Wenski: Catholics working for justice is not ideology but the gospel

This article appears in the CSMG 2015 feature series. View the full series.

Washington, D.C. — The gospel story of Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Peter gives direction to Catholics involved in Catholic social ministries has a particular message for Catholics engaged in social ministry and advocacy, Miami’s archbishop said Saturday night.

As soon as the woman was healed, she got up and began to serve, said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, preaching at the opening Mass for the 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering Feb. 7.

The message, he said, is that Jesus does not heal just for private gains and advantage. Jesus heals us so that we can be of service to our brothers and sisters, Wenski said.

The annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is organized by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development in collaboration with four other USCCB departments and 16 national Catholic organizations. About 500 participants have joined the assembly from diocesan offices for peace and justice, human rights, pro-life, and Catholic Charities around the country. Wenski chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

NCR will be live tweeting some of the event, which runs until Tuesday. Follow the action @togoforth and #togogforth.

Following are selected quotes from Wenski’s sermon:

"As Catholics, we must be continue to be involved the issues of world hunger, human rights, peace building and justice promotion," Wenski said. "This social ministry is not opposed to the ultimate spiritual and transcendent destiny of the human person. It presupposes this destiny, and is ultimately oriented toward that end."

"This Earth is our only highway to heaven," he said. "And we have to maintain it. As Catholics we are concerned about ecology, both natural ecology but also human ecology. In other words, we have to make sure that to the best of our abilities this highway of life is cleared of the obstacles that sin, both personal and structural, has placed in the path of those traveling on it."

Remarking on biblical figure Job, who’s friends “blamed him for his miseries,” Wenski said that, “today, in a world of increasing inequality, as Catholics we must struggle against what Pope Francis has termed 'the globalization of indifference,' and we must struggle against that tendency within American society, which we see especially today in the debate over immigration reform, to blame the victim!”

"To Catholics, spirituality must be more than an exercise of naval gazing, or what Pope Francis would call 'being self-referential,'" Wenski said. The Catholic concept of the option for the poor, “leads us to engagement in the public square,” he said, “where as faithful citizens we claim our rightful place. For while faith is personal, we can never allow it to be reduced by anyone to be just private.”

“As Catholics, we must oppose those policies born of a defective anthropology," the archbishops said, adding, "defective anthropologies that give us legal abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage.”

"The reality of Catholics working for peace and justice in the world," he said, “is not born of some ideology or political platform. Rather it is born of a person: Jesus Christ.”

The Multicultural Choir of St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Maryland, led the music for the liturgy, singing in half a dozen langues, including English, Spanish, French and Swahili. They led the assembly in Latin plain chant accentuated with an African-style drum used as a back beat.

[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is vrotondaro@ncronline.org. Dennis Coday, NCR editor contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter @dcoday.]


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