Peace and Justice Catholics – Just Aging Hippies?

There seems to be an undefined group of Catholics who some call “Peace and Justice Catholics”. They are typified as aging hippies. They named their churches “Prince of Peace” in the sixties as a kind of flower power protest. These peace and justice Catholics are portrayed by conservatives as left wing, tree hugging, bra burning, gay loving, contracepting, bleeding heart liberals.

On the other side of the fence are what might be called Piety and Purity Catholics. They are the conservatives who are all for the authority of the Church, family values, high standards of sexual morality. They are typified by the other side as wearing sport coats, shirt and tie. Hair combed and with a  large brood of scowling kids with an exhausted wife with a calf length skirt and straggly hair smiling through her sufferings. Both caricatures are silly and both extremist views are misplaced.

The left is wrong and the right is wrong and the left is right and the right is right.

Peace and justice Catholics are right to take a prophetic stance against corporate greed, governments that engage in unjust war, the destruction of the environment, racism and any form of injustice. They are right to stand up for the poor, the marginalized and those on the margins of society. They are wrong, however, when they foster dissent in the church and turn a blind eye to the moral teachings and the authority of the Catholic church.

Too often when the Peace and Justice Catholics demand peace they really mean the appeasement of evil. Too often they mistake pacifism for peace. Similarly, they too often they call for justice for some oppressed group, but never think that justice would also judge their moral laxity. Why don’t the Peace and Justice Catholics demand justice for the millions of unborn babies that have been slaughtered?

On the other side, the  Piety and Purity conservatives are all for “family values”. They are opposed to same sex marriage, contraception, abortion and divorce. However they are too often silent about the injustice in our society. I’m shocked at the anti-semitism and subtle racism I sometimes hear within their ranks. I’m worried when their conservative family values are sometimes equated with a jingoistic, uncritical American patriotism and militarism. Why are they so often silent about the assault on the environment, the plight of immigrants and the widening wealth disparity in the developed world? Why do we hear so little about their involvement in the fight against hunger and solidarity with the poor? Why are they so often dismissive and hateful of everyone not like themselves?

In today’s psalm the psalmist says, “I sing of justice and mercy”. That phrase “Justice and Mercy” pulls the rug out from both the right and the left. Read More.


  • haggis95

    Why either/or? Why not both/and? I strive to be a both/and – a peace and justice./pure and pious catholic in my life. There may be many mansions “in my Father’s house” but there’s too many divisions in our church.

    • Kat Carney

      I think that’s what he’s trying to say.

  • shawnbm

    What a wonderful commentary on what the Church needs. Spot on!

  • Andy

    Thank you for this marvelous piece, in the past few days the anger I have seen expressed by both the left and the right have caused me to wonder – why stay a Catholic? The complete lack of respect on the part of both sides is doing more to many Catholics who try to follow the teaching of Christ and the Church then at least to me all the harm done by the reputed atheists of the world. It is was good to see someone else have the same sense of bewilderment and concern. By the way it is this extreme division that caused my oldest daughter to walk of out the Catholic Church.

    • John Flaherty

      You say your daughter walked out of the Church because of extreme divisions and the lack of respect or anger from both left and right have caused you to wonder why you should remain Catholic.

      I think you’re asking the wrong questions. We aren’t Catholic because we believe in some social justice agenda or because we wish to be members of a social services agency. We’re Catholics because the Church poses the whole of revealed Truth, because She offers sacraments that offer graces, because She has suffered the ravages of the time-honored angst of men and survived.

      I don’t pretend to know what anger it might that you’re referring to really. I haven’t seen any events in the past few days that have brought about angst from Catholics about much of anything.

      It’d be helpful too if you’d be a bit more clear about what “extreme division” drove your daughter away. Did she truly have any idea of what she was leaving?

      • Andy

        My daughter was told quite bluntly that because her friend had an abortion that her friend was going to hell and that my daughter because she associated with her was hell-bound as well. This from a priest when my daughter approached him to ask how to find Rachel’s Vineyard to help her friend who was now depressed and suicidal after the abortion.
        I realize it was one priest but on e priest with that attitude can kill many peoples’ faith.
        For myself it the constant refrain of “social justice” is prudential and not taught by the church. This constant noise, which drowns out the teaching of Christ is at best debilitating. COuple this with the comments that if you are gay you should leave the church, people who do not hold to this teaching or that should leave the church.
        I call myself a practicing Catholic, because I am trying to get it right. None of us is free from error and none of us should condemn others. Yet at lest right now that seems to be the trend.

        • John Flaherty

          I think you have some serious problems here, but not all are problems that other people need to resolve.
          For starters, I have no way of knowing precisely how a conversation between your daughter and a priest might’ve gone. For all I know, your daughter could’ve inquired about Rachel’s Vineyard, but refused to allow for the need for the friend’s sacramental Confession. Such an approach WOULD place the friend at very grave risk of Hell, and your daughter with her, as a result of her neglect of her obligation to offer catechesis.
          Then we have the concern about “social justice”. I must warn you that you’ve probably heard from many people who’ve grown quite weary of hearing that term used quite carelessly, often in ways that either neglect actual Catholic teaching, or even directly contradict what the Church actually teaches. Too many people have heard the word “pastoral’ used as an excuse for why we don’t insist on living by the Church’s actual principles too. I usually run for the nearest intellectual bomb shelter myself when I hear these terms. They almost always mean precisely what someone else WISHES they should, not necessarily what the Church teaches.

          As for being gay or other teaching and membership in the Church, it’d be wise to remember that many laity, politicians in particular, have intensely abused the idea of “being Catholic” to mean whatever they wish. Too often, the idea of faithfulness to the Church’s actual teachings has been either casually neglected or else directly contradicted, often with the idea of a “pastoral approach” being invoked.

          Ultimately, either our Church teaches an ideal or it doesn’t. Either it holds expectations about behavior based on those ideals or beliefs, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, it no longer has any real ability to bring people to Christ.

          Too many forget that Christ said “Go and sin no more”, not “Go and do what you wish”.

        • steve5656546346

          Wow! You found a priest who claimed that there is no such thing as confession? Or did he claim that sins are not forgiven in confession? Frankly, I think that part of this story was left out. A very important part.

          Nor have I ever heard that people with same sex attraction should leave the Church. I have heard that those that publicly defy Church teachings are not intellectually consistent if they stay–particularly if they work for the Church.

  • stefanie

    When I returned to Holy Church in 1996, I became very involved in the J & P movement. I was always calling it the Peace and Justice Group and they would quickly correct me — “No, you need justice first, then there is peace.”
    I loved the work we did together (community work, homeless projects, guest speaker forums) and I admired the dedication and heart of the J&P folks, but I finally had to walk away from it and concentrate on parish work that better reflected a one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
    Yes, Jesus did tell the story in Matthew 25. But He also told many other stories — and in the end, because it was the Father’s will, He submitted to death at the physical hands of the Roman Empire and the religious hands of the Jewish authorities.
    On the other hand, those who are of the piety type are rarely involved in ‘worldly’ protests or charities that have a J&P bent vs. evangelizing the poor (in spirit and in fact) by teaching the peace that comes from loving our Lord and following the Magisterium of the Church. It is an interesting dilemma. As I study Church history, it is apparent that these efforts used to be ONE effort, united.

  • Will

    There is too much stereotyping of people and generations by a lot of others. And in the end, God will judge.

  • Michael Depietro

    I really think the dichotomy you express between right and left is badly in error. In brief here is why:
    1) First of all I know of no policy maker who supports unwarranted military intervention per se. As you well know if a particular American war was certainly unjust it would be a sin to kill in it. So if the Iraq war was “certainly” unjust it would be a mortal sin to kill someone in it and thus the soldiers who fought in it would be murderers. Obviously no one claims this, because traditionally the Church has taken the stance that soldiers and even citzens could presume that their country was fighting a just war in most cases whether a given war meets the “just war” criteria requires specific knowledge available in most cases only to policy makers and perhaps the senior officer corps. Thats not to say the Citzens may not have educated opinons about the merits of a given intervention but since the depend on the facts of the case their is no one moral position subject to magisterial judgement in and of itself.
    2) like wise on economic policy. I would argue the social justice wing of the church advocates for economic policies that in fact hurt the poor. Personal alms giving is one thing demanded by the gospel. Whether an increase in the marginal tax rates or the minimum wage ultimately helps poor people or hurts them is not a moral question but an empirical one answered by data. It does not strike me that peace and justice Catholics care about evidence. I am a doctor. IF another doctor tells me how much he cares about the sick but advocates snake oil to cure them he is not in solidarity with the sick but rather a dangerous quack. If peace and justice Catholics advocate policies that harm the poor well… then you get the analogy. If we are talking personal alms giving then I am all for it. In fact there is data that conservatives do this more than liberals. As for the effect of social justice policies on the poor, I will just point at 60 years of such policies on Detroit.
    The purity Catholics ( a nonsensical term ) are mostly concerned about abortion lets face it. But Abortion is intrinsically evil, it is as you know unspeakable crime as per Vatican II. Thus to defend it in anyway is always wrong. SO the breakdown in my mind is between leftist Catholics who do not care about the industrial scale killing of unborn children and who advocate public policies that are demonstrably harmful to poor people. I mean if you actually care about the poor so much is it too much to ask that you look at some data? I actually care about both.
    I know of no one who advocates unjust war per se. Whether a given war is just or unjust is difficult to discern or do we asser the soldiers who served in Iraq and killed people there were murderers?
    Hence the dichotomy between left and right is false the real problem is an out of control evidence free leftisim that care little for the magisterium and as far as I can tell not so much about the poor that it checks out the results of its policy positions.
    A detailed discussion of these issues can be seen here

    • Christopher Butler

      You don’t have a good grasp of just war doctrine or its application. An individual soldier is not the competent authority. A soldier who does his duty in an unjust war is not a murderer, provided he himself behaves justly. It is unfair and competely unsupported by just war theory to argue that Catholics opposed to the war in Iraq, for example, (like, for instance Popes John Paul II and Benedict XI) must hold soldiers to be murderers.

      • John Flaherty

        On the contrary, the previous analysis seemed to me quite solid.

        For the record, soldiers from EVERY nation have been chastised by civilians or politicians of the opposing side for every perceived wrong they’ve committed.

        Furthermore, the outcomes of some of the Nuremberg Trials directly contradict your views. Soldiers and some of their commanders WERE found guilty of having committed grave atrocities, even though the authorities giving the direction had assured them that doing this or that was OK.

        In fact, back in the 90′s and early 2000′s, Sec Rumsfeld is known to have cornered various persons in the Pentagon regarding whether or not they could make sense of the various Rules of Engagement that our troops tried to follow. He did so because too many conflicing interests had insisted on encoding this or that provision into either UCMJ or other rules.
        We literally had people with no clue what they legally COULD or SHOULD do because the lawyers –and the civilians driving them–had created such a huge mess regarding what “ethical” IS.

        This being the case, it’s not at all unfair to argue that Just War theory might cause soldiers to be considered murderers. We, the United States, actually never signed on to a treaty to establish a World Court precisely because we didn’t wish for our troops to be held to account for their actions by someone from, say, Jordan, in the Middle East. We knew that if we agreed to the treaty, that the Sharia law version of Just War theory–assuming such a thing exists–might well be imposed on our troops if the world wished it.

        Too many people can’t seem to understand how serious a problem this can create.

        • Chesire11

          The Nuremberg Tribunal established that a soldier is duty bound to refuse an illegal order. It does not establish that a soldier serving in an unjust war is thereby committing any illegal act.

          • John Flaherty

            I think that a well-crafted cop-out, Chesire. Most of the atrocities that the Nazis committed–and were convicted of at Nuremberg–were committed under the auspices of standing law in Germany at the time. Refusing orders under such law would usually have resulted in court-martial, possibly execution. Just or Unjust War has no relevance here.


          • Chesire11

            No, your assertion is that a soldier fighting in an unjust war is morally guilty of murder. You then invoked the Nuremberg Tribunals as somehow validating your claim. I merely pointed out that Nuremberg did not address the issue of soldiers obeying lawful orders, it addressed the responsibility of a soldier to refuse an illegal order to commit a war crime.

            Your invocation of Nuremberg is irrelevant to your argument.

          • John Flaherty

            Cheshire, I made no assertion at all regarding a soldier’s moral culpability when fighting an unjust war. I hold “Just” or “Unjust” war assertions to be mostly irrelevant.

            Mr. Butler originally attempted to declare that an individual soldier is not a competent authority. I commented that the judges at Nuremberg appear to have at least partially disagreed. Arguably he referred in particular to the lowest-ranking or near-to-lowest-ranking soldiers in the field, but the same moral constraints would apply to officers, judges, and others in society; the only differences really would be time and precise context. If a soldier would be duty-bound to refuse an illegal order, we’d need to demonstrate that such an order would have been, indeed, illegal at the time.
            Which creates a problem.
            Most of the actions that soldiers or others committed during the Nazi regime WERE legal at the time they were committed. Yet the judges at Nuremberg incarcerated many–and ordered the execution of others–on grounds that moral beliefs should’ve provoked them to act differently.

            So, I’m forced to return to my assertion that those on the opposing side almost always chastise soldiers and others with whom they disagree. Whom is accused of murder or not tends to be almost as much a political matter as a moral one. Makes sense really: War is simply the effort of making a political decision by more violent means.

            if we don’t agree about what constitutes a moral beilef, we’re not going to agree about who is morally culpable and who isn’t.

  • donevanson

    The Church as institution and we as individuals need to find the correct answer to the question that Tolstoy’s Father Sergius struggled with; “Do I serve God for the love of people, or serve people for the love of God.”

  • Alan

    Best article ever..That’s what has been going on my mind recently. It is the reason I have trouble voting …. I like the conservatives for the life and family values positions on the other hand democrats (so called liberal) seem to care more about the poor in this country…Technically there is not a single party for a Pro-life,pro traditional marriage and social conscious person in this country

    • gpiner

      The liberals do not care about the poor

  • Harold

    Thanks for this insightful statement that expresses what I believe! I long for the time when the church will teach a consistent life ethic. And I appreciate the mercy of God, who loves us as we are.

  • Bill W.

    “Why are the silent about the assault on the environment, the plight of immigrants and the widening wealth disparity in the developed world? Why do we hear so little about their involvement in the fight against hunger and solidarity with the poor? Why are they so often dismissive and hateful of everyone not like themselves?”

    What in the world has gotten into you, Father? These questions sound like they’re from an Occupy participant or from Sr. Joan Chittister or from Fr. Michael Pfleger or from Sr. Simone Campbell. You don’t think that those about whom you ask these questions have well-reasoned positions on these and many other prudential matters? Your questions seem to presume the worst about these people. Very surprised at you, Father.

    • frdlongenecker

      Please don’t read into my very valid questions positions that I may not hold.

      • niknac

        Why dissent against you and your kind? You are scumbags.

    • David Zelenka

      The questions are very valid and true. Just as true as, “Why don’t the Peace and Justice Catholics demand justice for the millions of unborn babies that have been slaughtered?” This is why we must become a poor Church. We are and should be a poor church. Once we get there, then we will see how spiritually poor we are.

      Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

    • Chesire11

      The sneering reference to fellow Catholics implicit in your invocations are violent to the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. By all means reject their views where they are heterodox, but only, as in all thing, with charity. Treating a child of God as an insult is prideful, and possibly sacrilegious.

  • John

    I do not like these terms. The issue is orthodoxy or heterodoxy. There is no true piety without concern for the poor. Just as “justice and peace” without the piety is just social work, the person may not even be a believer. Many of the latter are practical heretics while the former are just plain hypocrites. Jesus condemned both.

    • TomD

      I agree . . . the left/right, liberal/conservative, either/or labels and approaches to characterizing our faith are primarily human ways to express our differences.

      We are either orthodox or we are heterodox in our faith . . . either we believe and live what the Church teaches or we do not.

  • Faithr

    This division has always bothered me. I came back to the Church via the Peace and Justice Catholics. I loved their passion and their compassion. Then I started homeschooling and got in with piety and purity types. I loved their knowledge of history and Scripture and their loyalty to the Church. But I hated that they both like to bash each other mercilessly and the fact that they are cafeteria Catholics in that they pick and choose what jives the best with them and then ignore everything else. Really, it is quite disgusting at times. So I feel both at home with and alienated from either group. It is so hard to just be Catholic – period – without some politicalized label being affixed to you, so one side or the other can scoff and denigrate you.

  • Sherry Weddell

    It is a particularly American division that other western Catholics don’t share. (I just returned from a long trip to Australia where orthodox Catholics regard immigration as a life issue right up there with abortion. ) We don’t realize how much of our debates are shaped by our unique political and cultural history and the constraints of our two party political system.

    • Catherine

      As a Canadian living in the US, I totally agree! I think that perhaps Fr.’s point of view may be influenced by the fact that he lived abroad for a number of years. Many who have always lived in the US don’t realize that their perspective is a little skewed…

    • Chesire11

      A two party political system does tend to promote a Manichean worldview.

  • michael

    Stop watching the nightly news and you will stop hearing the bleating of the left or the right. The media and the culture so badly need us to judge the motives of each other, so there is always a swirl of controversy for them to feed on. Don’t get in the middle of the judging war, “the measure you give will be the measure you get back” That’s whats going on.

  • John Bolin

    The left is wrong, however, when they advocate for collectivist, secular, big-government programs to aid the poor and disadvantaged. These programs are horribly corrosive to the dignity of human life and the family unit. History has proven that they do more harm than good. They should focus on the principle of subsidiarity when it comes to helping the poor and disadvantaged.

    They also tent to be wobbly if not down right wrong when it comes to the sanctity of life and the primacy of the traditional family unit as the currency of a healthy society.

    I’m with George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism where after the Truth of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, the primary principle upon which everything else should be based is the sanctity and dignity of life, as well as the shoring up, not redefining, the traditional family.

    • Will

      Many poor, including working poor, cannot afford to go to the doctor for a physical or for a “minor” problem, or cannot afford prescriptions. “Minor” problems become major problems and the people end up in the emergency room, often later than they should have. I am all for eliminating government medical programs as soon as individuals, groups, and churches have enough to take care of basic medical needs for all.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        One small government solution for that is county level health co-ops.

    • Chesire11

      The effectiveness of assistance programs depends upon how they are structured and administered. Certainly a thing may be poorly done, and assistance can foster dependence, but I might point out that a great deal of the funding for Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services in the United States derives from the government.

      Also, when conservatives embrace jingoistic militarism, capital punishment, and draconian cuts to social services in order to grant more and more gifts to corporate America (funny how largess to the wealthy never raises concerns about fostering dependence), it is difficult to claim that either side is imbued with anything resembling a comprehensive respect for the sanctity of life.

      • John Flaherty

        This lead me to ask: Why do they call themselves Catholic CHARITIES if the funding comes from government resources?
        Government funds derive from taxes, not charity. Declaring otherwise creates an intellectually dishonest view of what’s going on.

        Considering the contempt that social service agencies have demonstrated for morals and for the behavior that comes from it, this charge about “draconian cuts” to social services strikes me as brutally incompetent.

        • Chesire11

          Probably because the funds are expended for charitable purposes. Also, though more than half of the funding comes from the government, a very significant part comes from charitable donations.

          Also, thirty years of Reagan worship aside, I would be curious as to how food stamp programs, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and a whole host of other social services demonstrate “contempt” for morals? It has long been an article of faith on the political right that corruption and incompetence are uniquely endemic to social services (apparently they must have remarkably little experience of how private sector organizations operate, lol!), but that has a lot more to do with marketing to middle class anxieties than it does to the real world.

          • AnneG

            Not because of charitable spending, but because that spending does not work. It does not get anyone out of poverty.

          • Chesire11

            “…public policy has made a big difference in the real poverty rate. Throughout the ’60s and ’70, the tax code was made friendlier to poor people. That was partially rolled back by Ronald Reagan in 1981, but then the 1986 tax reform changed the tide again by introducing the Earned Income Tax Credit. This important program—a form of wage subsidy for low-income families—pushed after-tax poverty down substantially in the early 1990s. The tax provisions of the 2009 stimulus bill, once again, made the after-tax situation of low-income households better looking than the official line’s pretax numbers would suggest. Social Security, especially through its disability insurance function, has also played a big role in pushing actual poverty between 1967 and 2010 down six percentage points more than the official stats say. Other cash transfers—unemployment Insurance, veterans’ benefits, “welfare,” workers’ comp—aren’t as big a deal, but still make a difference to the tune of one percentage point. What’s more, these safety net programs also smoothen the business cycle. When you include them in the calculation, poverty doesn’t rise as much during recessions or fall as sharply during recoveries.”


          • John Flaherty

            Cute. So Slate can find two professors who can insist that the nation has begun to “win” the war on poverty because government has made sense of how to manipulate the economy and the people in it. Never mind that the government, itself, would be declared bankrupt in any sane analysis. ..And would’ve been declared thus some 20 years ago.

            We haven’t solved anything about poverty, Cheshire. Your article merely justifies the greed of government and individuals, while pinning the blame on evil, greedy corporations.

            You haven’t demonstrated anything worthwhile about serious charity. You’ve simply proven that a thief can make us think that economic ups and downs won’t be as bad if he can act when he wishes.

          • Chesire11

            …and lazy anti-intellectualism rears its head. Don’t like an argument? Can’t refute it? Sneer at it, dismiss it and reassert your thesis. It’s just like shampooing your hair.So typical of political conservatives…

          • John Flaherty

            Lazy anti-intellectualism and unable to refute an argument, huh? Interesting charge. I don’t think I made any effort at dissing the existence of college professors or their research.

            I DID, however, challenge the notion that their research necessarily demonstrates anything of importance. So they can prove that the government has succeeded in reducing poverty. OK. So what? This doesn’t prove anything about whether government-run programs provide the best means of fighting poverty. Or much of anything else.

            Their research merely proves that a task CAN be done this way. It proves nothing at all about whether it SHOULD be done thus.

          • AnneG

            Slate is not a valid source for anything.

          • Chesire11

            When you can’t rebut the argument, attack the source. Unfortunately that does nothing to answer the argument, it only applies a salve to the cognitive dissonance from persisting in believing in a proposal despite evidence to the contrary.

          • John Flaherty

            Food stamps and related programs come about by means of wealth redistribution being imposed by the State, whether it be local, state, or federal agencies. Citizens do not have a choice as to whether these revenues will be collected or not.
            While perhaps well-intentioned, these programs do not qualify as “charity” precisely because they do not stem from the intent that we see being offered as an example in the Bible.

            Corruption and other concerns certainly could be addressed–and aren’t–but the fundamental premise is badly flawed.

          • Chesire11

            Redistribution? Really?

            I could point out that taxes are the sacrifice we make in order to live in a well ordered society. I could also note the lack of concern about upward distribution of wealth through the billions of dollars in corporate welfare handed out to companies like IBM and GE each year, or the tax avoidance schemes which allow such corporations to operate within the United States without paying taxes, or the disproportionate tax relief handed out to the wealthy, in comparison to the middle class. But those are all politico-economic arguments, and not really appropriate to a blog about Catholicism, so I’ll go with a religious reference and ask if you could remind me whose portrait is on the dollar bill…

            Okay, the last time I checked, citizens have the right to vote for members of the state and federal legislatures, and executives. This right is exercised after an election campaign in which the records and policy proposals of the candidates are publicized and debated. That means that citizens absolutely DO have a say in whether revenues are collected or not! They also have a say in how those revenues are expended.

            When the citizens of the United States exercise their constitutional right to elect our representatives and leaders we are authorizing them to act on our collective behalf in pursuit of priorities we have chosen, for which we have agreed to pay collectively. Therefore, food stamp, and other social programs ARE a form of collective charitable activity.

            (BTW, whether an action is charitable is not a function of funding, nor even efficacy, pretty much by definition, it is a function of whether the action gratuitously seeks the good of others, so yes, a government social program would qualify as a collective charitable endeavor.)

          • John Flaherty

            Political, economic, AND religious arguments ARE, in fact, precisely what we’re talking about, Cheshire. Your comments about representative government are well taken, but sadly misapplied. Collective charity tends to imply that a groups of people have common causes and solutions for the problems they face, but a nationwide “charitable” effort doesn’t have the ability to be that specific. Oftentimes, the states don’t either.
            For all that we can argue that taxes can qualify as “charity” on grounds that the funds CAN be used for social programs, such an assertion assumes that the funds WILL be used for those purposes, not for something else. But the citizenry exercises no such control at all regarding the use of funds.

            Then too, Christ highlighted how charity is best offered from one person to another, because of a recognition of another’s need. No social program does this because there is no personal connection.

            On the whole, various social programs effectively cause “charity” to be not an act of virtue on the part of one or another, but an act required by the State in order that one not be fined or jailed. That’s not charity.

            BTW, when Church institutions place such an emphasis on pursuing government funds, precisely for reasons already laid out, they genuinely undermine their role as apostolates. Our Church is about offering salvation to mankind the sacraments. It’s not intended to be a mere social services agency.

          • John Flaherty

            While I think of it, “charity” usually implies that the person who’s giving the resource–money usually–has the intent that the person receiving the help will be enabled to survive for awhile, ultimately to be allowed to care for themselves. Unfortunately, most social services programs have tended toward indifference regarding challenging people to accomplish the part about taking care of themselves. Oh, they’ll put a good face on it and say they’ll only go “this far”, but in the end, they ultimately wind up giving more and more and more.
            After this long with these social programs, we do not have a society of people capable of caring for themselves and seeing to their own needs. Instead, we have large populations of people who’re dependent on government for even their most basic survival.

            Such a circumstance presents the greatest lack of charity of all.

          • Chesire11

            Clearly you have no awareness or understanding of social services outside of 1970′s era stereotypes.

    • RelapsedCatholic

      Social security has been the single most effective program for eliminating poverty amongst the elderly. I agree the truth of Jesus Christ is an amazing thing( the greatest in fact) however we have a secular government that must represent all Americans, not just Christians.

  • Blair

    I am a Catholic since Easter 2006, and I am in love with Jesus Christ, His Holy Church and our Blessed Mother. I have enjoyed Father Longenecker’s posts for a few years now, but I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment before. I feel compelled to respond this time, however, because this is an issue to which I have given much thought off and on for many years. Unfortunately, while I agree with the underlying spirit of his message, I think Father’s post is a bit askew.
    It’s not that conservatives aren’t concerned about the environment, the plight of immigrants and the poor. In fact, it has been my consistent observation that conservatives seem more concerned about these issues, at least on a practical level, than their liberal counterparts, as demonstrated by the average conservative’s giving of their time and resources to charitable causes. No, it’s not that we are not concerned. Rather, the primary issue is one of priorities, that is, not all evils are equal, as Church teaching continually confirms. For example, ending abortion and providing support for unwed mothers is a far more important goal than saving trees. And the science supporting the case that life begins at conception is much more sound than the science supporting a theory of global warming (or cooling, or just climate “change). Among the conservatives I know, for instance, in our homeschooling support group, we care about the just treatment of immigrants, both legal and illegal; we believe that we are called to be stewards of the earth and its resources; but people come first. The other big difference between conservative and liberal Catholics is that, while we may share many of the same concerns, we strongly disagree on how these various issues should be handled. Conservatives tend to look to Church, family and local communities for answers. Liberals tend to look, ironically enough, to federal and state government.
    May God have mercy on us all as we strive to live our beautiful Catholic faith!

    • Ginny

      Agree wholeheartedly, could not have said it better. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    • Dan C

      I see few conservatives interested in the poor, in the ghettoes, and few were willing to join with Catholic Workers in the late 1980′s or early 1990′s to collaborate on both pro-life and pro-peace matters.

      They are no friends to liberal pro-lifers. We have common ground on but one issue and conservatives will back-stab liberal collaborators on any issue other than abortion.

      • AnneG

        Sorry, Dan, I do not agree. I know lots of orthodox Catholics who care enough about the poor to give of our time, talent and treasure. I also would like them not to be desperately poor or destitute, nor to live in precarious, dangerous situations that seem hopeless. I try to take political actions as a good Catholic citizen that will actually make changes in the social situations produced by lots of politically liberal solutions that have only made things worse.

      • Faithr

        You are holding a grudge against pro-lifers because back in the 1980s and 1990s they weren’t rallying behind the Catholic Worker movement? I knew folks in the Catholic Worker movement then and they were decidedly uninterested in the issue of abortion. And I assume from experience that you don’t really know any pro-life Catholics, because otherwise you would never may the statements you made. Which means you don’t socialize with anyone who is actually orthodox in their beliefs. I know lots of pro-life Catholics. I know a family whose helps out the Missionaries of Charity every month. In fact, the most conservative parish around here is actively involved with that order. I know pro-life Catholics who have taken poor into their homes, who driven poor women to drs appts, and found them clothing. I know pro-life Catholics who regularly go out and help the poor by repairing their housing. I know pro-life Catholics who have adopted poor children from China and Eastern Europe. I know prolifers who have adopted Down Syndrome children. I know pro-lifers who run clothing drives and canned food drives. In fact a whole bunch of pro-lifers are doing just that tomorrow among other things.

        • Dan C

          i socialize with folks who are orthodox. They happen to be liberal. The conservative Catholics I know are decidely unorthodox, save one.

      • Alexander S Anderson

        As a conservative Catholic who just returned from 8 months at a Catholic Worker House, I’m going to have to disagree with you.

        • seba

          Generalization never works, but from my experience living in catholic poland, conservatists are exactly as Dan described them. But maybe it’s just my country, I don’t know.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            All I know is that the volunteers at the Catholic Worker I worked at were all “conservative” in the way I understand the term, Being Pro-Life, accepting Humanae Vitae, and not believing that Vatican II was a blank check for any change in the Church. Of course they were all “liberal” in the American sense on immigration, because it was recent immigrants that we worked with. I have no idea, of course, how the spectrum shakes down in Poland, as it is certainly beyond my experience.

    • Eric Neubauer

      Dear Blair,

      Why don’t Catholics reject these cultural terms (conservative / liberal) which are nothing but polarizing with little to NO benefit. Maybe we could just concentrate on being Catholic (first), well formed in our faith, filled with the exercise of the two Great Commandments, to love God and Neighbor. Maybe we should follow the direction of Pope Francis and live the faith. A lived faith (true to Holy Scripture, the teachings of the Early Church Fathers, and tradition) will place Catholics at odds with Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives & Liberals. For some being a liberal Catholic or conservative Catholic is a badge of honor. I would rather just be a faithful Catholic, honestly following Jesus, humble enough to know that I can actually get it wrong even when I have been preaching that I was right, and hopeful that I can be as grace-filled with others as Christ has been with me. May God have mercy on us all. Peace!

      • Chesire11


      • steve5656546346

        With the collapse of discipline, there is divergence of opinion even concerning defined doctrine. Moreover, IN PART Vatican II and recent Popes spoke and acted different than their predecessors: forcing us to choose in some ways (not speaking of doctrine here). In any event, terms like “just Catholic” cannot properly describe important distinctions among Catholics. When this all gets sorted out, we will be able to resume the practice.

      • seba

        It obviously won’t happen, because catholicism implies polarizing, even in catholic canonical law you got guaranteed independence of many things except really basic core of faith dogmas, that’s why catholicism is so slashed back and fro with divisions. But honestly, if you want to have christianity fully based on tradition and the bible you have to be a hermit, check out desert fathers stories and think about life in the world from their perspective.

    • RelapsedCatholic

      I think you had many wonderful things said here, but I did take a few exceptions. The science behind climate change is incredibly sound. 97% of published peer-reviewed papers and 97% of scientists all agree that it is happening and that human industry is partially to blame. There is no distinction between caring for the Earth and caring for people, when we fail to care for the planet it means increased human suffering. Second, some problems require large scale efforts that only direct governmental action to solve. Climate change is one great example. Corporate power and wealth disparity is another. Market forces and corporate influence operate on a global scale and according to laws of nations, when we fail to address this reality then we allow a continuation of the status quo, which is unacceptable.

      Pax et Bonum

  • Roy

    So who are we 100% loyal to the Pope & Magisterium?

  • Billiamo

    I’m inspired by Catholics who manage to strike the right balance, like Dorothy Day. And, more recently, Heather King.

    • mdozer

      I don’t think there is balance to be had. If the phrase “Justice and Mercy” encompasses both ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ viewpoints that Father has caricatured, then you are either all in, or missing something. It’s not so much of a balance as it is a question of, “Am I going to embrace everything? Or am I going to pick and choose?”

  • Handmaid

    This article doesn’t address anything of importance. There is no mention of sharing the Gospel. This article addresses only the material. There is no Mercy or Justice without Christ. All these so called social programs seem to become an end in and of themselves. The poor need Christ more than a meal. Let’s give them both with Saving their souls at the forefront.

    • Chesire11

      It addresses the lack of charity with which many Catholics treat each other. That surely is a matter of some import!

  • irishsmile

    As the wife of a Hispanic and the mom of a priest I feel that I have a
    dog in this fight. Our family does now and has always supported legal
    immigration. The selfish, me-first generation of today’s young people
    are contracepting Catholicism, Christianity and families into oblivion.
    I never wore calf-length skirts nor did my hair hang lankly. I raised
    five children who were not scowling ay Mass because they loved the
    Mass. As a family we are pro-life and pro-Israel….. enough of the
    stereotypes, please.

    • frdlongenecker

      The whole article was an appeal to go beyond the stereotypes.

      • Eric Neubauer


  • Maggie Sullivan

    I’m sorry Father I think your mistaken. Pro-life Catholics care about all issues that are of concern to the church.

  • HigherCalling

    The problem is that Justice (and peace and fairness and equality and love and…) are either left undefined or are wrongly defined. What is Justice? What is justice for, say, homosexuals and the push for same-sex “marriage?” It seems to me that people want justice but ignore, dismiss, and often flat-out reject, truth. But there can be no justice in the absence of truth. What separates justice from injustice or guilt from innocence is the truth of the matter. If we are to produce a verdict (verum + dicere — to tell the truth) on a matter, truth is essential. But our modern relativistic society shuns truth and then expects justice to bloom in barren soil. Absent truth, there is no justice, no peace, no fairness, no equality, etc. The bumper sticker, Want Peace, Work for Justice, is merely a platitude when truth is not allowed in the equation. It should read, Want Peace and Justice, Work for Truth. The question now is can a relativistic and increasingly atheistic society agree on truth? The answer is no, so real justice will always remain out of reach. Even Catholics disagree on the truths of things, even when the Church has defined them for us.

    Take the Trayvon Martin affair. Screams of “justice for Trayvon” were heard immediately after the event. But did those justice-screamers first ask for the truth to come out? No, they wanted their own false definition of justice to be imposed. They were not willing to wait for the truth to be revealed and are even less willing to accept the truths that have now been revealed. Something similar can be said about same-sex “marriage.” A hundred truths about homosexuality and marriage must first be ignored, dismissed and rejected in order for the issue to advance. Justice for homosexuals requires first recognizing the truths of homosexuality and then relating those truths to the truths of marriage. But today’s culture (including those Peace & Justice Catholics) is willfully blinded to truth. Our confused culture militantly demands tolerance and justice but proudly rejects the very thing that produces them, and as a result, tolerance descends into intolerance, and justice degenerates into injustice.

    • ZuzanaM

      This is the best comment of those I have read so far in response to Father’s post. It centers on that most pregnant question asked of Our Lord Jesus by Pontius Pilate, “What is Truth?”. There before Pilate stood TRUTH Himself, yet Pilate and the world did not recognize it. As inheritors and custodians of this TRUTH, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church must make a coherent and undefiled witness of this Truth before the world. It is the Truth, the Gospel, that Jesus commissioned the Church to take into the whole world, making disciples.

      But as Jesus said, he did not leave us as orphans, for through the rightful reception of the Sacraments of the Church, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit to bring this Truth (whatsoever Jesus said and did) to our memory is the work of God. This is where the so called conservative (pious and pure) Catholic has it over the Liberal Peace and Justice Catholic. If, that is, they truly believe (and only God knows) in the real presence of Jesus, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist, the pious and pure Catholic will have Truth within him/her. Without making it an absolute, most candid liberal Catholics will admit that they do not believe in the real presence.

      Jesus said, “Peace I give you, not as the world gives, give I you.” The diary of St Faustina says clearly that the world will not know peace until all is submitted to the reign of Christ. It is a truth of logic that peace does not exist where there is not first unity. Which proves the point made by many that the Catholic Church in the US, because of divisions, does not experience peace. Yet, this has been the history of the Catholic Church since the beginning.

      Jesus also said that no one is just… for he came to make us just. Justice is not achievable outside of the Church, because in the world justice is purely a subjective thing. There can be no justice by the order of man in the world. We can only pray for God’s mercy on us when He comes as the Just Judge.

      Individually, as lay Christians we are not called to work for peace and justice. Our work is to care one-on-one for the poor, the sick, the dying, the stranger and the imprisoned… the most vulnerable. We, side by side with other Christians in our communities, are called to care for those who have no one to care for them… remembering always that that person might be Christ himself. This is an impossible task were it not for the grace we receive through the sacraments of the Church and seeking to be Christ like in our homes and community. We must be careful to avoid the temptations that plagued Judas, who wanted a Messiah who would establish peace and justice in the earthly kingdom of Israel.

    • RelapsedCatholic

      What are these ‘truths’ about homosexuality that you reference? Most of what I have heard from social conservatives is urban legend, falsehood, and conflation. I would be interested to know your perspective.

      • HigherCalling

        The truths about human sexuality (or anything, including more abstract things like love, justice, marriage, etc.) concern those essences that relate to the natural law, the natural order, and the moral law. Catholics rightly believe that things are defined by their purpose, function and final causes. Things that break from the natural order are, by definition, disordered. Introducing disorder into a system designed toward order harms that system and all things connected to that system. Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of natural law and how homosexuality (and particularly homosexual behavior) break from the natural law, we can say that the truth about homosexuality is that it is disordered, and the truth about homosexual behavior is that it is sinful, because it separates sexuality from its essence which is from God. The same argument applies to artificial contraception and every other falsehood designed to “liberate” human sexuality — they are “liberating” sexuality from the truth, which is a false liberty, because only the truth makes us free. They all lead to harm, because they all break from universal principles that order human life toward God.

        • RelapsedCatholic

          Well thank you for sticking to orthodox Catholic thinking. Most often when I hear people talk about ‘truths’ about homosexuals I hear a litany of bad science, amateur psychology, and insinuations about pedophilia. I cannot tell you how disheartening it is when I hear fellow Catholics lie in order to support their argument.

          All this isn’t to say I buy any of it. Science can tell us as much about God’s plan and will as natural law, which is badly in need of some updating in my opinion. Science has revealed a simple truth to us, homosexuality is a regularly occurring, non-pathological, minority variant. It is the moral equivalent of red hair. you may not agree with me and that is OK, I respect you for avoiding the usual falsehoods.

          • HigherCalling

            Thanks. I would hold that Catholic teaching also recognizes the absolute validity of science in explaining these things, provided the science isn’t corrupted by politics or some agenda that veers from truth. Homosexuality may be the technical equivalent of red hair (though that has not yet been shown by science), but I would argue against it being the moral equivalent of red hair. The biological/genetic causes for homosexuality (if they actually exist) are irrelevant to natural law theory, as you probably know. The moral issue is another topic, as the genetic basis for any given trait is not linked to its morality. The moral question, though, is answerable only through reference to final causes and by the ways we choose to act in light of our human essence.

            Even so, can we agree on the definition of marriage? Doesn’t it have its own essence, purpose, function, final cause, and true definition? And doesn’t same-sex “marriage” utterly violate that definition? Science may someday explain the genetic mechanics of homosexuality, but it has nothing to say about the definition, let alone the essence or morality, of marriage. The farther we stray from the truth of things, including upholding the true definitions of things, the more we chip away at any real foundation for reason itself. When things lose their meanings, we fall into falsehood and chaos. And even science, today’s replacement for God, is not immune to that.

  • David Zelenka

    How often do I hear people say, “Wow, it’s really nice to be with people of like minds.” The funny thing is that I hear it from both the right and left. If they only knew. This polarization is terrible in the church along political lines is terribly destructive.

    Jesus is radical, so radical that the left and right church-goers in America don’t even have a clue what it really means to love Jesus and do the bidding of his Father.

    • steve5656546346

      But, fortunately, you do. Let us sit at your feet! :-)

  • E G Lewis

    I happened to be paging through my Bible and came across this saying of Jesus from Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you voted to increase food stamps, I was thirsty and you voted to put in a water fountain, I was a stranger and you supported legalizing millions of criminals.” I agree with Blair regarding proportionality. Recall that Christ called for action not big government.A person who truly cares believes in tough love. We need to teach people self-sufficiency. That’s the Biblical way…and the Catholic way until the liberal revolution in the 60s.

    • Chesire11

      I couldn’t disagree with your point more strongly.

      Man is both an individual and a social being, therefore, we act both individually and collectively, and, as Catholic Christians, our choices and behaviors in both spheres are supposed to be shaped by the teachings of Our Lord.

      We don’t get to segregate our duty to charity into one part, leaving selfishness and vice free reign in the rest of our lives. Our duty to care for our brothers and sisters cannot be delegated to the government, while greed rules our private selves. Likewise, in a democracy, which shapes its policies to the values of its citizens, we are not allowed to privatize charity, and allow our government to neglect the poor, and serve the rich.

      Government is one mode of collective action, and as such, it should reflect our Catholic Christian values. Through food stamp programs, we collectively respond to the injustice of hunger in a rich country, IN TANDEM with our private efforts to feed the hungry.

      In a democracy, we are individually responsible for the character of the government we support.

      • steve5656546346

        There are very specific reasons why the Federal government does not work because it cannot work.

  • EdwardHu

    Father…not helpful. I thought we were far beyond such coarse grain bucket projects. Work at finding a unity that can be encouraged.

  • Chesire11

    Father, your comments made me want to do a jig!

    American Catholicism has been largely coopted by the contrivances of partisan politics. Political conservatism and liberalism are competing ideologies concerned with resolving worldly issues according to worldly values. When we judge and condemn our brothers and sisters in Christ for their sins (or more likely for our OWN sins!), we tear at the Mystical Body. When we subsume our Catholic faith to political parties we exchange our patrimony for a mess of lentils. It should be a deeply worrying sign for a Catholic to feel comfortable in either political party, we should be subversive of both, as we are subversive of the world.

    I have said it many times before, and will say it many times over again, the Church is neither conservative, nor liberal. It is Catholic, and that is something altogether different.

  • Mary Kreitzer

    The conservatives I know love the unborn, fight corporate greed and destruction of the environment by Monsanto and big pharma, are involved in all kinds of “peace and justice” from foster care for children to taking bag lunches and blankets to the homeless on the streets of D.C. every week during the winter, visiting nursing homes, etc. The thing they DON’T do is join community organizing groups or cheer the Nuns on the Bus to go lobby for the government to create another bureaucracy to do “charity” for them.

    You need to get out more, Father, and meet real Catholic conservatives like Joe Scheidler who marched for Civil Rights (when you were a youngster I suspect), quit a job in corporate America, and went to work fighting for the unborn. I know lots of pro-lifers who are not hawks and believe dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and firebombing Dresden were American atrocities

    As for immigration, do you support the right of invaders to pour over the borders illegally? Maybe you should talk to my friends in border states who are seeing first hand the destruction of their communities. Somehow, I think you would not “welcome the stranger” who broke into your rectory and helped himself to your computer, smart phone, I-pad, etc.

    I hear this type of critique frequently from pro-abortion liberals. It is disheartening to hear it from a priest.

    • frdlongenecker

      Please try not to jump to conclusions and put words in my mouth.

      • Obama_Dogeater

        “Why are they so often silent about the assault on the environment, the plight of immigrants…” It’s obvious you mean ILLEGAL immigrants. The conservative Catholics I know welcome immigrants who came here legally with open arms.

        • Chesire11

          …and once upon a time, fugitive slaves (and those who assisted them) were committing illegal acts.

          Laws are hierarchical; a law enacted by Congress is subject to the United States Constitution. Similarly, the laws of man cannot usurp the natural law. The Congress and the courts can hold that a fetus is not a human being, but that does not change the truth of the matter, nor make abortion anything less than the killing of a child.

          Illegal immigrants are guilty of violating a law which denies the equal dignity of all men as children of God. In order to preserve the material excess enjoyed by some on the basis of nothing but accident of birth, at the cost of the basic needs of their brothers and sister who were less foresighted in their choice of which flag under which to be born.

          Our immigration laws (which date back only to the nativist prejudices of the 1920′s) are firmly rooted in prejudices, greed and fears that are intrinsically evil.

          • John Flaherty

            Illegal immigrants are guilty of violating a law which denies the equal dignity of all men as children of God.”
            …and so on….

            These charges seem to me leveled against the US based primarily on an arrogant international community who insists that the US is the cause of all the problems in the world, that every other nation and group is an innocent victim, etc. If you intend to charge us with prejudice, greed, and fear, you’d be well advised to be capable of explaining why we, the US, commit these crimes, but other nations do not.

            I know of no law that allows for a man to migrate from one nation to another without the gaining nation having a say in the matter.

          • Chesire11

            First of all, I probably leveled my indictment specifically against the United States because we were discussing the violation of US immigration laws. Railing against Guatemalan immigration policies would, therefore, have been kind of off topic.

            Second, the charges are made based upon an arrogance infinitely deeper than that of the international community, it is based on the arrogance of faith that we are all children of God, a fact before which abstract human constructs like political divisions are trivial.

            Also, for much of American, and most of human history, immigration regimes like that being unsuccessfully pursued by the United States to preserve us from the rest of humanity have not even been attempted. In point of fact, never in all of human history has a mass migration of population been thwarted by political means – ever. The fact that a country founded upon the dreams and labors of immigrants should pour so much money into unrealistic efforts to stem the current wave of “bad” immigrants, rather than the orderly reception and integration of those immigrants only gives testimony to how fundamentally unserious American politics has become.

          • John Flaherty

            I think this reply epitomizes the problem. On one hand, those who advocate for change to immigration policy will often cite the moral concerns involved. For some reason though, if anyone reminds the crowd of how other nations’ policies work about the same way–or inflict more harm–the advocate for change will simply refuse to hold anyone else to account.
            Evidently justice and Truth only apply if you’re trying to migrate to the US; Mexico, Guatemala, or other nations seem to be exempt from complaint, though nobody can explain why competently.

            Then again, I’ve heard this mantra about “political divisions are trivial” many times before. Such a charge almost always comes about because someone wishes to make believe that we don’t have legitimate, serious disputes about various life matters. Evidently we’re to assume that the advocate in favor of changing something must be right because..they say so.

            If you want to complain about how the current wave of immigration hasn’t created a problem, perhaps you’d be wise to volunteer time and effort to visit the border and speak with some of the people there. Or simply go see the signs where (Mexican) drug cartels have “laid claim” to US lands by means of warning people that they may be shot if they intrude.

            ..And if you want to complain about how reception and integration of immigrants has become contentious, you might be bothered to explain why we’re charged with “racism” or “bigotry” if we even suggest that newcomers ought to follow the normal naturalization process, learn English, and/or learn anything about the civic duties of a citizen or–God forbid–learn anything about or even celebrate anything of American culture. Or other Caucasian ethnicities.

            I have yet to see any effort on the part of the large Hispanic community to genuinely become law-abiding citizens or demonstrate any concern for others needs’ or cultural backgrounds.

            Again, such demands have long been blasted for “racism”.

          • Chesire11

            As I pointed out in my answer to you once before in this discussion my criticism of US immigration policy is based upon the fact that US immigration policy was the topic being discussed. If it will make you any happier, I hereby assert that any immigration policy which seeks to interfere with the movement of peoples not posing a threat to the safety and security of local populations are an insult to the dignity intrinsic to all human beings. This includes, to the best of my knowledge the immigration policies of the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, and Mexico. Does that make you any happier?

            Incidentally, I never said that political divisions were “trivial,” I said that as human constructs, they are trivial when measured against our common patrimony as children of God. If you would like to make the case that the authority of teh United States exceeds that of God, you are free to do so…but I wouldn’t recommend it.

            I would also point out that the problems caused by drug gangs operating in the United States are caused by drug gangs, not immigrants looking to support their families back home. Too bad we waste time and resources chasing after people who want to have a share in the American dream, rather than focusing our interdiction efforts on those drug cartels. Unfortunately, when you conflate all illegal immigrants from Latin America with drug smugglers, that’s kind of difficult.

            John, if you don;t want to be accused of racism, then I suggest that you refrain from making sweeping generalizations based upon race, especially one as breathtakingly ignorant as your comments in your penultimate paragraph. That’s pretty much the definition of racism, my friend.

          • John Flaherty

            Again, Cheshire, your comments epitomize the problem.

            My comments from before reflected upon the adamant double standard as posed by the advocates for immigration policy change.
            I routinely see some form of reference to moral concerns or the patrimony of mankind under God when dealing with immigration and related concerns. Sadly, though an advocate can usually be persuaded to say something nice about the hope for equal treatment in law amongst all nations, I never see any advocate demand similar policy changes from any other nation. So much for the concern about the worldwide community of men.

            My next to last paragraph dealt in particular with speaking English, learning how (and why) our political system works, and learning and celebrating other cultures besides one’s own. By the way, that last in particular has been the supposed mantra of “multiculturalists” for decades. If you think these demands to be attitudes motivated by racism, then I must warn you that I think you’ve begun demanding that the pot have the right to call the kettle black.

          • Chesire11

            I’m sorry John, but the discussion was about US immigration policies, so that is what my comments addressed. That’s not a double standard, that’s just remaining focused upon the topic at hand. If you would care to discuss German immigration policies, especially with regard to Turkish immigrants, Japanese immigration policy, the treatment of immigrants in the Gulf States, etc… I will be happy to regale you with my righteous indignation.

            I may take particular umbrage against current US immigration policies for the simple reasons that the US government is undertaking such pointless and benighted policies on my behalf, and with my tax dollars, which gives me a little more say, and therefore complicity in the matter. Forgive me for concerning myself first with the log in my own eye.

            Finally, there is nothing at all racist in expecting immigrants to learn the language and assimilate to the culture. It IS, however, racist to ignore the rapid assimilation of millions of Hispanic immigrants, or to obey the laws of the United States, and unjustly characterize them all as you did.

          • John Flaherty

            Cheshire, your righteous indignation regarding the immigration policies of Mexico or any other location strikes me as being pretty worthless and irrelevant unless you’re willing to DO something about them.
            As it stands, you don’t seem willing to do much of anything about any immigration policy, unless you count howling about it on the internet as “doing something”.

            I must contend too that if you have a problem with the rapid assimilation of huge numbers of people into a different culture and national circumstance, then I think you have a racism problem yourself. We DO have a right to expect that people will learn to become acculturated to their present circumstances–and able to take care of themselves–reasonably soon after arriving. As I’ve noted earlier, trying to build ethnic enclaves has not truthfully solved any problems, but rather has caused many.

            I have characterized anyone unjustly, Cheshire. I have rather insisted that you acknowledge the existence of the fact that many immigrants HaVE, in fact, broken the law, and they HAVE, in many cases, created serious problems.

            If you would chastise me for painting a broad brush, I return the charge. You appear to me every bit as blind as you accuse me of being.

          • Chesire11

            “And if you want to complain about how reception and integration of immigrants has become contentious, you might be bothered to explain why we’re charged with ‘racism’ or ‘bigotry’ if we even suggest that newcomers ought to follow the normal naturalization process, learn English, and/or learn anything about the civic duties of a citizen or–God forbid–learn anything about or even celebrate anything of American culture. Or other Caucasian ethnicities. I have yet to see any effort on the part of the large Hispanic community to genuinely become law-abiding citizens or demonstrate any concern for others needs’ or cultural backgrounds.
            Again, such demands have long been blasted for ‘racism’.”

            Irony really isn’t your long suit, is it?

          • John Flaherty

            I’m accusing you of hypocrisy. Consistent standards of conduct don’t seem to matter to you.

          • craig

            The fugitive slave acts were enacted to defend intrinsic evil, the ‘malum in se’ of chattel slavery. You have not provided any reason for us to accept the analogous claim that national borders are intrinsically evil.

            What you are arguing for is the abolition of property rights, something the Catechism does not mandate. Because the ‘material excess’ of American citizenship (voting rights, public benefits, etc.) is no different in kind than the money in your wallet and the car in your driveway. Why should another who lacks these things not have the right to take them, being a child of God with dignity equal to yours?

            “The goods of creation are
            destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up
            among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty
            and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate
            for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each
            of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge.
            It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.”

            The point is, reasonable people can disagree about the prudential means to achieve dignity and solidarity among men. It does not help if one side constantly shouts down the other’s points with cries of ‘bigots! haters!’

          • Chesire11

            Nice try, but the fact that a thing is not “intrinsically evil” does not make any and all applications of that thing or principle moral. For instance, injecting morphine is not intrinsically evil; when treating a person suffering from pain it is positively merciful, but injecting it to feed an addiction or to euthanize a person would be deeply immoral acts. I don’t need to demonstrate that national borders are “intrinsically evil,” merely that treating a national boundary as more sacrosanct than our duty to care for our brothers and sisters offends against the moral order, which sets individual dignity over man-made laws.

            Again nice try, but there is nothing in what I have written which even hints at abolition, or even the dilution of property rights, I have simply asserted the Catholic moral principle of solidarity. BTW, did you even bother to read the whole quote you posted? “The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.” Extending the franchise to new immigrants, allowing them to participate fully in our economy, which includes eligibility for social services does not abolish or dilute my right to vote, nor does it impoverish me, but it even if they did, your own invocation of the Catechism would explicitly justify it! Besides, His Holiness only today said, “Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied! The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty!”

            As soon as I saw the “intrinsic evil” argument, I knew that a dose of “prudential judgment” sophistry was coming. Reasonable people can honestly differ on means to a worthy end, however, as Catholics, we are expected to given weight to the entirety of the Magisterium, including the teachings of our bishops (not just the infallibly proclaimed bits). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has spoken out VERY forcefully in favor of at least comprehensive immigration reform…

            “II. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

            35. The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.

            III. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.

            36. The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.” (Strangers No Longer Together On The Journey Of Hope)

            …and this…

            “The reality is that our current system is immoral. While many may condemn the presence of the undocumented in our land, we willingly accept their hard labor, their contributions to our economy, and their cultural and religious spirit which enriches our local communities. While we accept these contributions, we do so at the expense of the human beings who come here, not to harm us but to help us. They are often ridiculed, exploited, and abused. This must stop, and this immoral system must be changed.”

            - The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of
            Brooklyn, Statement at the Immigrant
            Workers Freedom Ride, October 4, 2003

            …and this…

            “The so-called illegals are so not because they wish to defy the law; but, because the law does not provide them with any channels to regularize their status in our country which needs their labor: they are not breaking the law, the law is breaking them.”

            - Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Bishop of Orlando, Column U.S. immigration policy
            outdated and unjust toward working Immigrants, May 13, 2005

            …I could go on, but I think I have made my point.

          • John Flaherty

            Oddly, while the US bishops seem to say quite a little about how rotten the immigration laws are, they never seem capable of DOING anything about it. Nor do they ever seem capable of highlighting precisely how our immigration laws break more tenets, outside of referring to views that have been anything BUT settled.

            Sadly, our bishops seem to be unable to address economic reality, outside of saying that we, the US, are exploiting others somehow. Funny how they never mention how the policies of other nations might be contributing dramatically to the problems that would-be migrants face.
            They only seem capable of ripping the US.

            Some leadership.

          • Pofarmer

            There is a Catholic Church in Mexico, too. In fact, it is majority Catholic. Can’t the Church take care of ir’s own at home?

          • gullycat

            “II. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

            35. The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.”

            As long as they are migrating to “support themselves” and to “find employment” (or at least honest employment, not drug running, crime or smuggling other illegals into the country) I have few problems with them. But, by your own citations anyone who comes to the US and immediately goes on welfare or accepts other public benefits, such as medical care, food stamps, or housing subsidies is not “seeking employment,” they’re seeking a free ride. And, frankly, my own parish puts on “workshops” run by Acorn-affiliated groups teaching teaching parishioners how to advocate for more welfare benefits for these people! Disgusting. Why don’t you direct your oh-so-bleeding-heart liberalism toward assisting Mexico in providing jobs and benefits for their own citizens rather than exporting their problems over the border and into our country? I live in a state overrun by illegal aliens (not “undocumented” – “iliegal”) who strain our medical facilities, our schools and our police services. If you are so in favor of illegal immigration, have a migrant family move into your home, have them take the place of your children in the schools (and require teaching in their native language which means that there won’t be enough money for supplies), have them use the hospital emergency rooms as their primary care without EVER paying a cent for it (the rest of us get to pick up the tab in higher costs). An argument is made that we “shouldn’t break up their families” by deporting – sorry: if they want to keep their families together STAY HOME! These are not refugees, they are AT BEST economic migrants. And certainly not “strangers” in the Biblical sense.

            “…I could go on, but I think I have made my point.” No, you haven’t. You’ve put forth platitudes and theories and tried to disguise them as “teachings.” The Church does not teach that a country or a society must destroy itself, which is what you are advocating.

          • Chesire11

            You do realize, of course, that illegal aliens are not eligible for welfare, or food stamps, or housing subsidies (though they may indirectly receive benefit, if they reside with a legal resident or citizen whose housing is subsidized). Other public benefits, like public education for their children, are paid for through taxes which they pay like anybody else through sales taxes, user fees, property taxes (either directly as a property owner, or indirectly through the rent they pay to property owners), user fees, and even in the form of payroll taxes.

            Also, I’m sure you are also aware that ACORN does not exist
            any longer, and hasn’t existed for several years, but I digress…

            In any case, although I could respond to your nativist rant at greater length, but I won’t waste further effort on the discussion as long as you, without any apparent attempt at, or awareness of irony, make such sneering reference to “bleeding hearts” on a Catholic blog, and glibly dismiss Episcopal authority because you don’t happen to care much for the contour of the pasture toward which our shepherds leads, or the character of the other members of the flock.

          • gullycat

            Cheshire11: You don’t know what you’re talking about. I have to depose illegals regularly – they “buy” a Social Security card at the local park and voila! they’re eligible for all the welfare benefits they could want. And they’re eligible to work a real job in the US. You get a 30-something Hispanic man with a social security number issued to someone in 1941 in Vermont. Right. You say they’re eligible if they “reside with a citizen or legal resident” – like an anchor baby? Pregnant women sneak across the border just to have their children here so that they can do exactly that. And then you got more and more and more in a system of chain immigration. Ask the people who work at the Stanford new born ICU: the majority of the patients are children of illegals (the neonates are now citizens-go figure) and the cost of the medical care is an average of $250,000. That’s a quarter of a million dollars of public money that could have been spent on the people that were born here. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it – if YOU want to spend your money, your time and treasure on this, that’s fine. But taking MY money, at the point of a gun (which is all taxation is anyway) and giving it to someone else isn’t charity. It’s theft.
            PS. Acorn qua Acorn may not exist any more but what do you call an organization with the same board, the same members, the same website and the same agenda? Do they really think no one’s going to notice?
            PPS. The “character of other members of the flock”? They’re CRIMINALS – breaking the law for personal gain. No different than a common thief.

      • Janet Baker

        She did not “put word in your mouth”. You did, Father, as “Obama-Dogeater” describes below. She’s merely calling you on it and then you’re demonizing her for drawling logical conclusions from what you said. Her conclusions are shared by many, myself included. Perhaps, though, we should nail down what we mean by “peace and justice”. If by that we mean Catholics who themselves engage in the Works of Mercy through the donations of their own resources and effort, I think you’ll find most pro-life Catholics are involved in these works. If on the other hand you mean those who mainly advocate for more “governmental solutions”, count us out for they have proven to be counterproductive. As far as “purity Catholics” go, we had all better be those kind of Catholics, for those embracing sexual immorality place their souls in danger of perdition.

      • susan

        I don’t think she’s putting words in your mouth Father; she’s reading your words quite accurately. And she is spot on.

        • JefZeph

          I agree wholeheartedly, I’m sorry Father. I love you, but you’ve given undue credence to the false picture the left always paints of the right. Particularly offensive: “Why are they so often dismissive and hateful of everyone not like themselves?”. Such a question would be asked by the same person who would want to know why the Church hates homosexuals. By asking it, you are not promoting the idea of moving beyond stereotypes, you are fortifying and validating a false one.

      • David L Alexander

        Father, you said:

        “On the other side, the Piety and Purity conservatives are all for ‘family values’. They are opposed to same sex marriage, contraception, abortion and divorce. However they are too often silent about the injustice in our society.”

        Then Mary said:

        “The conservatives I know love the unborn, fight corporate greed and destruction of the environment by Monsanto and big pharma, are involved in all kinds of ‘peace and justice’ from foster care for children to taking bag lunches and blankets to the homeless on the streets of D.C. every week during the winter, visiting nursing homes, etc.”

        She then went on to cite an example of a pro-life activist who marched for civil rights, a combination which you specifically denied in her statement. I quite agree about the problem of stereotyping (which is all the more likely when resorting to terms like “conservatives” and “liberals” in matters of faith, as Ms Kreitzer appears to do here), but in this case, it seems to me that nobody put anything in anyone’s mouth that wasn’t already there.

    • Chesire11

      It is disheartening to read a faithful Catholic telling a priest that he needs to “get out more.” That certainly isn’t the manner in which I was taught to address a priest!

      • Pofarmer

        More priests need to hear it put that way.

    • felliott

      The conservatives I know love the unborn and hate the born.

  • Joey Storer

    Dear Fr. Longenecker,

    The sin in the Church is on both sides. However, the Social Justice crowd is too often associated in their thinking with Socialism which is inherently evil, as several Popes have explained. The conservative crowd is typically introverted which may lead to estrangement and bigotry – and yet the conservatives value and fight for the most innocent.

    I think you simplify in order to become the peace maker. It just isn’t that simple why this country is a polarized as it is. Further, the Church has been deeply polarized over the last fifty years by those who knew better than all the cardinals, bishops, and experts who wrote Sacrosanctum Concilium and who therefore have been driving a train wreck resulting in 70% of Catholics not attending church anymore. If the liberal-progressive view did so ring of truth then why have so many departed?

    My view is that the liberal-progressive ideologues have something else in mind other than following Jesus and though they preach tolerance they do not live it in the Church (since they dismiss 1963 years of it).

    A Catholic is just simply that, Catholic, and this means listening to hearing and following the Master’s voice as he speaks in Vatican II, the Magisterium (all of it), and in the Gospels. This according to the binding force of traditionalism – that beautiful gem that the Church offers to all who seek it.

    P.S. If family doesn’t come first then you are sunk.

  • mdozer

    Father, St. Paul preached in a similar way in Romans by proclaiming that, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I think your intentions are praiseworthy. Nevertheless, I don’t think this method is the right way to go. I say it’s not right to divide Catholics into ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ because, from what I understand, this is exactly the kind of thing that happened in 1968. The fraternal bonds of the diocesan priesthood were broken down party lines that year over Humane Vitae. My parish priest told me that heterodox Catholics sought to define all the different Catholic ‘groups’ after 1968. The purpose being, if you divide all the Catholics up, you can easily identify any Catholic according to their group, get a caricature of their worldview, then dismiss them. This is Satanic. As someone who entered the Church without any idea that such a divide and conquer strategy was going on, I was extraordinarily scandalized when I applied to seminary. The first question I was asked was, “You think that Latin should be in the Mass, don’t you?” I thought about answering the question honestly, but the tone told me that if I answered in the affirmative, I might be dismissed. So I said nothing. What proceeded in that interview was about an hour and a half of attempting to put me in a box, appropriate some binary worldview to me, and dismiss me. I decided that submitting to an abusive authority which was supposed to form me into a good priest was a bad idea for myself, and anyone whom I would serve in the future.

    I agree, both the Jews and Gentiles have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but I think you need to go further and say, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile”. In truth, there is neither ‘liberal’ nor ‘conservative’ in the Catholic Church. There are those who are orthodox, those who follow both “Justice and Mercy” as you have said, and those who are heterodox and do not. Period. Without the latter declaration, I think you are merely perpetuating a divide and conquer strategy being used by Satan to destroy the Church from the inside.

  • Guest

    “Why are they so often silent about the assault on the environment, the plight of ILLEGAL immigrants…” There, fixed it for ya.

  • christine

    I found this to be an unnecessary article. The caricatures of the two brands of Catholics described is insulting. As a faithful, pro-life, old-fashioned Catholic I felt I was boxed into the ‘piety & purity’ side and really resented being called racist and anti-semitic. These are terrible charges, especially in today’s political environment. I left the article feeling personally maligned, that it was divisive, and the call for justice & mercy wasn’t enough to counteract the damage done. Sorry I read it………..Made me think of Mark Shea. He’s another one calling traditionalist Catholics anti-semitic.

    • Bill W.

      Spot on, Christine. It’s time for Fr. Longenecker either to retract or to clarify. Why the need to mock “piety and purity” Catholics by labeling them such a thing in the first place? Are these not virtues, Father Longenecker?

  • Chesire11

    I tend toward being a traditionalist, but count myself as neither a conservative, nor a liberal Catholic. I find that the liberals tend to err on doctrine, but with a spirit of charity, and the conservatives tend to be correct on doctrine, but in a spirit of pride. I don’t find either free of serious fault.

  • Austin

    From a logical perspective, this essay amounts to little more than name calling. Who on the right doesn’t care for the environment, for the poor, ect.? Have you tried to understand and investigate if your harsh judgments are actually factually accurate or do they remain what they appear to be , harsh unsubstantiated judgements? How do you know these things about these people? Sometimes people’s prudential judgement about ways to care for the environment and social justice may differ from you. It doesn’t mean you get to personally attack them.

  • Gregory

    In amongst a whole load of (relatively) benign caricatures, on both of the apparent sides that you draw, Father, I guess the most socially unacceptable would be the anti-semitism and subtle racism you say you have encountered on the traditional side of Catholicism.

    Two questions:

    1) how has (particularly) the anti-semitism you have noticed actually manifested itself, behaviourally, conversationally amongst the Traditional group (I note that it seems to be a re-occuring feature of discussion in the blogosphere: e.g. Simcha Fisher earlier this year within which Mark Shea conducted most of the com box Q and A ALittleDivisivenessPlease )

    2) do you think that there is a general view abroad that up to and including Venerable Pope Pius XII, Catholics had a problem with anti-semitism i.e. before Blessed Pope John XXIII and, more pointedly, just prior to the Council (interesting that Pope Francis, on his own decision, recently removed all obstacles to the canonisation of Blessed Pope John XXIII which is something I don’t imagine he would have dared do in the case of the cause for for Venerable Pope Pius XII)?

  • John Flaherty

    I think you have the efforts and intentions of both sides badly miscast.

    I’ve never seen the “Peace and Justice” factions of the Church accomplish anything of substance on the environment, corporate greed, just or unjust war, or anything else. I’ve seen and heard all kinds of clarion calls about all these, but never any substance that anyone would be willing to be accountable for. In fact, most of the claims made in these subjects matter routinely demonstrate a serious lack of knowledge of the subject in question. It’s almost always enthusiasm and passion about saving the world, whether such “saving” has any merit in science or theology..or not.

    Then again, I can’t think of any occasion I’ve ever heard a “Piety and Purity” Catholic say anything that struck me as being even remotely racist. Not a credible source anyway.

  • D.A. Howard

    You make many mistakes:

    “Why are the silent about the assault on the environment, the plight of immigrants and the widening wealth disparity in the developed world?”

    The wealth disparity is take care of by entrepreneurship, hard work, being your own boss and seeking your blissful job that gets a person up in the morning.

    Immigrants are not the issue, it is illegal immigrants. We should not be supporting law breakers. They commit a grave sin just by crossing the border illegally. The pope has already said Countries have a right to defend their borders (i.e. with guns), what more does he need to say? Having illegals in the U.S. makes Americans poorer and is bankrupting our healthcare and social services systems. Where is the justice in this?

    You think only about the immigrant and little about the people to whom this Country belongs. Additionally, the wealth of third World countries has tripled in the last ten years, so the need for immigration has lessened.

    The Man-Made Global Warming Theory is increasingly unsupported. The data they used did not exist. They tried to retrieve the data but the scientist in question (that is right ONE scientist?!?!?) did not have the records.

    They also lie about Global Warming. Indeed, several reports came out detailing emails between scientists trying to hype the data for the Global Warming agenda. This is not Science, it is scandal and the matter of grave sin, yet again.

    The issue of caring for the environment is supported by most Conservatives. REASONABLE regulations are supported by them as well. Bankrupting companies to meet over-burdensome regulations is more grave matter.

    Sorry for the caps, but this posting system does not have italics.

    • Chesire11

      Wealth disparity is NOT taken care of by entrepreneurship. Unregulated capitalism tends toward monopolies and trusts which so concentrate wealth that effective competition is abolished from the system. Even when monopolies and trusts are prohibited, there is absolutely nothing in entrepreneurship that promises either just or equitable distribution of wealth, at best it encourages efficient allocation of resources. Perhaps, if all economic actors entered the economy with equal skills, opportunities, and assets, and if blind chance were eliminated from the system, a case might be made that it provided a just distribution of wealth, but none of those conditions comes close to applying to the real world. Happy talk about the inevitability of success to hard work, and being your own boss, is not only terribly unrealistic, but it comes perilously close to the peculiarly American heresy of the “Gospel” of wealth.

      Christ did not call upon us to be merely dispassionate economic actors – economics is about division, and is a constant occasion of the sin of greed. Christ came to gather the tribes, not to divide them, and so He called upon us to love God, and to love each other. Love is not economical, it is by nature gratuitous, and so he didn’t say that whoever has no cloak has his just deserts, and is only encouraged in sloth by charity, but should invent and market a better widget if he is cold. He said, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

      A man can serve only one master. Far too many Americans mistake the invisible hand of Adam Smith for the will of God.

      I would also point out that immigrants are our brothers and sisters, many of whom are fellow Catholics, and the label “illegals” is intentionally reductionist, and offensive to their human dignity as children of God. It is also clear that you are unaware that selling an asset (like one’s own labor) in the market which pays most generously for it, is actually an example of entrepreneurship, and that immigration laws artificially restrict the flow of labor, distorting labor markets – something that should be anathema to one who believes in the virtue of free markets…but I digress. Contrary to your claims, illegal immigrants do not impoverish the United States – far from it. They work at jobs that most Americans refuse to take at any economically viable wage. They pay taxes, directly and indirectly just like everyone else, but are not eligible for most social services. Illegal immigrants pay into social security and never collect upon it, thereby extending its viability by a number of years.

      The consensus of scientists across multiple disciplines, confirmed repeatedly by independent observations is that global warming is real, and that that carbon emissions from human activity are a significant factor driving the warming trend. That’s simply science, if you have scientific evidence to the contrary, you should present it, rather than regurgitate political talking points.

    • Chesire11

      BTW, you do realize that your arguments about the threat posed to the well being of the United Sates echo those made against the Irish, and the Italians, and Eastern Europeans in the pas, right? As it turned out, those immigrants contributed tremendously to the success of the United States.

      • John Flaherty

        I love how people like to refer to these contributions. Somehow, those who make these references find it convenient to forget something rather important: Each of these groups wound up inflicting the same nastiness on others in their turn. When the Irish Catholics came, they didn’t get along with the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. The former suffered at the hands of the latter. Forty years or so later, after the Irish gained enough numbers to pull political weight, they began to pull the same nonsense on whomever came after them, possibly the Italians. After THAT group gained enough numbers to pull political weight, THEY pulled the same malarky on whomever followed THEM.
        I’m growing weary of the cycle of the Church allowing for each ethnic group in turn to suffer for awhile, then inflict suffering on whomever comes next.

        It’s time to dump the whole ethnic identity nonsense and insist that ALL people need to be treated with dignity AND that all people need to treat others with dignity.

        • Chesire11

          I agree, so why don’t we stop the same old malarkey being visited upon 21st century immigrants? From limiting citizenship to whites only, through the exclusion laws of the 1880′s aimed at keeping Asians out of the US, through the Immigrant Act of 1924, immigration law has been firmly rooted in racism. It is a xenophobic legacy that shames our nation’s honor.

          • John Flaherty

            Unfortunately, Cheshire, I think you completely disagree. With my reference to over-ruling ethnic concerns, I mean in particular that we should cease and desist with insisting on forming separate ethnic communities. I think we need to all be Americans.

            As to immigration law being rooted in racism, I must warn you that you seem to me to be coming close to being guilty yourself. Among other concerns, I’m not aware of any law that forbids a non-white person from becoming a US citizen. There IS a legitimate naturalization process for those who wish to become permanent residents and normal members of society.

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    Assault on the environment? That’s a joke, right? The environment is doing better in the 21st century than it ever did in the 19th.

    As for wealth disparity, there were 1 billion people in the world in 1800, and all of them were poor. There are 7 billion people in the world today, and all of them are richer than ANYONE was in 1800. We all live longer and have more wealth.

    Yes, there is now greater wealth disparity than before, but which would you prefer? Everyone living by the standards of the year 1800 or everyone living by the standards of 2013? We keep moving the goalposts on what constitutes “poor”. That needs to stop.

    • Chesire11

      Poverty is, by definition, a relative term, so yes, the goalposts do move. As humanity becomes more materially wealthy, the rightful demands of all people upon that wealth also increase.

      Of course, the emperors of Rome would have given all that they possessed in exchange for cable television, and a bus pass, but that hardly excuses the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

      • Steve Kellmeyer

        No, you’re wrong on every point.
        Poverty is not a relative term, at least it wasn’t for the early Christians. If you knew the Gospel, you were rich. If you didn’t know the Gospel, you were poor. For the Doctors and Fathers, the “poor” spoken of in the Gospel were impoverished spiritually, not physically.

        For John Chrysostom, you were not poor if you had food and clothes, shelter.

        The idea that poverty is a relative term is a Marxist concept, not a Christian concept.

        As for your second point, increased wealth in the hands of a few people is a positive physical good. If I am developing a new process but need funding to complete it, it will be easier for me to convince one rich person to give me $1 million than it will be to convince 1 million not-rich people to each give me $1.

        Indeed, the money it would take just to alert 1 million other people about the existence of the project, much less convince them of its utility, would vastly increase the cost of the project. Inequality of wealth is part of what allows progress to increase more rapidly because it turns out to be a more efficient way to transfer wealth.

        That’s why everyone labored in the same box of poverty and poor health for most of human history, and we only broke out of the box in the last two centuries – we finally managed to create an efficient inequality of wealth. The Cistercian monasteries were powerhouses of technology in part because the monasteries were staggeringly wealthy and could afford experiments in living and technology that other corridors in the population could not.

        Think of it in terms of kinetic and potential energy. The bigger the distance the water has to fall, the more energy the pumping station can generate from the water. Same is true for money – it has a velocity and an energy which can be measured.

        The bishops of the 20th and 21st century are not well-versed in economics, so many of the economic “principles” they throw around are really not applicable to the real world because they have no serious grounding in reality.

        • Chesire11

          Yes, actually, poverty IS a relative term. First the fact that you rightly discriminate between different kinds of poverty itself concedes that poverty is relative to what is being measured. However, we were specifically discussing economics, and even within that sphere, poverty is relative. A person considered to be poor in the United States lives a life that is materially far better than that of the poor in Calcutta.

          There is nothing even remotely Marxist about that observation.

          Aggregation of wealth in pursuit of specific enterprises can have positive economic consequences (that is sort of the principle behind capitalism, which actually liberates economic growth from reliance upon the decisions and activities of a few oligarchs), but the unproductive concentration of a society’s wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the majority of the population is literally unjust, and leads to both economic and political instability. The country is neither justly, nor most effectively enriched by concentration of wealth, but through the growth of a large, stable middle class. Not only does history abundantly bear this out, but it is implicit in both the Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, which applies to economic, no less than political power.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            You mistake equivocation for relativity.
            “Poor” is used in two different ways – that doesn’t make the two uses relative, it means there are two different definitions of the same letter string. The words are equivocal. There is a difference.

            As for what constitutes “unproductive” concentration, that is a relative judgement, sure.

            But no one in the US is poor.
            If you think they are, you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

            Poverty is an absolute – physically, you are poor if you don’t have enough to eat, drink, wear or shelter under. Of the 7 billion people in the world, at least 6 billion are in no way poor. We’ve housed six planets worth of people in the last century, an unmatched accomplishment in human history. And we’ve done it at the same time that “unproductive” concentrations of wealth have accumulated. Perhaps something is going on here that you neither appreciate nor understand.

          • Chesire11

            No one in the United States is poor?

            Wow. That is just delusional.

            Even by your own definition you are flat out wrong on that count.

            Homelessness (not having someplace to shelter):

            There are several national estimates of homelessness. Many are dated, or based on dated information. For all of the reasons discussed above, none of these estimates is the definitive representation of “how many people are homeless.” In a recent approximation USA Today estimated 1.6 million people unduplicated persons used transitional housing or emergency shelters. Of these people, approximately 1/3 are members of households with children, a nine percent increase since 2007. Another approximation is from a study done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty which states that approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2007).

            These numbers, based on findings from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Urban Institute and specifically the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers, draw their estimates from a study of service providers across the country at two different times of the year in 1996. They found that, on a given night in October, 444,000 people (in 346,000 households) experienced homelessness – which translates to 6.3% of the population of people living in poverty. On a given night in February, 842,000 (in 637,000 households) experienced homelessness – which translates to almost 10% of the population of people living in poverty. Converting these estimates into an annual projection, the numbers that emerge are 2.3 million people (based on the October estimate) and 3.5 million people (based on the February estimate). This translates to approximately 1% of the U.S. population experiencing homelessness each year, 38% (October) to 39% (February) of them being children (Urban Institute 2000).

            It is also important to note that this study was based on a national survey of service providers. Since not all people experiencing homelessness utilize service providers, the actual numbers of people experiencing homelessness are likely higher than those found in the study, Thus, we are estimating on the high end of the study’s numbers: 3.5 million people, 39% of which are children (Urban Institute 2000).

            In early 2007, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported a point-in-time estimate of 744,313 people experiencing homelessness in January 2005.


            Not having enough to eat (malnututrition):

            3.1 percent of U.S. households experience hunger: they frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. Nearly 8.5 million people, including 2.9 million children, live in these homes.

            7.3 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger: they have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 24.7 million people, including 9.9 million children, live in these homes.



            “…in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life…The consequences of malnutrition can be severe. Several studies have shown that food insecurity affects cognitive development among young children. And for older children, students like Foronda, school performance is affected. Additional research shows that with hunger comes more frequent sickness and higher healthcare costs.”


            As for the rest of your post, well if your ideology is so rigid that you are able to tune out or dismiss the documented suffering of your countrymen, then there’s really not much chance of a productive discussion of the usages of the word “poor.”

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            No one in the US is poor. Homelessness is largely a psychiatric problem, not an economic one.

            The hunger problem, insofar as there is one, is a problem of adults who have such serious psychiatric problems that they don’t take care of their kids. Again, not an economic problem, but a mental health issue.

          • Chesire11

            It really is sad to see the contortions to which an ideologue is willing to submit his reason in fidelity to the infallibility of his conceits. I’m sincerely sorry for you Steve, without wishing to be either dismissive or hyperbolic, this sort of conversation appears to be an occasion of sin for one or the other, or for both of us, and should probably be dropped.

            Peace to you, my brother.

  • Blair

    Alas, confirmation received once again that it is rather pointless to post comments on what I read on the internet, even at a Catholic web site. I meant no denigration toward Father Longenecker. I think his questions were all valid questions. Perhaps some need to hear them and ponder them. I just think it unintentionally serves to perpetuate these obviously shallow stereotypes. And I don’t personally favor terms like “conservative” and “liberal” as they are commonly used to describe Catholics, but the terms were set when I entered the conversation. Of course, when speaking in general about any group of people and the differences among them, labels like this are quite handy for communicating general ideas. But Catholics are not “general ideas.” We are people, and so “conversations” like this are perhaps flawed from the outset.

    One other observation confirmed by this conversation is that, “in general,” Catholics are not particularly friendly, I am deeply sorry to say. There is much unfounded presumption in many of the responses posted here. Perhaps there was such in my first post as well. Again, may God have mercy on us all.

    Love and Peace of Christ to all,


  • FinishTheRace

    Dear Fr. Longenecker,

    Firstly, thank you for living out your vocation and the service you have given freely to the Church and we are better for it.
    I think others have said it best when they stated that there is a priority of issues to consider. Some issues involve prudential judgements to be utilized on how to best feed the poor or care for the homeless. Of course you know that legitimate disagreement can occur there and we don’t have to side with the bigger government solution. Abortion is another matter that is wrong every time it occurs. I know of no one in my circle of friends who does not care for the poor or even the environment. We recycle but I am not going to join to join in lockstep those that see the earth as a living breathing organism that we must give preferential treatment against the so-called onslaught of over population.

    “they really mean that they want God to punish all the bad people who are not as
    pious and pure as they are. Like the Peace and Justice Catholics, the Piety and
    Purity Catholics also want their enemies to be judged.”

    I don’t “really mean” that I “want God to punish all the bad people”. I want their conversion to the fullness of Truth just as I strive for my own conversion on a daily basis by frequenting the Sacrament of Confession, daily prayer life, etc.
    Many chancery offices have justice and peace offices or initiatives. There is no Piety & Purity initiatives that I know of. Why’s that? There are true aspects to justice and peace that I embrace but I believe the emphasis on those issues is out of balance with preaching the rest of the Gospel (IE: Jesus demands we pick up our cross daily, living out our vocation based on our state in life, conversion of heart, embracing the Church’s positions on abortion, contraception, racism, and other issues that offend God, and not abusing the sacraments through the unworth reception of Holy Communion).


  • Plain Catholic

    There is an old saying: “You can fall into the ditch on either side of the road.” Extremisms just leave you in the ditch.
    Balance through mercy and justice is the key.

  • jackryan

    Oh no, not the Left v. Right thing again? And don’t tell me, Father, you and the rest of your Patheos Catholic bloggers are right in the middle, right?

  • Howard

    This is just stereotyping. Can you find plenty of examples that fit that stereotype? Sure. Do you have statistics to back up a claim that these stereotypes fit the majority of people you apply them to? It seems not.

    • Chesire11

      It is warning against the danger of a division introduced into the Body of Christ by secular political concerns. This division manifests itself on each side of the divide in different manners. He is not stereotyping the faithful, he is describing temptations.

  • Humble Catholic (I hope)

    Father: Thank you for this. I see you are getting bashed by people and it is sad. Your words are completely true and completely accurate. We must stop treating our Church as an outgrowth of our secular politics. I wish you could read these words from every pulpit in every church in our country. God bless you.

  • Don Schenk

    The thing is that “peace and justice” Catholics use their positions of power within the Church’s bureaucracy to persecute anyone who doesn’t join them in rejecting basic Church teachings, while right wing Catholics are left out in the cold (and are therefore harmless).

  • madeline

    We should let alone the things that don’t concern us…He has other ways for others to follow Him. All do not go by the same path, said Katherine Drexel. But since I lean to the right side of the road – if you aren’t pius and pure, you are….?

  • ZuzanaM

    We lay people cannot know the pressure that our priests are under to respond to the needs of their parishioners. We do not listen to the cries of so many who suffer in many and various ways… known only to their priest. Daily our priests must be bombarded with countless phone calls and visits by parishioners who ask the priest for help. That help can be material, emotional, spiritual, social and is often controversial. This is the life of all priests, even as a bishop, cardinal or Pope! It is an overwhelming task to try to please, yet alone help, everyone. Diplomatically, and truthfully, a priest must be the shepherd for all of his sheep, meeting their needs where they are, showing no partiality. I believe that this truth is behind the article which Fr Longenecker has posted today. We must appreciate this fact and treat him with compassion, just as he has shown for both sides of the polemic in his short writing on the topic.

  • W Meyer

    Fr. Longenecker, I do thank you for your vocation, and all your good works.

    That said, I agree with others here who have said you miscast both sides. I adhere to a more traditional view, but am anything but dismissive of the more liberal Catholics. I may, on the other hand, be dismissive toward catholics, those who believe their (all too often unformed) conscience trumps Church doctrine.

    We have had 40+ years of poor or absent catechesis. Few in the pews in most parishes in the US today have any real understanding of what the Church teaches.

    I agree that we need unity. Let the Catechism be the worthy starting point. Every parish should have an adult class in the Catechism, and all in the pews should be reminded of its availability. I personally believe that anyone who goes beyond basic inquiry in RCIA classes should receive a copy of the CCC, and that those classes should refer to it in answering the questions of those in class.

    It is time, and past time, to root out the dissidents from parish religious education departments. In particular, from RCIA. Anyone considering conversion has a right to be taught the unvarnished truth of what the Catholic Church teaches. Banish the writings of Sr. Joan Chittister and Fr. Richard Rohr, and any other dissidents favored by the DRE or catechists. We have a very rich history of nearly 2,000 years, and no need whatever to mislead souls.

    In truth, I am dismissive of no one in our churches. I am critical of those who distort Church teachings, be they lay or ordained. These people do much harm. If even one soul is lost to these false teachings, we should all do penance. But dismissive? No, that would be to deny the danger these influences represent.

    • Chesire11

      I think Father was presenting the very real temptations to which each side can at times be prone. I don’t think he was making categorical statements about their fundamental natures.

      That differences aside, I agree wholeheartedly with everything else you wrote!

  • Dan C

    “Too often when the Peace and Justice Catholics demand peace they really mean the appeasement of evil. Too often they mistake pacifism for peace.”

    I think this is not at all what the Catholic Peace movement is like.

    It demonstrates that the author has little experience with the Catholic left and its more sophisticated arguments. The Catholic peace movement of the Zwicks, the Catholic Workers, the Berrigans, and the Plowshares differs. These individuals incorporate the Cross intimately in all their understandings of peace and works for peace.

    If the Right would like a more sophisticated appreciation in the Catholic Right/Catholic Left dialogue, or even a return to being thought of as actually providing a “thoughtful” approach these questions, it would actually begin to read and study the left and its thinking. These caricatures are pretty much the same caricatures that were tossed about in 2004, in what was described as the conservative echo chamber. Secondly, the Catholic right would divorce its thinking from the Evangelical Right’s intellectual arguments (insisting on government support of welfare of transportation as covetousness, for example, is not from Catholic provenance).

    The Catholic right, marrying the Evangelical right for the duration of the culture war against the Catholic left, has even left its own sturdy intellectual tradition behind reliant on professional conservatives like Deal Hudson, George Weigel, and Michael Novak (all employed as professional conservatives to propagandize to Catholics). This is not the Catholic Left portrayed in this article. This is George Weigel’s and Albert Mohler’s vision of the Left. And it is incorrect.

    • Nick_from_Detroit

      This is the problem, right here. There is no Catholic left or Catholic right. You are either Catholic, or, you are not. You either believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches, or, you don’t. Being a disciple of Christ is not a political movement.

      Those movements, the Catholic Workers, et al, are political movements. They are adherents of Marxism, not Christianity.

  • sarah

    It is absolutely frustrating to be a young Catholic, faithful to the Church and concerned about social justice because of stereotypes like these. These stereotypes are thankfully starting to die out as many young Catholics are finding that their love of Christ and his Church leads them to reach out to the poor. Why don’t you write about the many awesome Catholic organizations who are faithful and love social justice? Let’s encourage this trend instead of encouraging the mistrust many faithful Catholics feel towards any issue that isn’t a republican talking point.

  • steve5656546346

    I guess I’m just lucky! In nearly 25 years of knowing orthodox Catholics–both non-traditional and traditional–I have yet to meet any “Piety and Purity Catholics” who match your description. I wonder where they hide?

  • Marsaili

    Sometimes former Protestants think they know the Catholic Faith better than most people. Usually, they don’t. Reading the catechism and the documents of Vatican ll will not infuse one with the supernatural faith of our fourfathers. Humility is often lacking, because they haven’t studied the lives of the past saints whose great humility shined through the darkest of times and situations. They are still infused with a certain amount of Protestant thought – it can’t really be helped. Which is probably why they shouldn’t have blogs like this one. I hope that Fr. Longenecker will search his heart and soul and ask himself (and Our Lord) about why he has such a fear and dislike of traditionalists.

    • Bill W.

      The fact that Fr. Longenecker defended Mark Shea’s m.o. in an earlier post says a lot about Fr. Longenecker. And don’t forget that his alma mater is that infamous bastion of anti-Catholicism, Bob Jones University. Old prejudices died hard. But to be fair to converts to the Catholic faith, there are some very good ones. Take Taylor Marshall for example.

    • Chesire11


      In general, my sympathies are more in line with the traditionalists than the liberals, and all too well aware of my own sinfulness, I am loath to comment upon the piety of another, but oftentimes, I am left with the very strong feeling that the traditionalism of some has less to do with fidelity to Our Holy Mother, than it does with the opportunity it affords to sneer at those who aren’t quite as Catholic as are the traditionalists.

  • Shaine Mata

    This brings to mind the story of the prodigal son, with the Piety and Purity Catholics being the “good son”, believing that because they lived as expected that they should incur more favor from God. It is those who are lost who need their Father and his mercy the most. Justice without mercy.

    On the other hand, the Peace and Justice Catholics want to have mercy even when it is at odds with God’s requirements. Jesus was merciful to the adulteress who was to be stoned; but, he did require her to go and “sin no more”. God’s mercy is limitless; but, there are moral requirements for that mercy.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    An excellent point to this article father, and your description of purity and piety Catholics seems to be prophetic considering the comments below. I sometimes wonder about the priorities of our Bishops when they declare 2 straight fortnights of freedom, yet made nowhere near such a stink during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

  • buildamoat

    I think it’s unfortunate that so many readers saw this article, skimmed it, and immediately went to the comments to say, “Yeah but no really liberal Catholics are the Antichrist.” Seriously.

  • Chant

    I think you need to read your own post and consider your last sentence.

  • UWIR

    I find it rather disturbing that you state without any qualification that fostering dissent is wrong.

  • CG

    Hilariously enough the quick to get irate conservatives in the comments section are proving this article right.