Bryan Hehir, Call to Action, and Marxism: Part 1

Joe Sacerdo | September 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Tags: Bryan Hehir, marxism, socialism | Categories: Bryan Hehir | URL:

For those of you finding the trip down “Memory Lane” with Fr. Bryan Hehir to be enlightening, hopefully you’ll find our latest foray into our Bryan Hehir archives to as interesting as recent ones.  As we share writings and reports of Fr. Hehir’s record during the period from the mid-1970’s to mid-80’s, you’ll note the words “socialism” and Marxism” keep coming up in materials describing the product of his work.  If you’re not yet convinced that what we’ve been saying about Fr. Hehir all along is true or if you’re not yet outraged over his record, just keep reading and you’ll probably change your mind soon.

Many of you may be familiar with the dissident organization, Call to Action.  Well, they grew out of an effort and conference in 1976 where Fr. Bryan Hehir played a key role while working at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB).  Today we’ll look at what preceded that infamous “Call to Action” Conference that took place in Detroit in October of 1976.  One writer called the whole thing “the virus of social Modernism.”

Not being sure of the age of our readers, let’s just go back a little ways.  It was 1976, the year of the Bicentennial in the U.S.  The U.S. Bishops wanted to do something special across the Catholic Church in the U.S. to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the country.  So, they created a program that would be the “principal mode for Catholics to participate in the bicentennial of our country.”  They would send people out across the country soliciting input from “rank-and-file” Catholics on what “Liberty and Justice for All” meant to them.  They created a discussion guide to help stimulate input from Catholics, they would  feed input from some 700,000 Catholics into a computer and compile and analyze the results,  they would hold a national “Liberty and Justice for All” conference in Detroit that was the culmination of this process and then craft a 5-year social action plan from the input gathered and from the conference to “implement the policy of social justice.”

The Justice and Peace Division of the NCCB coordinated the whole effort.  Its director was Fr. Bryan Hehir. He made “substantial contributions” to the widely distributed discussion guide. We’ll get to the guide in one moment, but first, here are some of the demands that came out of this process and what has come to be known as the 1976 “Call to Action” Conference.  This is a report by Fr. Vincent Micelli, SJ. in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, March 1977 in an article entitled, “Detroit: A Call to Revolution in the Church.”

The following are some of the conference’s mad demands which the Catholic Church simply cannot grant without ceasing immediately to be the true Church of Christ. If she granted them, she would become a Church of the world, a snake pit of radicals. She would become a center of doctrinal, moral, chaotic disorder and psychoneurotic distress. The radicals demanded: 1) Divorced, remarried couples to receive Holy Communion while still living in adulterous unions. 2) Ordained women priests and bishops. 3) Women given the power to preach the Gospel with authority. 4) A reversal on the doctrine of artificial birth control. 5) A mitigation of the doctrine on abortion. 6) A teaching approving Marxism, Socialism and pacifism as doctrinally true and morally good practice. 7) A denial of the right to property and to reasonable profit. 8) The creation of a new Church, democratic, non-hierarchical in structure, a classless church.

OK, if you just can’t wait any longer to read more about the conference itself, check out the link above or Paul Melanson’s coverage of Fr. Micelli’s report at LaSalette Journey. But, before we dive deeper into the conference here, we want to share with you a little bit about the discussion guide, for which Fr. Hehir made “substantial contributions.”   Here’s just a few pages from our version of “Liberty and Justice for All” we dusted off from the Bryan Hehir archives.  (Just look at the second page of the .pdf a couple of paragraphs down and you’ll see the theological contortion jump right out at you).  The introduction is written by Fr. Hehir, and he is credited with having made “substantial contributions” to the guide.  Here’s is an excerpt from one of several Wanderer articles “Social Justice of Social Modernism,” written about the guide and program.


Rev. J. Bryan Hehir bears mention for his “substantive contribution” to “Liberty and Justice for All”: his influential position as director of the Justice and Peace Division USCC…

In his introduction to “Liberty and Justice for All,” Fr. Hehir displays an amazing ineptness for one who has emerged as the Catholic spokesman on social justice.  He erroneously equates freedom and equality, disdains papal social doctrine prior to John XXIII, and shows an incredible flakiness on the cardinal principles of the social teachings.  He also places “working toward a more just society” on an equal footing “with the preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments in the Church”—something the church does not teach.  And why does Fr. Hehir persist in referring to Pope Paul’s apostolic letter “Octogesima Adveniens, on the eightieth  anniversary of Rerum Novarum” as “A Call to Action”?  Surely he knows this is the title of Chapter IV, not the title of the apostolic letter.

“Liberty and Justice for All” raises more questions than it answers.  The handling of the social teachings is totally inadequate.  It is a disservice to the laity and ill services our Bishops.”

The virus of social Modernism appears to have subverted what otherwise should have been a commendable program).  (by Laurene K. Conner)

Want more?  Here’s a review of “Liberty and Justice for All” from another 1976 Wanderer article, “Counting on Ignorance.”

The Church’s social doctrine has got to be one of the most neglected and least understood areas of Catholic teaching . Otherwise how explain the aberrations in the name of social justice emanating from the USCC Justice and Peace Division that go unchallenged by Catholic laity. And this in spite of the constant petitions in social encyclicals and the Vatican II mandate to them “to take up their responsibilities more conscientiously…to take upon  themselves as their own special duty this task of reconstructing the acquaint themselves with this social teaching, its basic ideas above all.. ” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 6, 7, 31).

The Bishops’ discussion guide “Liberty and Justice for All” which reflects the influence and attitudes of the Justice and Peace Division does not begin to explain the “basic ideas” of Catholic social teaching, Rev. J. Bryan Hehir to the contrary notwithstanding. In addition, “Liberty and Justice for All” reflects Justice and Peace opinions that are not only a corruption of Catholic social doctrine but constitute a danger of infecting American Catholics with the errors of social Modernism condemned by Pope Pius XI.

When Justice and Peace claims the dictum “to each according to his need; from each according to his ability” was said by Karl Marx and Vatican II and justifies its claim with a reference to Vatican II document Church in the Modern World (30), is this not the kind of error Pius XI condemned? In truth, paragraph 30 states: “Justice and charity increasingly demand that each of us should, within the limits of our capacities and of others ‘ needs, concern ourselves with the common good.” There is a wealth of Catholic philosophy and theology as well as the economy of salvation behind this Vatican II statement, while only conspiratorial atheistic materialism stands behind the Marxian slogan, “from each according …” Are our Bishops aware that this falsification appears under the aegis of their own US Catholic Conference?

When Justice and Peace claims as false the premise “for Christians , capitalism IS the best system ” and justifies its claim with a reference to Populorum Progressio (26 ) when in truth Pope Paul IS speaking of “unchecked” liberal capitalism, is this not a deceptive tactic?

When Justice and Peace claims as true the proposition ” Communism and Christianity both see the need for world government” and justifies its claim with a reference to Populorum Progresslo (78), is not a question of integrity involved? Pope Paul echoing Pius XII and John XXIII had in paragraph 76 made the point that peace is the work of justice, that peace is built on “an order intended by God which implies a more perfect form of justice among men.“ In paragraph 77 he describes the need for collaboration among nations as “milestones on the road to development that leads to peace.” Then, and only after these stipulations, the Holy Father in paragraph 78 calls for the establishment of a public authority to bring about this “order of justice” which is to be “universally recognized .” It is this “order of justice” which is to be “universally recognized.” It is this “order of justice” intended by God which will require “a worldwide authority capable of acting effectively on the juridical and political plane. ” It should be noted: Pope Paul does not include the legislative plane in his proposal nor does he negate Pope John’s application of the principle of subsidiarity at the internationaI level . Both of these preclude world government. Paragraph 78 is not a call for world government.

Is intellectual honesty too much to ask of persons who set themselves up as spokesmen for justice and peace?

This excursion into subterfuge does, however, establish a common bond between the Justice and Peace Division , USCC, and the World Peace Foundation which has also read into paragraph 78 a papal call for world government. And it raises several related questions

  • Does this affinity constitute the basis for a working arrangement with the World Peace Foundation which is credited with contributing ” in many ways to the overall effort” in ” Liberty and Justice for all”?
  • Is the World Peace Foundation to act as a consultant In evaluating the “Liberty and Justice for All” computerized “feedback” data in formulating the “5- year plan” of social action?
  • Is the computerized data to be made available to the World Peace Foundation to further its research on the progress of rank-and-file Catholic support for world government via the United Nations?
  • Were the U.S. Catholic Bishops told the World Peace Foundation was to be brought into their social action program?
  • Were the Catholic Bishops told that Msgr John J Egan, chairman of the Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry who also contributed “In many ways to the overall effort of  ‘Liberty and Justice for All’ “had connections with the radical People’s Bicentennial Commission which holds views “far closer to those of Castro and Mao than to our founding fathers” according to a recent Senate report?
  • With “Liberty and Justice for All”  giving Catholics a superficial understanding of the social teachings at best and confronting them with hypothetical questions (“Would you yourself support a violent revolution to obtain a higher level of freedom or social justice?”), how reliable will be the data fed the computers as a reflection of Catholic social thinking?

Perhaps our U S Catholic Bishops should consider the possibility the Justice and Peace Division, USCC, in counting on ignorance, is placing the Bishops themselves in the untenable position of promoting the “contagion of errors” Pope Pius XI condemned in the encyclical Ubi Arcano. And all wrapped up in their own social program “Liberty and Justice for All “

Folks, this is not all. There’s more.  We’ll save that for another day.

By the way, for those who may have forgotten from earlier who made the “significant contributions” to this program book, that was “you know who”–Fr. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services in the Archdiocese of Boston today.  When we started complaining about him earlier this year, Cardinal Sean O’Malley posted on his blog that Fr. Hehir “has brought a vast understanding of the important place our Church has in society and inspires us with his compassion, vision and fidelity to the work of the Church. His voice brings clarity to our message and mission in serving the Catholic community.”  He is still speaking at the upcoming Social Justice Conference on October 9, 2010.

Anyone feeling like you’ve had enough of this already, and it’s time for our own “call to action”?  Stay tuned for more on that shortly.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. Bookmark the permalink.