Head bishop called to apologise for labelling social justice ‘pseudo-religion’

Nearly 10,000 Catholics, including theologians, academics and activists, have signed a petition calling for Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez to apologise for denigrating social justice movements as “pseudo-religions.”

In the Nov 4 speech to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid, Gomez framed today’s social justice activism, including the anti-racist movement in the United States, as an angry Marxist-inspired, anti-Christian expression of a corrosive secularism being pushed by an “elite leadership class.”

“In fact, as they see it, religion, especially Christianity, only gets in the way of the society they hope to build,” said Gomez, who is also president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gomez’s remarks angered leading Black Catholic theologians, academics and activists.

Groups such as Pax Christi USA and the Association of US Catholic Priests have released statements in recent days condemning the archbishop’s comments.

“Your speech was particularly painful and offensive to Black Catholic advocates in the United States who have organised for racial justice in the face of indifference and even hostility from many white Christians,” reads the new petition, which was released Nov 12 and was organised by Faith in Public Life and Faithful America.

Craig Ford, a theology professor at St Norbert College in Wisconsin, urged Gomez to meet with social movement leaders and theologians to find common ground in their shared commitment to human dignity.

“Black Lives Matter and other justice movements are secular expressions of Jesus’ presence among those who are reviled and rejected,” Ford said.

But in Gomez’s stated view, modern secular movements like Black Lives Matter are rival ideologies trying to “cancel” or push Christianity out of public life.

Gomez suggested that the church can only engage those movements not on social or political terms, “but as dangerous substitutes for true religion.”

The archbishop’s talk has sparked a backlash from Catholics involved in social justice works. On Nov 9, Pax Christi USA released an official statement rejecting Gomez’s “negative and misleading stereotype” of today’s social justice movements.

“His derisive use of the term ‘woke’ is commonplace among those who feel the power they have traditionally wielded is threatened by those who call for greater justice, equity and social change,” the Pax Christi statement said.

The new petition encourages Gomez to embrace the “Church in the streets” called for by Pope Francis by finding common ground “with a new generation of social justice leaders who, in the language of Vatican II, are reading the ‘signs of the times’ and inspiring diverse movements of people who are putting their faith into action.”


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