I believe even Fr Berrigan - the priestly poet-pacifist, Fr Merton’s friend - just in case anyone wonders - thought the issue important enough to resign his Amnesty International membership in protest against its incompatible abortion stance.
I would urge people to think of this angle: the Church has a body of Social Teaching drawing on Truth and the experience of the ages, which she might have advanced with far more success in a world which, remember, we are called to be in but not of, if those in authority ‘locally’ (not necessarily just the Bishops, but those they appointed) had not allowed Catholic teaching on every social level to become almost entirely subsumed by secular thought. This to the point that we now face a situation in which much of the Catholic’ social effort on moral and economic issues (especially as it is covered by the media) has become indistinguishable from the Liberal/ Radical Left vs Economic Conservative/ Radical Right wrangling endemic in our societies. Catholics of various shades of opinion excoriating each other not only in a manner usually seen during U.S. election time Democrats (‘communists’/ the Devil)/ Republicans (‘nazis’/ the Devil) shooting war, but in exactly the same ideological terms. I’m sure you’ve seen it.
Well, he’s there of course, the Adversary. Very often he is there “in the details” as they say.
There has been a long term effort on the part of certain interests to turn Catholic (and, indeed, other Christian) parochial and diocesan ‘human potential’, organisation, and financial resources to their own - i.e. non-CST-related - advantage. A not unsuccessful effort.
Let me quote from a review I recently read by one S. C. Phelan, of the “Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine”:
There seems to be a large group of non-Catholic or semi-Catholic people who do great work “in the trenches” serving as Christ has called us all to do, but often do so with a hostility toward the Church and her teachings. There also seems to be another group of Catholics who are faithful in general to the Church’s sacraments and moral teachings, but don’t take the Church’s call to solidarity with the poor very seriously. Christ’s admonitions to both types of people are easy to find in the Gospel, so there is little need to go into that here, but this volume gives a wake up call to all of us if we will hear it.
There was a time when the Catholic Church had the numbers as well as the organisation to really put the Catholic alternatives on the map, so to speak. All that has been thoroughly derailed, I think. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s the trend has been for Catholic bodies to dissolve themselves and blend into secularist organisational structures. This sort of thing (quoted from activist Michael Walker):
In the employment relations field, there used to be an entire confederation of trade unions active in Latin America and Continental Europe which promoted Christian social doctrine in economic matters, the World Confederation of Labour. It merged with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (now ITUC) in 2006 and its voice disappeared into the secular arguments used by the larger organisation.
Where that didn’t happen, the organisational potential and financial resources have been used (with embarrassing ease, it would seem) by things like the Industrial Areas Foundation. I would ask anyone of Catholic belief to take a closer look at what happened there, with the whole IAF/ CCHD case. The non-Catholic and semi-Catholic people mentioned by Phelan above have become quite adept at using language flavoured by religious/ Biblical elements to lead actual Catholic people with a heart for social action around by the nose; infecting them with the same ideologies and attitudes; mobilising them under a flag that hides many things that are incompatible with anything remotely similar to actual Catholic social doctrine, and are never going to be. Whether much good has been done, from a Catholic, or even ‘broadly Christian’ perspective is surely a fair question, and asking it does not make one a ‘fascist’ or ‘Austrian school Capitalista’ or whatever.
This is a real problem; no less real than that of elements of the opposing Catholic spectrum listening to the Gospel of Julius Evola or making common cause with the adherents of pseudo-pagan ideologues of the ‘Nouvelle Droite’ like Alain de Benoist. Hitler was not a crusader. Quite apart from the fact that Benoist and IAF founding father Saul Alinsky were both actual manifestations of Randy Flagg (“the Walkin’ Dude”, for those who haven’t read Stephen King’s “The Stand”), none of these people is Dorothy Day or St Francis (or even Pope Francis ).
A preferential option for the poor is not a preferential option for marxist analysis any more than a preference for the Mass of Bl. Pope John XXIII is a preference for national socialism. And the Catholic Church is not a mere human institution, like some political party.
Holy Church always bounces back, and we know the reason. What all Catholics should be concerned with is pulling out at the earliest convenience from efforts to build, maintain and export a form of society that is only going to continue the trend of sidelining the Faith, reducing the numbers of the faithful, and so snuffing out any chance of actual social justice for increasingly fragmented (hyper-individualised), secularised, and manipulable populations. Building an authentic Catholic effort right back up, from ground level where necessary (and there are still areas where it won’t be quite that difficult).
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam. (Ps 126:1 - or 127:1)
Peace be with you both