Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dossier: National Justice and Peace Network

The National Justice and Peace Network was founded in 1978. It has a presence in most dioceses, campaigning on the usual 'justice and peace' themes and acting as an umbrella organisation for like-minded Catholic groups. It is highly integrated into the institutional church, though naturally its leaders would always like more prominence and more money. Looking at diocesan websites it is hard to see whether the diocesan 'Justice and Peace' set-up is a department of the diocesan bureaucracy or a branch of NJPN.

The Tablet recently (7/02/09) ran a story about NJPN which took its start from a significant cut in funding from CAFOD. Although very sympathetic to the cause, The Tablet was unable to point to any achievements of the NJPN, and painted a picture of a skeleton staff presiding over a moribund organisation, incapable of attracting younger activists. The cut in funding (CAFOD was paying half the salaries of the Administrator and the Webmaster, but will no longer do so) places a question mark over the entire organisation.
Most of the network of 'justice and peace' activism which has so successfully colonised the church's bureaucracy is dying. The attitudes which characterise it are variations on the painfully outdated 1970s-era notion that the Church must concern herself exclusively with mundane, rather than spiritual matters, and that in doing so she should consult, not her own traditions, but the ideas of modern sociology and left-wing politics, regardless of how hostile to Christianity those ideas might be. Attempts to warm this over with Political Correctness (1980s era) and concern for the environment (1990s era) do not succeed in creating a more palatable offering. Nowhere is there more than lip service either to the Church's spiritual goals or the Church's insights into the problems of material poverty and justice. This is an organisation which is feeding off the good will of Catholics, and the resources of the Church, for a set of goals to which the Church's teaching is simply irrelevant.

In common with its member organisations and other 'justice and peace' and Christian environmentalist groups a key indication of NJPN's problem is its total failure to recognise abortion and the breakdown of the family as issues which come within its remit. This is particularly bizarre since homelessness is a big issue for the NJPN: it is not prepared to look the most obvious cause of homelessness, family breakdown, in the face. And yet abortion and the family are issue upon which the Church actually has something to say which is not being said by the secular liberal establishment.

On the contrary, when abortion and the family are tackled in a way which go against Church teaching, by parts of this secular establishment, NJPN is at pains not to draw attention to it. In fact, when forced by events to say something about Amnesty International's decision to campaign for abortion (pdf), the NJPN suggests that remaining in the organisation is better than leaving it, a position directly contradicting statements on both from the Vatican and to concerned English bishops (notably Archbishop Smith of Cardiff, who had been a long-term supporter of AI). A link to AI remains on the NJPN website.

Another example is NJPN's promotion of the United Nations 'World Population Day' (in the Summer 2004 Newsletter's Diary). World Population Day is all about promoting contraception ('improving reproductive health services and family planning'): see the UN's site.

The organisations and campaigns NJPN supports include Pax Christi, Progressio, CAFOD, and livesimply, each of which dissents from the Church's teaching and on each of which we have a dossier. They also have web links to Christian Aid (a non-Catholic pro-abortion development agency: see SPUC's charity bulletin); Christian Ecology Link (an interdenomenational group on which we have a dossier), and the National Board of Catholic Women (which is dominated by the militant feminists of Women Word Spirit).

The only Catholic newspaper it links to is The Tablet. And that, in a way, says it all.

There is no need to spend more time on this organisation: it does little and has little to say for itself, but promotes the ideas of a liberal establishment which is fundamentally hostile to the Church and to human life.

Don't let them waste your time; don't let them waste your money; don't let them use your parish or school to propagate their worn-out rubbish.


Anonymous said...

Fair enough but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Just because some within these particular groups have sadly included false teachings on abortion and homosexuality does not invalidate the entire Catholic justice and peace movement.

Even mainstream Catholics who are committed to the more important struggle against the endless attacks on family values and morals still have an obligation to follow the Church's teachings with regards to the victims of injustice, war and poverty.

Justice and Peace still remains a very important Charism and it is wrong to elivate one Charism above another.

For example, does a special devotion to a particular liturgy somehow trump a special devotion to peace?

Surely we all want to see peace and an end to hunger and oppression? Surely it is our duty as Catholics to work towards the Kingdom of God? I cannot understand why such groups are unable remain committed to the core teachings of the Church while still carrying out their particular ministry?

However, if these groups have failed (and it seems that way) then how do we renew the Church's clear devotion to the poor and peace?

In the end we will be judge not on which dead language we chose to hear Mass in but how often we helped Christ during his suffering everytime he appeared to us in our lives?

The unborn, the dying, the victims of war, the hungry, the family...All can be served by Mother Church's consistant life ethic.

I suspect that many of those within the Church who oppose Social Justice are perhaps quite wealthy and reluctant to deal with the fact that they may be living a life of sin and indulgence by refusing simplicty?

Although I could be wrong and the predominatly middle class staff at the Tablet don't seem to be short of a few quid either?

Warmest Regards

Hercules said...

By all means set up an orthodox alternative to these and we'll support it!

For a century Catholics concerned about social justice have tended to be blown off course by left wing politics. It's a problem; it deserves to be addressed. But it's hard to get a hearing for a new approach when this old one is still so dominant.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen