Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2021 / 10:21 am (CNA).
True social justice is rooted in the Gospel and not in a secular materialist vision, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told Catholic activists on Thursday.
“We are followers of Jesus Christ! We are not liberals or conservatives. The Church is not a political party and we are not activists. We are Catholics,” the archbishop told Catholic activists in Minnesota at a virtual conference.
Archbishop Gomez, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, delivered his remarks virtually on Thursday for Minnesota’s “Catholics at the Capitol” Day, hosted by the state’s Catholic conference.
Speaking to Catholics who are advocating for public policies at the state capitol, Gomez said that Catholics must present the Gospel as an alternative to an “aggressively secular” culture that replaces religion with politics.
Pope Francis, he said, has warned against “reductive anthropological visions” that diminish human dignity. Gomez added that these visions are manifested in some “critical theories and ideologies” today.
“Even though America has become very secular, the religious impulse has not died. In fact, among our cultural and political leaders and some of our neighbors, politics has become their new religion,” Gomez said.
Subsequently, he said, “our politics have become so cruel and uncompromising, and so lacking in mercy and hope.” Even “well-intentioned” secular policies of social justice cannot lead to true human flourishing, he noted.
“Without God, our politics is reduced to a kind of power struggle among competing interests,” he said. “And sadly, as we know, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are left to suffer at the hands of the powerful and privileged.”
In contrast to this secular vision, the Church cannot act like a non-governmental organization, but must rather be informed by the Gospel with Catholics living lives of faith and prayer.
“Our vision for social justice is distinctive. It is distinctive because we believe that the human person is a child of God, and because we believe that God has beautiful plan of love for every human life,” he said.
“In the Catholic vision, social justice is not about personal identity, or group power, or getting more material goods,” he said.
“True social justice is about building a society where people can be good, a society where people can love one another and take care of one another, where they can find God and know that they are made for heaven. And true social justice can never be obtained without simple human kindness, compassion, and forgiveness,” he said.
Gomez’s address was originally scheduled to be delivered to an in-person gathering. However, Thursday’s event was held virtually due to local unrest following the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year-old Black male, by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday.
Wright was pulled over by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. As the reason for the traffic stop, police claimed he was driving a car with expired tags; officers subsequently tried to arrest him upon discovering he had an outstanding arrest warrant.
After Wright resisted arrest and entered his car, former officer Kim Potter shot him – claiming that she had intended to fire her taser instead. Wright drove several blocks, attempting to evade police, before crashing and dying at the scene of the crash.
The officer, Kim Potter, resigned this week and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Four days of protests ensued after the killing of Wright, with local authorities imposing a curfew and the state deploying the National Guard. Meanwhile, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.
Addressing Thursday’s gathering, Archbishop Gomez offered his prayers for peace and justice, for the families of those involved in the shooting, and for “the whole Church in Minnesota.” The Church is committed to fighting racism, he said.
“Racism, as we all know, is a grave sin, a spiritual disease, and a social injustice. We need to stand together as one Church to eradicate this evil from our own hearts, from the hearts of our neighbors, and from the structures of our society,” Archbishop Gomez said.
Citing Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Gomez said that the Gospel must be the “wellspring” for Catholics in public life.
“If we believe that God is our Father, then we must believe and act as if all men and women are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “If we believe that Jesus died for the love of every person, then we know that ‘no one is beyond the scope of his universal love,’ as the Pope writes.”
However, today’s “aggressively secular” culture seeks to drive this vision out of the public square, he said, noting the “growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media.”
He exhorted Catholics to pray and frequent the sacraments.
“I want to urge you to keep praying and to keep going deeper into the sources of our faith — the Gospels, the writings and lives of the saints, the Eucharist and the sacraments,” he said.
“These are for us, as the Pope says, the ‘wellspring of human dignity and fraternity.’”