Amid what Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester recently called a “crisis of compassion,” the term “social justice” is on the lips of many pastoral leaders these days.

Dioceses, parishes and religious congregations usually have some sort of social justice coordinator, who advocates for faith-based responses to issues such as immigration, racism, poverty or climate change.

But for all the discussion and outreach, do Catholics in the pews actually understand what “social justice” means?

Not really, according to Craig Giandomenico, an adjunct professor of religion and theology at La Salle University in Philadelphia.

A term ‘loaded to the breaking point’

“It’s a term that history has loaded to the breaking point,” said Giandomenico, noting that “it’s important to unpack ‘social justice,’ especially given our heightened political climate.”

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