The Dispatch

Archbishop Gomez addresses rise of ‘wokeness’, social movements in US

November 4, 2021 Catholic News Agency 31
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles speaks at the USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Nov 4, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

On Thursday, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles discussed the rise of new secular ideologies and movements for social change in the United States during a virtual address to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid. 

He asserted that it is “important for the Church to understand and engage these new movements—not on social or political terms, but as dangerous substitutes for true religion.” 

“Today’s critical theories and ideologies are profoundly atheistic,” Gomez said Nov. 4. “They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think that it is irrelevant to human happiness.”

Gomez’ thesis, he said, is that the new social movements that exist in the U.S., such as “social justice,” “wokeness,” “identity politics,” “intersectionality,” or “successor ideology,” should be understood as “pseudo-religions, and even replacements and rivals to traditional Christian beliefs,” and can result in tribalism. 

“They reduce what it means to be human to essentially physical qualities—the color of our skin, our sex, our notions of gender, our ethnic background, or our position in society,” he said during the address.

“With the breakdown of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the rise of secularism, political belief systems based on social justice or personal identity have come to fill the space that Christian belief and practice once occupied,” Gomez said. 

Gomez approximated today’s social movements to that of Marxism and noted that they resemble other heresies found in Church history. 

“Like the Gnostics, they reject creation and the body,” Gomez said. “They seem to believe that human beings can become whatever we decide to make of ourselves.”

“These movements are also Pelagian, believing that redemption can be accomplished through our own human efforts, without God,” he said.

Gomez criticized groups of people involved in social movements for prioritizing a “global civilization, built on a consumer economy and guided by science, technology, humanitarian values, and technocratic ideas about organizing society,” and that they have “no need for old-fashioned belief systems and religions.” 

Gomez also noted a “shrinking space” that Christians, Church institutions, and Christian businesses are allowed to occupy with the social changes at work.

“We recognize that often what is being canceled and corrected are perspectives rooted in Christian beliefs — about human life and the human person, about marriage, the family, and more,” he said in the address. 

His message, which was delivered in three parts, discussed the global movement of secularization and de-Christianization, and the impact of the pandemic; a spiritual interpretation of the social justice and political identity movements in the U.S.; and evangelical priorities for the Church.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Gomez said, accelerated the pace at which social issues are being addressed, but it was not the pandemic that caused these movements. He referenced the murder of George Floyd as a tragedy that “became a stark reminder that racial and economic inequality are still deeply embedded in our society.”

“The new social movements and ideologies that we are talking about today, were being seeded and prepared for many years in our universities and cultural institutions,” he said. “But with the tension and fear caused by the pandemic and social isolation, and with the killing of an unarmed black man by a white policeman and the protests that followed in our cities, these movements were fully unleashed in our society.” 

Gomez said that, while there are unique conditions in the United States, “similar broad patterns of aggressive secularization” can be seen in Europe. He called those who are active in such movements “an elite leadership class” that “has little interest in religion and no real attachments to the nations they live in or to local traditions or cultures.” 

He suggested that social movements offer an explanation for events that occur in the world, along with a sense of meaning or purpose—space previously occupied by the Christian worldview. 

“Like Christianity, these new movements tell their own ‘story of salvation,’” Gomez said. 

Gomez presented the Christian story of salvation in contrast to what he called the “woke story,” which “draws its strength from the simplicity of its explanations—the world is divided into innocents and victims, allies and adversaries,” he said. 

“Clearly, this is a powerful and attractive narrative for millions of people in American society and in societies across the West,” Gomez said. “In fact, many of America’s leading corporations, universities, and even public schools are actively promoting and teaching this vision.”

Gomez said that people who buy into these social movements are often motivated by noble intentions and “want to change conditions in society that deny men and women their rights and opportunities for a good life.” 

“We all want to build a society that provides equality, freedom, and dignity for every person,” Gomez said. “But we can only build a just society on the foundation of the truth about God and human nature.”

To address the social movements, Gomez said, the Church needs to “proclaim Jesus Christ. Boldly, creatively.” 

“We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity,” he said. “The Gospel remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen.” 

Gomez said that the Church has “been ‘antiracist’ from the beginning,” but has “not always lived up to our beautiful principles, or carried out the mission entrusted to us by Christ.”

“The world does not need a new secular religion to replace Christianity,” Gomez said. “It needs you and me to be better witnesses. Better Christians. Let us begin by forgiving, loving, sacrificing for others, putting away spiritual poisons like resentment and envy.”

Gomez said he draws inspiration from the lives of U.S. figures such as Dorothy Day and Venerable Augustus Tolton. 

“Father Tolton once said, ‘The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery — that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavors to free us of both,’ Gomez said. “Today, we need this confidence in the power of the Gospel.”

He concluded his address by recognizing an “authentic religious awakening,” in the United States and asked for the continued intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.


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Synod on Synodality a learning opportunity for Catholic Church, Archbishop Gomez says

October 20, 2021 Catholic News Agency 2
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles at the USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 11, 2019. / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Oct 20, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The upcoming gatherings of Catholics for a synodal process are important opportunities for outreach, support, and communication, according to Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“The Holy Father has called for the local churches to hold inclusive consultations with the People of God as part of the synod,” Gomez said Oct. 20. “We face a challenge after over a year of being physically distanced within our communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This synod is an opportunity to meet the immense and important request of the Holy Father to engage in dialogue to better understand our call to holiness and feel the responsibility to participate in the life of the Church.”

A synod is a meeting of bishops that aims to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

“Outreach, communication, support, and encouragement are vital in order to be missionary disciples,” Gomez continued. “As is with the nature of the synod, I hope we will learn as we ‘journey together,’ and I pray that the process will enrich and guide the future path of both the local Church as well as the universal Church over the course of the next two years, and beyond.”

The Synod on Synodality, opened by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their dioceses.

Synodality is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving clerics, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

Father Michael Fuller, interim general secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading efforts to share synod-related information with U.S. bishops, the bishops’ conference said.

The U.S. bishops’ conference’s diocesan liaison is Richard Coll, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

“I welcome the opportunity to be a resource to the diocesan representatives as they engage with their local faithful in this most important phase of the synod,” Coll said.

The bishops’ conference is providing tools and tips for local diocesan synod efforts, as well as sharing the preparatory documents prepared in Rome by the Synod of Bishops.

The U.S. bishops’ conference website will provide highlights from the local-level synod and aim to incorporate synodal experiences into its resources.

The opening phase of the global synod process is a diocesan phase expected to last until April 2022. The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents.

In Sept. 18 remarks, Pope Francis said the synod is “not about gathering opinions, no … it is about listening to the Holy Spirit.” At an Oct. 10 Mass, the pope stressed the importance of using the synod to encounter God and one another. He said he hoped the acts of encountering, listening, and discerning would characterize the synodal path.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

The Vatican documents ask a “fundamental question” for dioceses and bishops to consider: “A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”

A second, continental-level phase of the synod will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The third, universal phase will begin with the Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.


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News Briefs

Local artists add beauty to Los Angeles exhibit ‘250 Years of Mission’ to celebrate Jubilee Year

September 20, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Lalo Garcia’s painting of Saint Junípero Serra is featured in the ‘250 Years of Mission’ exhibit. / Lalo Garcia.

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 20, 2021 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

On September 11, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a Jubilee Year, Forward in Mission, to mark 250 years since the opening of the region’s first church, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, founded in 1771 by Saint Junípero Serra. An exhibit titled 250 Years of Mission will be on display at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels through Sept. 10, 2022, to tell the story of the Catholic faith in the region.   

“The Church has left such an indelible mark on our culture here from street names, the city names, and everything in between, to our radical charity in the community,” said Father Parker Sandoval, Vice Chancellor for Ministerial Services for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “We thought it was very important to put forward to everyone for free, in an accessible space, a display of beauty and an opportunity to learn the richness of our history.” 

Local artists Aurelio G. D. Mendoza, Lalo Garcia, and John Nava are featured in the exhibit, which spans four galleries inside the cathedral. The galleries include historical documents and artifacts; colonial art from Spain and Mexico; Native American religious art; and the contributions of Mendoza, Garcia, and Nava. 

“Historically, here in Southern California, the missions are extremely important, not only as a tourist attraction, but as the seed of Catholicism,” said Garcia, whose oil painting of Saint Junípero Serra is in the exhibit. “I hope that you get a feel of Southern California, who we are, the buildings that we have here in the Camino Real, feel proud of the heritage as Californianos, and see the good things that he [St. Junípero Serra] did.” 

Garcia’s painting, which was commissioned by Archbishop José Gomez in honor of the canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015, measures 30-by-40-inches and has a halo made of 24-karat gold leaf. He hopes his works become an “instrument for historians, priests, seminarians, teachers, anybody who acquires the piece, so that they can actually talk about it,” he said.

“I spend a lot of time reading, meditating, and thinking about the piece that I am going to create,” said Garcia, who came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13 years old. “It gives me more responsibility to create this type of art when I have seen people praying in front of an image that I have painted. I want the piece to be worthy of the space it’s going to take.” 

Two large oil paintings by Aurelio G. D. Mendoza (1901-1996) are also included in the exhibit. The two pieces are part of a trilogy called El Camino Real, which aim to depict both conversion of the Indigenous people and the construction of missions in California. In the first piece, which measures six-feet tall by five-feet wide, Mendoza painted Saint Junípero Serra pointing ahead, “signaling the way to follow,” said his granddaughter Lucy Mendoza. 

Mendoza’s second painting in the exhibit, titled Mision San Diego de Alcala, is five feet tall by eight-and-a-half feet wide. It shows Saint Junípero Serra with Father Sanchez, the architect of the San Diego mission, among both the Indigenous people and the Spanish soldiers.

“He took great care in making sure the Indigenous were portrayed with such beauty and grace,” said Lucy Mendoza.

Both pieces were completed in approximately 1976, when Mendoza was 75 years old. 

“You want people to feel a sense of pride in the history of California—and I know there’s been some pain, there’s been some controversy—but I also feel that there’s so much good also,” said Lucy Mendoza. “My abuelito always said that so much can be learned through art.” 

The scale of Mendoza’s pieces, Father Sandoval said, are in themselves impactful. 

“They’re huge, they literally fill walls, and the images just pop,” he said. “Then, knowing that these were painted by people who have a devotion to the saints they are depicting makes them particularly beautiful.”

John Nava, the third local artist included in the exhibit, wove the tapestry for the Mass of Canonization of Saint Junípero Serra in 2015 in Washington, D.C.. Nava’s tapestry is on display in the same chapel as the other artists’ works. 

“It’s not simply that they’re great artists, but fundamentally they’re people of faith,” said Father Sandoval. “That really comes through in the artwork.”

In addition to the local artists, 250 Years of Mission includes religious objects and art from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, which fell victim to arson in July 2020, as well as materials from the archdiocesan archives. 

The exhibit aims to be both educational and beautiful, said Father Sandoval. 

“We live in a time where we are bombarded by bad news and ugliness on the newsfeed, on the front page, and on the screen,” said Father Sandoval. “That’s why we thought it was really important to accent the beauty of our faith and the history of the church and our mission here.” 

The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Since the galleries line the sides of the cathedral, the exhibit is open anytime the cathedral is open to the public. 

“We hope that people not only enjoy the beauty and learn the history, but, above all, feel inspired to build on the legacy of faith that started here 250 years ago,” said Father Sandoval. “This is a summons to revival, to renewal, to refocus on what matters most, which is putting people in contact with Jesus.” 

“We hope we can bring as many people—especially young people—as possible to visit and feel moved to move into mission,” he said. 


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