Social Justice: Why Are Some Faithful Tarnishing the Good Name of This Essential Catholic Value?

By Hannum, Kristen | U.S. Catholic, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Social Justice: Why Are Some Faithful Tarnishing the Good Name of This Essential Catholic Value?


Hannum, Kristen, U.S. Catholic


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The do-gooders at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania didn't alarm anyone initially. They formed a social justice committee in 2009, figuring they would help the poor, mostly those in their own rural parish community, south of Scranton in the rolling hills of the Poconos.

The group set up a St. Martin de Porres fund to cover the cost of bereavement dinners for the parish's needy families--meatloaf and such, nothing extravagant. A subcommittee reaches out to mourning families in the months following their loss. The group sponsors the parish's pro-life activities and hosts a monthly Sunday supper, which welcomes anyone who'd like to share a meal, donation optional.

Admittedly, with the possible exception of their uncontroversial pro-life work, these are all works of charity rather than true social justice, which works to change the underlying societal structures that cause inequality instead of simply providing material assistance. But the committee still operated under the "social justice" name.

It all seemed innocent enough. But then in March 2010 talk show host Glenn Beck, a former Catholic, urged people to leave their church if it had anything to do with social justice--code, he suggested, for socialism.

Deal Hudson, head of Catholicvote.org and former director of Catholic outreach for President George W. Bush's campaigns, concurred, writing, "Glenn Beck hit the nail directly on the head.... Social justice and economic justice are code phrases of the religious left who prefer government solutions to human problems funded by the redistribution of wealth."

Other conservative media personalities defended Beck, taking up the drumbeat against what theologians and everyday Catholics alike might have thought was a well-established aspect of Catholic teaching, making social justice suddenly a highly controversial and politicized term in Catholic circles.

Concerned parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace soon lobbied for the social justice committee to change its name to anything but social justice. The pastor asked the group's members and its critics to democratically resolve the issue.

"It was a chance to educate," says Father Sean Carpenter, assistant pastor. "The preferential option for the poor is a central teaching of Christ: 'Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' We try to meet people where they're at and bring them closer to what the church teaches."

The next few meetings of the committee were devoted to spirited debate. Parishioner Dick Dikant led the defense.

"It just kind of frosted me that Glenn Beck said it was socialism, and to walk away from the church," Dikant says. "So I looked into it." What Dikant found astonishes him even now. "Even though we'd been reading encyclicals, I hadn't noticed the term social justice earlier," he says. "But it's all over the place. The church is into social justice!"

Dikant mostly quoted Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as he made the case that social justice is key to the Catholic faith and therefore acceptable as a committee name. When it came time to vote, the ayes had it--by just one vote. The committee kept its name, but the good-natured Dikant regrets that the parishioner who led the opposition left the parish because of that outcome.

Justice for all

Considering the quarrel over the term social justice--which does appear frequently in encyclicals, the catechism, and canon law--it's easy to imagine the blow-up that might occur if the parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace engaged in actual social justice projects, such as helping to improve conditions for low-income workers or providing better access to affordable housing. Many Catholics, however, still seem uncertain of what social justice looks like in action.

William Droel, author of What is Social Justice? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Social Justice: Why Are Some Faithful Tarnishing the Good Name of This Essential Catholic Value?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.