Thursday, February 25, 2010

Catholic Social Teaching

Love for widows and orphans, prisoners and the sick and needy
of every kind, is as essential to the Church as the ministry of
sacraments and preaching of the Gospel.
(Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no.22)

What is Catholic Social Teaching?

Modern Catholic social teaching is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the official documents of the Church issued since the late 19th century and dealing with the economic, political, and social order. This teaching is rooted in the Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.

Does this mean that Catholic Social Teaching was non-existent before the 19th century? The answer is No. Catholic Social Teaching is as old as the Church and even predates the Church (i.e. Hebrew Scriptures). However, it was only in the late 19th century that such teachings began to be articulated in a systematic way in the official documents of the Church.

Catholic social teaching has been called "our best kept secret," "our buried treasure," and "an essential part of Catholic faith."

"Far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic social teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. This poses a serious challenge for all Catholics, since it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel. We need to do more to share the social mission and message of our Church."

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions
U.S. Catholic Bishops

Basic Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

1.Human Dignity - The person is sacred, made in the image of God.

2. Common Good and Community - The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and rights in relationship with others, in community. 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.

3. Option for the Poor - The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The option for the poor is an essential part of society's effort to achieve the common good. A healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society.

4. Rights and Responsibilities - Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency – starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities -- to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

5.Role of Government and Subsidiarity - The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions so that government can achieve its proper goals. The principle of subsidiarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately.

6. Economic Justice - The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. They also have a fundamental right to organize and join unions. People have a right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life. Catholic teaching opposes collectivist and statist economic approaches and also rejects the notion that a free market automatically produces justice.

7. Stewardship of God's Creation - The goods of the earth are gifts from God, and they are intended by God for the benefit of everyone. How we treat the environment is a measure of our stewardship, a sign of our respect for the Creator.

8. Promotion of Peace and Disarmament - Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collaboration and binding agreements.” Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.

9. Participation - All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society.

10. Global Solidarity and Development - We are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic and ideological differences. We are called to work globally for justice. Authentic development must be full human development. It must respect and promote personal, social, economic, and political rights, including the rights of nations and of peoples.

Visitation Parish Event
Tomorrow, February 26, we will be having our first Parish Event of 2010, a formation by the Archdiocesan Office of Human Development (AOHD) on the Social Teachings of the Church and the Lenten Campaign.

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