Catholic Social Teaching

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

Matthew 25:35-36

Social Justice is important to me. I believe one of the things that we must do to live our faith is to treat everyone in a just way and promote the dignity of life.

There are many groups involved in promoting Catholic Social Teaching (Social Justice Groups). The church does not allow clergy or religious to hold political office to avoid conflicts of interest, but they are called to promote the awareness of Catholic Social Teaching as relevant to affairs of state. The laity are called in their own way of living out their baptismal calls to be active in politics and promoting the dignity of all regardless of race, gender, religion, or ethnic background.

I believe firmly in the dignity of all persons as created by God. We must treat all people with the dignity that they deserve. In "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Pope John Paul II wrote, "To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself" (paragraph 6). Christ is present in each of us. When we recognize this, we are called to treat them as we would treat Jesus Christ. You can check out some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about Social Justice in paragraphs 1929-1948.

Unfortunately, in our society, we tend to be more concerned with our own needs than the needs of others. I believe this is the source of much conflict in the world. People in other countries poorer than us resent us for our wealth and the fact that we do not share our wealth. If we believe in the dignity of all persons and the right of all to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must work to ensure the fair treatment of all.

We need to be willing to share what we have with others. This is not just a question of charity. It is good when we are willing to give what we have. However, we need to examine how we can make the structures better that keep the poor and the oppressed from being able to provide for their own needs. We must be aware of policies and political activities (laws) and how they affect the poor. The church speaks of the Option for the Poor. It does not call us to always do what benefits the poor over the rich. It does call us to examine how our actions and our policies affect all of us, with an emphasized awareness of how the poor are affected because they cannot always stand up for themselves.

Thus, we must be aware of the actions of our governments and how they help or hurt the poor if we are to profess to practice the commandment of Jesus to "love thy neighbor" (Mt 22:39). We must be aware of the positions of our elected officials on issues affecting the poor and the oppressed. We must seek to elect those who stand up for the poor and lobby to change unjust policies.

Pope Paul VI wrote, in his encyclical Populorum Progressio, "It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty, it is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives, free from discrimination on account of race, religion or nationality, free from servitude to other men or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily" (paragraph 47).

Social Justice is not just action, but the attitude in which we approach the way we live in our world.

I will end by pointing you to a get resource. In 2005, the church published the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. It is the first written document that brings together all of the church's teachings on Social Doctrine.

For Further Reading

A picture of jesus and an image of the first aid sign.

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