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Once, when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Let me gulp down some of that red stuff; I am famished.” That is why he was called Edom. But Jacob replied, “First sell me your right as firstborn.” “Look,” said Esau, “I am on the point of dying. What good is the right as firstborn to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first!” So he sold Jacob his right as firstborn under oath. Jacob then gave him some bread and the lentil stew; and Esau ate, drank, got up, and went his way. ~Genesis 25:29–34
Catholic social justice is feeding bodies while starving souls.
For the past forty years, there has been a concerted emphasis on social justice within the Catholic Church. Campaigns for social justice, fund drives for social justice, church community training for social justice, parish councils, priests, diocesan offices, and even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have put an exclamation point on this one topic. The problem, however, isn’t with the emphasis on Catholic social justice itself. A passing glance at modern culture makes it clear that authentic Catholic social justice is much needed today. The problem is that the way Catholic social justice is being approached is to fund, support, and lobby for secular programs to solve society’s ills to the exclusion of the social Kingship of Christ.
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen diagnosed the problem with today’s application of social justice. In his book The Life of Christ, Sheen described the temptations the devil used against Our Lord after He fasted in the desert for forty days. In describing the first temptation, Sheen describes the devil approaching Our Lord as a social reformer focused on material matters while shelving matters of sin. So the devil tempts Our Lord to change stones into loaves of bread, to which Our Lord replies, “Man cannot live on bread alone.” Sheen said:
Our Lord was not denying that men must be fed, or that social justice must be preached; but He was asserting that these things are not first. He was, in effect, saying to Satan, “You tempt Me to a religion which would relieve want; you want Me to be a baker, instead of a Savior; to be a social reformer, instead of a Redeemer. You are tempting Me away from My Cross, suggesting that I be a cheap leader of people, filling their bellies instead of their souls. You would have Me begin with security instead of ending with it; you would have Me bring outer abundance instead of inner holiness. You and your materialist followers say, ‘Man lives by bread alone,’ but I say to you, ‘Not by bread alone.’ Bread there must be, but remember even bread gets all its power to nourish mankind from Me. Bread without Me can harm man; and there is no real security apart from the Word of God. If I give bread alone, then man is no more than an animal, and dogs might as well come first to My banquet. Those who believe in Me must hold to that faith, even when they are starved and weak; even when they are imprisoned and scourged.
“I know about human hunger! I have gone without food Myself for forty days. But I refuse to become a mere social reformer who caters only to the belly. You cannot say that I am unconcerned with social justice, for I am feeling at this moment the hunger of the world. I am One with every poor, starving member of the race. That is why I have fasted: so that they can never say that God does not know what hunger is. Begone, Satan! I am not just a social worker who has never been hungry Himself, but One who says, ‘I reject any plan which promises to make men richer without making them holier.’ Remember! I Who say, ‘Not by bread alone,’ have not tasted bread for forty days!”
By contrast, today many priests, bishops, and cardinals are focused on feeding bellies while souls are starved. The USCCB engages in concerted lobbying efforts for immigration reform, but remained silent when Congress attempted to put an end to the massive funding of Planned Parenthood. Every year, Catholic Relief Services collects millions of dollars from their annual Rice Bowl campaign, but then they turn around and implement programs to pervert the minds of women and children. Each year the Catholic Campaign for Human Development raises money to fund secular and interfaith programs that promote abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and Marxism.
Fulton Sheen’s description of the devil’s first temptation of Our Blessed Lord has become the blueprint for modern Catholic social justice.
Here is a snapshot of what is going on in the world of Catholic social justice today:
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is funding:
Catholic Relief Services:
Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-run umbrella organization for Catholic social justice agencies all over the world, is on the governing body of a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, international Marxist organization called the World Social Forum.
In each instance, the situation is perfectly clear. Catholic social justice has become an instrument of materialists who would like to feed people’s bellies and ignore the problem of sin. And just as the devil’s temptation of Our Blessed Lord in the desert was a temptation away from the Cross, so too is this a temptation of the Bride of Christ today. Had Our Lord rejected the Cross to feed bellies, there would be no salvation for anyone. As such, those promoting social justice to the exclusion of the Cross are robbing the poor of the treasury of salvation. Those poor souls are being told to sell their birthrights in the Kingdom of Heaven for some bread and a bowl of stew.
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