Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

10/4/2010 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church is the key to building a new culture of life

Some have begun to use the phrase "Social Justice" in a disparaging manner. They want to expose the error committed by some who have stolen the term "Social Justice" to hide a "leftist" political agenda. There are others who use it but reject the existence of objective moral truths meant to govern our life together. However, some words and phrases must be rescued when they are stolen. Social Justice is such a term. It lies at the heart of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and, properly understood, is key to building a new culture of life. 

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/4/2010 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: social justice, catholic, abortion, marriage, activism, glen beck


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - I recently participated in the Catholic Leadership Conference. Every year my experience of this meeting becomes more meaningful. The participants are men and women from every walk of life who understand the implications of their faith on social, cultural, political, and economic participation. They are trying to live what Pope Benedict calls a "moral coherence" and have rejected the "separation between faith and life" which the Second Vatican Council counted among the "greatest errors of our age".

The attendees serve at various intersecting points of cultural influence; the academy, the political arena, business, philanthropy, media, medicine, law and justice. They are heroic and inspiring men and women. I was asked to discuss Catholics and Political Participation. I insisted that Catholic Social Doctrine should be the foundation for all of our social participation. 

During the course of the address I insisted that an authentic understanding of social justice should inform a new Catholic action for our time. In the question and answer period after my comments the host of the conference made a suggestion that we get rid of the term "Social Justice" because it is now used by 'the left".

He asked for my thoughts. I strongly disagreed. I insisted that we take back the phrase from those who have stolen it, either on the "the right" or "the left". He then suggested the Church does not use the phrase "Social Justice". An attendee did a "google" search of the Vatican documents on his handheld device and reported it was used thousands of times in the magisterial teaching of the Church.

I continued to press for an authentically Catholic vision of social justice as set forth in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. As the lively discussion continued a man in attendance became so angry about my use of the term social justice that he began to shout and rushed the platform. Fortunately, he calmed down. He was angry because he insisted it was a term used by 'leftists'.

I am well aware of the co-opting of the term by the "left" - so is the leadership of the Catholic Church. She has rightly condemned the errors found in versions of what was called "liberation theology" and other errant politicized efforts to usurp the term.  However, the Catholic Church has not stopped using the term "Social Justice" and neither should we who are her sons and daughters.

I am also aware of commentator Glenn Becks' efforts to expose the misuse of the term in some segments of the leftist/activist protestant community. Glenn Beck is a former Catholic who does not know the authentic Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. The best thing we could do in our relationship with him - even as we collaborate on important issues-  is present that real teaching of the Catholic Church and expose the counterfeit notion of social justice he rightly rejects.

The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church is not only for Catholics, other Christians or even just "religious people". It is for all people and all Nations. It is offered by the Catholic Church to all who seek to build a truly just society and promote the real common good. This teaching is called "social" because it speaks to human society and to the formation, role and rightful place of social institutions.

The truths and principles it offers can be known by all men and women because they are revealed in the Natural law. They are expounded upon in Revelation. This social doctrine is neither "left" nor "right", neither "liberal" nor "conservative" - within the contemporary politicized use of those words. The Church 'walks the way of the person' and is an "expert in humanity". As the Body of Christ she continues the redemptive work of the Lord. It is in the humanity of Jesus Christ that we find revealed the fullness of the human person.

This social doctrine confronts the current "Dictatorship of Relativism" and insists there are unchangeable truths which can be known by all. They provide a framework for structuring our social life. The foundational truth is the dignity of every human person at every age and stage. This human dignity is present in every person because we are all made in the Image of God. It demands respect for every human life whether that life be in the first home of the womb, a wheelchair, a jail cell, a hospital room, a hospice, a senior center or a soup kitchen.

Another truth is that marriage is between one man and one woman, intended for life, and ordered toward the bearing and raising of children in the family. Marriage is not some social construct which can be redefined by courts or legislatures. It is also another example of a word we must not give up! It is the foundation for family and family is the first society, first church, first school, first economy, first government and first mediating institution.

Another truth is that all human persons created in the Image of God, are created for one another and called to community. We can never fully experience human flourishing outside of social relationships. These relationships are perfective of our human person. The human person is by nature - and grace - made for relationship. The first community which humanizes and civilizes us is the family.

This social doctrine rejects any notion of "freedom" which begins and ends with the isolated, atomistic, person as the measure of its application. Authentic human freedom must be exercised within a moral constitution, choosing what is good and what is true. Otherwise it becomes a counterfeit and enslaves. It must also recognize our obligation in solidarity to one another. We are our brother/sister's keeper.

This social doctrine offers principles to help us order our economies. It does not propose any particular economic theory. Rather it insists that every economic order be at the service of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and the family. We are called to give a love of preference to the poor, recognizing our solidarity with them. This call to solidarity is to be applied through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, rejecting all forms of dehumanizing collectivism.

The market economy has been recognized in recent social teaching as having a real potential for promoting all of these goods - when properly understood and morally structured. However, the Catholic Church does not take a position on which economic theory is the "best" among many. She properly stood against the materialism of the atheistic Marxist system. She properly cautions Nations which have adopted a form of liberal capitalism that there are dangers in any form of "economism" or materialism which promotes the use of persons as products and fails to recognize the value of being over acquiring.

The truths and principles contained within Catholic social doctrine are not merely "religious" positions, in the sense that only religious people need assent to them. They are revealed by the Natural Law and can be known through the exercise of reason. The truths are true for all people and for all time. The Church calls us to offer them as leaven to be worked into the loaf of human culture. We are called to build a just and human society.

My experience at this conference reflected a trend I have experienced. Many have begun to use the phrase "Social Justice" in a disparaging manner. They want to expose the dangerous error committed by some who stolen the term "Social Justice". However, I caution that language really matters. Some words and phrases must be rescued when they are stolen. Social Justice is such a term. It lies at the heart of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and, properly understood, is key to building a new culture of life and civilization of love.

I contend that it is time to take back this vital term from those who have stolen it. I am sure that some of my readers who disagree would rush the platform if there was one, like that man at the conference did. However, I won't give up using it because it is a term worth fighting for.  It is time for us to take back social justice from thieves and build a new Catholic Action informed by the true Social Doctrine of the Catholic church.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Rockefellers to sell investments in fossil fuel to switch to 'clean energy' Watch

Image of From left to right: Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, the chair of the fund, and Steven Rockefeller, a son of Nelson Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund, in New York, Sept. 16, 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a bold move that illustrates just how far climate change has reached the public's consciousness, heirs to the Rockefeller family have announced that they intend to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy. The announcement is a ... continue reading


CAN'T KEEP UP: So many employees leaving Department of Homeland Security, it poses risk to U.S. Watch

Image of The vacating of those in top management positions in the Department of Homeland Security has helped slow the rollout of key cybersecurity initiatives.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS has seen an exodus of employees over the past four years. According to officials, this is leaving the United States open to potential terrorist strikes and cyber-attacks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Employees ... continue reading


Shell game in Kansas - why Democrats don't have to win Kansas to win the Senate Watch

Image of Independent investor Greg Orman seems to have the advantage in the newly-reshaped senate race.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The race for Senate in Kansas may suddenly be the most crucial contest in the nation as Republicans scramble to protect their longtime incumbent, Bob Dole is back on the campaign trail, Democrats are being as quiet as possible about not having a candidate, and a ... continue reading


Are they on to something? Judicial Watch says terrorists are operating in Mexico Watch

Image of Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the area offices of various government agencies in response to a report that Middle Eastern terrorists were operating across the border in Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Judicial Watch, a controversial Web site that maintains that Middle Eastern terrorists are operating just cross the border from the United States from Mexico is evidently stirring up waves. Federal law enforcement sources in El Paso, Texas say that a United ... continue reading


CLOTHES HORSE: Wasserman Schultz losing confidence among Democrats Watch

Image of Stylish  Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman has alienated members of her own party by reportedly demanding that the party pick up the tab for her wardrobe!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two "faux pas" have alienated Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her party. Her criticism of the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing tea party members to abusive husbands have alienated her constituency at ... continue reading


Supreme Court justice Sotomayor warns about drones encroaching on American way of life Watch

Image of Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that she's particularly troubled by the potential for commercial and government drones to compromise personal privacy.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Unmanned surveillance planes called drones pose a threat to the privacy of American citizens, warns Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. Speaking to students at Oklahoma City University's law school, Sotomayor says that frightening changes in technology ... continue reading


Obama says Islamic State 'is not Islamic' - what are they, then? Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama vowed to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria, He intends to do so with airstrikes and a minimal military presence on the ground. The president also declared that the Islamic State terrorists "are not Islamic." ... continue reading


Obama vows to attack Islamic State militants 'wherever they exist' Watch

Image of There has been some progress made against the group. After more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in Iraq in the past month, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have halted the Islamic State advance.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama has vowed to attack Islamic State militants "wherever they exist." Obama will be sending a limited U.S. military presence of 475 personnel. The president also declared that the United States will act in concert with a broad coalition ... continue reading


Opinion: We Need a Blue Collar Conservative like Rick Santorum in the 2016 Presidential Campaign Watch

Image of Rick Santorum is not an establishment candidate. He threatens establishment leaders in both major political parties. he has always played the role of the underdog and been counted out by the many self professed experts. That is one of the greatest assets he would bring to the 2016 Presidential campaign. He has the potential to draw voters from across party lines and help to forge a new governing coalition which can resuscitate the American dream and set us on a course to brighter future. I sincerely hope he runs.

By Keith A. Fournier

Rick Santorum is a statesman in an age of salesmen - and women. He is a man with a chest.  I will be watching his movements over the next few months. If he decides to run, and I hope he does, he will bring along with him into his presidential campaign a ... continue reading


Pelosi favors sweeping regulations to save net neutrality and ban Internet 'fast lanes' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's an unpopular stand for many Republicans, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she wants to give federal regulators sweeping new powers over Internet access. It's a necessity in order to save net neutrality and protect Internet users, she says. ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13
1 Like flowing water is a king's heart in Yahweh's ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:19-21
19 His mother and his brothers came looking for him, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Padre Pio
September 23: Francesco, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, was born to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter