In the course of my internet ministry I have noticed something disturbing: sometimes so-called conservative or 'traditionalist'-leaning Catholics dismiss social justice as if it were an error altogether or at least something outside of Christian concern. This is a serious distortion of Christianity and Catholic teaching. Our Lord himself, with the whole prophetic tradition leading up to him, (not to mention the ordinary magisterium of the Church) reveals that social injustice is one of the most serious sins against God's sovereignty, and that the struggle for justice in the world is integral to genuine religion.
I've been reflecting on where this error comes from, and I've arrived at two ideas. First, sometimes folks are distracted by the errors of the 'social justice type' Catholics themselves. For example, sometimes these ignore certain pressing issues of social justice which are not considered such by secular liberals, like abortion or homosexual "marriage" for example, and thus reveal a certain confused assimilation to the world. But if religious conservatives allow such mistakes to make them reject the idea of social justice altogether, they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and permitting the devil a great victory.
Second, I think there is, among us Catholics at least, a false separation between social justice and evangelization. There is a sense that we have our faith, we celebrate it at the Eucharist, and then we are called to go out into the world and work for justice. This is true as far as it goes, but I think we sometimes forget that the love of God and the Eucharist are themselves the social program par excellence. Yes, goods like a living wage, honest work, and access to health care and education are all things we should work for on behalf of those who need them, but in the end the old cliche holds: Jesus is the answer. In other words, we are good at remembering that we are called to struggle against social injustice, but because the world tells us to keep our religion to ourselves, we conveniently forget that God himself is the remedy for the ills of society.
This second trouble leads to two distortions in our Catholic life. First, if someone encourages others to the devout life, or to return to prayer or the sacraments, or practices the liturgy in such a way that it produces communities of devotion and fervor, this is generally not viewed as a ministry of social justice, when in fact it is so, and preeminently. Helping the greatest number of people to come into the deepest experiential contact with the mystery of Justifying Charity Himself in divine worship makes them into a justifying leaven in the world. On the other hand, if our faith leads us to agitate for social change or to join those who try to compel worldly governments to take better care of the poor, we should not imagine that we have accomplished a great victory if we have not also given people a way to God in Whom they can know the truth about themselves in the world as an alternative to the errors about creation, life, and humanity which are at the root of social problems in the first place. This goes for both the powerful and the poor of this world. It is a failure to properly acknowledge the sovereignty of God that is at the root of social injustice, and to fail to include this in our social works is to only address symptoms rather than the disease itself.