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Apologetics Current Events Ink Slingers Victoria K

Social Media is Ruining Social Justice: Here’s Why

Note:  OK, OK, the title of this post was unnecessarily incendiary.  I love social media, you probably got to this post via social media.  Social media could never single-handedly ruin social justice.  What’s happened is I noticed a trend with social justice topics on social media, and I wanted to point it out and talk about what we, with a full understanding of Catholic Social Justice, can do about it.

Social Media is Ruining Social Justice Here’s Why

Already Out of Mind

Take a minute to switch tabs back to your social media feed.  How many articles are there about the children separated from their families at the border?  I hope to goodness it’s not none.  But I wouldn’t be surprised.  After all, it’s been a few weeks since the headlines broke.

You know, a few weeks.  Basically an eternity. 

Definitely enough time for the well-being of children to pass from our attention.

It sounds harsh.   But the reality is harsh.  To be completely transparent, I’m guilty too.  Things slip in and out of my notice – largely based on what’s in my social media feed. 

And that isn’t enough.

This doesn’t just apply to the children at the border.  If our commitment to social justice is SOLELY based on our social media scrolling, if our activism is SOLELY reactionary, we are never. going. to. change. ANYTHING. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was amazed by the initiatives to provide aid for these children and to work towards social justice.  But we must build off of their efforts to build lasting change. 

Everyday Social Justice

You may ask…is lasting change even possible?  I would argue yes.  But it’s going to take a mindset shift.

See, I think that social justice is more achievable that we actually give it credit for.   We’ve just been conditioned to look at it completely the wrong way.   In the social media age, social justice is primarily reactionary, rather than an everyday practice.

Here’s what reactionary social justice looks like: I see a headline: Children that are sleeping on the concrete underneath a blanket of tin foil.  And I go “I can’t fix that!”  Because I can’t.  It’s just the truth.

To contrast, here’s what everyday social justice looks like: I get to know the immigrants in my community (I work at a majority Hispanic school).  Within these relationships, I listen to their stories.  Their experiences make me more aware of the political and cultural issues that impact their lives.

Then, I give of my available time and resources.  There’s a first grader struggling to overcome the language barrier, and I advocate for him.  There’s a community fundraiser to get Christmas gifts for children with parents across the border, and I participate.

And for some of you, that exact path is feasible (if so, totally let me know because I’m curious as to your approach!)

For others, it may be a different community that you have the opportunity and skills to help (and still let me know because that’s awesome and inspiring).  The point is, we take small steps towards justice.

 

Everyday Social Justice is Catholic Social Justice

We must commit to everyday social justice.   Because that’s Catholic Social Justice.  Catholic Social Teaching is not based upon simply reacting and jumping on the bandwagon.   It’s about incorporating the call of Christ into our day to day lives.

You’re probably familiar with the corporal works of mercy.  If not, check them out here.

These aren’t every now and then ideals.  These are Christ’s command to us as Christians. 

Maybe it’s giving food and supplies to children at the border.  Maybe it to bagging up extra baby clothes and donating them to a crisis pregnancy center.  Maybe it’s serving a meal at a homeless shelter.  Maybe it’s investing in the community to ensure safety and security of our kids.  Maybe it’s writing a letter to someone in prison.

Whatever it is — Christ expects commitment.

 

“I’m too busy.”

OK, fair enough.  You’re busy.  We’re all busy.  I’ll be the first to advocate for balance and self-care.

Yet I really feel like we need to pick through our priories.  Do you really want to look at Jesus and tell Him you were too busy to help the children at the border who were not properly dressed, eating uncooked frozen meals?

Really?

For me, this ends up being more of a perspective thing than an actual “I’m too busy” thing.  I can’t do the big things so I end up doing nothing at all.

To counter this, here’s my idea for an “I’m too busy” approach to Catholic Social Justice:

  • Every day: Pray for social justice.
  • Every week: Read an article about a current social justice issue. I would totally recommend posting it on social media and sharing your thoughts.
  • Every month: Donate (within your means) to some social justice cause. This can be money or things: A food donation to a pantry, a clothing donation to a homeless shelter, a diaper donation to a crisis pregnancy shelter.  Extra points for committing to one cause or organization with which you can form a lasting relationship.
  • Every 4-6 months: Complete some larger service project.

You may be able to do more, maybe you have to do a little less.   Start small if you have to – but start.  Christ will take what you give and make it grow – He’s amazing like that.

 

Where are the Catholics?

Your small commitment is so essential.  Because we need to be working.  Every day.  We need to anticipate headlines.  We need to fight for what’s right even before it’s a “hot button” issue.

So that, when someone asks: “Where are the Catholics when…?”

The response should be:

“We’re already here.

And we’d love it if you joined us.”

Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Mary P.

CDF and LCWR: Reform, Not Inquisition

This past week, the Vatican stated that Pope Francis fully supports reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), a group of leaders of various congregations of female religious in the United States. They represent the vast majority of the 57,000 religious sisters in the United States. This reform began last year under Pope Benedict XVI, after the Vatican determined that LCWR is out of sync with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Due to its interest in any story that could possibly portray the Church (specifically the Magisterium) in a bad light, you may have seen this story in the secular press; but as you probably know, we cannot trust them to get it right. Here are 6 things you need to know about this situation, from the perspective of a faithful Catholic.

1) This reform is a result of several years of observing and documenting concerns about the LCWR. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)–the office of the Curia that promotes and and protects true Catholic doctrine–determined in 2008 that a doctrinal assessment of the LCWR was needed because of these many years’ worth of concerns. The assessment began in 2009 and included dialogue with members of the LCWR. When the findings were presented in 2011, the CDF and Pope Benedict XVI decided that a reform would need to be undertaken.

2) According to the CDF report, the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR revealed major problems. The talks given at LCWR events, and their own statements over the years, are said to have contained “significant doctrinal and moral content and implications” that are in opposition to the teachings of the Church, including advocacy for women’s ordination, a skewed vision of religious life, denial of the special teaching role of the Magisterium, and intentional dissent from Church teaching (couched in terms of being a “prophetic” voice for the times). The LCWR is also said to have failed to provide adequate training materials for their member congregations, and the formation of religious sisters in these congregations was found, in many cases, to be lacking in basic Catholic teaching. In other words, their duty as religious sisters to spread and uphold the entirety of Christ’s teachings—even within the walls of their own communities—is not being adequately fulfilled.

3) This reform is not meant to be a “punishment” and the investigation was not a witch hunt. Its purpose is to ensure that the authentic faith is being transmitted through the work of the LCWR and its member organizations, to enrich their own religious life and their witness to the world.  Given that LCWR members are the leaders of most of the religious sisters in the United States, it is safe to say that their words and works are very important to the mission of the Catholic Church in America. The sisters represented by the LCWR are the face of Catholicism for many people in this country. The Vatican has good reason to be interested in what they are doing and saying in the name of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. There is also a canonical right to investigate and initiate reform.

4) The Church did not say that the LCWR was “too focused” on serving the poor or advocating for social justice. The LCWR and the secular press (and publications that call themselves Catholic but pride themselves on dissenting from the Church) are mis-framing this issue as a conflict between focusing on social justice and pleasing the Church’s leadership. The CDF lauds the LCWR’s efforts in the social justice arena but recognizes that social justice does not constitute the entirety of the Gospel.

The problem is not that the LCWR and its associated religious sisters are serving the poor “too much” but that that they are failing to situate this emphasis on social justice in its proper context. To illustrate, their website has an entire section devoted to social justice but does not appear to address abortion. It is not considered to be an aspect of social justice. But how can there be any true social justice when we are denying the right to life to the very least among us? How can there be true social justice when we are not addressing the grave harm that abortion causes to women and families (not to mention the children that it kills)? When the Kermit Gosnells of the world are allowed to operate shoddy and unjust clinics in the light of day, preying on poor and minority women and murdering newborns, with no oversight whatsoever, is that social justice?

The broader issue is that, if you are not teaching the doctrines of the Church (as revealed by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit) even to your own religious community members, then you cannot adequately represent Christ and His Church in your service to the poor. Jesus did not become incarnate principally to build a “just society” here on Earth. In fact, he said the poor would always be with us. He came to save us from our sins—our spiritual poverty—so as to free us to spend eternity with him in Heaven. Of course Matthew 25:31-46  and other Scripture passages indicate the necessity of meeting the material needs of our neighbors; but the revelation of Jesus goes beyond those passages. How can the corporal works of mercy be carried out without reference to or concern for the spiritual works of mercy, and the other teachings of Christ? When people water down the rest of the Gospel and focus exclusively on Jesus’ call to tend to others’ material needs, the witness of the Church is weakened and souls are endangered.

Pope Francis’ agreement with this reform only serves to bolster the above points. If there is one thing that Pope Francis has communicated about himself since he ascended the papal throne, it is that he cares deeply about the marginalized. Social justice is very important to him. He cannot be considered someone who cares “only” about dogma and not about action. And yet, he also believes that this reform is necessary. I hope that this fact will give the sisters some food for thought.

5) The LCWR denies the accuracy of the CDF’s assessment, and questions the fairness of the proposed reform. One need only take a look for themselves at past speakers at LCWR events, and read the very words of sisters under the LCWR umbrella  to find evidence that something is amiss. The distrust of the Vatican and the concern that it will interfere with the mission of the LCWR are still further support for the need for this reform. This is precisely the assertion with which the sisters disagree, however. It seems as though they are not so much denying the fact that they are at odds with the Church as they are denying that it is problematic.

6) The orders of religious sisters represented by the LCWR are, overall, shrinking and dying out. The average age of their religious sisters is above that of the sisters under the umbrella of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which was formed in the 1980’s to accommodate the religious orders that disagreed with the religious and political attitudes of the LCWR. (The fact that CMSWR was formed in the first place speaks to the need for reform of LCWR. A comparison of the websites of the groups is also telling). Young women today are more enticed by the orders that are under the CMSWR, suggesting they are not impressed by the “Gospel of social justice” when it is divorced from the dogma and rich tradition of the Catholic faith. It seems that if they are to commit their lives to a religious order with the name Catholic, they want to be authentically Catholic.  The sisters under LCWR recognize that they are dying out, but do not seem to understand the implications of that fact.

 

The most important point to take away from all of this is that the sisters associated with the LCWR desperately need the prayers of faithful Catholics, as do those in the Church tasked with implementing this reform. There is hope that the sisters can come to an understanding of the fact that love separated from the Truth is not love at all.

 

(For another look at this from a faithful Catholic source, I recommend this article).

Categories
Current Events Erika Faith Formation Ink Slingers Respect Life Testimonials

Social Justice = Socialism?

I heard a homily the other day that began with the Gospel of the woman with the hemorrhage touching Christ and being healed by her Faith. The homilist continued speaking about how this woman was rejected by society, yet Christ stopped in His “important” mission to heal the synagogue leader’s daughter to seek the woman out. This appropriately highlighted the importance of Faith in Christ for our healing by spiritually and physically. This also highlighted Christ’s concern for those “thrown away” by society. The homilist continued in this vein saying that Christ scandalized the Apostles by turning His attention to this ‘nobody’ instead of focusing on the ‘somebody’ important. Yet, almost immediately after making these points, the homilist diverged into a discussion of “social justice” under the guise of socialism. While it is true that Christianity (including the Church) calls for Christians to give to the poor and less fortunate, it is meant as a choice for each individual.

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Socialism is conscription, a disallowal of free will. By legislating and forcing the “distribution of wealth”, much of the good of helping our less fortunate brethren is lost. When God created the world and man, He could have eliminated a lot of hassle by eliminating free will. Yet, it was important to God that we choose to love and obey Him. Prior to Creation, God had the angels He created to give Him His due honor and glory. Yet, their unquestioning adoration was not what He desired. His desire was for man to gift Him with their love, adoration, and obedience. With socialism, giving out of the goodness of your heart in a desire to do God homage is next to impossible. Your “donation” has already been evaluated by the government and “redistributed” to the less fortunate. While it is still possible (and expected) to give from your heart under socialism, the giving seems grudging.
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Forced compliance historically engenders ill-will at worst, and lackadaisical responses at least. Conscripted armies of the past were routed by smaller, less equipped, volunteer forces. England conscripted sailors during the Revolutionary war. The “red-coats” obviously lost that battle. Drafted soldiers in more recent conflicts “dodged”, “conscientiously objected”, or even deserted. The only times that conscription seems to work is when fear is at the root or insurmountable numbers. While war is obviously an extreme example of conscription, it is a fitting analogy for our battle for souls (our own and our brethren’s). We are called to be warriors for Christ. Also, we are called to fight for the less fortunate by Christ himself. Part of this battle is in caring for our less fortunate brethren. If this battle is waged by legislative force instead of Christian good-will, the victory does not belong to Christians, but to the government.
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As Catholics, we have a lot of rules “forced” upon us, yet because God’s gift of free-will even these rules are truly voluntary. Once you reach the age of reason and choose to remain in (or leave) the Church, it is your choice. While there are some “cafeteria” Catholics who pick and choose which doctrines, dogmas, and “rules” to obey, the basis of the Catholic faith is obedience to all the Church’s teachings. Christ taught us, through His obedience unto death, that unconditional obedience to God is our objective. Catholics believe that Christ put a hierarchy into place when He told Simon Peter that he [Simon Peter] held the keys to the kingdom and later when He exhorted the Twelve to go out and make disciples of all nations. The very nature of all Christianity is adherence to God’s will. Unlike our nation, Catholicism is not a republic or democracy; it is a Theocracy. Even with this fact, we are not forced to obey the rules in order to remain in the Church. Instead, we are asked to give our obedience to God through obedience to His Church. This, again, is free-will that magnifies the glory of God. Freely given obedience trumps forced obedience every time.
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 Even if Catholics vote for legislation that forces charity (twisted and presented as

“wealth redistribution”) upon all in the nation, they are not following the spirit of God’s law. The spirit of God’s law is always of love freely given, never forced. Catholics are fond of arguing that the ends do not necessarily justify the means. In the end, legislation of “wealth redistribution” and freely offered charity beget the same things. However, the means of lifting up the less fortunate is important to Catholics and, most importantly, God. Forced charity, much like forced displays of affection, lacks an undefinable something. Whereas, charity freely given, not only benefits the recipient, but also, again most importantly, glorifies God. Through this glorification of God, the giver is also lifted up in God’s eyes. So, while offering my less fortunate brethren a hand up is a truly Christian objective, socialism, or forced charity, is not a justifiable means of enacting this moral objective. In other words, to offering charity of our own volition should be our goal, not forcing this charity upon one another.

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CARITAS IN VERITATE Encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI to the bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, the lay faithful and all people of good will on integral human development in charity and truth.