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Pope John Paul II’s New America: Ecclesia in America: Fr. Neuhaus should withdraw his Book

Fr. Richard Neuhaus, a proponent of neoconservative economics (known as neoliberalism in Latin America and most of the rest of the world), has written a book that can only be considered a counter document to that of Pope John Paul II and the Bishops of America which was presented as the closing statement, the Apostolic Exhortation, of the Synod of America late in January. The view of the Synod presented in Fr. Neuhaus’ book, which he rushed to press before the official response, presents a view shockingly different from that of the Holy Father.

Now we have two documents, the Holy Father’s Ecclesia in America, and Fr. Neuhaus’ book, Appointment in Rome. Take your choice: they are very different.

Long Awaited Document

Many months had passed since the Synod of America in Rome and many awaited the publication of its outcome with great hope. Pope John Paul II had called the Synod to address, “as part of the New Evangelization and as an expression of episcopal communion,” the “issues of justice and of international economic relations, in view of the enormous gap between North and South” (No. 2).

This was a very special synod, one that would seek to bring unity throughout the various countries of America. What would the document say?

We at Casa Juan Diego, the Houston Catholic Worker, were very interested in the report. Each day we receive desperate immigrants from the countries to the South. Each day we hear stories from very poor people who worked in plants in Latin America which belong to companies in the United States or other wealthy countries. They cannot pay the rent, feed their children, and send them to school. Or they may have had a small business which was forced to close because of “free trade” policies favoring huge international companies. Or they worked in comercio ambulante, selling things in the street, and their customers no longer had any money to buy their products.

We hoped the Bishops of America (North and South) in the Church of Matthew 25 and John 6 would be sympathetic.

Ecclesia in America, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father John Paul II: Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, goes beyond our wildest expectations. The heart of the document is similar to the thought and writings of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, which were given theological expression by Fr. John Hugo. The unity of Catholic faith and life, the radical following of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching espoused by Dorothy and Peter is expressed here in this official Church document and applied to the reality of America today.

Ecclesia in America is about radical discipleship as the fruit of a “fresh, authentic,” encounter with Christ, leading to conversion, communion and solidarity with the outcast, the poor, the marginalized, the weakest in society, including the unborn. In the document the Holy Father emphasizes four places where we encounter Christ: 1) through Mary, and for America, especially our Lady of Guadalupe, 2) in Sacred Scripture read in the light of Tradition, the Fathers of the Church and the Magisterium and more deeply understood through meditation and prayer, 3) in the Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments of the Church 4) in the persons, especially the poor, “in whom Christ is mysteriously present” (Matthew 25). (No. 12).

We were delighted to see in Ecclesia in America the insistence that Catholics live out their faith day by day, giving up all to follow Jesus, changing unjust structures, living lives very different from those marked by the consumerism and comfort-seeking so prevalent today as an integral part of our culture, trying to build a civilization of love in which the incredible dignity of every human person is respected.

Then we saw Fr. Neuhaus’ comments in interviews and his book, Appointment in Rome, published by Crossroad. We could not believe he was speaking of the same Synod.

Who is Fr. Neuhaus?

The Catholics of the United States were very proud when Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent Lutheran pastor, became a Roman Catholic and shortly thereafter became a priest for the Archdiocese of New York.

Fr. N. (Neuhaus) ranks with the great U.S. Catholic converts, Isaac Hecker, Orestes Bronson and Clare Booth Luce of Time magazine Luce. He is a brilliant writer and speaker and within a short time after ordination became a spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic Church. He emerged as a very powerful figure with friends in high places, which has lifelong Catholics standing in awe and admiration, or possibly, at times, envy.


Fr. N. launched a new magazine called First Things shortly after he joined the Church.

Circulation of this magazine grew very rapidly. We were so proud when a Jewish friend of ours was bragging about his wife who wrote for the magazine. We had only known a few famous people, like Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward.

It was in reading this successful magazine that we began to see cracks in the façade of this very reputable convert. We did not fault Fr. N. too much, because we knew he was a convert and Catholicism takes time to integrate.

We noticed that in his anxiety to focus on First Things as a Catholic, he neglected to focus on the Last Things, especially the famous Judgement Day scene where Jesus tells us that what we are going to be judged on at our death is the way we respond to his presence in the poor: “What you did to the least of my brethren, you did to me” (Matthew 25:31 ff.)

We, of course, always agreed with Fr. N. that socialism and Communism were not the answers to the world’s problems. However, we knew from the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church that the poor, the marginated, the outcast, as Pope John Paul II has stated so often, must not be neglected

Stark Differences in Two Publications.

The idea of Matthew 25, Jesus in the poor, solidarity with those most in need, is one of the major themes of the Synod report, Ecclesia in America. It does not appear at all in Fr. Neuhaus’ book, Appointment in Rome.

To have missed such a major theme from a Synod is quite surprising. It is an indication, in fact, that Fr. N. missed a lot at the Synod. One prominent Cardinal, upon reading the book, wondered if he was at the same Synod.

At first glance it would appear to be his Protestant background that led Fr. N. to subtitle his book “The Church in America Awakening.” This phrase brings to mind immediately the “Great Awakening,” the fundamentalist revival movement of the nineteenth century in the United States-and exactly this is held up as a model for the Catholic Church in Fr. N’s book.

While it is well known that he would fall into the theological group known as Americanists, it was still a shock to discover that in seeking an historical reference for what the Synod might hope to accomplish in a spiritual awakening, Fr. N.’s first image is not even that of the fundamentalist evangelicalism which he celebrates throughout the book, but that of the American Revolution.

In contrast to Fr. N.’s revolution against the British, Ecclesia in America presents as examples the saints and martyrs of the many countries of America and asks that a book be prepared of those inspired lives.


One of the bitter fruits of the Reformation was a separation of faith and life, of faith and economics, which gave birth to the Adam Smiths and laissez-faire capitalism and promoted a deism which placed God outside of everyday life.

Perhaps because of his background, Fr. N. has attached himself to the thought of John Courtney Murray, S.J., who, with the best of intentions, exacerbated the dualism between faith and everyday life, faith and economics, faith and education, faith and culture which has plagued Christianity since the reformation.

This theological dualism, in an attempt to relieve the tension between faith and life in a pluralistic society, actually separates them, enshrining the so-called neutrality of the state, privatizing faith and thus inhibiting any attempt to build the “civilization of love” so persistently called for by the last two Popes.

Beginning with the American Revolution and speaking of freedom as defined by the U.S. Constitution, Fr. N. emphasizes throughout his book “freedom from” coercion and “freedom for” the creativity of capitalism. He quotes Murray several times in the book regarding pluralism as being written into the script of history, but entirely misses the great theme of the Synod about evangelizing the secularized sectors of society, the culture, politics, professions, the economy (Nos. 10, 44, 67).

While Fr. N. nods to “transforming the culture,” he ridicules Latin American Bishops who ask that the economy be evangelized.

Fr. N. speaks a lot about freedom and responsibility in his book, but endorses an economic system where the vast majority, especially in Latin America, are not free at all. Factories of U. S. companies in Latin America pay slave wages and people work under terrible conditions. Governments of wealthy nations enshrine more laws each day to the detriment of workers, in the name of “free” trade and the global economy through institutions such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund.

Interestingly enough, economics touted as the “free” market and “free” trade is not free, but tightly controlled by governments and international institutions. Goods of all kinds cross borders, middle class people cross borders, and companies cross borders to take advantage of slave labor while the workers who produce the goods are closed in behind barbed wire, unable to cross.

Fr. N. recommends the U.S. economic system as one of fairness and freedom to the Bishops, without admitting that the School of the Americas, where so many Latin American soldiers were trained to torture and kill their people, is an integral part of that system. He does not mention that these soldiers are used to undercut labor organizing and workers’ rights in the countries to the south.

He does not raise the question of how Catholics who receive large stock bonuses off the backs of those who work for slave wages can continue to receive the Eucharist. This is dualism of the first water.

The dualisms that separate life and economics from faith which, perhaps unwittingly, appear in Fr. N.’s book, are firmly rejected in Ecclesia in America.

John Paul II states strongly that “There is no authentic and stable democracy without social justice.”

Cotton Mather placed on same level as Juan Diego

Fr. N. might have chosen Juan Diego as saint and prophet for us to emulate for the one America. The Holy Father did so when he presented Ecclesia in America and proclaimed December 12 a great feast in all America, reminding us that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Queen and Patroness of all America, the Star of the New Evangelization, “her mestiza face the perfect inculturation of the Gospel” (No.11, No.70).

Instead, Fr. N. described the Synod as a meeting, a dialogue between Cotton Mather and Juan Diego, apparently placing them on the same level (p. 16). Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister in Boston who helped inspire the Salem witch trials, died in 1728. Ultimately, the book comes down on the side of Cotton Mather, with an insistence that Catholics must adapt to his values in economics and evangelization.

Fr. Neuhaus as Calvinist

Fr. N. cannot be faulted too much for his neglect of Matthew 25 and the Beatitudes. He was raised and was active for most of his adult life in the American Protestant milieu where Matthew 25 does not dominate as a Gospel value, but Calvinism does.

According to Cardinal George of Chicago, many Catholics are also influenced by Calvinism. Some are Catholic Calvinists-even some who come from families where Catholicism has been practiced for generations.

This religious thinking says that if you work hard, God will reward you materially. Better yet, material success is a sign of God’s blessing.

Fr. N. apparently believes that Calvinism is the answer for Latin American countries. Amazingly, he suggests that their economic problems might be blamed on the Latin American Catholic Church because of its lack of Calvinism. He recommends to the Church that it cultivate the Protestant ethic described by Max Weber: “What the Catholic Church can do to cultivate attitudes and practices supportive of economic enterprise is immense. Many years ago, Max Weber wrote about the connections between capitalism and ‘the Protestant ethic,’ and observers today note that Protestant missionary activity in Latin America is typically accompanied by a dramatic increase in economic enterprise” (Appointment in Rome, p. 84).

This Calvinistic thinking permeates our culture, in places where we may not even be aware of it.

One of the most popular books of our children’s literature in the United States is a perfect example. The Little Engine that Could inculcates the idea that if you work hard and think hard you can overcome any obstacle. When Louise worked at the Houston Public Library as a specialist in Spanish-language children’s literature, she was pestered by a CEO who insisted on having a comparable story from the folklore of Latin America or an original story in Spanish with this theme. He wanted to use it to teach Mexican American employees of the greatness of the work ethic. Louise could not convince him that it did not exist in children’s literature in Spanish.

Hispanic literature is not Calvinistic.

Calvinism has worked for CEO’s, including Catholic CEO’s, many of whom receive millions of dollars in pay (a hundred fold) but it does not work for most Hispanics and others from Third World countries. Take Maria Elena, for example.

Maria Elena, age 15, tried the CEO’s Calvinism and capitalism where she worked sewing shirts for the GAP company in El Salvador. She wanted desperately to rise out of poverty and have a better life for her family. She worked hard, always over 60 hours a week, thought hard and even prayed hard, like the popular American children’s story, The Little Engine that Could. In this children’s book a little engine couldn’t make it over a sharp incline, but kept thinking positively and repeating, “I think I can,” “I think I can..,” and finally made it.

Maria Elena tried and tried to make it, never missing work, always arriving on time, always obeying her supervisor and only going to the bathroom once in the morning and once in the afternoon (she practiced pure Calvinism), but the company would not pay her enough to live on. Her family lived on the margin of human existence.

She felt especially bad that the GAP company sold the shirt she made for $25.00, whereas she was paid $0.16 to make it.

So many Maria Elenas have come to Casa Juan Diego in the hope of earning a few dollars to send home so that their families can actually eat and go to school.

Calvinism is deeply ingrained in the American dream. Being a new Catholic, Fr. N. may not be familiar with the list of sins that cry to heaven for vengeance, one of which is “depriving a person of his wages.” Because Americans believe that everyone can practice Calvinism, slave wages outrage no one, not even a priest.

Michael Novak, whose work is cited in the book as a key to making Catholicism compatible with U. S.-style capitalism, has stated that it is sinful for those who work for slave wages to complain about this disparity in salaries, since the sin of envy was condemned in the book of Deuteronomy.

Another well-respected priest, Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J., defends slave wages as being better than no wages. He may not understand that neoconservative “free trade” policies have squeezed out so many small businesses that it may be true that there are no other jobs.

Fr. N. and Encyclicals

We thought we saw shades of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in Fr. N. when we first ran across him, because of his custom of quoting encyclicals.

However, we observed that for years he quoted only one encyclical (Centesimus Annus), and then very limited parts of it, in order to speak in favor of neoliberal/neoconservative economics. Fr. N. dedicates several pages in this book to his interpretation of Centesimus Annus (C.A. is referenced 11 times in the index) and has made frequent references to it in his interviews about the Synod, chastising the Bishops for not emphasizing it there.

Contradicts Pope

Catholic neoconservatives claim, on the one hand, to be the only true interpreters of the pontificate of John Paul II, but on the other hand, much of what they stand for is contrary to Catholic social teaching.

Appointment in Rome is not the first place that Fr. N. has directly contradicted the Pope’s teaching. In order to enact justice, Centesimus Annus asks for a change “in established lifestyles in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources.” According to Fr. N’s published statements, this was “a throwaway line,” in the encyclical, “a vestigial rhetorical fragment that somehow wandered into the text”-therefore to be ignored.

Fr. N. and his friends Michael Novak, George Weigel and libertarian Fr. Robert Sirico have published extensively in support of their economics by quoting only two or three paragraphs of Centesimus Annus, leaving aside all its concern for the “global Common Good and the exercise of “economic and social rights.”

Call to Change our Lives and Lifestyles

Fr. Neuhaus must have been surprised to find that Pope John Paul II again asked as a part of conversion for Catholics a change in one’s whole way of life and lifestyle in Ecclesia in America. Chapter III, “The Path to Conversion,” tells us that “The encounter with the living Jesus impels us to conversion,” a conversion which is “not just a matter of thinking differently in an intellectual sense, but of revising the reasons behind one’s actions in the light of the Gospel.” The Pope continues, “In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged. Where this gap exists, Christians are such only in name.”

The call to conversion, communion and solidarity is meant to turn our lives upside down, a conversion which must change our whole lives, “not a part of life, but the whole of life” guided by the Holy Spirit, so that we might “assimilate the values of the gospel, which contradict the dominant tendencies of the world.”

Call to Holiness

Those who speak of the call to holiness today are often considered conservative by certain groups in the Church, although this was considered radical at the time when Fr. John Hugo and Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement insisted that sanctity was for everyone.

The Synod document spells out beautifully what holiness means in a way Dorothy herself might have done, a way that could not be called either liberal or conservative:

The new way of living called for in Ecclesia in America depends on a genuine Christian spirituality, nourished above all by a constant sacramental life, “since the sacraments are the root and endless source of God’s grace, which believers need to sustain them on their earthly pilgrimage,” and prayer. “Prayer leads Christians little by little to acquire a contemplative view of reality, enabling them to recognize God in every moment and in everything; to contemplate God in every person; to seek his will in all that happens.” (No. 29)]

The document insists that this spirituality is not opposed to the social responsibilities of the Christian life: “On the path of holiness, Jesus Christ is the point of reference and the model to be imitated; he is ‘the Holy One of God,’ and was recognized as such (cf.Mk 1:24). “It is he who teaches us that the heart of holiness is love, which leads even to giving our lives for others (cf. Jn 15:13). Therefore, to imitate the holiness of God, as it was made manifest in Jesus Christ his Son, “is nothing other than to extend in history his love, especially towards the poor, the sick and the needy (cf. Lk 10:25ff.)” (No. 30).

Fr. N. forgot to include this vision of love of the poor and the suffering in Appointment in Rome, as he encouraged joining forces with fundamentalists in what they sometimes call a theology of prosperity.

Latin American Bishops Mocked

One of the things which disturbed us most about Fr. N.’s book and the recent interviews he gave about the Synod was his denigration of the Latin American Bishops.

These Bishops made frequent reference to the cry of the poor in their countries and even subjection of their people to an unjust economic system. Fr. N. described their comments as simply residuals left over from a failed liberation theology.

The Holy Father does not speak in this harsh way of liberation theology in the document. The option for the poor, although not exclusive, is emphasized throughout.

He does ask, in the section under “The Challenge of the Sects,” as did some of the Bishops at the Synod, “whether a pastoral strategy directed almost exclusively to meeting people’s material needs has not in the end left their hunger for God unsatisfied, making them vulnerable to anything which claims to be of spiritual benefit.”(No. 73)

As many Latin American Bishops spoke of the desperate economic situation in their countries, Fr. N. apparently became unnerved, and began to refer to Latin American Bishops and their “whining” and “complaining,” describing them as cows who chew and re-chew their cuds. He emphasized their “muddled and repetitious rhetoric,” their lack of training in economics and even their muddled theology. He felt that the Latin American Bishops exhibited a “siege mentality.” In his book, Fr. N. ridicules the “hackneyed phrases” of the Bishops, such as “Economics that reduces man to a mere means,” “Evangelize the economic order,” “Put people before profits.”

Fr. N. forgot to point out, as the Pope did, that the “constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church’s social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression.” Fr. N. certainly did not mention that, “It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal.”

Pope Condemns Neoliberalism

Fr. N. may have rushed his book out quickly as a counter argument to the Synod because it condemned the very economic system which he has canonized, a system which is celebrated as based on freedom and minimal government, but in practice depends on a powerful government to enforce its unpopular policies.

Fr. N. felt that neoconservatism (known as neoliberalism in Latin America) took a bad rap at the Synod. Perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, he ridicules the term neoliberalism in his book, saying no one knows what it is.

Pope John Paul II is very clear. In Ecclesia in America he defined it and condemned it, along with the drug trade, the recycling of illicit funds, corruption at every level, the terror of violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, inequality between social groups and the irrational destruction of nature,” in No. 56 under “Social Sins which Cry to Heaven.”

The Bishops were not so muddled after all. They were also very clear. They knew that neoliberalism is the current economic system so harshly affecting their people.

In the face of the Pope’s condemnation, Fr. N. insists that neoliberalism is the only way. Phrasing his argument in the language of the Cold War, he states, “It would seem that the expansion of the market economy-whether called ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘globaliz-ation’-cannot be stopped except by countries that adopt statist or socialist measures….” (Appointment in Rome, p. 135).

The reality is that the “statist” measures are all supporting neoliberalism.

Why is Neoconservatism also called Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism means new liberalism. The old liberalism was identified with the French Revolution, which proclaimed the Rights of Man, freedom, and economic liberalism (for this reason, the French word laissez-faire), but violently mowed down anything in its path. The new liberalism does the same, except it mows down people who are in other countries through maquiladoras, slave wages, international trade agreements and torture taught at the School of the Americas to ensure that “freedom” prevails. It is very violent.

The assumption that neoliberalism is based on the classical idea of liberalism which consists of social, political and economical aspects, is not a reasonable explanation of what is happening in Latin America. There it is restricted to the economical part of liberalism.

This economics became prevalent in the U.S. during the Reagan administration, but continues even more strongly under the Clinton administration. Its Catholic proponents glorify its emphasis on freedom and creativity.

Michael Novak’s books encouraging neoliberalism were published in Spanish and circulated in Latin America, presenting this economics as acceptable Catholic teaching. A copy of one of his books in Spanish arrived in the clothing donations at Casa Juan Diego,Este hemisferio de libertad (This Hemisphere of Liberty, published in the United States by the American Enterprise Institute and published in Mexico by Diana Publishers.) We found it laced with footnotes from Adam Smith and David Hume and with an Appendix touting St. Thomas Aquinas as the first liberal (p. 125).

In reality the “creativity” of the neocons affirms wealth creation for the few. Incredibly, for followers of the Gospel, Fr. Neuhaus and fellow neoconservatives have faulted the Church for not developing a theology of wealth creation. They will not find it in this document.

How will Business and Neoconservatives Respond?

Commentators and business people very quickly noted that Ecclesia in America pointed out that the Church’s option for the poor, while very strong, is not exclusive. Some may have concluded that this meant that business should go on as usual. George Weigel stated in a Chicago Spanish-language newspaper, La Raza, that the statement about evangelizing the rich proves that there is now a larger middle class in Latin America (the opposite, of course, is true). Fr. Sirico gave the impression that he was right all along in his support of neoliberal capitalism, because the document asks that the rich be evangelized.

Others have begun to seriously study the document for guidance.

Attachment to Wealth an Obstacle

Ecclesia in America, like Veritatis Splendor before it, points out the story of the rich young man. This story shows that “The Gospels teach that attachment to wealth is an obstacle to accepting Christ’s call to follow him fully and without reserve.”

The document does indeed recommend that not only the well-to-do be evangelized, but also society’s leaders. The Pope mentions that “the damage done by the spread of secularism in leading sectors of society which might have been neglected–political or economic, union-related, military, social or cultural–shows how urgent it is that they be evangelized.”

Hopefully, the effort to evangelize these folks will result in a lessening of the problems of slave wages in maquiladoras with tax-free zones so that there is no help for the local community. Hopefully, it will result in fewer theologians defending the slave wage system as the only one available. Hopefully, it will discourage rich nations from trying to engineer the entire world economy in their favor and against the poor. Hopefully, as the Holy Father has requested for the Jubilee of the year 2000, crippling debts of the countries to the South will be forgiven by the World Bank.

Bishops Begin Immediately on Social Teaching Compendium

Several Latin American Bishops at the Synod called for a new encyclical on ethics and economics. Fr. N. insists in his book that that encyclical, “plus one on related questions to the just and free society,” has already been written, that it is called Centesimus Annus, was published in 1991, and that “likely” the Pope was thinking exactly that as he listened to the speeches (Appointment in Rome, p. 74).

Clearly, Pope John Paul II did not agree with Fr. N.’s depiction of him and what he was thinking at the Synod. Instead he has called for a new compendium or catechism of Catholic social teaching, perhaps to correct the misinterpretations of just such people as Fr. N. and other neoconservatives/neoliberals.

The Bishops of America, meeting as a follow-up to the Synod in Cuba in February of this year, made a decision to proceed with the preparation of the compendium of Catholic social teaching, even though Fr. N. disapproved.

One America?

While one of the major themes of the Synod was that of one America–not many Americas–Fr. N.’s book did not integrate this idea. References throughout the book to “America” alternate in meaning, sometimes referring to the continents as a unity, but usually meaning the United States. The result was muddled, except that one received the distinct impression that the term America, when applied to the United States, meant that North America was better.
Neuhaus disagrees with Pope on Immigrants

Fr. N. raises his eyebrows about two Bishops speaking about immigration, quoting Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” adding that there is neither South or North. His commentary is, “In the life of the Church that is certainly true, but this is an odd application of an ecclesiastical truth to the question of national borders” (p. 79).

Ecclesia in America, following the consistent teaching of John Paul II, asks that migrants always be welcomed, and that the Church in America be a “vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restrictions the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of nonlegal immigrants” (No. 65). In other words, it the responsibility of Catholics to assist immigrants, those uprooted by the global economic system, as well as refugees fleeing persecution, and give them hospitality.

Not for John Paul II the dualisms that privatize our faith, that would allow us to ignore our brothers and sisters in need only because they came from another border.

Clearly, sometimes the law of God is higher than that of the state. Catholics may be called upon to listen more carefully to Holy Mother the Church than to blindly obeying “Holy Mother the State.” (Dorothy Day).

Ecumenism-Whose Style?

The Synod recommends that ecumenism with Christians of the different confessions begin, “in the name of the Gospel in response to the cry of the poor, by the promotion of justice,” and also by common prayer for unity, sharing the word of God and the experience of faith in the living Christ. This would parallel the experience of many in the United States when close bonds of ecumenical friendship were formed during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.

Fr. N. recommends ecumenism with fundamentalists in Latin America in order to evangelize together with them and spread capitalism. He states that some Bishops forgot that this was the main goal of the Synod.

The Synod specifically rejects the methods of many fundamentalists in evangelization, since they do not respect the dignity of the human person.

Whole Synod Mocked

While the Latin American Bishops were singled out for criticism, they were not the only ones. His constant criticism of Cardinals and Bishops and the organization of the synod would lead some to believe that Fr. N. really had little interest in a synod that wasn’t run his way.

It might have been better had Fr. N. shared with readers the wining and dining that took place at night in Rome during the Synod, which he mentions only sparingly, instead of focusing on his own version of what the Synod should have been. This would obviously been called Fr. Neuhaus’ Table Talks.

The Civilization of Love

We regret being so harsh in criticism of a brother of the faith, but our hearts were torn by his lack of understanding of what is happening through these economic policies to the poor of the earth. We meet people each day who have suffered so much from what Fr. N. understands as freedom. So many of the poorest of the poor of Latin America have no chance to come the United States. They canot make their way, walking across several countries.

We just wish Fr. N. could have met the Maria Elenas of Latin America.

We pray that neoconservatives, neoliberals, whatever their political loyalties, can come to understand, as the Holy Father has asked, that this is one America, that we must take responsibility for what our country’s policies do to others.

May Father Neuhaus and all who read Ecclesia in America experience a change of heart. May they move beyond words of freedom and respect for the dignity of the human person in theory to build a new reality worthy of the Body of Christ.

Ecclesia in America, the real document about the Synod, is an amazing statement. Its spiritual depth and its vision for implementation in the real world is breathtaking.

Imagine a world where the leaders were guided by this Synod document! It would not be the fullness of the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, but it would be close to the civilization of love asked for by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II and to the building of which Dorothy Day gave her life.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Mar.-Apr. 1999.