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The Clarion Call to Catholic Action: The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

By: Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

“And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:8

The “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”, released this past March in the United States, is a bugle blast that should be heard throughout the entire Church, and, through her sons and daughters, throughout the whole world. Far from an indistinct sound, it is one that rings out with crystal clarity. This magnificent volume presents the treasury of the Church’s social teaching in one place. It is waiting to now be implemented and give form to a new Catholic Action. Never before has the distilled wisdom of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church been so beautifully organized, brilliantly articulated or thoroughly researched.

The Compendium is tenderly dedicated to “His Holiness John Paul II Master of Social Doctrine and Evangelical Witness to Justice and Peace.” The timing of its release is nothing short of prophetic, coming as it does in the wake of the passing to the Father of John Paul the Great and the elevation of Pope Benedict to the Chair of Peter. The time has come for an informed, educated, genuinely converted and courageously dedicated global movement of the lay faithful, a new Catholic Action, which will to take this treasure into the world of the Third Christian Millennium and build a new culture of life, family, authentic freedom and solidarity; a civilization of love.

What the Compendium does is to give Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will a complete sourcebook for the Social teaching. In this one volume we find all the references needed to study the Social Teaching and then to go “right to the source” by turning to the back. It provides the instruction that has been so desperately needed to give clear direction to those who are committed to Catholic Action. It will also be welcomed ecumenically by anyone concerned with true social justice.

There has been a tendency, one which I have written about extensively in the past, for even well intended Catholics and other Christians to be confused when it comes to how they apply their faith to their social participation and citizenship. The social teaching of the Church has often not been known outside of the academy or among a few who have “interpreted” it for others. Or, too often it has been treated as a sort of “after thought”; used in a kind of “proof - texting” application to bolster various political, economic or partisan positions.

Some people have approached their work in the social arena (which encompasses politics and policy, economics, culture, arts…the entire domain of human and social interaction) as if limited political terms such as “conservative”, “liberal”, (or a host of variations on these two such as neo-liberal, progressive, neo-conservative or paleo-conservative) were, what I have called in past articles, “the noun” and “Catholic” more the adjective in their lives. In other words, they first derived their identity from these limiting labels and only secondarily by reference to their Baptismal vocation and the life orientation that it demands. Thus we hear of “Catholic Conservatives” or even “Catholic Liberals”. Even more unfortunate is the use of other terms, drawn from the political nomenclature of the age (or actually of another age) such as “left” or “right”, by detractors in an effort to pigeonhole and marginalize Catholics, other Christians and other people of faith who seek to inform their participation by the great social principles summarized in this great body of teaching called the Social teaching. Now, if anyone wants to know just what Catholic Social teaching really teaches, it is here, all contained in this one volume.

The theological roots of this body of teaching called the “Social teaching” go back, literally, to “the beginning. In the first Book of the Sacred Scriptures, the book of the beginnings, the Book of Genesis, we find the doctrine of creation and the clear beginning of the social doctrine of the Church. It reveals that we were created for relationship, with God, with one another, and with the created order. Throughout the Old Testament we also find clear social instruction concerning social relations.

Then, in the great event that forever changed human history, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh, we find the theology of charity, authentic liberation, and the roots of the Christian contribution to understanding the human vocation revealed as a call to true happiness and human flourishing as revealed in the humanity of Jesus. In His Paschal Mystery, His life, death and Resurrection, we find the deeper meaning of all human existence. The New Testament is also filled with “Social teaching” For example, the Sermon on the Mount contains the very essence of ...

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