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The Catholicization of Social Justice

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 18, 2012

It is really quite astonishing. Jonathan Reyes has just been appointed executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. Reyes replaces John Carr, who has served the USCCB for the past twenty-five years.

The reason this is astonishing is that the new appointment marks a significant change in ideological direction for what may be the last bastion of the liberal old guard in the bureaucracy of the American bishops. Just as at the parish level, “Justice and Peace” committees have often been excuses to promote an essentially secular liberal vision of society, so too has this been the case at the USCCB. Those wedded to both leftist theology and State-centered politics are already lamenting Carr’s retirement as the end of an era.

In contrast, Reyes credentials show how deeply yet creatively rooted he is in the mind of the Church. He was a professor and then Vice President for Academic Affairs at Christendom College; he served as Vice President for campus ministry and leadership formation in the early days of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students; and he was the founding president of the Augustine Institute. These are all impressively orthodox institutions with a profound Catholic spirituality, deeply evangelical in character, and utterly untempted by worldly fashion or secular glory.

The USCCB has been slowly trending in this direction for some years now. No longer is faithful Catholicism limited to the doctrine and pro-life committees. But this new appointment is emblematic of a sea change that will very soon affect the way our bishops and priests address social and political issues. It is, in fact, emblematic of enormous spiritual and cultural growth.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 20, 2012 7:40 PM ET USA

    Isa 5:2: "And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes" As I recall, “social justice” was a unique spiritual and socio-political expression of Catholic Christianity. When and how di d it become “paganized..?”

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 18, 2012 9:00 PM ET USA

    May this "sea change" signal just one more sign of an understanding that things cannot continue as they have been. "Wordly fashion and secular glory" have their rewards and we're free to pursue them. However, this has nothing to do with the Church's salvific mission and the enduring vitality of participation in God's love. To all who sacrificed enormously to safeguard recent generations from disorientation, much is owed. May God reward those who died prior to these "astonishing" times.

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