statement on the environment, like previous documents from the USCCB -- on the economy, homosexuality, and women’s issues, is seriously flawed and accepts, a prior, data that is beyond the expertise of the bishops. What’s particularly interesting is the focus on global warming, an unproven “crisis,” rather than easily verifiable environmental problems: pollution of rivers and streams with fertilizers, pesticides, and prescription drugs especially artificial hormones; the scandal of genetically modified food; the use and overuse of hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat animals; local industrial pollution; etc. Limited and local problems that require local and state corrections disappear in the sky-is-falling scenario of global warming with its call for national, and even international, control.

And this isn’t just a theoretical discussion at the USCCB. Over the past decade EJP has been carrying water for liberal environmentalists:

  • In 2005, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop John Ricard (members of the committee) sent letters to the Senate urging more legislation to reduce the impact of climate change.

  • Also in 2005 the subcommittee urged the Environmental Protection Agency to implement stricter regulations on air pollution.

  • In 2006, EJP received a grant “to develop a program to address the issue of global climate change,” a parish education program. In view of other programs like Just Faith, this is likely one more liberal re-education project to make Catholic laity liberal lobbyists and community organizers on the environment.

  • In 2010 EJP wrote that, “Most policy and legislative approaches to address climate change will generate substantial revenue by putting a price on carbon emissions.” EJP implied support for the Clean Energy Act of 2009, a cap and trade bill, that required reduction of greenhouse gases, purchase of carbon offsets, and use of alternative energy sources (many of which are not yet technically feasible on a large scale).

Does any of this sound like the proper role of the bishops? Where is the concern for the loss of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist or the abysmal ignorance of the faith among most Catholics? Teaching the faith is the surest way to encourage respect for life and good stewardship of the earth. The nitty-gritty of these issues properly belongs to the laity working in the marketplace. The bishops’ role is to articulate the morality; the laity’s to put it into practice in the world. Jesus did not create a bureaucracy to lobby the Roman Emperor; he called apostles and disciples to convert the world. It would behoove the bishops to gut their lobby group in D.C. and return to their proper function of restoring the faith in the United States. That’s job enough!

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