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Social Doctrine: Not Just for Catholics

Interview With Secretary of Council for Justice and Peace

ROME, FEB. 15, 2006 (Zenit) - The interdisciplinary dimension of the Church's social doctrine needs more attention, says a Vatican official.

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Stefano Fontana, director of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory, have written a book with the telltale title, "The Interdisciplinary Dimension of the Social Doctrine of the Church." It has just arrived in Italian bookstores.

It is the first volume of the collection "Notebooks of the Observatory," promoted in collaboration with Cantagalli Publishers of Siena.

We interviewed Bishop Crepaldi to learn more about the book.

Q: Why do you say that the social doctrine of the Church is interdisciplinary?

Bishop Crepaldi: John Paul II's encyclical "Centesimus Annus" says it, when explaining that the social doctrine of the Church has an important interdisciplinary dimension.

It is a suggestion of great importance given that, by not entering into dialogue with the different disciplines concerned with man and society, the Gospel runs the risk of fundamentalism or ineffectiveness.

Paradoxically, this important suggestion of the magisterium has not been studied in depth, so that scholars of the different subjects and experts of social doctrine have not always been able to work together.

On the contrary, they have often acted as strangers to one another. This book seeks to eliminate the theoretical obstacles to this dialogue. The practical difficulties depend, on the other hand, on the good will of the interlocutors.

Q: In this connection, what are the main obstacles?

Bishop Crepaldi: There are many, and the book addresses them calmly one by one.

There is the obstacle of thinking that the social doctrine is not true learning; there are those who think that the unity of learning is impossible; there are those who neglect one or another aspect of the social doctrine; those who put aside the role of the magisterium with respect to the task of theologians; those who give greater importance to the praxis than the doctrine; those who support too much the historicity of the social doctrine; those who insist excessively on change; those who would like to replace theology or philosophy with the human sciences, etc.

The book assumes a task: to give each one what is his own. In both the unitary and articulated framework of the social doctrine, what is important is that every aspect be given its proper place.

Q: Among the obstacles that often impede a dialogue between the social doctrine of the Church and other areas of learning, which is the most important and difficult to overcome?

Bishop Crepaldi: Not to attribute cognitive value to faith. If faith is considered a simple unmotivated choice, an irrational option, then neither will the social doctrine of the Church, which stems from it, be attributed a scientific value. It is not considered true "learning" with which one can dialogue.

The main obstacle, therefore, stems from a certain conception of the scientific spirit, of an exclusively experimental type. But, when one abandons this old prejudice, the possibilities of dialogue are multiplied.

Q: What is expected from this book?

Bishop Crepaldi: That it open doors, that it contribute to create bridges and dialogue and contact between those concerned with one or another discipline and the social doctrine of the Church. We consider biopolitical, financial and juridical topics or international politics, for example.

The social doctrine of the Church is not only for Catholics and even less so just for priests. It is for life.

Its place is where the small and great choices of humanity are made. And there it must interact with the competencies and learning of man. As you can see, much is at stake.

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