Stockton, Calif., Feb 22, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA).- If President Donald Trump is the candidate of “disruption,” similar disruption is needed to build a better society, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego told a gathering of faith-based groups co-sponsored by the Vatican. “Well now, we must all become disruptors,” the bishop said Feb. 18 at the U.S. regional gathering for the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which aims to promote structural changes for greater justice in racial, social, and economic areas.
“We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God.”
“We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor,” he continued. “We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”
At the same time, the bishop told the multi-religious audience of the need for constructive action: “as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as children of Abraham, as followers of the Prophet Muhammad, of people of all faiths and no faith, we cannot merely be disruptors, we also have to be rebuilders.”
The Feb. 16-19 conference was held in Modesto, about 30 miles southeast of Stockton. It was organized with the support of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the PICO National Network. The PICO network is composed of faith-based community organizations. It claims 1,000 member institutions representing over 1 million families in 17 U.S. states. The network’s Latin American branch has been supported for a decade by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, who now coordinates the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis. The cardinal addressed a launch event PICO’s “Year of Encounter with Pope Francis” campaign in early 2015.
The Pope himself sent a message to the California meeting that praised the gathering’s “constructive energies” and criticized the brutality of an economic system “that has the god of money at its center.” He encouraged their efforts “to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants.”
For Bishop McElroy, the meeting was an opportunity to call to rebuild the country. “Let us disrupt and rebuild. And let us do God’s work,” he said, advocating the advancement of human dignity and equality. “We must rebuild a nation in solidarity, what Catholic teaching calls the sense that all of us are the children of the one God,” he said, calling for a $15 minimum wage, decent housing, food for the poorest, and attention to environmental issues in the face of industrial threats.
“We must identify the ways in which our very ability to see, judge and act on behalf of justice is being endangered by cultural currents which leave us isolated, embittered and angry.”
Citing Benedict XVI, he said that truth itself is “under attack” and “whole industries have arisen to shape public opinion in destructively isolated and dishonest patterns.” He said social issues like jobs, housing, immigration, economic disparities and the environment must be made “foundations for common efforts rather than of division.”
Bishop McElroy flatly criticized free market ideology as a rival to human dignity. “The fundamental political question of our age is whether our economic structures and systems in the United States will enjoy ever greater freedom or whether they will be located effectively within a juridical structure which seeks to safeguard the dignity of the human person and the common good of our nation,” he said. “In that battle, the tradition of Catholic social teaching is unequivocally on the side of strong governmental and societal protections for the powerless, the worker, the homeless, the hungry, those without decent medical care, the unemployed.”
He placed property and wealth in the context of Catholic teaching that sees creation as God’s gift to all humanity. “Wealth is a common heritage, not at its core a right of lineage or acquisition,” he said. “For this reason, free markets do not constitute a first principle of economic justice. Their moral worth is instrumental in nature and must be structured by government to accomplish the common good.”
The bishop stressed the “intrinsic human rights” to medical care, decent housing, protection of human life, food, and work. These rights are not merely negotiating points to discuss after the free market system has distributed wealth, he said. “Rather, these rights are basic claims which every man, woman and family has upon our nation as a whole,” he said, warning that these rights are being denied to large numbers of people.
Bishop McElroy cited Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium and its description of an economy that excludes some people from meaningful participation in social, political, and economic life. The bishop said that statements like “this economy kills” are not simply exaggerations. He suggested many people have known someone the economy has killed: a senior citizen who can’t afford medicine or rent; a mother or father who is working two or three jobs and is “really dying because even then they can’t provide for their kids;” and young people who turn to drugs, gangs, or suicide because they cannot find a job.
“Now mourn them,” he said. “And now call out their name; let all the world know that this economy kills.”
At other times, Bishop McElroy has been outspoken against the proposed removal of a statue of St. Junípero Serra from the U.S. Capitol, and against a California law barring health plans that restrict abortion coverage. He urged in 2015 an overhaul of the US bishops' voting guide to reflect how Pope Francis has “radically transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements.” And following the release of Amoris laetitia, he suggested that the divorced-and-remarried may make a “discernment of conscience” that “God is calling them to return to full participation in the life of the Church and the Eucharist.”
In addition to Bishop McElroy, other scheduled speakers at the Modesto conference included Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton; Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark; Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux; Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles; and Bishop Oscar Cant√∫ of Las Cruces.
One co-sponsor of the event, PICO Network, came to public attention in August 2016 when a cache of documents attributed to billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundations were hacked and posted to the site DCLeaks.com. The documents said the foundations committed $650,000 in funds for PICO Network and Faith in Public Life in 2015 to use Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. to influence the 2016 elections and cultivate influence within the Catholic Church. It claimed the grantees were involved in “the long-term project of shifting the priorities of the U.S. Catholic Church to focus on issues of injustice and oppression” and claimed that some U.S. bishops sought to curb Pope Francis’ influence on social justice issues.
The documents are not always accurate and erroneously indicated the World Meeting of Popular Movements would take place in 2016, rather than 2017. The same cache of documents indicated that the Soros network funds abortion advocates in Ireland as part of a strategic model to overturn abortion restrictions in Catholic countries. The Soros foundations also took part in a multi-million dollar effort to respond to videos appearing to show the politically powerful abortion provider Planned Parenthood was involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue and body parts from aborted babies.
According to the documents, the Soros foundations gave $450,000 to the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good from 2006-2010, crediting the group for changing Catholic voters’ priorities on abortion. Emails to and from leading Democratic Party strategist John Podesta, published on WikiLeaks, claimed that Catholics in Alliance was a group founded with the intent of creating a “Catholic Spring” revolution against the U.S. bishops. Christopher Hale, who became Catholics in Alliance’s executive director in late 2013, told CNA in October 2016 that the group was not concerned with the internal politics of the Catholic Church. The group has become more critical of abortion groups in recent years.