By Inés San Martín
ROME (Crux) – Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said that Church institutions and businesses with Christian owners are increasingly being challenged and harassed.
The remarks by the president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) came in a video address for the XXIII Catholics and Public Life Congress to be held Nov. 12-14 at San Pablo CEU University in Madrid. The theme of the congress is political correctness and “wokeness.” His address was released on Thursday.
At the request of the symposium organizers, Archbishop Gomez addressed the “serious, sensitive, and complicated topic” of the rise of new “secular ideologies and movements for social change in the United States and the implications for the Church.”
The prelate divided his talk into three parts: The context of the global movement of secularization and de-Christianization and the impact of the pandemic; a “spiritual interpretation” of the new social justice and political identity movements in the United States; and evangelical priorities.
According to Archbishop Gomez, both in the United States and Europe there are “elitist leaders” in the form of “corporations, governments, universities, [and] the media,” who have little interest in religion and who seek “to establish what we might call a global civilization, built on a consumer economy and guided by science, technology, humanitarian values, and technocratic ideas about organizing society.”
“In this elite worldview, there is no need for old-fashioned belief systems and religions,” Archbishop Gomez said. “In fact, as they see it, religion, especially Christianity, only gets in the way of the society they hope to build.”
Archbishop Gomez also said that these elitist leaders see having certain Christian beliefs as a threat to the freedoms and even the security of other groups in our societies.
The leader of the American bishops stressed that “often what is being canceled and corrected are perspectives rooted in Christian beliefs — about human life and the human person, about marriage, the family, and more. In your society and mine, the ‘space’ that the Church and believing Christians are permitted to occupy is shrinking.”
The space of the Church
“Church institutions and Christian-owned businesses are increasingly challenged and harassed,” he stressed.
“I believe the best way for the Church to understand the new social justice movements is to understand them as pseudo-religions, and even replacements and rivals to traditional Christian beliefs,” said the president of the USCCB.
However these movements are called — “social justice,” “woke culture,” “identity politics,” “intersectionality,” “successor ideology” – they claim to “offer what religion provides,” he said.
During his address, Archbishop Gomez reflected on the movements that arose in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, whose tragedy became a stark reminder that racial and economic inequality are deeply embedded in U.S. society.
“We need to keep this reality of inequality in mind. Because these movements that we are talking about are part of a wider discussion — a discussion that is absolutely essential — about how to build an American society that expands opportunities for everyone, no matter what color their skin is or where they came from, or their economic status,” Archbishop Gomez argued.
With this context in mind, Archbishop Gomez warned that while some of these new realities may sprout from good intentions, being “strictly secular” they are generating “new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance, and injustice.”
He warned that in these new “critical theories and ideologies of today that are fundamentally atheistic” one can find “certain elements of liberation theology, they seem to be coming from the same Marxist cultural vision.”
These movements also resemble some of the heresies found in the history of the Church as they are Manichean, Pelagian and utopian: “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.”
In the face of these new religions of social justice and political identity, Archbishop Gomez said, the alternative the Church must present is clear: “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.”
From there, he remarked that “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.”
As role models, Archbishop Gomez named two historical references of the Church in the United States, Dorothy Day and Venerable Father Augustus Tolton: “We have to live and proclaim the Gospel as the true path to liberation from all slavery and injustice, spiritual and material.”
“True religion does not seek to harm or humiliate, to ruin livelihoods or reputations. True religion offers a path for even the worst sinners to find redemption,” he said.