“'We need synodality, not condemnation,' said Father Greg Barras, chair of the Leadership Team of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests [AUSCP]. He was responding to reports of a speech given by Archbishop José Gomez to a gathering of lay movements in Spain. The archbishop referred to secular movements that promote social justice as “pseudo-religions.”
While the Vatican is reaching out to all the faithful, especially the marginalized, through the Synod on Synodality and asking for our voices to guide them, some U.S. bishops are busy denying the validity of those voices, using political "red flags" to label movements for social justice by the currently disenfranchised. In the wake of USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez's remarks calling such movements "pseudo religions," the AUSCP issued a press release calling instead for priests, religious, and lay people to listen to those calling for social justice and to work with them.
Numerous priests and theologians also objected strongly to Archbishop Gomez's claims. For example, Fr. Bryan Massengale of Fordham University, speaking with National Catholic Reporter, said of Gomez, "He has a serious misunderstanding, and perhaps even a willed ignorance, about the goals and motivations of contemporary social justice movements."
Fr. Thomas Reese, in an article for Religion News Service, said of Gomez, "Abandoning the term 'social justice' to those he considers enemies of religion is surprising, considering the long history of the church’s social teaching. It should be equally surprising that Gomez didn’t have anything negative to say about libertarian capitalism or rugged individualism, quintessential American heresies that have been critiqued by Catholic social teaching."
Attempts such as this one by Gomez may well increase in various U.S. dioceses as the politicized opposition to Pope Francis by certain U.S. bishops comes up against the synodal process. Redefinition of "social justice" as a pseudo-religion is just one example of how such bishops may seek to redirect synod sessions. If the marginalized voices, which are sought by the Synod process, can be sidelined as pseudo-religious, they need not be included in a diocesan listening session.
Those who live in dioceses where the terms are redefined or the process is limited and closed may still participate in Synod listening sessions. Voice of the Faithful will conduct sessions open to all, and provide guides for those who wish to organize sessions with their own group. Keep your eye on our Synod news and resources page for word of upcoming sessions.