Volume > Issue > If You Want Justice, Work for Morality

If You Want Justice, Work for Morality


By Doug Tattershall | October 2002
Doug Tattershall is the Media Relations Coordinator for the Lexington Public Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

I heard it from the pulpit one day at Mass, so it must be true. The division in the Catholic Church isn’t a matter of dissent versus fidelity. It’s not even a matter of liberal versus conservative. It’s a matter of those who emphasize social justice versus those who emphasize personal morality, and we really need both to be fully Catholic. So let us stand and profess our faith….

Wait a second, Padre.

I know a lot of “personal morality Catholics” who think oppressing the poor and defrauding laborers of their wages are sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance. However, I see a lot of “social justice Catholics” advocating a justice that includes handing out condoms, legal abortion, easy divorce, and homosexual “marriage.” So much for the two sides complementing each other.

This “social justice vs. personal morality” divide has the convenience of presenting both sides as legitimately Catholic — they both are faithful, they just emphasize different aspects of the faith, right? It’s a pleasant thought, the idea that our division really isn’t a division, and if by social justice Catholics we mean the Missionaries of Charity, it would be true. But nowadays so-called social justice Catholics tend to be rather ambivalent about the Missionaries of Charity and others like them. They’ll give the good nuns a pat on the head for their nice work with the poorest of the poor, but it really isn’t social justice in their book. Mother Teresa’s missionaries aren’t nearly political enough and they’re far too faithful to the Church’s idea of personal morality.

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