Ed. Note: The following is an official statement from Pax Christi USA. We invite other Catholic institutions — Pax Christi state chapters and local groups, parishes, religious orders, universities and schools, peace and justice organizations — to join us by adding your organization to this statement or issuing one of your own in support of the work being done by movements criticized in Archbishop Gomez’s speech. Click here to sign on and add your organization’s support.
Click here for additional information, responses and context regarding Archbishop Gomez’s speech and responses to it.
In a speech given to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid, Spain on November 4, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, characterized today’s movements for social justice as anti-Christian pseudo-religions. We reject this negative and misleading stereotype of movements which we support and with whom we act for justice in solidarity. We are motivated by their very commitment to the values that we believe to be at the heart of the gospel of Jesus and expressed so eloquently in Catholic social teaching.
There are too many mistaken charges and judgements made by the archbishop to address comprehensively, but we want to raise one that we find particularly scandalous. Archbishop Gomez condemns what he calls ‘woke’ movements that he believes are ‘dangerous substitutes for true religion’. His derisive use of the term ‘woke’ is commonplace among those who feel the power they have traditionally wielded is threatened by those who call for greater justice, equity and social change.
But the concept of ‘waking up’, of having one’s eyes opened to see more clearly what was hidden or ignored should sound familiar to Catholics. To lament ‘becoming woke’ is to miss the message of the gospel, the language of Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostles and the early Christian community for whom ‘waking up’ was a metaphor for an experience of transformation, the Christian concept of conversion, metanoia.
Whether one finds themselves inside or outside the world of institutional religion, the hunger for justice that results from a change of heart and mind and is incarnated in new attitudes and actions is something to be celebrated, not condemned. The language may not always resemble traditional ‘church-talk’ but the prophetic work of today’s social justice movements all across the globe provides a crucial contribution to our ability to ‘read the signs of the times’. Like John the Baptist, these prophetic figures are not necessarily found in churches on Sunday, nor do they find favor in the halls of religious power, but their message is as challenging as John’s: “Repent, for the reign of heaven has come near” (Matt. 3:2).
We need look no further than Pope Francis for the antidote to the criticism levied by Archbishop Gomez. When the pope addressed the Fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements in October, his words — directed specifically at young people who are so often the engines of today’s movements for social justice — were words of encouragement and praise. He called them “social poets” because they have “the ability and the courage to create hope where there appears to be only waste and exclusion.”
Recognizing the importance of listening to the voices of those who live on the peripheries of power and entitlement, Pope Francis told these social justice activists:
“Sisters and brothers, I am convinced that the world can be seen more clearly from the peripheries. We must listen to the peripheries, open the doors to them and allow them to participate. The suffering of the world is better understood alongside those who suffer. In my experience, when people, men and women, have suffered injustice, inequality, abuse of power, deprivations, and xenophobia in their own flesh – in my experience, I can see that they understand much better what others are experiencing and are able to help them realistically to open up paths of hope.”
Where some like Archbishop Gomez have chosen to condemn, Pope Francis chooses to “bless the ones who stay awake” (Rev. 16:15).
“Do you know what comes to mind now when… I think of the Good Samaritan? …The protests over George Floyd,” stated Pope Francis. “This movement did not pass by on the other side of the road when it saw the injury to human dignity caused by an abuse of power.”
We will always stand with the marginalized, the discounted and those demonized by the powerful. We stand with all our friends in social movements in the U.S. and around the world who live on the peripheries and call out for all of us to awaken to the promise of social justice. We hear in these voices St. Paul who encouraged the Ephesians, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14).
Pax Christi USA
Franciscan Action Network
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
New Ways Ministry
Voices for Racial Justice
International Thomas Merton Society
Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
Good Troublemakers of Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP): Committee on Racial Justice
Equality for Women in the Church
The Assisi Project
Religious Congregations & Communities
Sisters of Divine Providence
Sisters of St. Joseph
Sisters of St. Joseph, Concordia, KS
Ursuline Sisters of Louisville
Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange
Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston
Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA
U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph
Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Sisters of Bon Secours, USA
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur USA
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Leadership Team
Dominican Sisters of Caldwell
Sisters of the Holy Names, US-Ontario Leadership Team
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA
Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg (IN)
Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity/Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee
Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Association of Pittsburgh Priests (PA)
Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation Committee, Springfield IL Dominicans
Pax Christi Local Groups, State Chapters, Communities & Affiliates
Pax Christi Texas
Pax Christi Baltimore
Pax Christi Lansing (MI)
Pax Christi Little Rock (AR)
Pax Christi Houston (TX)
Pax Christi Greensburg (PA)
Pax Christi Manasota Chapter (FL)
Pax Christi New Jersey
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Pittsburgh Area Pax Christi
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Hampton Roads Pax Christi (VA)
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Pax Christi Rhode Island
Sadako House Catholic Worker, Norfolk, VA
New Wineskins Catholic Worker
Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker, Worcester, MA
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, DC
Kairos Peace Community, NYC
Agape Community (MA)
Parishes & Parish Ministries
St. Cronan Catholic Church (MO)
Saint Susanna Parish (MA)
St. Teresa of Avila Church, Audubon, PA
St. Rita Catholic Church (CA)
St. Patrick Catholic Church, Indianapolis
Peace and Social Justice Committee, Christ the Servant Parish (IL)
Gesu Church Peace & Justice Committee, Detroit, MI
William & Mary Catholic Campus Ministry Service & Justice Book Club (VA)
Social Justice Committee, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Milwaukee, WI
St. Thomas the Apostle (IL), Social Justice Office
Other Communities, Organizations, and Others
Whole Health Outreach
The Interspiritual Empowerment Project
Catholic Racial Justice Collaborative–St. Louis, Mo
Institute for Peace and Justice
Marymount School of New York
Greater Springfield Campaign Nonviolence
Mercy Focus on Haiti
WI Community of St. Joseph
Call To Action Maryland
Servants’ Entrance Justice and Peace
Altadena/Pasadena Black Catholic Association
29 thoughts on ““Blessed is the one who stays awake” – Our response to criticism of today’s movements for social justice”
Excellent! Thank you. If you think it is appropriate, please add my name. Bob Bossie, SCJ
Thank you for this wonderful rebuttal to a most disturbing proclamation from our now president of the USCCB.
What a clear and loving statement. Thank you, Pax Christi. Thank you!
This is an eloquent, beautiful and deeply moving response to the Archbishop’s pontificating. Am prouder than ever to be a Social Justice Christian
This is an excellent statement in rebuttal to a church leader who seems to have gone to the “dark side.” As many bishops think a document on who is worthy to receive the Eucharist will magically revive a bygone era of the Church, they miss the movement of the Spirit calling us to rebuild the household of faith on the foundations of Jesus the Peacemaker in solidarity with those on the margins. As is stated so eloquently in Ephesians 2, Jesus came to call us together in peace (Cf. vs. 17) as “members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (both men and women!), with with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.” (vs.19-20)
If we cannot socialize with our LGBTQ+ friends, support our Black neighbors’ search for full acceptance as citizens, accept women as equal persons in Church and in Society, and welcome refugees from poverty to our affluent country – How Can We Call Ourselves Christian?
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P.
Pope Francis is the prophet in our midst. How fortunate we are.
Thank you for this statement.
Thank you very much for a kind and clear response to the absurdity. The entire Gospel speaks of social justice. The Church is the mother and teacher of social justice.
A beautiful and truthful statement. I am not sure I have the authority to sign for any group, but if I can sign as an individual member of Pax Christi Metro NY, I will be happy to do so.
“When did I feed You, sheltered You or gave you something to drink” When you gave to the least….. Religious practice isn’t required! It’s the values that matter. We used to call them ‘unknown Christians ‘.
Thank you for this prophetic statement, adding my support,
Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, PhD. Professor of Theology.
I am in awe at the clarity with which you and your colleagues crafted this absolutely “right on” statement. I would say, without hesitation, the best of the best statements ever put out by PC USA. Take a humble 🙇♀️ bow.
Thank you Paz Christi and Pope Francis for setting things straight on declarations from our local US Church leadership.
Jesus Christ is certainly present in our Church.
Thank you very much for pursuing this initiative and of how well you prepared and organized it. I have shared it with my Religious Congregation, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and my parish St Francis de Sales, NYC. I hope too for their positive response.
This is why Francis is the pope and not Gomez. Thank God
Thank you Pax Christi for your lead in combating this view from the dark side of our faith leadership.
What jumped out at me in the archbishop’s statement was his maligning “liberation theology” as “Marxist”. First of all, that trope was lethal for the countless numbers of our “martyrs for the faith” during the “dirty wars” in Central and South America in the 20th century. Secondly, it identifies the archbishop with Republican politicians in the U.S. for whom “Marxist” is only a weasel/boogey man word, dependent on crass public ignorance of 18th and 19th century European social and economic history. Thirdly, its most recent companion is “Critical Race Theory”, also reliant on crass public ignorance of the Jurisprudence course, which all attorneys, especially those who entered politics, should have had to take in law school!
I totally agree with the Pax Christi response to Archbishop Gomez’s criticisms of Social Justice movements.
Thank you, Pax Christi USA, and of course our blessed Pope Francis.
Archbishop Gomez needs to read only one chapter of Fr Greg Boyles latest book “ The Whole Language- The Power of Extravagant Tenderness “, CH 4 The Eighth Sacrament. Seems his in his own archdiocese there are those trying to wake up and understand the true presence of communion.
Thank you Pax Christi for your on target response to the Archbishop’s political talk.
For over 100 years the Catholic Church in the US has ignored Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Noverum, On Capital and Labor. Almost always taking the side of Capital (management) against Labor (the working person.) Just one more example of the Church being on the wrong side in a social justice issue
Let’s awake to practices for peace and justice!
Marta and Charlie Reilly