WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life and Catholic groups are lauding the U.S. bishops’ new hire to head up their social justice initiatives, noting that he has shown a strong evangelistic approach to the Church’s charitable work and a devotion to the Magisterium and authentic Catholic apostolates.

Dr. Jonathan Reyes, a father of seven and former professor at Christendom College, will take over as executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, where he will also oversee the beleaguered Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

He replaces John Carr, who retired in August after 25 years, and was considered one of the most influential progressive voices at the USCCB.

Reyes’ hiring appears to be “emblematic of a sea change” at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “that will very soon affect the way our bishops and priests address social and political issues,” said Dr. Jeff Mirus of CatholicCulture.org. “It is, in fact, emblematic of enormous spiritual and cultural growth.”

“The reason this is astonishing is that the new appointment marks a significant change in ideological direction for what may be the last bastion of the liberal old guard in the bureaucracy of the American bishops,” he wrote Tuesday.

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Reyes has been president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver since 2009. While there, he launched Christ in the City, an evangelistic outreach for college students. From 2005-2008 he served as founding president of the Augustine Institute, a Denver-based college specializing in graduate theology programs.

From 2004-2005, he served as vice president of campus ministry and leadership formation for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). And from 1998-2004, Reyes served on the staff of Christendom College, in Front Royal, Virginia, first as an assistant professor of history, and then as vice president of academic affairs.

“These are all impressively orthodox institutions with a profound Catholic spirituality, deeply evangelical in character, and utterly untempted by worldly fashion or secular glory,” observed Mirus. “Reyes credentials show how deeply yet creatively rooted he is in the mind of the Church.”

The move is especially important as Reyes, who starts in December, will now take oversight of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which has been dogged by criticism in recent years over partnerships with secular agencies that advocate abortion, contraception, and other activities contrary to Catholic teaching.

His employment comes as the Vatican has warned of a crisis in Catholic identity among the Church’s social justice and relief agencies and a disregard for the Church’s basic moral teachings in their work on behalf of the poor.

“Following Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict has been telling us that the social and moral teaching of the Church are inextricably linked, and that the necessary charitable work of the Church risks becoming distorted unless we also bring Jesus Christ to those who we serve,” said Stephen Phelan, communications director for Human Life International.

“More than ever, the world needs a fearless and unapologetic evangelism, including the social and moral teachings of the Church, lived and communicated in a loving and truthful way. This is how authentic, integral development occurs - by reaching out in love and truth to the whole person, and to every person,” he continued.

“Dr. Reyes’ appointment to lead the Peace and Justice efforts of the bishops looks to be a significant move in this direction, and a long overdue move towards updating the social outreach of the Church in America.”