23 August 2010

JustFaith? NotReally.

This is my sixth attempt at writing this post. I have struggled with how best to cover this issue--which I think deserves scrutiny-- with charity and giving the benefit of the doubt. The St. Louis Review is a good source of Catholic information and is staffed with faithful Catholics who do a great job. But sometimes things can fall through the cracks, and this, in my opinion, is one of those times.

This week, the Review has given extensive and positive coverage to an organization that has questionable adherence to Catholic teachings. This group calls itself JustFaith. JustFaith was the subject of multi-article coverage in the "Living Our Faith" section of the Review, a pull-out section that takes a particular theme and provides several articles covering specifics related to that theme. In this section, under the theme of social justice ministry, JustFaith is presented in a positive light, and its activities in local parishes are favorably canvassed. The following is f
rom the main article:

JustFaith brings a life of love, justice

by Barbara Watkins

"JustFaith is not just another program," according to Pat Dougherty. "It changes lives. It calls out the best in us."

Dougherty, senior director of advocacy for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, called his participation in JustFaith Ministries — a formation program that seeks to help people transform themselves and their commitment to social justice — "one of the best things I've ever done."

Dougherty and Greg Rohde, director of parish social ministry for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, are inviting parishes to participate in the JustFaith programs. So far, approximately 300 people in the archdiocese have gone through at least one JustFaith program. Last year, 170 people from 24 parishes in five deaneries took part.


To Dougherty, "JustFaith is a faith journey, a justice journey. It's your journey. You're changing as you go along, how you look at things, what you are called to do. It's a journey in a prayerful small group setting, a challenge in the midst of other people."

JustFaith Ministries has grown into a national program led by Jezreel, now executive director. A Catholic ministry that has developed a faith component for other churches, JustFaith participants include more than 18,000 people from more than 1,000 churches nationwide. JustFaith Ministries has partnerships with several Catholic organizations, including Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Pax Christi USA, as well as the Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World.


The group's mission statement is presented in the article, but in order to interpret it, one must really get to know the founder, Jack Jezreel, who was interviewed by the Review.

The article quotes JustFaith's mission statement as follows:

JustFaith Ministries forms, informs and transforms people of faith by offering programs and resources that sustain them in their compassionate commitment to build a more just and peaceful world.

This mission statement is precisely the kind of thing that is capable of differing interpretations, depending on the perspective of the reader. Who doesn't want a more just and peaceful world, after all?

JustFaith identifies certain "critical issues" for which it provides training in its "JustMatters" program. From the article:

Critical issues

The JustMatters modules cover critical social issues and/or justice issues.They include six to eight sessions, each about two to two-and-a-half hours long with an opening and closing prayer, and can include space for a guest speaker

-Faith Encounters the Ecological Crisis

-In the Footsteps of the Crucified

-Living Solidarity

-Crossing Borders

-God's Creation Cries for Justice

-Prison Reform

-New Wineskins

-Engaging Our Conflicts

Again, these modules are filled with buzz words which send a message of socialist political activism devoid of any necessary connection to the Catholic faith. Faith encounters in the ecological crisis? Come on. What does that mean? God's creation cries for justice? New Wineskins? My own take on this is that this is exactly the kind of "faith perspective" that has emptied out the pews for the last 45 years.

But forget what I think; what does the founder of JustFaith think?

To begin with, Jack Jezreel has been a featured speaker at several conferences of the dissenter group "Call to Action", to wit: 1996 CTA national conference; 1997 CTA national conference: “Spirituality of Commitment Making Promises, Friends and Justice”; The fourth West Coast CTA Conference, August 11-13, 2000: “Transformed People, Transformed Parish, Transformed World”; and the keynote at CTA-affiliated Pax Christi 2007 National Conference.

Stephanie Block of the Catholic Media Coalition has this to say about Jezreel and JustFaith:

JustFaith materials include reading lists of works by other problematic authors, including Cloud of Witness by Jim Wallis, an evangelical minister who edits the magazine Sojourners – originally founded to support the anti-war and sanctuary movements. Currently, Wallis is promoting the New Sanctuary Movement to support illegal immigration in the US and the Faith in Public Life network of “spiritual progressives”, many of whom advocate abortion and homosexual advocacy. JustFaith also recommends Selected Readings in Liberation Theology by Gustavo Gutierrez & others.3 Another recommended book is Doing Justice by Dennis A. Jacobsen, which promotes the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky. These are not Catholic materials.

Nor does Jack Jezreel, the founder and director of JustFaith, intend to support authentic Catholic social justice teaching. Jezreel is longtime speaker for the dissident Catholic organization Call to Action,4 which exists to change church doctrine and structure along liberationist lines. He sees JustFaith has a way to “transform parishes”, as he believes they ought to be “transformed,” with parishes holding all parishioners’ goods in common and having a “shared economics”.5

Since it doesn’t represent a Catholic perspective, JustFaith can be – and is – used ecumenically, as it has been in Louisville, Kentucky where the program originated. Little wonder that his program is flawed and the Catholics passing through it are confused about Church teaching.
(links to footnotes in the original)

Further analysis of JustFaith
can be found here.

JustFaith also touts its partnership with the much-criticized Catholic Campaign for Human Development (which was caught funding ACORN in the past) and Pax Christi USA, a similar social justice/sustainable earth type group.

In another piece in the "Living Our Faith" section, the Review ran a CNS article about the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, sponsored in part by JustFaith. the headline reads "
Speakers suggest joining pro-life, social justice efforts". This is a great idea if that means that authentic Catholic teaching should be promoted in a consistent fashion; it isn't so great if it means that we should ignore abortion issues as long as we spend some money on social welfare programs. But what is even worse than either of these is if it means we should front for a liberation theology, Christ-as-Marx sort of socialist activism with a Catholic veneer.

Jack Jezreel himself wrote an article on his intentions with JustFaith called "
How to turn a lukewarm parish into a hotbed of social justice". I urge you to read it and ponder it. JustFaith may in fact create hotbeds of "social justice"; the problem is that they won't be Catholic parishes, lukewarm or otherwise.

We shouldn't be celebrating a program designed to create more dissident parishes, headed by a supporter of groups that dissent from Catholic teachings. We have enough of both already.


Anonymous said...

Saw this advertised in a local parish bulletin recently.

Raised my eyebrows even before I saw you excellent

analysis. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

How about "Anything But Faith"?

If it's "just faith" I am still looking for the "faith" part. Prayer involved? Oh, something modern, hand-holding, dancing carrying insense bowls, and so forth. No crucifix, no Blessed Sacrament, no rosary I imagine...

A promise of a hotbed of social justice would cause me to run to the hills.

Lee said...

This program is becoming more and more popular...growing like the cancer that it is. I hope the bishops wake up and denounce it as the Vatican has denounced Pax Christi and Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful and all the other rot.

Thank you for your article.

athanasius_magnus said...

This is all just more of the same liberation theology that just never seems to go away. Like Ratzinger said, it is a demonic distortion of the Gospel.

As a side note, Block's description of Jim Wallis is somewhat lacking--she forgot to mention that the man is a card-carrying Marxist.

Patrick Kinsale said...

Interesting to see this and NETWORK Lobby say nothing at all about abortion. I suppose it's not a social justice issue.

I note also that CCHD is under renewed scrutiny again. I can't see why the archdiocese promotes a program that takes money away from the people in the pews and sends it organizations that are not Catholic.

Kansas Catholic said...

Bullseye, Timman!

Patrick Kinsale said...

Lee, Pax Christi is a JustFaith partner. Anything official on them as you said? I'd love to see it.

ATW said...

Fifth Columnists leading people astray.

Typical revolutionary tactics. Undermine from within.


StGuyFawkes said...

Dear All,

The anwser to this is not denunciation or excommunication. The answer is for the bishops to formulate an agressive social justice movement that is grounded in authentic Catholic teachings.

The wealth of papal documents on labor, the role of women, and the problems of capital date back to the Middle Ages and before.

But are they being taught and pursued?

No. Most Bishops hate secular controversy.

Example: Businessman Paul McKee has been secretly buying real estate in North St. Louis for years. He hopes to remake a large portion of it according to his undisclosed "vision". No one knows if his plans, which the city government of St. Louis has embraced, will allow current residents to even live there.

Sound like justice to you?

Now get this: an attempt by a priest in the North County Deanery to question the development led to his being told to shut up. Why?

McKee's wife is very prominent in Catholic Charitable affairs.

I take no stand on McKee's plan of development. I can see things both good and bad about it. However, the chancery office's failure to even address the problem of McKee opens the door to the social justice crowd to further their heresy. Thus the chancery office lets the wolf into the kitchen.

When you don't have a forceful, vital, Catholic Action movement pursuing Catholic Social ideals then the crazies step into the vacuum.

What's worse the failure of the Chancery offices to act gives ammunition to the "progressives" to say, "see the heirarchy is out of touch, 'we are Church' and we make the rules."

Guys, let's stop whining about the apostate herd demonstating in the streets and start demanding a Bishop Carlson led surge of new activists who will connect the sin of usury to the prime mortgage market, sexual promiscuity to the loss of an industrial base which supported families; we need our bishops to connect homosexuality to the self-centered "me culture" which gentrifies neighborhoods and destroys women's smiles with botox making their lips wriggle like stuck caterpillars.

The Catholic doctrines on justice are there. Why won't our shepherds lead us into the streets?

If you want to kill this heresy take back the left's issues by energizing a "praxis" of Truth which matches the catechetical teaching of Truth.

It worked for Solidarity in Poland. It can work here.

Aw, gee. Can't we at least get all our teenagers to see "On the Waterfront." After all, the priest played by Karl Malden said the Trindentine Mass. Now, there was a Libereation Theologian!

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what the answer to this is -- stomp it out once and for all. Unless and until you do, the Church will remain stuck in the sixties rut. As a veteran of the battle, I can tell you that they are regurgitating old sixties nonsense in 2010 terms.

Just what we need, more "hotbeds" of social justice. I've given up all hope of seeing anything turn around in my lifetime. Unfortunately, you can't fight them using the tactics and methods that they used to get where they are because you are Catholic in the truest sense of the word.


Badger Catholic said...

Thanks for the heads up on these guys

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Timman, for a trenchant and useful analysis.

Jim Cole

StGuyFawkes said...

Folks the problem is not so simple that we can just "stomp it out." The problem is that these folks are using authentic Catholic ideas but employing them in an unbalanced way and narrow way.

For instance if you read the article Tim attaches you'll notice the problem Mrs. von Hildebrand calls "enthusiasm".

It's right that we find God in our work with the poor. The problem is that these folks go overboard and say that you can't find God anywhere else.

I still insist that the answer is to take back the same texts they use and read them authentically in the actual Catholic tradition.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/St Guy Fawkes,

I have been told time and again that I should not sit in the pew and complain. Get up and get involved in the parish. The sappy clappy crowd runs things and gets to make decisions if we don't join in various efforts in our parishes and dioceses.

Our parish has had difficulty in finding enough PSR volunteers. I offered my availability seeing that they were short. Ready to help if asked. Well, I was asked. So now I teach a PSR class at my parish this year. I know that 2 other teachers (volunteer parishioners) are home-schoolers and faithful Catholics. There is hope for these kids.

And, I have read (not for the first time) that our service to the poor, sick, etc., cannot be divorced from our faith. In a bio of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mother was quite clear about the importance of spending time w/Jesus in Adoration. She believed her sisters needed to see and love Jesus as the Eucharist so as to see Him and love Him in the poor and sick that they administer to each day. Similarly, adoration, weekday mass attendance and confession, among other things, are important to my ability to teach the faith to the children.

Take back the Faith!

Anonymous said...

Ummm....who cares?? They're doing good work....just as the people standing and praying at the abortion mills on Saturday mornings and other times throughout the week.
And you call yourselves "Christians"?? Take a chill pill!!

Latinmassgirl said...

Dear Anonymous Aug. 25,

They are doing good work, so who cares? It is just this type of blind naiveness that spurns on the revolutionary evils. This "social justice" touted in the "charity" group seems to be made to spread the evils of something old, but not gone, communism.

May I suggest a very good book written by a famous former American communist spy in who testified against Alger Hiss, "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers. He spells out the playbook of communism, and its great evils which he witnessed.

They always hide their true intentions in outward looking "good intentions" to fool good, but naive people. In fact "charity" work is a skill they practice faithfully.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:51, whatever.

Peggy, go ahead. You will see how entrenched it all is. Remember, there is more to the Church than your diocese. Furthermore, don't you think we tried to do something fifty years ago? I find it insulting that you insinuate we just sat in the pews and complained. Show how little you are aware of what it was like in the trenches for us back then.

Tell you what, you go into your local liberal parish. See how far you get before they show you the door.

StGuyFawkes said...


As you probably know, Mother Theresa's order is called the Missionaries of Charity Sisters, a.k.a. The MCs.

At the MC soup kitchen in North St. Louis the cafeteria opens on double doors to reveal an adoration chapel. The sisters and their volunteers make the food and when the cooking is finished sisters and laypeople alike pray in the chapel. Then we close the doors and let the poor come into the cafeteria for a little bible reading and a homily based on the day's gospel. Then food is served after the whole congregation of guests say meal prayers.

Although the doors to the chapel are closed during the meal, during the food prep time the doors to the adoration chapel are open such that Sisters and laymen are frequently seen genuflecting as they cross the cafeteria to get a mop or straighten chairs.

What is striking is that the adoration chapel and the cafeteria workspace are integrated without being entirely one. When I first started volunteering there I asked my brother if the work was in a soup kitchen or what. He said,

"You know, in a way it's hard to say. Is it a church, is it a cafeteria. It's both."

Prayer saturates the sisters work with the poor as the sisters frequently lead spontaneous sayings of the rosary in the kitchen as onions are being diced and salad is being tossed.

The ladies who dine at the kitchen are reminded that they must dress decently and there is a sign that disallows tank tops or short shorts. Men are not allowed to be underdressed either. The men and women sit at separate tables.

Here's a good story about what the MCs are like.

I brought my son and some prep school boys in to help with the serving. I decided to take some pictures of our young men serving the homeless. I thought it would encourage teens to volunteer if they saw their peers volunteering in the high school news.

I no sooner got the camera up when one of the MC Sisters came up and told me I could not take pictures if the poor were in the camera frame. She said, "If you were this poor you would not want someone photographing you at a soup kitchen, would you? You wouldn't want it done to you so we won't do it to them. These people have pride and you must not hurt their pride."

My point is that you don't have to be a liberal to want justice for the poor. The Call To Action crowd just wants us to think that.

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

St. Guy,

You wrote, "...you don't have to be a liberal to want justice for the poor." Good point.

Let me add, though, that you also don't have to be a conservative to have the love of Christ in your heart. Liberal Christians do many, many good things in the world, out of a true love of Christ, and God loves what they do just as much as what conservative Christians do. I do so wish anyone who is politically liberal and Christian did not get automatically assigned to the "naughty" list (or in this case, the almost-communist list) by conservatives who are Christians. Likewise, those of us who are liberal and Christian should not assume that the majority of people who are conservative and Christian are wannabe Klan members. They're not. Conservative Christians likely have the love of Christ in their hearts just as much as those Christians who are liberal. Each one of us needs to take social justice seriously and put our shoulders into it, principally because in the Gospels Jesus calls out repeatedly for justice for the poor and the marginalized--both on earth and in heaven.

Patrick Kinsale said...

Perhaps this explains why there was a four-page feature in the Review:


Lobbyists are pushing hard to protect CCHD.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:09--

I am not accusing any one of not trying. Of course, many people have been doing so courageously, with or without much luck depending on the case. I am relating an admonishment I was given. I understand there's lots of resistance. I do not expect to change my parish, much less diocese or the Church worldwide. We can only do our part, kinda like St. Therese's Little Way, I suppose.

St Guy Fawkes. Excellent stories. Our justice and service cannot be divorced from our Faith in and Love for Jesus.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Anon 8/26/10 8:36,

You wrote,

"Let me add, though, that you also don't have to be a conservative to have the love of Christ in your heart."

I couldn't agree more. It's not the business of Christianity to be left or right, it's the business of the left and right to be Christian.

To that end both left and right movements have in various degrees and at various times spectacularly failed and spectacularly succeeded in creating a Christian politics.

St. Guy

Rick said...

I think the author as well as many of his supporters are confusing Christianity, i.e., the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ with patriotism, free enterprise, capitalism, democracy, etc. You imply that unless one believes in those things one can not be a true Christian or Catholic. Jesus never promoted any of those things nor said they were "good" or moral or spiritual. The fact is, he practically condemned materialism which is the value system most Americans including Christians and Christian churches have embraced. Remember Mammmon? If any country in the world was truly Christian, it would still not be logical to assume that everything that country stands for must be Christian.