Last week, I posted a blog Part I on Catholic Church teaching on Social Justice as found in Holy Scripture.
Let’s now take a look at some examples of Social Justice teaching from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. and Papal Encyclicals. Social Justice in Catholic Church teaching always has the COMMON GOOD at its core as found in Scriptures and in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Our Catholic tradition proclaims that the person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society – in economics and politics, in law and policy – directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined.
We need to build on the good work already underway to ensure that every Catholic understands how the Gospel and church teaching call us to choose life, to serve the least among us, to hunger and thirst for justice, and to be peacemakers. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war.
Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
As a practicing Catholic we must not be assimilated into a society that promotes the “culture of death” and worship pagan idols of sex, wealth, and power. But rather be “leaven” for the world. We must pick up where Jesus left off in building the kingdom of God.
The fundamental principles of Catholic Social Teaching focus on the dignity and sacredness of each human person. (CCC 1928-1942, 2419-2449) In other words, Catholic Social Justice teaching calls on us the “people of God” to minister to our neighbor’s needs, to speak out against injustice, and to work for peace.
What is a human being? What is his role in the world? Where is he headed? How does he get there? If a human being is not yet perfected, what will perfect him? How does he become whole without division or estrangement?
Common Good is understood as the sum total of social conditions which allow people as groups or individuals to reach their ultimate fulfillment more fully and more easily.
CCC #1907 Common Good presupposes respect for each person. It requires the social well being and development of everyone, including food, clothing, shelter, health care, work, education etc. It requires peace and justice for security of a just order. Authority should, by morally acceptable means, provide for the security of society and its members
CCC #1929 Social Justice can be obtained only by respecting the transcendental dignity of each human person.
CCC #1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow naturally from this dignity.
CCC #1936 On coming into this world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Talents and gifts are not distributed equally as expressed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians chapter 12.
CCC #1937 These differences belong to God’s divine plan who wills that each receives what he needs from others and those endowed with particular talents share them with those who need them. These differences encourage and sometimes oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods.
Now we will take a brief look at the history of social teaching of the Catholic Church in Papal Encyclicals and Vatican Council II.
Pope Leo’s Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, in 1891 is a classic in laying out Catholic Church Social Justice teaching. It promoted human dignity through distribution of wealth. Worker’s rights were inherent in human nature and not something chosen for them or bestowed on them by a gracious state. People had the right to work, to organize, to own property, to receive a just wage to raise and support their families. Rights were tied to corresponding duties such as workers should not riot and destroy property and employers should maintain an environment respecting the worker’s innate dignity.
In the papal encyclical, Mater et Magister (Christianity and Social Progress) Pope John XXIII in 1961 addresses the disparity between the rich and poor and between rich and poor nations. How can we have more than we need when there are those with less they need? Arms’ spending contributes to poverty. There is a duty of wealthy industrialized Nations to help the poor non-industrialized nations such as the millions living in poverty in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
In Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) Vatican Council II 1965 explores Catholic Church teaching as it relates to the modern world. It explores the great technological and social changes in light of Christ, Lord of History. Our mission as his disciple is to animate and improve the world. Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves neighbor to every person no matter who they are. If we meet our neighbor in need we must come to their aid whether he is an aged person, an innocent in the womb, a refugee, a starving human being, or those abandoned in prison.
In Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) 1981, Pope John Paul II teaches value and dignity of human labor as an essential human right and responsibility. Work is for man not Man for Work. Work is a fulfillment of God’s commands in Genesis to Adam and Eve “to subdue the earth” and make family possible “be fruitful and multiply.” Without work the essential unit of God’s divine plan, family, is thwarted. Work is redemptive. Man is a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross of daily work that he is called to accomplish. Work is a means of sanctification and animates earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.
Lord Jesus, Carpenter and King, supreme Sovereign of all men,
look with tender mercy upon the multitudes of our day
who bear the indignities of injustice everywhere.
Raise up leaders in every land
dedicated to Your standards of order, equity, and justice.
Grant unto us,Lord Jesus, the grace
to be worthy members of Your Mystical Body,
laboring unceasingly to fulfill our vocation
in the social apostolate of Your Church.
May we hunger and thirst after justice always. Amen.
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