Radical Catholic Movements Gather in Modesto, California: “We Must Disrupt!”

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True Catholic social doctrine preaches

“the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ,” (Pius XI)

not revolt and the subversion of the civil order


The “First U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements” was held in Modesto, Calif. from February 16-19 with the participation of two cardinals, Peter Cardinal Turkson, who represented the Vatican, and Joseph Cardinal Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, who spoke via Skype. Another twenty bishops attended, as did numerous priests, nuns and lay people totaling about seven hundred people.

“An Initiative of Pope Francis”

According to the conference’s official site, the World Meeting of Popular Movements is “[a]n initiative of Pope Francis… to create an ‘encounter’ between Church leadership and grassroots organizations working to address the ‘economy of exclusion and inequality’ (Joy of the Gospel, Nos. 53-54) by working for structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.”1

Prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success About Our TimesLearn All About the Prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success About Our Times

The meeting was sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the movement “Terra, Domus, Labor,” also a Vatican initiative,2 the Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), a network of “community organizations.”

Modesto was the movement’s first gathering in the U.S., following three world conferences—two in the Vatican (2014 and 2016) and another in Bolivia (July 2015). The previous conferences included the participation of subversive leaders such as João Pedro Stédile, of Brazil’s “Movimento dos Trabalhadores sem Terra” [Landless Rural Workers Movement], which promotes invasions and occupying of farms and rural properties, and Argentine Juan Grabois, a convinced neo-Marxist activist, who also attended the Modesto meeting.3Radical Catholic Movements Gather in Modesto, California: “We Must Disrupt!”

During the second gathering, in Bolivia, socialist President Evo Morales gave Pope Francis a gift of a crucifix with the hammer and sickle, the communist symbol.4

Among all of the conference’s co-sponsors, Pope Francis singled out PICO for praise in his written message to the participants:

“I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network and the organizations promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for ‘People Improving Communities through Organizing’. What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements….”5

So what is it about PICO that earned it an encomium from the Vicar of Christ on Earth? How does it embody “the mission of popular movements”?

Saul Alinsky and Liberation Theology

PICO was founded in 1972 by Fr. John Baumann.6 This Jesuit priest recounts how he was sent to Chicago after his first year in theology, and there he got in touch with Saul Alinsky:

“Saul Alinksy was one of the people who delivered a workshop for us, and he was a fascinating person. The way he could describe the importance of how to make democracy work in our communities and the importance of bringing people together was remarkable,” Baumann said. “So with that experience, with the workshops that Alinsky gave, we were given placements. And my field placement was under the direction of Tom Gaudette, who was an Alinsky lieutenant. Gaudette was really helpful in being a mentor to me over the years.”7

But who was Saul Alinsky?

Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972) was an American Marxist community organizer who established guidelines for revolutionaries.

In the opening pages of his book titled Rules for Radicals, we read: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical….the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.”8

What the Popes Have to Say About Socialism

Along with Alinsky’s subversive tactics, this powerful network of social agitation is based on Liberation Theology, a blend of the old Modernist heresy with the theories of Karl Marx.9 Indeed, as part of its women’s leadership training program, PICO includes feminist Liberation Theology, as its web site reports:

Women’s Theology of Liberation: During A Women’s Theology of Liberation training sessions we will come together as women clergy, lay-leaders and staff in the PICO National Network for an interactive workshops on feminist, mujerista and womanist theologies from various faith traditions, reflect on how gender and race intersect in our work, and developing tangible skills in how we can bring a gender lens to our campaigns for racial and economic justice.”10

A Message From Pope Francis

Peter Cardinal Turkson—Prefect of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development—presented the message Pope Francis sent to “The first U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements.” The document is shocking for its anti-capitalist tone, very akin to liberation theology, and the absence of any criticism of socialism. Here are a few quotes:

“I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few.… The economic system that has the god of money at its center, and that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, [of the Good Samaritan] inflicts injuries that to a criminal degree have remained neglected.”

“The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a ‘non-neighbor.’”11

This economic system which, according to Francis, “poses a grave danger for humanity”—is not socialism, which has destroyed thriving economies and reduced hundreds of millions to enslavement and the most abject misery12—but free enterprise and the market economy!

Some phrases in the papal message are hard to understand, as when he exhorts popular movements “to defend our Sister Mother Earth.” In what sense is the “Earth” our “Sister Mother”? What does it mean to have a “Sister” that is also a “Mother”?

Bishop Robert W. McElroy: “We Must All Become Disruptors”

In his speech, Bishop McElroy, of San Diego, after accusing President Trump of being a “disruptor,” calls on those present:

“Well now, we must all become disruptors. 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. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”13

In his turn, Joseph Cardinal Tobin stated that the “concentration of wealth in our country in the hands of a few has created historic levels of economic inequality, which has placed a great burden on working families and the poor.”14

Delirious Anti-Capitalism

Francis’ criticism of capitalism was fleshed out in the meeting’s final “Message from Modesto.” We see the document affirm, for example:

“We live every day the reality that Pope Francis describes when he says that our families and communities are being assaulted by a ‘system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few….’”

“We understand that a small elite is growing wealthy and powerful off the suffering of our families. Racism and White Supremacy are America’s original sins. They continue to justify a system of unregulated capitalism that idolizes wealth accumulation over human needs.”15

General Mobilization

The document calls for a general mobilization with “practical actions”: “We urge every faith community, including every Catholic parish, to declare themselves a sanctuary for people facing deportation and those being targeted based on religion, race or political beliefs.”

It calls for actions to be taken by “using tools that include boycotts, strikes, and non-violent civil disobedience.”

Quoting Bishop McElroy, the document says “popular” movements should become “disruptors”:

“As Bishop Robert McElroy said to us, ‘We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men & women as a source of threat rather than children of God. We must disrupt those who would take away healthcare, who would take food from our children.’”

The document, based on the words of Joseph Cardinal Tobin, requests the bishops to chart the course of action, “We ask our Catholic Bishops to write a covenant that spells out specific actions that dioceses and parishes should take to protect families in the areas of immigration, racism, jobs, housing, and the environment.”

“We propose meetings of popular movements in each of our states over the next six months to bring this statement, the vision of the World Meetings and the Pope’s message of hope and courage to every community in the United States.”16

Bitter Fruits of Liberation Theology

In short, Modesto’s gathering of “popular movements” is yet another bitter fruit of the Marxist-Modernist ideology of liberation theology, which has set ablaze several Latin American countries by promoting land squatting and violence in the countryside and the “conscienticization17 of the heretofore pious faithful, turning them into hate-filled agitators.

It is to be feared that the fruits of “The first U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements” will be social agitation, upheavals, and increasing disorientation among Catholics.

This needs to be countered with true Catholic social doctrine, which does not preach revolt and the subversion of the civil order, but “the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.”18



  1. World Meeting of Popular Movements, http://popularmovements.org/ accessed Feb. 27, 2017. All emphasis ours.
  2. “‘Terra Domus Labor’ [Land, House, Work] was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in collaboration with various organizations around the world that work toward social justice and stimulating social change to allow a more just world to be built.” See VeroNews.com “Migrant farmworker from Fellsmere meets Pope Francis,” http://www.veronews.com/32963_features/people/migrant-farmworker-from-fellsmere-meets-pope-francis/article_6c23ce14-8ab3-11e4-90fd-47f05ff8db95.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  3. Cf. “Quo Vadis, Domine? Reverent and Filial Message to His Holiness Pope Francis from Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza,” Feb. 13, 2014, at https://tfp.org/quo-vadis-domine-reverent-and-filial-message-to-his-holiness-pope-francis-from-prince-bertrand-of-orleans-braganza/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  4. “The ‘Communist Crucifix’: Are Socialism and Catholicism No Longer ‘Contradictory Terms’?” Aug. 19, 2015, at https://tfp.org/the-communist-crucifix-are-socialism-and-catholicism-no-longer-contradictory-terms/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  5. “Message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Occasion of the World Meetings of Popular Movements in Modesto (California) [16-18 February 2017], Feb. 10, 2017,” http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170210_movimenti-popolari-modesto.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  6. “History,” at https://faithinaction.org/about-us/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  7. “Father John Baumann, SJ, Discusses PICO and Community Organizing for Passionate Leaders in Social Entrepreneurship Speaker Series,” Oct. 31, 2014, at https://www.hnu.edu/about/news/father-john-baumann-sj-discusses-pico-and-community-organizing-passionate-leaders-social, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  8. Rules for Radicals, at https://archive.org/stream/RulesForRadicals#page/n3/mode/2up, accessed Feb. 27 2017.
  9. Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “Liberation Theology: A KGB invention? That’s Way Too Simple…” May 28, 2015, at https://tfp.org/liberation-theology-a-kgb-invention-that-is-way-too-simple/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  10. “Women’s Theology of Liberation—Part I: How to Build Women’s Faith Power to Heal our Nation Training Vision,” at https://www.faithinaction.org, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  11. Message of Pope Francis. (Our emphases.)
  12. Peronist socialism, for example, destroyed the Argentine economy, which once matched the economies of the more advanced European countries. Cf. “Argentina era uno de los paises mas ricos del mundo,” at http://www.taringa.net/posts/noticias/17380247/Argentina-era-uno-de-los-paises-mas-ricos-del-mundo.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017. Bolivarian socialism did the same to Venezuela, once a rich oil country and one of the strongest economies in Latin America. Cf. Jeff Jacoby, “As socialism shattered Venezuela, the useful idiots applauded,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 25, 2016, at https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2016/12/25/socialism-shattered-venezuela-useful-idiots-applauded/ZoQnAX5WksuCTauiAjCx4M/story.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  13. “Transcript of speech by San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy to community organizers,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 22, 2017, at http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/religion/sd-me-mcelroy-speech-20170221-story.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  14. “Text of Address by Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, to the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements” Feb. 17, 2017, at http://popularmovements.org/news/text-address-cardinal-joseph-william-tobin-c-ss-r-archbishop-newark-us-regional-world-meeting-popular-movements/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  15. “Message from Modesto,” Feb. 19, 2017, at http://popularmovements.org/news/message-from-modesto/, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Lee Moriwaki, “Conscienticizing? Jesuit Leader Brings The Faithful Its Meaning” The Seattle Times, May 22, 1993, http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930522&slug=1702547, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  18. Pius XI, Encyclical Quas Primas, Dec. 11, 1925, No. 1, http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.

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