Yes, I’m a Social Justice Warrior. Why Aren’t You?

Yes, I’m a Social Justice Warrior. Why Aren’t You? June 9, 2019

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One self-appointed Catholic sage writes: “Once they”–they here meaning the so-called Catholic Left–“get started down the SJW trail, they just keep going.” That’s a novel concept: Social justice as a sort of gateway drug to more and more extreme forms of dissent. Certainly that is not how the Church understands it. The acronym “SJW” is meant to be a pejorative, and I used to bristle at it. But when I read the above dictum from The Sage, I wondered why I ever should have. Social justice is an important part of Catholic teaching. Of course I’m a warrior for Catholic teaching. This is a compliment.

Dave Armstrong, Trump apologist and self-described conservative, has said he is “very passionate” about social justice. And so the left-right dichotomy, which some insist on in this discussion, is strange. Why should being passionate about social justice mean you are a leftist? That makes little sense. Is Armstrong a leftist? Is he a dissenter? Better still, was Benedict XVI?

Several years ago, The Sage dismissed the New Pro Life Movement on the grounds that it was primarily a social justice group, and less focused on saving babies from abortion. (As though saving babies from abortion is something different than social justice; or as though being pro-life is only about abortion and nothing else. This is a view St. John Paul II would find very strange.) But the NPLM, declared The Sage, is no more than a laundry list of the Democrat Party platform. Fake Site News echoed the same line, calling the NPLM agenda “liberal boilerplate.” As I pointed out, however, every single item on that agenda belongs to the Magisterial teaching of the Church. But sages and character assassins must have their myths, like prized possessions.

Now, you may, if you like, search my archives for everything I’ve ever written about social justice. If you do more due diligence than the sages, you will find that every time I write about it, I quote Church documents, and only Church documents. I don’t quote the Democrat platform, or the Republican platform, or Tony Esolen. By “social justice” I mean what the Church means. I neither add to nor subtract from.

The Catechism has a whole section (§1928-1948) on social justice. It is part of “life in Christ”; meaning that, without social justice, we are not in Christ. “What is at stake,” the Catechism says,

is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator.

To be a warrior for social justice is to be a warrior for the dignity of the human person. The human person, says the Catechism, “is the ultimate end of society.” A person’s rights under social justice, the Catechism continues,

are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.

To have “moral legitimacy,” a society must ensure these rights “in its positive legislation.” So no one can retreat to the line that “social justice is just a matter of private charity. It’s not the government’s job.” By no means.

“But Alt!” you will say. “The Catechism also says that Catholics must separate the wheat from the chaff and distinguish real rights under social justice from ‘false claims.’ See, that’s in CCC 1930!”

Yes. I am glad you said it. Back in February of 2017, Michael Hichborn—who calls himself the Lepanto Institute—attempted to link social justice to Judas Iscariot. And so I wrote this post in which I pointed out, once again, that social justice is part of the Magisterial teaching of the Church. And in that post, I listed everything that the Church names as a human right under social justice. All of it came from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Yes, the word is doctrine.)

  • right to life;
  • right to religious freedom;
  • right to work;
  • right to a just wage;
  • right to income equity;
  • right to strike;
  • right to organize unions;
  • right to food and drinkable water;
  • right to housing;
  • freedom from from genocide;
  • freedom from slavery;
  • the right to one’s own cultural heritage;
  • the right to conscience;
  • the right to truth;
  • the right to self-defense;
  • the right to social security;
  • the right to a pension;
  • the right to safe working environment

All of these things are human rights under social justice, according to the Magisterium of the Church. They precede human society and governments must ensure those rights if they are to have any moral legitimacy.

I am a warrior for Catholic teaching; and because I am, I am a social justice warrior. The real question is this: If you are Catholic, if you count yourself among the faithfulest Catholics of the faithful, then why aren’t you?


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