History & Culture

The Way Forward for Church and Country: A Catholic Bishop Diagnoses Woke and Prescribes Faith, Hope, and Love

AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

Catholic

When first told that Jesus was “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote,” the future Apostle Nathanael replied, “Can anything good from Nazareth?” Today we might ask, “Can anything good come from California?” Or, for jaundiced Catholics, “Can anything good come from the bishops?” José Gomez, like the Nazarene rabbi of old, has proven the skeptics wrong. The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Gomez turned a lot of heads with a video address delivered to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid, Spain, on November 4. Decrying what he calls the modern “pseudo-religions” that go by various names—“wokeness,” “intersectionality,” “successor ideology,” and even “social justice”—Archbishop Gomez not only diagnosed what makes them so destructive but pointed the way forward for Catholics, other Christians, and, more broadly the United States and other countries beset with these pseudo-religions.

What makes Archbishop Gomez’s address so important is that he is the current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. While a great many of the U. S. bishops have been fairly tame in challenging these currents of thought—Gomez’s own auxiliary (or assistant) bishop Robert Barron is a notable counterexample—Gomez’s critique of these ideologies signals to other bishops that they need not and indeed ought not verbally bow to these ideologies, which are in truth competitors to a Christian view even if they sometimes go under Catholic-sounding terms such as “social justice.”

In short, they tell a story that is counter to that of the Christian one. The Christian one involves the creation of humanity in the image of God with a “God-given ‘telos,” an intention and direction” that is summarized as “loving God and our neighbor, working to build his Kingdom on earth, all in confident hope that we will have eternal life with him in the world to come.” Because sin, the rejection of God’s plan for our lives, brings alienation “from God and one another” and a life lived “in the shadow of death,” human beings need the salvation that comes from “the dying and rising of Jesus Christ” and allows them to become transformed into God’s image through faith, hope, and love.

In contrast, Archbishop Gomez summarizes the various movements as telling a different story: “We cannot know where we came from, but we are aware that we have interests in common with those who share our skin color or our position in society. We are also painfully aware that our group is suffering and alienated, through no fault of our own. The cause of our unhappiness is that we are victims of oppression by other groups in society. We are liberated and find redemption through our constant struggle against our oppressors, by waging a battle for political and cultural power in the name of creating a society of equity.”

This narrative is attractive, he notes, because it does respond to “real human needs and suffering”—many who embrace it have “noble intentions,” he notes—but also because its explanation of the world is simple: “the world is divided into innocents and victims, allies and adversaries.”

Yet this simplicity is simplistic and dangerous. Rather than the complex view of human beings as maimed by sin and yet called by God to forgiveness and healing, these ideologies “have lost the truth about the human person” and thus are marked by “extremism” and a “harsh, uncompromising, and unforgiving approach to politics.” Their view about the human person is atheistic: “They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think it irrelevant to human happiness. They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities—the color of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society.” Their extremism comes from both their Marxist and Manichean roots, always dividing up the human race into simple good and evil, and their “Utopian” quality: they believe in “‘heaven on earth,’ a perfectly just society, through our own human efforts.” Since they are Pelagian, meaning that their redemption story simply involves human effort and no grace, forgiveness and mercy play no part in their judgments. The end result is that “these strictly secular movements are causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance, and injustice.”

It’s cancel culture and the war of all against all without end, amen.

What is to be done about these movements? Archbishop Gomez says, “We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity.” The answer for Catholics and Christians is to preach the Gospel, which “remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen.” While the secular and false gospel of wokeness is breeding tribalism, those who see God as Father are able to see everybody else as brothers and sisters.

What the world does not need, the archbishop tells us, is a “new secular religion to replace Christianity.” Instead, it needs “individual conscience and tolerance” and “greater humility and realism about the human condition,” which includes an acknowledgment of our “common frailty” and the fact “that we are all sinners.” It needs most of all, he says, for “you and me to be better witnesses. Better Christians. Let us begin by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting away spiritual poisons like resentment and envy.”

We need Christian leaders to speak plainly like this, without fear of cancelation or hatred by prestige media or progressive politicians. It was this kind of blunt but grace-filled speech by a Polish archbishop who became pope that helped topple the Communists in Poland and ultimately the Soviet Union. It was this kind of blunt but sane talk that twentieth-century preachers such as Archbishop Fulton Sheen produced in explaining why communism was not just a mistake about foreign policy or economics, but, like today’s ideologies, ultimately a tragic mistake about God and the human person, a “liquidation of the human person.” We have tried, said Sheen, to “preserve the fruits without the roots of Christianity” and have been losing to the Communists, who “have zeal but no truth.” To win this spiritual battle, Sheen said, required “recovery of our own great traditions, of our belief in God” and for politicians to focus on what is “right and true.”

So, too, with Archbishop Gomez. He recommends looking at American Catholic figures who fought for justice and charity in America, including Father Augustus Tolton, a slave who escaped into freedom and became the first black man ordained as a Catholic priest in this country, and Dorothy Day, who left behind Communism for Catholicism and fed the poor in her Catholic Worker houses. He also recommends looking back to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the apparition of Mary as a young native girl to a peasant named Juan Diego nearly 490 years ago next month, what he calls the “true spiritual founding of America.”

While not all Christians will want to look back to that event, both Catholics and Protestants can look back to the founding of this country in 1776, the 250th anniversary of which is coming up in five years. It is profoundly sad that President Trump’s 1776 Commission, called to write a report elucidating the “core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of ‘the blessings of liberty,’” was immediately scrapped by the Biden Administration. For the founders, as the Nobel Prize-winning survivor of the Gulag Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it, had in their “original intent” for and succeeded in creating a constitution designed for a truly good society, in which its defense of the rights of the individual “under God” was accompanied by an understanding of the citizen’s duties and “the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.” 

As writers such as Robert R. Reilly have shown, the American experiment in ordered liberty was the beneficiary of the wisdom of the ancients, medieval Catholics, and modern thinkers. It was an experiment that grounded freedom in natural law (the truth about mankind available to all people), limited government (because only God truly has authority over all aspects of human life), and included checks and balances because original sin means that anybody with power will be tempted to misuse it.

In short, while America is not utopia, its original vision of a good but not perfect society is a gift to be celebrated. It is also unthinkable without the Christian vision. Archbishop Gomez is right to challenge these new pseudo-religions. They don’t have God in them, don’t get the human right, and threaten to make our country a hell as they pursue a progressive heaven. If we want to recover what is good in this country, we absolutely need to “recover our traditions,” as Fulton Sheen put it, both the distinctively Christian ones and the distinctively American ones.

David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.

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Morbious
11 days ago

We take note of catholic leaders who stand against leftism because the top leadership is leftist. I wish this wasnt true but it is. Conservative catholic priests tend to be reassigned to positions where they cant preach against communism.

Thomas Connolly
12 days ago

Bishop Gomez is right. We preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and NOTHING ELSE!!!!

downtown dave
12 days ago

The way forward is to hear, believe and preach the right Gospel.

rightlydividingthewordoftruth77.blogspot.com/

Jon
14 days ago

I’m wonder if the Hollywood leftist born Ramon Estevez knows all this about the man whose name he chose to honor by going by the stage name Martin Sheen.

Judy
15 days ago

The Scribes and the Pharisees in Jesus day, when He walked on this earth, is what Catholic Priests are like today. Jesus called them hypocrites and vipers who like to be called Rabbi, enjoy upper seats at feasts, and wear long robes. And for pretence make long prayers to be seen of men. Much of what this ‘Catholic Bishop’ said is of a truth. Maybe we could almost see Jesus telling him ‘you are close to God’s Kingdom’ like He said to another in His day. Mother Teresa, even though serving in her capacity of the Catholic church, was more devoted to service as an example of a follower of Jesus Christ. God is our Judge, the only Judge of our Souls, and I know He chooses His own, whether they profess they are of any given faith. That is why we are not to pass judgement on any individual, but we can denounce certain religions as cults.
When Jesus’s disciples asked Him what signs would be for the times of the end, the first words Jesus said to them was, ‘take heed that ye be not deceived, for many will come in My Name saying I am Christ.’ Jesus also told them to, ‘Watch therefore, that that day not come upon you unawares.’ ‘And again I say watch.’
We have been given many warnings so that we are without excuse. I do not believe we should see ourselves as victims. It is for our faith in Christ that we are persecuted. Jesus told us that ‘in this world we would have tribulation, but we are to be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world.’ Apostle Paul said he would only glory in his infirmities, because he said when he was weak he was strong due to his faith and trusting in Christ to see him through. I don’t ‘focus’ on things which make life uncomfortable at times, because I remember He told me to always be thankful for what He has always done for me throughout my life.
This nation needs to get back to God, period! And that begins with the acknowledgement of our sin and asking for God’s forgiveness! THAT was not made clear in this article.

Toni
15 days ago

I am delighted at hearing Bishop Gomez speaking out on this topic. What with our Pope (I am a Catholic) speaking out against everything I was ever taught, it is heartening to hear that they haven’t all succumbed to the current Marxist ideology being hailed throughout the world. These world leaders are sure showing their stripes as they MANDATE everyone to stay home, be vaccinated despite some people’s beliefs, and perhaps better judgment. And what is so astounding as how many are kowtowing to it all! Keep your guns handy folks. Our forefathers must have seen this coming.

Carol
15 days ago

Gomez hits it on the nail! Problem I see is that too many Americans have bought into the leftist BS and think what Gomez is talking about is patriarchy and racist. They are so arrogant and self-righteous that like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time, these folks refuse to humble themselves enough to see that they are promoting is destructive and endangers the lives of innocent people! God help America!

CoNMTX`
15 days ago

I do not know anything about Gomez. All I know is that the pope is a lying socialist who I doubt is even Christian. He is a dangerous man. However, worldwide, many Catholics are uneducated and ignorant minorities who are also quite superstitious. They will obey any ranking Catholic, especially the pope, believing he is holy, under penalty of divine punishment. This is how the Catholic church has controlled the people for centuries; through superstition and intimidation. The pope is working to get all nations into the one-world government that will eventually be under the control of the Antichrist. No telling what part he will play in this evil scenario.

jerome e kostichka
15 days ago

I am not catholic but yhis is right on.

terg
15 days ago

I’m surprised this came from Archbishop Gomez. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth sometimes. He’s all for illegal immigration like many Catholic bishops. I wonder how he will vote to give the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians.

Jim Chew
16 days ago

I think everyone should read this

Jim Jolly
16 days ago

Well said and received

Marc Grivas
16 days ago

Great article. it speaks the truth. But, what is so lacking these days concerning the state of our nation is the blatant statement, ‘ we under the full assault of communism’ ! Why are commentators so afraid to say this? Perhaps they don’t read the history of communism in all its despicable-ness.All this baloney about BLM etc etc is just a front.Communism is in our churches, schools, gov ernment , everywhere. If the readers think I’m over reacting ,then I suggest that they start listening to those who escaped communism in their homelands. What you will hear is what is taking place today, is exactly what each of them lived with in their experience . If you want to fight the enemy ,you must identify the enemy in all its insidious forms, i.e. call a spade a spade and quit wringing your hands. Why is that so hard to do ? Are we all frogs in a warming kettle?

Morbious
11 days ago
Reply to  Marc Grivas

Perhaps they share many of the same goals but differ on the details

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