JustFaith vs the Catholic Faith

By Stephanie Block

JustFaith claims it will “energiz[e] social ministry.” Along with scores of other dioceses, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has been inviting interested Catholics to participate in this expensive program – the registration fee $250 each year for each participant, who must each buy a set of 11-13 books each year, costing $115-$125. The 30-week program also requires showing 14-16 videos every year at a cost of $300-$350 and recommends additional speakers, who are available, of course, for a stipend… not to mention the costs accrued from mandatory weekend retreats.

Expense isn’t the issue, however – the product is. JustFaith is a liberationist propaganda vehicle, a “conversion-based process”, to train participants to “become advocates for justice.”1

Eddie Roth, an editorial writer for the Post-Dispatch, writes in his blog that the program (which he likes, by the way) draws from Fred Kammer’s Doing FaithJustice. What Roth describes is a classic liberationist (Marxist) perspective in which the religious tradition is distorted to “reveal” class antagonisms and a “need” to restructure society along Marxist lines. Roth writes:

Kammer called the sequence the “cycle of Baal….”

– First comes the “original blessing” – all the things that we need to survive and that make life especially worth living, which are seen as “gifts from God” but carry with them the obligation to protect the poor.

– Things start heading down hill, as people become “owners” – with that people start moving away from the poor as what had been seen as a gift becomes for many, Mine!

– As people move away from the poor, they move away from God.

– In God’s place they create other “gods” – in the form of money, land, prestige, even The Bible itself as an object.

– With the creation of these substitutes comes self-destruction.

– Then come prophets who argue that turning away from the poor is the root of the self-destruction and exile.

– The response to which is to attack and ridicule and destroy the prophets.

– Eventually, there is a “crying out for deliverance” and, ultimately, a “restoration.” 2

JustFaith materials include reading lists of works by other problematic authors, including Cloud of Witness by Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister who edits the magazine Sojourners – originally founded to support the anti-war and sanctuary movements. Currently, Wallis is promoting the New Sanctuary Movement to support illegal immigration in the US and the Faith in Public Life network of “spiritual progressives”, many of whom advocate abortion and homosexual advocacy. JustFaith also recommends Selected Readings in Liberation Theology by Gustavo Gutierrez & others.3 Another recommended book is Doing Justice by Dennis A. Jacobsen, which promotes the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky. These are not Catholic materials.

Nor does Jack Jezreel, the founder and director of JustFaith, intend to support authentic Catholic social justice teaching. Jezreel is longtime speaker for the dissident Catholic organization Call to Action,4 which exists to change church doctrine and structure along liberationist lines. He sees JustFaith has a way to “transform parishes”, as he believes they ought to be “transformed,” with parishes holding all parishioners’ goods in common and having a “shared economics”.5

Since it doesn’t represent a Catholic perspective, JustFaith can be – and is – used ecumenically, as it has been in Louisville, Kentucky where the program originated. Little wonder that his program is flawed and the Catholics passing through it are confused about Church teaching. There are inexpensive, authentically Catholic programs, however, to assist contemporary lay activists in developing strategies of action that foster the Faith rather than erode it.6 They are easily accessible if a diocese seriously wants to train Catholic social justice advocates.

1 [JustFaith General Overview 2003-04, prepared by JustFaith for “leaders planning or considering JustFaith.”]

2 www.stltoday.com/blogzone/the-platform/editorial-writers-notebooks/2008/08/justfaith/.

3 [handout from Interparish Social Concerns Committee, Northhampton, 2004]

4 Examples of Jezreel’s talks for Call to Action meetings: 1996 CTA national conference; 1997 CTA national conference: “Spirituality of Commitment Making Promises, Friends and Justice”; The fourth West Coast CTA Conference, August 11-13, 2000 at San Jose State University: “Transformed People, Transformed Parish, Transformed World”; Keynote at CTA-affiliated Pax Christi 2007 National Conference

5 [CTANews, December 1997]; At a 2007 South Carolina JustFaith workshop, The Catholic Miscellany of the Greenville Diocese reported that “Jezreel stressed the message that ‘there are to be no poor among you’.”

6 For example, the St. Antoninus Institute (www.stantoninus.net) has free study guides for parish-based Antoninus Circles, providing training in the Church social teachings and practical guidance in decision-making and behavior. Institute materials utilize the social encyclicals of the Catholic Church and the method of St. Thomas Aquinas and his teachings.

25 thoughts on “JustFaith vs the Catholic Faith”

  1. I find some of the comments posted here about JustFaith puzzling. I myself have facilitated JustFaith and found it a very amazing process that enhanced my personal faith, ability to share that faith, and to better love my neighbor. At Tom’s- Purdue we have offered JustFaith for the past 5 years and interest in the program continues to grow. Certainly challenging issues are discussed but they should be done so in a non-partisan way, through the lense of Catholic Social teaching.

    If you go to their website http://www.justfaith.org you can read the following “Early in 2005 Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) formed a partnership with JustFaith Ministries to promote and support Catholic parish and diocesan involvement in the JustFaith program. The partnership recognizes the importance of expanding parish and church commitment to social ministry and the critical role that formation in the justice tradition plays in this process.

    All three of these national Catholic organizations support JustFaith Ministries through a financial commitment and directional support. The partnership, in turn, helps CCHD, Catholic Charities USA, and CRS carry out their mission of engaging U.S. Catholics in work with and on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, to alleviate poverty, and empower communities both at home and abroad.” Please note that CRS, CCHD and Catholic Charities are all official arms of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops.

    Lynn Johal
    Staff -Social Concerns Coordinator
    St. Thomas Aquinas Center at Purdue

  2. I am currently a member of a JustFaith class at my parish in Smyrna, GA. I find the comments of the author to be incredibly inaccurate. It seems these days that any time anyone suggests that we as Christians really should be concerned with the needs of the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned and the disenfranchised it generates accusations of Marxism, communism and worse. I suggest that those inclined to make such accusations first pick up their Bibles and read Matthew 25:31-46, and review what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments.
    I am a military veteran of the Cold War. I have actually read The Communist Manifesto to see what it was all about. I have learned at least something about Marxism, and the JustFaith program has nothing to do with that morally bankrupt philosophy. I resent the implication that I, my friends and the entire JustFaith community have been suckered into some dark, nefarious philosophy meant to subvert government and the Church.

    1. Hi Joe, Thanks for your response.

      This week at the Fall Conference of the USCCB held in Baltimore, Maryland, the agenda consisted of subjects that revealed much about these times, for both country and Church. What shines through is that the culture and the Church have had its rear kicked by both the sexual revolution and the spread of atheistic communism.

      The new marriage document the bishops passed speaks to the sexual revolution and the destruction of families Christian and Non-Christian, and, the current debate over the Catholic Campaign for Human development collection speaks to the liberation theology (marxism) that underlies efforts to socially engineer man’s needs and fulfillment through “community organizing”, usually, without regard to God.

      For instance, we currently have a sitting president trained in the ways of Alinskian community organizing, (once financed through the CCHD), who is presently “socializing” the United States Government and private industry at break-neck pace…

      As for Justfaith and other organizations associated with Call To Action: I stand by the evidence Stephanie Block presented above. I believe that any such organization should be vetted well by both Bishop’s (and individuals such as yourself) before their allowed to organize a group within any parish. Those small faith sharing/organizing groups are eerily similar to those small base communities of South America founded in the 70’s that spawned the liberation theology movement…

      Currently, Call to action and similar groups based on the same form of “community organizing” are preparing for the American Catholic Council. Its aim is to destroy the hierarchal nature of the Roman Catholic Church. One such group, Roman Catholic Women Priests, exemplifies the final fruit of such organizing actions for each soul who allows themselves to get involved: Excommunication

      The divine words, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” is the inspired Word of God speaking; and so, eternally dangerous for those who ignore them by ignoring the Church.

      Joe, I am absolutely for the authentic Social Justice Teachings of the Church as you are, but for too long they have been disfigured and falsified by outside societal forces to the endangerment of Catholic souls and full liberation of men the mission of the Church in the world offers them—Jesus Christ.

      Man does not live by bread alone, he also needs to know where the bread came from…

      Peace to you and yours,

      1. Evidence? What evidence? Looks like a lot of code word labels, personal smears, and tired old cliches about “communism” written by a Tea Party member. I didn’t see any reference to any text or statement by a Church leader that specifically contradicted anything taught in a JustFaith session. Surely if the heresy is so obvious, then specifiic documented evidence of the heresy should be easy to find. I think the author’s reaction is typical of anyone confronted with the facts of modern life and is clear evidence of the guilt we should all feel: we in the US can only enjoy the life we live (the materially affluent life) by requiring someone else in the world to materially suffer, and that makes us uncomfortable. Anger is just hurt turned outward…
        And her objection to the cost of the program: the fees can be (and often are) waived, books can be shared, and the videos aren’t necessary for the program (we didn’t buy them). Our program found local speakers for free and we hosted our retreat at our parish (the Parish provided food, and facilities for free). So it looks to me like this article is just a piece of ill-informed right-wing conservative displeasure.

    2. This is the first place I’ve found the opportunity to reply to the introduction of this site. I was shocked that any program could find a parish where each participant would pay $250 per year. So I checked the Just faith Website and this is what it said. “The fee for registration is $325 (beginning February 1, 2011) per parish or church per year. In cases where a single church or parish is sponsoring more than one group, the fee for extra groups is waived. Also, the fee is waived or reduced for low-income churches that serve in a poor community. Contact us for more information.” http://www.justfaith.org/programs/justfaith_registration.html When a website so distorts the truth in it’s introduction, I am inclined to not trust anything that it says. I would presume you are Christian. One of the ten commandments is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Perhaps you should go to confession.


  3. I am a graduate of Just Faith. It is precisely because of the narrow mindedness of the author of this page that we need Just Faith. I bet she likes Sarah Palin and the teabaggers too.

    1. Suzanne, do your comments about Sarah Palin and the tea party participants represent broad mindedness and lack of political bias? I think not.

      1. Mary, Palin and the tea party people don’t stand for open-mindedness or bias-free politics either. Palin is an avowed evangelcal protestant, and like any Catholic knows, never should the two meet as they and those like her don’t consider Catholics to be Christians and believe me, they have no problem condeming us to Hell forever because of it.

  4. How did Pax Christi get mentioned as a CTA backed organization in your article? Pax Christi is THE Catholic peace movement and while CTA may have similar social justice goals, it is not a “CTA backed” organization. It has a founding bishop and is not some fringe organization. I believe as Christians we are called to follow the Prince of Peace. I have not gone through the JustFaith curriculum but was looking for links about it to consider using it in our parish. Equating liberation theology with Marxism is ridiculous in my opinion. Both may advocate for more equal distribution of wealth but Marxism is more about political control and liberation theology is about reflecting God’s love by working for the good of ALL of His children. It saddens me that the secular political rhetoric is seeping into our Catholic faith. What would Jesus want? -He told the rich man who was following all of God’s laws that the only other thing he needed to do was sell his possessions and follow Jesus. Was Jesus a Marxist? You may not want to become a social justice advocate but attacking those who do take this part of their faith seriously doesn’t seem very Christian. Even if you disagree, these people do not have some sinister agenda. They are honestly trying to live out the faith that Jesus gave us as are all Catholics from every part of the political spectrum. There are many gifts but the same spirit. And the Spirit will blow where it will. Peace to you!

  5. In 2008, I became a graduate of the Catholic version of JustFaith at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. Since then, I have continued to coordinate and facilitate the program. Quite simply, the Holy Spirit used JustFaith to take me to the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my Catholic faith. This blogger has shared so much misinformation on JustFaith that her intent must be questioned. If anyone wants to hear the truth of JustFaith, I invite them to speak with me or another JF graduate.

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