The head of the U.S. bishops’ conference has described contemporary social justice movements as “pseudo-religions,” potentially setting the tone for the bishops’ meeting later this month.
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles made his remarks to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Spain earlier this week. He decried alleged “aggressive secularization” in society, an “elite worldview” against religion, and a “cancel culture” against Christian belief, particularly on issues that include marriage and family.
While Gomez did not explicitly reference LGBTQ equality, there were several implicit references. At one point, he argued Christians and their institutions are “increasingly challenged and harassed,” in a seeming reference to the religious liberty debates centered in part on LGBTQ rights.
At another point, he criticizes contemporary developments in “our notions of gender” and suggests social justice movements are comparable to the heresy of Gnosticism in its rejection of the body (an argument often used against transgender people). Such movements are, in the archbishop’s framing, atheistic at their core and thus “dangerous substitutes for true religion.”
Despite their grave flaws, the archbishop’s words carry great weight. He is the leader of the U.S. bishops and shepherd of the nation’s largest diocese. And his words might set the tone for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) meeting later this month during which the bishops will discuss a document on the Eucharist that emerged from the efforts of some church leaders to deny Communion to President Joe Biden, in part for his LGBTQ support.
Against this vision of the church, LGBTQ-positive Catholics and others interested in church reform will be gathering outside the USCCB meeting on November 15th for a peaceful and prayerful witness. Sponsored by the network Catholic Organizations for Renewal, of which New Ways Ministry is a member, the witness titled “Bread, Not Stones” will:
“[C]all on [the bishops] to stop acting like culture warriors and political operatives and start behaving like shepherds and healers. The U.S. Catholic bishops are ignoring the real needs of those whom our faith calls us to prioritize – and playing politics instead.
“We call on them to be more pastoral and less political. At their spring meeting earlier this year, the bishops discussed whether to increase pressure in their ranks to deny Holy Communion to President Joseph R. Biden and other prominent Catholics who support abortion rights and equal treatment under the law for LGBTQ people.”
Archbishop Gomez’s remarks are deeply troubling, even dangerous. They endorse a vision for the church which continues to fight against LGBTQ people’s civil rights and dignity, Black Lives Matter, and other justice movements for marginalized groups. Framing that the church is in conflict with modern world contradicts Vatican II’s teachings that are more positive about society, as well as the witness of Pope Francis. And it simply reveals a lack of understanding about today’s realities.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 6, 2021