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"Sometimes, people are interested in social justice to cover up the want of individual justice."
~Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
I found this quote, or rather heard it, in one of Sheen's talks entitled: Identity Crisis, originally broadcast in 1966. The full talk may be seen here:
Sheen used this potent line in other contexts as well. A particularly scalding example may be found in a conference he gave for priests of the Diocese of Washington, DC in 1974, where he offers an explanation for why priests fall away from the Faith via the actions of Judas Iscariot. When Judas complained to Our Lord that the perfume poured on him by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Jesus rebuked him [John 12:1-8].
Sheen calls this incident out as Judas putting an emphasis on social justice while forgetting about individual justice. Judas, after all, was the treasurer of the twelve and was guilty of the sin of avarice. Because of his greed, he was about to commit the worst sin ever committed by a man. Our Lord recognized that Judas was using the pretense of concern for the poor as a way to cover up his own personal sins.
A more contemporary example then followed, in Sheen's own words:
A bishop, one day came to me with a letter written by a priest in his office. It was two or three pages long, single space. A very vicious attack on the bishop because he had no interest in ecumenism; particularly because he had no concern for the poor. Well, I knew that the bishop did have concern for the poor, ecumenism as well. And I said to him.The entire lecture on Judas may be found here.
“Why don’t you find out how much he stole?”
Actually he stole over $25,000.00 from the chancery and then stole a wife who was a mother of four children. It was the story of Judas lived all over again.
Without putting too fine a point on it, I think Sheen's observation here explains very clearly why we see so many celebrities who live lives of open rebellion against Christian morality, and yet deign to lecture society on topics related to social justice. The amazing thing is that anybody listens to them.
For any of us who dare to spread the Gospel in a public place, it is well to remember that we ought not to use our concern for social justice to mask those areas of our personal lives where we fall short. It is better to make amends for our personal sins, rectify our irregular situations, and refrain from enabling or promoting immoral situations in others before becoming social justice warriors, lest we be accurately accused of hypocrisy.