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.”]
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.