My 2007 Run in With Social Justice and Jim Wallis
The following is actual correspondence between me and a friend who was going through the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at Xavier College in Cincinnati. Most universities (even Catholic ones) lean left, but I was pretty shocked that this RCIA group was learning “social justice” instead of the doctrines of their faith. I sent this critique to the entire RCIA group.
Following the initial email is my attempt to deconstruct the subtle heresy of this insidious movement.
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 3:43 PM
Subject: FW: RCIA
Jerry: I got this about a month ago, but I forgot to forward it on to you. It might give you some guidance of how a person of faith ought to vote his faith and conscience. (Hint: the poor, the environment, the promotion of peace, fiscal responsibility, human rights, combating corruption, and other issues will not be helped by voting Republican).
I’m Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics. I was surprised and grateful when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called to say his party wanted to set a new tone and invite, for the first time, a non-partisan religious leader to deliver their weekly radio address and speak about the values that could unite Americans at this critical time.
So, I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face. I am not an elected official or political partisan, but a religious leader who believes that real solutions must transcend partisan politics. For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.
Because we have lost a commitment to the common good, politics is failing to solve the deepest crises of our time. Real solutions will require our best thinking and dialogue, but also call us to transformation and renewal.
Most Americans know that the important issues we confront have an essential moral character. It is the role of faith communities to remind us of that fact. But religion has no monopoly on morality. We need a new, morally-centered discourse on politics that welcomes each of us to the table.
A government that works for the common good is central. There is a growing desire for integrity in our government across the political spectrum. Corruption in government violates our basic principles. Money and power distort our political decision-making and even our elections. We must restore trust in our government and reclaim the integrity of our democratic system.
At this moment in history, we need new directions.
Who is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Jesus proclaimed a gospel that was “good news to the poor.”
I am an evangelical Christian, and a commitment to “the least of these” is central to my personal faith and compels my public actions. It is time to lift up practical policies and effective practices that “make work work” for low-income families and challenge the increasing wealth gap between rich and poor. We must find a new moral and political will to overcome poverty that combines personal and social responsibility with a commitment to support strong families.
Answering the call to lift people out of poverty will require spiritual commitment and bipartisan political leadership. Since the election, I have spoken with leaders from both parties about creating a real anti-poverty agenda in Congress. We need a grand alliance between liberals and conservatives to produce new and effective strategies.
This week, President Bush met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, seeking solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation in that civil-war torn nation. Nearly 3,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. The cost and consequences of a disastrous war are moral issues our country must address. Leaders in both parties are acknowledging that the only moral and practical course is to dramatically change the direction of U.S. policy, starting with an honest national debate about how to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq with the least possible damage to everyone involved.
Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future- from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.
A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values, and the breakdown of family and community in our society must be addressed. But we need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others. And wouldn’t coming together to find common ground that dramatically reduces the number of abortions be better than both the left and the right using it as an issue to divide us?
We need a new politics inspired by our deepest held values. We must summon the best in the American people, and unite to solve some of the moral issues of our time. Americans are much less concerned about what is liberal or conservative, what is Democrat or Republican. Rather, we care about what is right and what works.
The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.
I’m Jim Wallis. Thank you and God bless you.
Thanks for sending me the Jim Wallace article.
If you read between the lines, here is what is being said:
“I’m Jim Wallace, Author of Gods Politics, and I am attempting to implement the Democrat’s strategy of appearing to be concerned about Christian moral values. This strategy has three tenents. First, I elevate the importance of real Christian values that the Democrats agree with: Fighting poverty. Second, I creatively argue that Democratic values are in fact Christian values: The environment. And third, I gloss over the Christian and moral values that Democrats do not agree with: Abortion, Euthanasia, Gay Marriage.
This strategy surfaced or re-surfaced shortly after the 2004 elections when exit-polling showed that many voted for President Bush because of their “faith and values.” If you read carefully you can see that I also attempt to appear bipartisan, but at the same time, I praise the Democrats: “I was surprised and grateful when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid…” And bash the Republicans: “Nearly 3,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. The cost and consequences of a disastrous war are moral issues our country must address…”
I am pro-abortion, pro euthanasia, pro gay marriage and I want you feel the same. I will start by convincing you that these issues are more divisive than they are worth, and that we live in a pluralistic society where it is OK to sacrifice the moral law so that we don’t offend those with opposing views.
Plato and Aristotle called this sort of argument sophistry, after the sophists who used rhetoric to persuade for personal gain, where as Plato and Aristotle argued that rhetoric should only be used to seek the truth. In my college persuasion classes, we called it contingency theory. The idea being that to persuade a listener you must seek to begin at a point as close as possible to something that the listener already believes, and then lead them further away from that position to what you want them to believe. Mr. Wallace identifies with the reader by proclaiming himself a Christian and by leading with a discussion of those Christian values for which there is little or no disagreement. He then moves on to pull the reader away from other Christian Values that he wishes the reader to abandon, or at least not concentrate on. It is the twisting of the relative importance of these values that makes Mr. Wallace’s argument so heinous.
The church recognizes “Moral (and cultural) Relativism” as one of the greatest evils in the world today and this article is a fine example of arguing “Moral Relativism” as justification for abortion and other attacks on the family.
An excellent article commissioned and approved by John Paul II and written by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which summarizes Church teaching on this issue is: “Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It can be found at the Vatican web site –
At its essence the article encourages political involvement, and makes clear that the Church does not take a position on every temporal political question. However, it is also a crystal clear rejection of moral relativism in making political choices.
“A kind of cultural relativism exists today, evident in the conceptualization and defense of an ethical pluralism, which sanctions the decadence and disintegration of reason and the principles of the natural moral law… If Christians must recognize the legitimacy of differing points of view about the organization of worldly affairs, they are also called to reject, as injurious to democratic life, a conception of pluralism that reflects moral relativism. Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society…
While democracy is the best expression of the direct participation of citizens in political choices, it succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent. It is respect for the person that makes democratic participation possible.”
The article speaks specifically to abortion and gay marriage:
“When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility. In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person. This is the case with laws concerning abortion and euthanasia (not to be confused with the decision to forgo extraordinary treatments, which is morally legitimate). Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death. In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo. Analogously, the family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce: in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such. The same is true for the freedom of parents regarding the education of their children…;”
Reviewing the Catechism’s position on war and abortion illustrates the point further:
Here is the Church’s teaching on War:
2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.105
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”106
2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.
Here is the Church’s position on abortion:
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81
If nothing else, all must agree that as to the Churches unchanging position on the issues of abortion and war – one is always wrong and one is to be avoided, but has exceptions. Both implicate the moral law, but only the right to life is a natural moral principle, not allowing for “exception, compromise, or derogation.”
The author of your article argues the opposite – that the war is clearly wrong and we must find a way out of it, while abortion is something that we shouldn’t spend our time creating political division over, but should work to reduce. Clearly the author is pro-abortion in the sense that he is for legalized abortion. He attempts to convince Christians that abortion relative to the Iraq war is not something that needs to be eliminated at all costs, while the war (or at least this war) is something that we must eliminate at all costs.
Even more disturbing is that the ozone layer, is credited as “God’s Good Creation,” while the unborn are mentioned only as a divisive political tool. The poor are credited with being “the weakest and most vulnerable.” Yet, does anyone care to argue that the poor are more weak or vulnerable than the unborn? Furthermore, isn’t it patently obvious that you can “dramatically reduce” abortion, by making it illegal to perform one? Whereas reducing or ending poverty is much more difficult problem, for which the author offers no solution? Moreover, haven’t we largely ended the problem of “death by poverty” in America? There are roughly 1.3 million babies intentionally killed each year through abortion. When was the last time you read about somebody in America starving to death, because of poverty?
Of course we can work to further reduce poverty, end wars, and improve the environment, but the grave danger is being lulled into a belief that “helping the poor,” “pulling out of Iraq,” or “reducing CO2″ are adequate counterbalances to being pro-abortion. Also, let me be clear that helping the poor can be a great vocation, and not everyone has to focus all philanthropic energies onto ending abortion. My point is not that one effort is greater or lesser than the other. My point is that a Catholic cannot in good conscience allow the justification of abortion through a relative re-ordering of values, anymore than one could justify Hitler’s killing of the Jews, because he was a good provider to the poor who weren’t Jews.
Furthermore, the inherent moral benefit and Christian vocation of helping the poor – is found by in fact helping the poor – not in voting for politicians who use compulsory taxation to redistribute wealth, in a way that more closely approximates a violation of God’s commandment not to steal, than it does implementing any teaching of Jesus. Social services to the poor are a moral value to be sure, but socialism and/or the welfare state are not.
It is classic culture of death stuff with sheep’s clothing. Grounded with an understanding of the natural moral law, this man’s true positions leap off the page. Perhaps he has been duped himself, but be sure he is trying to dupe the reader. There is a reason why a speeding ticket will cost you a fine and Murder can cost you your life. The moral relativist argument is that we are concerned with the poor or the environment and so we don’t have to worry about abortion, because that is a divisive issue. This is like arguing the death penalty for speeding and a fine for murder.
The Pontical Council for the Family made the case plainly in 2000 (
when it stated:
An abominable crime.
Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”. But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.
The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!
“The interuption of pregnancy”.
In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is “the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth”.
It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience. Nonetheless, no motives, no matter how serious or dramatic, can ever justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human life.
Prenatal testing, if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed towards its safeguarding or healing as an individual, is morally licit. On the other hand, it is gravely opposed to the moral law when it is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion depending on the results. Therefore, when one requests a prenatal diagnosis with the intention of having an abortion should the results confirm the existence of a malformation or hereditary illness, one commits a gravely illicit act.
As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame, not only when he directly pressures the woman to have an abortion, but also when he leaves her alone to face the problems of pregnancy. Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family circle and from friends. Doctors and nurses are also responsible, when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life. But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws, and on the administrators of the health-care centers where abortions are performed. A general and no less serious responsibility lies with international institutions, foundations and associations which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.
The line, “The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake.” is at the heart of my point.
It is why, I am so vehemently opposed to the propositions of the article you sent me. Most significantly this article being sent about to an RCIA class, in the very midst of learning their faith. It teaches exactly the opposite of the truth. Catholics are clearly free to accept varying propositions on how best to help the environment, the poor, and to some degree the acceptability of particular wars. However a Catholic is not free to engage in moral relativism and disregard the moral law (based on the dignity of the person). Mr. Wallis has turned the truth upside down, in order to justify his candidate.
Learn the Catholic faith from the Bible, the Catechism, and the Magesterium – at least in your RCIA class, without the influence of charlatans who call themselves “Evangelical Christians” and convince you that the ozone needs protected more than human beings.
Yours In Christ,