The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez, is also president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is an address he gave by video to a conference in Madrid about a Christian response to wokeness. (edited) (MercatorNet)
Today’s critical theories and ideologies are profoundly atheistic. They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think that it is irrelevant to human happiness. They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities — the colour of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society.
No doubt that we can recognize in these movements certain elements of liberation theology, they seem to be coming from the same Marxist cultural vision. Also, these movements resemble some of the heresies that we find in Church history.
Like the early Manicheans, these movements see the world as a struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Like the Gnostics, they reject creation and the body. They seem to believe that human beings can become whatever we decide to make of ourselves. These movements are also Pelagian, believing that redemption can be accomplished through our own human efforts, without God.
And as a final point, I would note that these movements are Utopian. They seem to really believe that we can create a kind of “heaven on earth,” a perfectly just society, through our own political efforts.
Understand and Engage
Again, my friends, my point is this: I believe that it is important for the Church to understand and engage these new movements — not on social or political terms, but as dangerous substitutes for true religion. In denying God, these new movements have lost the truth about the human person. This explains their extremism, and their harsh, uncompromising, and unforgiving approach to politics.
And from the standpoint of the Gospel, because these movements deny the human person, no matter how well-intentioned they are, they cannot promote authentic human flourishing. In fact, as we are witnessing in my country, these strictly secular movements are causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance, and injustice.
What is to be done?
That leads me to me final set of reflections. The question is: What is to be done? How should the Church respond to these new secular movements for social change? My answer is simple. We need to proclaim Jesus Christ. Boldly, creatively. We need to tell our story of salvation in a new way. With charity and confidence, without fear. This is the Church’s mission in every age and every cultural moment.
We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity. The Gospel remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen. And the Church has been “antiracist” from the beginning. All are included in her message of salvation.
Jesus Christ came to announce the new creation, the new man and the new woman, given power to become children of God, renewed in the image of their Creator. Jesus taught us to know and love God as our Father, and he called his Church to carry that good news to the ends of the earth — to gather, from every race and tribe and people, the one worldwide family of God.
That was the meaning of Pentecost, when men and women from every nation under heaven heard the Gospel in their own native language. That is what St. Paul meant when he said that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free. Of course, in the Church we have not always lived up to our beautiful principles or carried out the mission entrusted to us by Christ. But the world does not need a new secular religion to replace Christianity. It needs 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.
Personally, I find inspiration in the saints and holy figures in my country’s history. In this moment, I am looking especially to the Servant of God Dorothy Day. For me, she offers an important witness for how Catholics can work to change our social order through radical detachment and love for the poor grounded in the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and the works of mercy. She also had a keen sense that before we can change the hearts of others, we have to change ourselves. She once said: “I see only too clearly how bad people are. I wish I did not see it so. It is my own sins that give me such clarity. But I cannot worry much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of my own. … My prayer from day to day is that God will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”
This is the attitude that we need right now, when our society is so polarized and divided.
I am also drawing inspiration from the witness of Venerable Augustus Tolton. His is an amazing and truly American story. He was born in slavery, escaped into freedom with his mother, and became the first black man to be ordained a priest in my country.
Father Tolton once said, “The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery — that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavours to free us of both.”
This series is borrowed with thanks from Australian online Catholic magazine Mercatornet. Section headings have been amended by Christian Comment.