Archbishop Dolan and Congressman Ryan: Catholic Social Doctrine, 2012 Campaign
Are we finally at a point when we can have a genuine discussion on the issues which matter most?
'This exchange of correspondence will be, I trust, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue, in service, I pray, of the country we love and the religious convictions that have always inspired sound citizenship and generous public service.' This exchange between the Congressman and the Archbishop is an example of the proper application of the principles and truths offered by Catholic Social Doctrine to be used in policy initiatives.
Congressman Ryan and Archbishop Dolan
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - While Republican Presidential candidates announced their candidacy and President Obama positioned himself for his re-election effort, the President of the US Bishops Conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan and a Conservative Catholic Congressman named Paul Ryan exchanged letters which can help frame the issues of the upcoming presidential campaign.
The political wordsmiths are trying to lay claim to that field of moral theology referred to as "Catholic Social Doctrine" as the 2012 campaign for the US Presidency begins. Prior to 2004 the phrase "Social Teaching" of the Catholic Church referred to the teachings found in the Sacred Scriptures, expounded upon in the Christian tradition, developed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, explained within a contemporary series of encyclical letters, apostolic letters and exhortations, and wonderfully summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sadly, many people had not read these sources. So, what claimed to be the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church was too often the "spin" of self styled "experts" with political agendas.
Then on April 2, 2004, the Memorial of Saint Francis of Paola, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the "Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace" released the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of Church." It can be studied and read in full online here It can also be purchased here I recommend that every Catholic, indeed all Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will purchase this outstanding compendium. It is a tremendous resource.
This social doctrine of the Church confronts what Pope Benedict called the "Dictatorship of Relativism" and insists there are unchangeable truths such as the dignity of every human person at every age and stage which must form the foundation of any just society. To be Pro-Life is not about a "single issue", it is about a world view. It is this dignity of the human person which requires a 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 one more example of a word we must not give up - for the sake of the true common good. It is the foundation for family and family is the first society, first church, first school, first economy, first government and first mediating institution. The first community which humanizes and civilizes all of us is the family.
Another truth is that all human persons created in the Image of God are created for relationship and called to human community. We can never fully experience human flourishing outside of social relationships. These relationships are perfective of our human person because we are by nature - and grace - made for these relationships. Catholic Social Thought does not begin with the individual but with the family.
The social doctrine rejects a 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. We will only experience freedom when we choose what is good and what is true. Otherwise "freedom" becomes a counterfeit and enslaves. The social doctrine also recognizes our obligation in solidarity to one another. We are our brother/sister's keeper.
The social doctrine offers principles to help us order our economies but 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. However, this call to solidarity is to be applied through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, rejecting all forms of dehumanizing collectivism, either of the left or the right.
The market economy has been affirmed in recent social teaching as having a potential for promoting these goods - when properly understood and morally structured. However, the Catholic Church stood against the materialism of the atheistic Marxist system and cautions Nations which have adopted a form of liberal capitalism of the dangers of "economism" or materialism which promotes the use of persons as products and fails to recognize the value of being over ...
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