What is Social Justice?

The term “social justice,” a potentially useful term, has – as we well know – been taken hostage by progressives in both the secular world and the Church. They have made it a catchall term to aid them in imposing ideological formulas and newly conceived rights on our common institutions, or to promote their favored causes de jure.

These “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs in digital parlance), who support state-enforced redistribution, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street agendas, also portray their opponents as evil people opposed to all that is good, and often employ tactics designed to silence or repress those who dare to disagree.

Writing about these “dangerous pseudo-progressive authoritarians” in a New York Observer article titled “The Totalitarian Doctrine of ‘Social Justice Warriors’” journalist Cathy Young concluded, “Because SocJus is so focused on changing bad attitudes and ferreting out subtle biases and insensitivities, its hostility to free speech and thought is not an unfortunate by-product of the movement but its very essence.”

In an effort to rescue “social justice” from this fate and to clarify its true meaning, Templeton Prize winner Michael Novak, and Paul Adams, Professor Emeritus of social work at the University of Hawaii, have co-authored an impressive book, Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is.

The authors contend that “social justice,” rightly understood, is not a state of public affairs but personal virtue. To explain that premise and “to seek out a fresh statement of the definition of social justice – one that is true to the original understanding, ideologically neutral among political and economic partisans, and applicable to the circumstances of today,” the book is divided into two parts.

The first, “The Theory” of social justice is written by Novak and the second part, by Adams, is devoted to “The Practice.”

Social Justice was introduced as a new virtue by Pope Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno. He called this form of justice “social” because its aim was to improve the common good of a “free and responsible people” by employing social activities closely related to the basic unit of society: the family. Activities could include the creation of local religious and educational facilities and the administering of essential services.

This virtue is also expected to reach ends that cannot be actualized by the individual alone. People are expected to learn three skills: “the art of forming associations, willingness to take leadership of small groups, and the habit and instinct of cooperation with others.”


Social justice wasn’t meant to be dependent on large, impersonal, domineering, and cumbersome federal and state bureaucracies that tend to smother individual and local initiatives. Rather it is a habit of the heart that brings people together to form associations that provide “social protection against atomistic individualism, while at the other pole it protects considerable civic space from the direct custodianship of the state.”

Novak concludes his portion of the work by stressing:

Both Catholic social teaching and the social-work empowerment tradition reject the individualist hypertrophy of the autonomous unencumbered self no less than the hypertrophy of the state. The space – of civil society or mediating structures – between individual and state is the one in which conscience is shaped and the virtues on which it depends are developed through practice and habituation. The virtue of social justice also requires and develops that space in which citizens join together in pursuit of the common good.

As for Catholic social justice in action, Professor Adams describes it as the pre-eminent virtue of free societies. Social workers are virtue-driven and are called to act with people “to improve the common good of families, a local neighborhood, a city, a whole nation, the whole world.”

Social work, Adams argues, is neither individualist nor collectivist, but is devoted to strengthening the caring and self-regulatory capacity of the family and to reduce dependency on the “bureaucratic-professional state.”

Adams greatest fear is that social workers who adhere to Judeo-Christian teaching on life, death, family, and marriage will be driven from their professions. Conscience exemptions are being eliminated in most medical and counseling fields. Conscience has been redefined as merely “personal values that must be left at the office door when duty calls.”

Today clients or patients are sovereign. Any legal practice they demand, the social profession must provide or participate in providing. The professional’s right and duty, Adams observes, “to use her judgment about what is required or indicated or morally permissible is nullified.” The balance of rights between professional and client no longer exists, however, and client empowerment “radically disempowers, even dehumanizes, the professional.”

All too often social service professionals and healthcare workers must either execute policies or perform procedures they find morally degrading – or find a different line of work.

The war on conscience aims at destroying subsidiary associational life, particularly in Church and family. And if Social Justice Warriors succeed, religious freedom will be reduced to freedom of worship and the Church will have to abandon a prime corporate responsibility of caring for the poor, sick, homeless, and orphans.

Because battles over conscience in the public square are so daunting, Novak and Adams conclude that the most important words of Catholic social justice must become: “Do not be afraid.” They call on us to aspire upward and to “draw strength from the example of so many heroines and heroes who have gone before us, winning small victory after small victory, even in the darkest of times.”

True social justice demands nothing less.

George J. Marlin

George J. Marlin

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter, Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative, and Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy. His new book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner, will be published on St. Patrick's Day.

  • James S.

    “Novak and Adams conclude that the most important words of Catholic social justice must become: “Do not be afraid.””

    My God, we have come to this.

  • Alexandra_kirschmitt

    “The war on conscience aims at destroying subsidiary associational life, particularly in Church and family. ”

    I fear a weak Church more than anything else. Faith in God is the only solution but unfortunately today we lack a religious leader.We must look within, go deeply into that secret chamber taught by Jesus to find the strength we need for the battle.

    And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. _Phil.4:7

    • Diane

      It is very difficult living in this time. I pray that it will end soon.

  • givelifeachance2

    Where are the Catholic lawyers who could have stemmed the orwellian juggernaut of obergefell by simply making the case of the bigotry of homosex marriage against the opposite sex. This common sense internally consistent tactic was ignored and so now we have bakers and socjus workers alike trapped in their professions. That doesn’t hold a candle to the trappedNess of children adopted or Frankensteined into homosex “parent” clutches. Those are the real victims of the bigotry that would deny then a mother *and* a father.

  • Michael Dowd

    Social Justice is just another name for Liberation Theology (Communism) which has overtaken the Catholic Church and gained great impetus under Pope Francis in undermining the faith. Basically, Social Justice has focused our attention on Man and away from God. The Catholic Church should not be in the business in the practical aspects of Social Justice of creating and administering the means for helping the poor but only for advocating observance of the corporal works of Mercy by the laity.

    • dbrown8


  • Social Justice is primarily economic- and like capitalism and communism, makes no sense beyond two degrees of friendship. Your social justice actions can affect your neighbor, which should inspire him to social justice actions that inspire his neighbor.

    Once you get beyond what I call the friendship signal, economics devolves into mere price and power signals- the market or the government- and with anonymity, justice is lost.

    No family can survive above 100 members without losing individuals. No town can effectively govern more than 1000. No county, greater than 100,000. No State, greater than 1,000,000. And no Country greater than 10,000,000. At each level, justice is lost; even more so when we exceed these populations and governments become inefficient from losing the friendship signals.

    There is a reason why the Catholic Church is divided into families, parishes, diocese, archdiocese. There is a reason why the lower units have a degree of autonomy apart from the higher. It is to preserve justice.

    One world market, one world government,, can never produce justice.

    • Nancy Lynne

      Where can I read more about “the friendship signal”? Thanks.

  • Manfred

    “…the Church will have to abandon a prime corporate responsibility of caring for the poor, sick, homeless and orphans.” It is reported that the Church in the U.S. receives over $2 billion in governmental assistance each year. This allows the Government to dictate to its partner, the Church, how to conduct its affairs. THAT is why bishops are silent when “same-sex marriage” laws are passed, why Obama is invited to the Al Smith Dinner, why LGBT groups are allowed to march in “Catholic” parades.
    The culture war is lost, Messrs. Marlin, Novak and Adams. Man up and admit it. “Catholic” parishes and schools are closing as intelligent Catholics treat this Modernist fraud for what it is and seek refuge in truly Catholic chapels, schools and home schooling. My family and I are involved in one of these and I can assure you we are “not afraid”.

    • dbrown8

      Spot on. You can’t get into bed with an immoral government and expect to uphold your virtue. Catholics must give on their own. Like the LDS church.

    • Oscar Pierce

      Manfred, not meaning to challenge per se; more of a source scrutiny…where is it, “reported that the Church in the U.S. receives over $2 billion in governmental assistance each year”? If accurate, does that include federal funds in the form of grants through HUD for such things as Supportive and Emergency housing programs?

      While I could well imagine silence on the part of some bishops, clergy; and yes, too many of the laity for fear of losing such large monies (assuming they exist); not all are silent…you paint with a large brush brother.

      • Manfred

        Oscar Pierce, I just Googled: How much does the Federal Government give to the Catholic Church’s ministries? and the first item said $1.6 billion.You might find this helpful.
        One of the unintended results of Justice Scalia’s demise is that with a 4-4 split on the Court, The Little Sisters of the Poor may very well lose their appeal and have to obey the Appeals Court which ruled that the Feds have the right to demand they provided contraceptives and abortifacients to their lay employees.
        “a large brush”? If you see reasons for any optimism in the present circumstances, I wish you would share them with the readers.

        • Oscar Pierce

          Manfred, Thanks for the Google thought, I’ll check that out. “Large brush,” not all bishops or clergy are silent….

          YES, I (with countless others) agree, the loss Justice Scalia is tragic and most fretful at this particular time. No, I’m not particularly optimistic at this point in time (…not sure why you would assume that from my earlier post); although, I will not despair.

        • Micha_Elyi

          The Little Sisters of the Poor case, should it be lost, sets up a precedent by which the federal government could interfere in the practices of other religions, for example claiming health reasons for banning circumcisions.

  • Rick

    Social justice is when the constitution and bill of rights of the United States is practiced the way they were intended.

  • What’s with the feminine pronoun for people in general? Isn’t that an obéisance to the secular values Adams deplores?

  • Fulton J. Waterloo

    Anything by the capitalist apologist Michael Novak is far better off being used to line a bird cage.

  • phranthie

    The most overworked word here in Britain by politicians and others to justify this sort of distortion of true social justice is ‘fairness’ — change and innovation promoted and manipulated by the Social Justice Warriors are always presented as just being fair to all.

    • Micha_Elyi

      The most overworked word here in Britain by politicians and others to justify this sort of distortion of true social justice is ‘fairness’.

      I agree that ‘fairness’ is an overworked word. Americans are also suckers for abuses of the term. ‘Fairness’ when properly understood is limited to sport competitions or evaluation of skin complexion.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    I do agree with the premise that social justice is first of all a personal virtue. I strongly disagree that it stops there and should not be reflected in our social institutions including government. The excesses of socialistic progressivism, the equanimity of President Obama do not preclude social justice on a wider stage. Examples are Social Security instituted by FDR 1935 and Medicare, Medicaid by LBJ 1965 both Democrats. The mistake Republicans make [although I voted Republican except for JFK] is to attack those ‘social safety nets’ and argue for private investment like stocks which the vast majority of Americans either have no inkling of or would spend the money before investing. It is also completely mistaken not to acknowledge that starting with Pope Leo XIII that the Roman Pontiffs did not recommend government awareness and involvement in needed legislation and policy to protect the working man and their families. There has to be a balance which you do not show. Yes it is true that egalitarian ideas stifle entrepreneurship and the charitable virtue of freely giving to the needy. If Republicans were more socially oriented and less obsessed with large corporate enterprise and all the insidious influence it has on free elections we would win more elections and achieve greater social justice for the Nation.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “[T]he charitable virtue of freely giving to the needy.”

      We need to remember St Ambrose’s words, cited by Bl Paul VI in Populorum Progressio: “”You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.” That is justice, not charity.

      • Dave Fladlien

        Michael, here again it is stated (this time by you) as if everything were black and white. It isn’t. To say that everything one earns is earned by his/her efforts and is totally his/hers is clearly wrong. So also is ignoring the fact that one is entitled to benefits and results of his/her efforts. One is an obligation of love; the other an obligation of justice. Both must be given heavy weight.

        If we stop helping the poor, we stop being Christians. If we tell those who take the risks and put in the hours and live with the fear that they can’t also enjoy a considerable amount of the results when they “win”, we kill much of the motivation.

        Both are wrong. We have to care for the poor *and* respect the fruits of labor and risk. We all thought huge social programs were a good idea in the 60s. I did too. We were wrong. After a half century of them we have bankrupt governments all of the world, and the same poverty rate as before. There is a place for *proper* government programs, and I agree social security is one, but that (and Medicare) are retirement programs, not poverty programs. Poverty programs have to lift people out of poverty, not stick them forever in it. And they must be done in a way that has *minimal* impact on entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          Good points Dave. Yes there is a difference between poverty programs and retirement. But again according to your own premise that is not black and white either. Medicare was instituted to assist those unable to afford med insurance. Both soc sec and medicare were instituted the first by FDR 1935 to assist a financially broken nation and persons unable to save for retirement. Medicare LBJ 1965 had similar intentions. They clearly were not instituted to help the rich or the upper middle class. Although the wealthy benefit from both there are proposals by candidates to eliminate or cut back degree of entitlement from the wealthy.

          • Dave Fladlien

            OK, Father, I agree that these programs aren’t necessarily black and white either, though I admit I hadn’t thought of social security in those terms. But I do think we have to keep some distinctions clear in the two types of programs, by which I mean:

            Social Security and Medicare — that is, programs that are *basically* retirement type programs — should be designed such that they continue indefinitely after a person reaches some set of requirements, which right now means age. They don’t necessarily help the person advance, rather they help sustain that person.

            Programs that are fundamentally poverty programs should not be designed to sustain, but rather to lift up the recipient out of the need for them and back to financial independence through full participation in the economic system (going to work, starting a business, etc.).

            I’m very willing to let some of the lines blur, as long as poverty programs do not become poverty traps (which at least some essentially are now), and as long as people who paid for Social Security and Medicare are not now denied them when they’re retired and counted on them. The main problem right now is that the Federal Reserve has so artificially altered the economy, and the mountain of government regulations have so confined business and finance, that no one could get a job even if we had programs to actually help them. We are in actuality creating no opportunity in this country at all.

            This society is really broken, and we need to fix it.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Very much in agreement with the latter part of your reply. Certainly we should understand that if I am for preserving SS and Medicaire it does not preclude programs to get people back to work. We have an immense deluge of people out of work much due to the Obama policies of over regulation. The other factor is temporarily insoluble unless Govt initiate large rebuilding of infrastructure to get these multitudes of unemployed back to work. The issue that is insoluble without what’s said is the necessity for industry to develop technically which results in less manpower need. It is as simple as 2+2=4. The more competitive our industry the more technically advanced the less manpower. So Infrastructure rebuilding is essential. Your idea of Govt creating programs designed to sustain uplift the poor like what for instance? Is it more training programs? That will take aeons to produce results and by the time the many will have finished training technology will have advanced beyond their skills.

          • Dave Fladlien

            No one solution will do this, Father. It takes a well-integrated plan, and that plan has to be based on “everyone wins”, not on government-sponsored shifts of wealth to Wall Street (which is what the Federal Reserve is doing with their near zero interest rate system), and not on “preferential option for the poor” (at least not the way Church liberals advocate), both of which are highly divisive. The way to help most of the poor is to create an environment in which they can prosper. And you’re right: retraining will take forever, and won’t do any good since there are no jobs anyhow, as I pointed out above.

            What we need to do (way over-simplified here due to space and time), and in no particular chronological order or level of importance:

            1) Grow the whole world economy. The world economy can’t feed the people of the world. It’s that simple. We have to expand the entire economy worldwide, and that means business has to invest everywhere, in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world countries. To get them to do that, we need an international agreement against corporate forfeiture, so that investors are willing to take the risks, and an international cap on taxes so they can be assured of profiting from their risks.

            2) We have to re-develop heavy industry in the US (and in the UK, EU, etc.) where it has declined so badly. To do that we have to lower the cost of living in these countries so that we can compete, and to do that we need massive investments in the efficiency that you seem to fear. But we can’t retreat our way to a solution; we have to grow our way to solution. We have to increase the supply of all goods and services so that *our* costs and prices drop to a level commensurate with the rest of the world. Meanwhile, their costs will rise as their standard of living rises. When those have happened, there will be no incentive to push jobs overseas, and workers with lower skills will be able to earn a decent living here.

            3) Adopt a system of training and placement for displaced workers. You’re right, in our present stagnant economy that will do no good, but in the rapid-growth economy I’ve described, it will because the ultimate solution to employment for those workers of lesser skills, as well as those with less experience, etc, is a thriving economy where it is advantageous or even necessary for business to hire any workers they can find, train them, whatever it takes, since there are few workers available compared to demand for them. If we don’t tax our businesses to death, their profit margins (not profits, profit margins) will permit them to do that training, introduction to the workforce, etc., and they will do it because it is advantageous.

            4) To handle the creation of rapid growth, we need a means to control the resulting tendency to inflation. To do that we need to focus serious tax advantages to investment, furthering the upward spiral, rather than *just* to consumer and business spending, which can be inflationary if not matched by production. These tax incentives and other measures can ensure that considerable spending is on economic development, not just purchases, though those have a definite role to play too. It needs to be at least roughly in balance.

            It takes a lot more than this; I can only ask the editors to put up with so much wording here, but the key is to push growth at as rapid a pace as we can through income tax cuts (partly offset by SS and Medicare tax hikes so those programs don’t go bankrupt), investment incentives both corporate and personal, and by one more change I advocate which is to set each individual up as if they were a business: where they are taxed on profit, not income. Taxing income is an absurd way to do things, as if each person with a given income had the same operating expenses.

            Bottom Line: supply side economics. In a world which has too little goods and services, we have to increase the supply of them, not cut demand and tax, tax, tax, like the liberals always want to do.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Excellent response from a ‘real live’ entrepreneur.

          • Richard A

            How is saving for retirement not a perfect example of tearing down one’s barns and building bigger ones, so that one may say to oneself, “Rest, take your ease, you have food in store for years to come”? Except that, in our case, the barns are full of IOUs?

          • Dave Fladlien

            If I may take a shot at responding here, what the guy who built the barns did wrong wasn’t building the barns, it was taking the attitude that he “had it made”, and didn’t need to care at all about anyone else. If a person who saves and invests for retirement takes that attitude, then he/she *is* the same as the guy who built the barns. But there is something right, not wrong, with being prudent. It’s being arrogant that is wrong.

          • Richard A

            Sorry, I don’t doubt that the text will bear that interpretation, but there’s nothing in it that suggests that was Christ’s intent. I think He expects us to work – in the field He’s given us to work, that is, our vocation – until we die, and trust Him to provide us our daily bread. And not to set ourselves up so that we are tempted to think that our provision comes from ourselves and not from Him.

          • Dave Fladlien

            I *have* to reply to this comment of yours, because — if you read my other comments on this article — you’ll find I am essentially in the position you advocate, not because I chose it, but just because it is how things turned out which may or may not have been God’s will for me. I do in honesty have to point out that I would *want* to do what I’m doing even if I were a billionaire. In fact I wouldn’t want to be a billionaire because that would require that I spend great amounts of time using that wealth properly, not doing things I’d rather do.

            However, I really do wish I were sufficiently well off that I didn’t *have* to work, that I worked only because I wish to. I do it both because I wish to, and because I have to. I have pondered your point about totally relying on God and working until death, but I don’t think we can count on being able to work until death, so at least some reserves are mandatory, especially if in business, where proper business management mandates it. And prudence requires it for everyone, in my judgement.

            Beyond that, though, I think the answer is that there is no evil at all in becoming or being wealthy. That has always been the position of the Church (reaffirmed recently by none other than populist Pope Francis), and I — when I think about this subject — always end up back at that point. It becomes more clear when one considers that Jesus had wealthy friends, that St. Matthew calls wealthy Joseph of Arimethea a “just” man (the only other person he refers to that way is Joseph, the foster father of Jesus), etc.

            Good question you raised, and I do find it interesting that someone other than me has thought about it. Thanks for bringing it up.

          • Nancy Lynne

            Now that is something to think about!!!

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Quid est caritas?

        • Phillip

          Seeking the good of another. Now, what is the good of another?

      • Bobo Fett

        Maybe the question is: “Master, what shall I do that I may receive life everlasting?”…..and Jesus says to the rich man, “one thing is lacking. Go sell all you have and give to the poor…, and come and follow Me.”

        After the rich man goes away sad, the disciples are flabbergasted and say to Him, “who then can be saved?” But then He says, “With men, [eternal life] is impossible. But not with God; with God all things are possible.” The emphasis is “what must I DO the I MAY attain eternal life – and it is attained through the work of God, not by anything we can do. His kingdom is not of this world. And the poor you will always have with you.

        Jesus says: Whatever you do, do in secret. otherwise in seeking the approval of men, “they have received their reward.”

        • Micha_Elyi

          In the Social Justice Gospel, the text reads, “Go sell all your neighbor has and give to the poor”. That ugly book also has a passage that instructs “render the poor unto Caesar”. All support for socialized medicine rests upon these two Social Justice Gospel proof texts.

    • Michael DeLorme

      Forgive me, Father (and no this isn’t a formal Confession) but when you write that Republicans make a mistake when they “argue for private investment like stocks which the vast majority of Americans either have no inkling of or would spend the money before investing…” isn’t that exactly the kind of paternalistic attitude one associates with liberalism?

      I tried my hand at selling life insurance back in the early 80s. It was a time of great ferment and growth in investment options. My dad raised seven kids working in the business. All of a sudden, though, you had to have an NASD license to sell products like variable life insurance because it included stocks, bonds, CDs and money market accounts in its structural options.

      I was not a particularly good salesman, which no doubt accounts for most of my disappointment in the field. Nevertheless, despite all of the training and all of the licensing, time after time I would find “ordinary” factory workers who knew far more than I did as to, say, how their company’s 401K outperformed whatever I was trying to sell.

      All I’m saying is, “ordinary Americans” are far more sophisticated in their understanding than we often give them credit for. And where they’re not, maybe the Churches ought to take the lead in educating families as to investment possibilities as well as the responsibilities they will incur in deciding to fend for themselves. Weaning from the Nanny State is possible.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Depends on our perspective of the world having grown up in south Brooklyn most men dockworkers their experience and vision of things differ. It holds true for people up here in rural largely impoverished western NYS where most men hunt for deer to supplement their dinners. Yes it can be done as you envision but my experiential vision is different than yours believing that most of these persons will spend their money before learning about 401Ks. You see [now I suppose I’m becoming insufferably paternalistic] men women who work in ‘factories’ depending on locale and union membership have better acumen regards investment the stock market and retirement in cases where it is corporate they receive retirement benefits. It is solipsistic [mind you Michael not an insult] to use your abilities and experience as the measure of all situations and people and their needs. Also take into account the variety of my experience as priest in the West and here in the East both rural and urban. We cannot prove our positions without data and the data and predilection of the majority indicates people would rather keep SS and Medicare, Medicaid. You assume your knowledge is superior than mine by saying ordinary Americans are far more sophisticated than presumed when most don’t know South America from Borneo or the names of the last presidents and where Wall street is [outside of New York]. Why destroy what people want since they pay into it from salary and its a proven assistance. Why shouldn’t govt provide some social assistance. No Michael I’m not paternalistic but I am a spiritual father of many whom I deeply care for. Your forgiven. Ite in pace.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Michael if you want to respond to my response feel free I do not have power to excommunicate, only ability for vituperative response. I enjoy good debate because it usually becomes a mutual learning session.

  • Steven P Glynn

    Thank you Mr. Marlin, very instructive article and much needed perspective. To my fellow posters, I assure you I am as politically conservative as anyone here and find just the mention of “social justice” in it’s current state nauseating. But this is precisely the point, corruption of the language is the greatest weapon in the hands of the left. “Liberal” now implies one follows a rigid self-contradictory paradigm, being in favor of slaughtering innocents makes one “pro-choice”, “social justice” means that I have the right to the fruits of my neighbor’s labor, etc., etc.. But is the answer to retreat to modern day catacombs? We have the tools and ability to be soldiers of Christ, do we prefer to cower in the shadows? Of course we have the responsibility to pursue the best education for our children, through home schooling or searching out schools with traditional values, but do we then turn our backs on the children left behind? Not leaving them uniterruptedly to the indoctrination of the left, truly illustrates Pope Pius XI’s concept of social justice. Perhaps previous posters are correct and the war is already lost (it certainly is not going well) but if so count me in with those who will go down fighting for our lost cause.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Well said. I may not agree with you on everything, but as for giving up versus ramping up (our efforts to push back), count me in.

  • Bobo Fett

    I thought this was going to be a great article the way it started but then it just fizzled. There was so much meat left on the bone. These SJWs are becoming the church. These progressives are such a scourge on parish priests and good parishioners as well. And the lonesome priest is usually totally a weak person and is quickly brought to “heel” and becomes basically managed by these activists. He gets his sermon topics shouted into him by these ninny-nannies. Not being brought up in a strong seminary, he often has nothing in himself that’s strong, other than the desire to go along and not get reported up, and so he gets brow-beaten to bring his sermons and very thought into line with SJW thought, which is just the democrat party platform. When election time nears, he gives a sermon on accepting criminals, promotes the gay lifestyle, and facilitate the addicts. Preaching about abortion becomes downgraded to “respect for life” – calling for an end to abortion is thus filtered out. These SJWs are just the greying sewer rats of the 60s and 70s formalizing their filth to turn the parish into a fulfillment of the self. They take over and drive out the faithful. And the priest is just a tool for them.

  • pj_re

    Adopting the terminology of the totalitarians is already a huge concession; it was a mistake when Pius XI did it and it is still a mistake. The Church needs to defend freedom of association and disassociation, so that Christians can obey the instructions of Jesus for how to respond to immorality in Matthew 18: the ultimate response to an unrepentant and destructive sinner is ostracism. The goal of the “social justice warriors” is to make freedom of disassociation impossible, and relationships with them mandatory, so that they can sin without consequence. This needs to be addressed directly without obscuration by terms like “social justice.”

    • Jude

      Exactly right!

  • Bobo Fett

    The article lost it when the author became interested in the concept of “rescuing social justice…” The problem is the acceptance of the phrase itself. Justice is justice. Bringing adjectives to bear on the word itself is to focus it this way, or that way. Ignore the surrounding elements and make it go how I, me, myself feel it should go. But…Justice itself simply is.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Aristotle did not think so, when he spoKe of commutative and distributive justice, nor did St Thomas who adopted his categories.

      • Bobo Fett

        I believe Aristotle spoke of legal justice and a natural form of justice. What is meant today by the SJW mob today by the term “social justice” is truly injustice; it seeks to raise evil and deviance and place it on a par. This is the opposite.

  • JGradGus

    The term “Social Justice” was actually coined by a Catholic Jesuit priest and scholar named Fr. Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio, in his five-volume work entitled “Saggio teoretico di dritto naturalappoggiato sul fatto” (A Theoretical Treatise on Natural Law Resting on Fact), written in about 1840. Taparelli says, in effect, in order to achieve a just society we must first accept the idea that all men are not equal in terms of skills, intelligence, physical traits, motivation, character, etc. In other words, in every society both equality, as in equal rights, and inequality, as in abilities, will always exist side by side. The trick is in figuring out how to deal with this truth.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      d’Azeglio is following Aquinas’ thought that God created us all with different and varying degrees of skill for the harmony of society. Thanks for the info about him whom I knew nothing about.

  • Mike Hurcum

    Bobo Flett your take on the priesthood is very accurate. May I add this the warning was given in Revelations Chapter 2. The Letter to the angel of Thyratria about his prophetess Jezabel is sp apropos. The priests are week because the Bishop runs for cover when ever women approach him to complain. A long time ago in the magazine Christian Order a priest wrote of his exp[experiences working in a chancery office, a group of women came in to complain and the reaction of the priests reminded him of a horde of black beetles running around. The Christian Order which I rarely read today is a very commendable and worthwhile read. It is avaiable and I recommend it as I do the Catholic Thing and I have seen it CT quotes in Parish Newsletters.

    • Bobo Fett

      Boba Fett was an unaltered clone. 🙂

    • Bobo Fett

      Boba made his escape and became an independent bounty hunter after his world was shattered. A man with no country. That’s how I feel. A catholic. With a small “c”

  • JGradGus

    I forgot that CT does not allow links, but maybe CT will allow me to say that anyone interested in learning more about Luigi Taparello might want to do a search for an article entitled “Conservatism and Social Justice.”

  • Diane

    What has happened in our society is that social justice is now PC. What is good is now bad and what is bad is now good. Because of this we have developed into a society where there is no sin, no repentance, and thus no God. Everyone is free to do whatever they want, with whomever they want, wherever they want, with no qualms of conscience because only your conscience is your guide, but now there is no conscience, only being self-centered and only I count, no one else. We are a society that is now doing Satan’s biding. This is what happens when there is no God and no rules.

    • JGradGus

      The ‘devolution’ of society is due to emergence of moral relativism as a philosophy — there are no moral truths anymore; there are facts and everything else is just opinion and all opinions are equally valid. This is what children are being taught in our public schools.

    • Kat

      We live in a secular humanist society. I
      like your posts. The kids in the public schools will NEVER be shown videos like Dr. Anthony Levatino’s–that, of course, gets censored out. How do I know? It happened to me. They pushed “pro-choice” at my school–but you would NEVER EVER see a Created Equal type video in a million years…

  • augury

    Hadn’t known that ” social justice” doctrine was baptized by Pius XI. Pius’ role is interesting because of Mussolini’s prior proscription of the mainly Catholic PPI as a political party, to which Pius XI tacitly agreed as part of the rapprochement leading to the Lateran treaty. It would appear, in other words, that Pius’ vision was an expressly non-governmental avenue toward social justice. This private, non-governmental, notion of the social justice virtue is contrary to the USCCB use of the phrase, as well as to the RCIA documents that I studied 10 years ago when I converted ( and whose authoritarian/ progressive overtones gave me quite a bit of angst at the time.) It seems therefore that the Catholic virtue of “social justice” means the non-governmental pursuit of justice, and that the obligation of Catholics to be Catholic in the political pursuit of social justice (and I fully agree w/ the comments of Fr. Morello below) is an encyclical still waiting to be written.

  • Vince Whirlwind

    There was a very large non-Catholic audience watching on many networks today. Our faith was on display. I am always drawn to such events because of a fascination as to how the non-Catholic world looks at “us”. I can’t even imagine not being Catholic, so when I see where a Catholic Holy Mass is being shown to the world, I’m mysteriously drawn to it…looking on as if I were a Protestant.

    This is totally off-topic, and I hope to get to voice a compliment elsewhere at some point…but I just wanted to say for the record:

    Father Scalia’s homily today at his dad’s funeral was awesome. How could ANYone sincerely searching for Truth not be Catholic? I’ll never know on this earth.

  • Harry

    Social Justice was introduced as a new virtue by Pope Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno.

    Quadragesimo Anno is my favorite Catholic Social Teaching encyclical. Pius XI thoroughly beats up the left and the right where they need to be beaten up. I can’t vote Democrat due to their diabolical, godless social engineering, but at heart I am a fifties — pre-godless social engineering — Democrat.

    Virtue, for governmental policy anyway, is indeed in the middle. The combination of a free-press, flourishing labor unions, moderate governmental regulation that didn’t stifle the entrepreneurial spirit, and a basically free society produced more prosperity for more people than anything else had in the history of the world — that and a genuine respect for the dignity of any and every human being. Throwing that respect for human dignity out with Roe v Wade, unsurprisingly, began the demise of this once great nation. If humanity is so insignificant that it can be destroyed by the millions for mere convenience, what does it matter if Americans can’t find jobs that provide a standard of living that is commensurate with human dignity? It doesn’t. Nor does the plight of the elderly poor matter, nor any other assault on human dignity. Too many of today’s social justice warriors don’t seem to get that connection.

    Today what we have is a corrupt, self-serving ruling class that consists of the Republican establishment and the Democrats. Remembering that the Republican establishment wants dirt-cheap labor and the Democrats want the enlargement of a voting bloc that is impoverished and therefore dependent upon government assistance (which they will provide) helps one to understand the policies of America’s corrupt ruling class, especially immigration policy.

    In general, the Democrats need that voting bloc of the impoverished to grow so they can stay in power and implement their godless social engineering, and the Republican establishment doesn’t really care about that as long as they are making money due to the glutting of the supply of labor, which drives down the cost of wages. All this really works slick for the corrupt ruling class. Why should the corporate elites pay people enough that they don’t need government assistance when ordinary taxpayers will make up the difference through various social programs? And the Democrats want people in need of social assistance programs so that they can take the credit for providing for the jobless and the working poor by giving them what is ultimately your money. See how it works? The last thing the ruling class wants is to alleviate poverty in America.

    One should also realize that it is the corrupt ruling classes of other countries that drive people to flee to America, where they can be exploited and kept in poverty the American Way.

    • McShrek

      Dear Harry,
      Think you hit the nail on the head with the deficiencies/power plays of both sides, but to compare our poverty with 95% of the world’s population is just not accurate……….i escaped a communist country at the age of ten, it then killed my father indirectly/blew up my nuclear family, i was separated from my mother and brother for 6.5 years at a very critical age, yet the opportunity offered to those willing to work hard in this country is found no where else on the planet for a few exceptions; i have been lucky and blessed enough to reap from toil and hard work…………..social engineering has not come up with a comparable form of government to create the number of middle class (admittedly shrinking quickly) people that enjoy the fruits of their work here; it is folly and unreasonable to think that Jordan, Gates, Buffett are not given particular gifts from the creator, thus by design there will be those who can amass more earthly wealth than most others, not to mention those with major character flaws……..capitalism is not perfect only because the humans behind it are flawed by design………….but this is the greatest civilization known to the human race in history (the technological, scientific achievements are unrivaled), even with its many warts and deficiencies, it has lifted the standard of living for millions of people for many decades now………the democrat party is hell bent in destroying it and when they redistribute all of the income and spend all of the $$$ they cannot generate themselves, that 1% of the ruling class will control the other 99% with violence, torture and ongoing hunger………we Americans are ignorant and arrogant as to how the rest of the world operates………my gut tells me we will get to experience just that much sooner than we all dare to imagine.


      • bernie

        Joe, You have written a beautiful synopsis as a practical expert, having lived and experienced the topic of this essay. Your one line sums it all with truth and reality: “capitalism is not perfect only because the humans behind it are flawed by design.” I have to remember that. Thanks

      • Harry

        yet the opportunity offered to those willing to work hard in this country is found no where else on the planet but for a few exceptions

        I agree that it has been that way, and is currently slipping away. Americans had a sense of the dignity and worth of any and every human being. They had ended slavery and enacted statutes in every state of the union that acknowledged the intrinsic illegality of taking the life of the child in the womb.

        This understanding of the dignity of all humanity was reflected, I believe, although maybe not consciously, in an acknowledgment that there is such a thing as the Universal destination of the goods of this Earth — everybody should be able to obtain a standard of living commensurate with human dignity. Governmental policy still acknowledged and respected the right to private property, acquired or received in a just way. In other words, governmental policy was directed towards the common good and the protection of the legitimate rights of every individual. That is what is slipping away concurrently with the loss of respect for the dignity and inestimable worth of any and every human being.

        Since it is now ‘legal” to exterminate innocent humanity by the millions for mere convenience, nobody is safe.

  • John Day

    Why is there not a sentence in Novak’s “Social Justice” which discusses probably the most sensitive issue facing the American nation today: what and why is the most prudent position for the nation to take regarding health care and the insurance required to pay for that care?
    There’s not a word in the book concerning the issue of providing health care, an issue which every pope since Pius XII has said is required from a just society.
    Cardinal Dolan recently said the American Catholic bishops have called for national health care for 95 years!!
    How could Novak and Adams ignore the most sensitive social justice issue in the nation today?

    • Micha_Elyi

      Cardinal Dolan recently said the American Catholic bishops have called for national health care for 95 years!!

      The streets in Hell are paved with the skulls of bishops.
      –St. John Chrysostom

      So-called national health care entails coveting thy neighbor’s goods.

  • olhg1

    Reading the New Testament when I was younger, I was impressed with the images of the Jesus enclaves depicted: Jesus travelling through the cities and villages; post-Ascension Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, the congregations of Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. Paul’s writings made them all seem so real and ideal to me, as did those of Peter, James and John. The line “How good it is for brethren to dwell in harmony” came to mind often. Still does, and wishing for those “good old days,” will always haunt my nostalgic soul.

  • Lawrence Sciscenti

    All rubush social justce is a freemason term of the french revolution
    Talked about by Leo the 13th 75 year before Puix XI
    Faith Morals Pre V2 TRADITION Dogma Dotrine and Othidoxy is what is need stay out of the hand out bread business

  • DLink

    Adopting the garbled language of the political left is not going to make them like the Church any more and it offends truly caring people who try to make lives better for all. Using an abstract collective term like “social justice” frees the progressives from having any individual responsibility to act in a moral way. Thus we get “caring” people who think nothing adverse about sixty million abortions since Roe v. Wade.