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Catholic social teaching is the Catholic doctrines on matters of human dignity and common good in society. The ideas address oppression, the role of the state, subsidiarity, social organization, concern for social justice, and issues of wealth distribution. Its foundations are widely considered to have been laid by Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical letter Rerum novarum , which advocated economic distributism. Its roots can be traced to the writings of Catholic thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo, and is also derived from concepts present in the Bible and the cultures of the ancient Near East. [ page needed ]
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration is the Holy See.
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. The etymological Greek analogue is "catechism".
In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service. The concept of the common good differs significantly among philosophical doctrines. Early conceptions of the common good were set out by Ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle and Plato. One understanding of the common good rooted in Aristotle's philosophy remains in common usage today, referring to what one contemporary scholar calls the "good proper to, and attainable only by, the community, yet individually shared by its members." The concept of common good developed through the work of political theorists, moral philosophers, and public economists, including Thomas Aquinas, Niccolò Machiavelli, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Madison, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes, John Rawls, and many other thinkers. In contemporary economic theory, a common good is any good which is rivalrous yet non-excludable, while the common good, by contrast, arises in the subfield of welfare economics and refers to the outcome of a social welfare function. Such a social welfare function, in turn, would be rooted in a moral theory of the good. Social choice theory aims to understand processes by which the common good may or may not be realized in societies through the study of collective decision rules. And public choice theory applies microeconomic methodology to the study of political science in order to explain how private interests affect political activities and outcomes.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, its purpose "is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just. ... [The church] has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice ... cannot prevail and prosper",According to Pope John Paul II, its foundation "rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity".
Pope Benedict XVI is a retired prelate of the Catholic Church who served as head of the Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title "pope emeritus" upon his resignation.
Pope John Paul II was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.
Catholic social teaching is distinctive in its consistent critiques of modern social and political ideologies both of the left and of the right: liberalism, communism, feminism,atheism, socialism, fascism, capitalism, and Nazism have all been condemned, at least in their pure forms, by several popes since the late nineteenth century.
Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period, as well as the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose in the wake of the Renaissance—in the "Age of Reason" of 17th-century thought and the 18th-century "Enlightenment". Some commentators consider the era of modernity to have ended by 1930, with World War II in 1945, or the 1980s or 1990s; the following era is called postmodernity. The term "contemporary history" is also used to refer to the post-1945 timeframe, without assigning it to either the modern or postmodern era.
Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Yellow is the political colour most commonly associated with liberalism.
In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.
Catholic social doctrine has always tried to find an equilibrium between respect for human liberty, including the right to private property and subsidiarity, and concern for the whole society, including the weakest and poorest.
Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases. In modern politics, liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views. In philosophy, liberty involves free will as contrasted with determinism. In theology, liberty is freedom from the effects of "sin, spiritual servitude, [or] worldly ties". Sometimes liberty is differentiated from freedom by using the word "freedom" primarily, if not exclusively, to mean the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; and using the word "liberty" to mean the absence of arbitrary restraints, taking into account the rights of all involved. In this sense, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others. Thus liberty entails the responsible use of freedom under the rule of law without depriving anyone else of their freedom. Freedom is more broad in that it represents a total lack of restraint or the unrestrained ability to fulfill one's desires. For example, a person can have the freedom to murder, but not have the liberty to murder, as the latter example deprives others of their right not to be harmed. Liberty can be taken away as a form of punishment. In many countries, people can be deprived of their liberty if they are convicted of criminal acts.
Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which is owned by a state entity; and from collective property, which is owned by a group of non-governmental entities. Private property can be either personal property or capital goods. Private property is a legal concept defined and enforced by a country's political system.
Subsidiarity is a principle of social organization that holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate level that is consistent with their resolution.
The principles of Catholic social teaching, though rooted in the Old Testament custom of the Jubilee,first began to be combined together into a system in the late nineteenth century. Since then, successive popes have added to and developed the church's body of social teaching, principally through the medium of encyclical letters.
The Old Testament is the first part of Christian Bibles, based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of the Christian Bible is the New Testament.
The Jubilee is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita and, according to Biblical regulations, had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; rabbinic literature mentioning a dispute between the Sages and Rabbi Yehuda over whether it was the 49th year, or whether it was the following (50th) year. The Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. Leviticus 25:8–13 states:
You shall count off seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; and there shall be to you the days of seven Sabbaths of years, even forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee to you. In it you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself, nor gather from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat of its increase out of the field. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his property. (WEB)
An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Roman Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop. The word comes from Late Latin encyclios.
The publication of Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum in 1891 marked the beginning of the development of a recognizable body of social teaching in the Catholic Church. It dealt with persons, systems and structures, the three co-ordinates of the modern promotion of justice and peace, now established as integral to the church's mission. In the years which followed there have been numerous encyclicals and messages on social issues; various forms of Catholic action developed in different parts of the world; and social ethics taught in schools and seminaries. To mark the 40th anniversary of Rerum novarum, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo anno, which expanded on some of its themes.
Rerum novarum, or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on 15 May 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes.
Further development came in the post–Second World War period when attention turned to the problems of social and economic development and international relations. On May 15, 1961 Pope John XXIII released Mater et magistra , subtitled "Christianity and Social Progress". This encyclical expanded the church's social doctrine to cover the relations between rich and poor nations, examining the obligation of rich countries to assist poor countries while respecting their particular cultures. It includes an examination of the threat of global economic imbalances to world peace. On April 11, 1963, Pope John expanded further on this in Pacem in terris (Latin : Peace on Earth), the first encyclical addressed to both Catholics and non-Catholics. In it, the Pope linked the establishment of world peace to the laying of a foundation consisting of proper rights and responsibilities between individuals, social groups, and states from the local to the international level. He exhorted Catholics to understand and apply the social teachings:
Once again we exhort our people to take an active part in public life, and to contribute towards the attainment of the common good of the entire human family as well as to that of their own country. They should endeavor, therefore, in the light of the Faith and with the strength of love, to ensure that the various institutions—whether economic, social, cultural or political in purpose – should be such as not to create obstacles, but rather to facilitate or render less arduous people's perfectioning of themselves both in the natural order as well as in the supernatural.
This document, issued at the height of the Cold War, also included a denunciation of the nuclear arms race and a call for strengthening the United Nations.
The primary document from the Second Vatican Council concerning social teachings is Gaudium et spes , the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church and the Modern World", which is considered one of the chief accomplishments of the Council. Unlike earlier documents, this is an expression of all the bishops, and covers a wide range of issues of the relationship of social concerns and Christian action. At its core, the document asserts the fundamental dignity of each human being, and declares the church's solidarity with both those who suffer, and those who would comfort the suffering:
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.
Other conciliar documents such as Dignitatis humanae , drafted largely by John Courtney Murray, an American Jesuit, have important applications to the social teachings of the church on freedom today.
Like his predecessor, Pope Paul VI gave attention to the disparities in wealth and development between the industrialized West and the Third World in his 1967 encyclical Populorum progressio (Latin : The Development of Peoples). It asserts that free international trade alone is not adequate to correct these disparities and supports the role of international organizations in addressing this need. Paul called on rich nations to meet their moral obligation to poor nations, pointing out the relationship between development and peace. The intention of the church is not to take sides, but to be an advocate for basic human dignity:
There can be no progress towards the complete development of individuals without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity.Experienced in human affairs, the Church ... "seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit." ... But, since the Church lives in history, she ought to "scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel." Sharing the noblest aspirations of men and women and suffering when she sees them not satisfied, she wishes to help them attain their full flowing, and that is why she offers all people what she possesses as her characteristic attribute: a global vision of man and of the human race.
The May 1971 apostolic letter Octogesima adveniens addressed the challenge of urbanization and urban poverty and stressed the personal responsibility of Christians to respond to injustice. For the tenth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (October 26, 1975), Paul issued Evangelii nuntiandi (Latin : Evangelization in the Modern World). In it he asserts that combating injustice is an essential part of evangelizing modern peoples.
John Paul II continued his predecessors' work of developing the body of Catholic social doctrine. Of particular importance were his 1981 encyclical Laborem exercens and Centesimus annus in 1991.
On one hand there is a growing moral sensitivity alert to the value of every individual as a human being without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or social class. On the other hand these proclamations are contradicted in practice. How can these solemn affirmations be reconciled with the widespread attacks on human life and the refusal to accept those who are weak, needy, elderly, or just conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life; they threaten the very meaning of democratic coexistence, and our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted, and oppressed, instead of communities of "people living together."
While not endorsing any particular political agenda, the church holds that this teaching applies in the public (political) realm, not only the private.
Laborem exercens qualifies the teaching of private ownership in relation to the common use of goods that all men, as children of God, are entitled to. The church "has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone."Many of these concepts are again stressed in Centesimus annus , issued on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Rerum novarum , which encompasses a critique of both socialism and unfettered capitalism. Another major milestone under Pope John Paul II's papacy occurred in 2005, with the publication of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church , a work entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate added many additional perspectives to the Social Teaching tradition, including in particular relationships with the concepts of Charity and Truth, and introduced the idea of the need for a strong "World Political Authority" to deal with humanity's most pressing challenges and problems. This idea has proven to be controversial and difficult to accept, particularly by right-of-center U.S. Catholic thinkers who are generally suspicious, or even disdainful, of supranational and international organizations, such as the United Nations. The concept was further developed in a 2011 Note issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace entitled "Towards reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the context of World Political Authority".
In Caritas in veritate, Benedict also lifted up Paul VI's social encyclical Populorum Progressio, setting it as a new point of reference for Catholic social thought in the 21st century. Noted scholar Thomas D. Williams wrote that "by honoring Populorum progressio with the title of 'the Rerum novarum of the present age,' Benedict meant to elevate Populorum Progressio, conferring on it a paradigmatic status not dissimilar to that enjoyed by Rerum novarum throughout the twentieth century." Williams claims that the reason for this elevation is that Populorum Progressio, "for all its real deficiencies, effected an important conceptual shift in Catholic social thinking, by moving from the worker question (with its attendant concerns of just wages, private property, working environment, and labor associations) to the broader and richer social benchmark of integral human development."
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, explicitly affirmed "the right of states" to intervene in the economy to promote "the common good".He wrote:
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.
Pope Francis has warned about the "idolatry of money"and wrote:
[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.
In his second encyclical, Laudato si' , the pope lays forth a "biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action" to combat environmental degradation and climate change.
With respect to climate change, some critics have argued that Pope Francis is departing from the positions of his predecessors. Daniel Schwindt observed that "some writers seem to suggest (as is common among persons who’ve never taken the time to read the encyclicals themselves), that Pope Francis's Laudato Si' represents some new venture on the part of the Church—a departure from its customary range of subject matter."But, Schwindt argues, his attitude toward climate change is a precise continuation of the attitude of his immediate predecessor. Pope Benedict XVI had written:
The order of creation demands that a priority be given to those human activities that do not cause irreversible damage to nature, but which instead are woven into the social, cultural, and religious fabric of the different communities. In this way, a sober balance is achieved between consumption and the sustainability of resources.
Every commentator has his or her own list of key principles and documents, and there is no official ‘canon’ of principles or documents.
Human dignity is one principle of Catholic social thought."Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give."
The origins of subsidiarity as a concept of Catholic social thought lie with Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, who served as Bishop of Mainz in the mid- to late 19th Century.It is most well-known, however, from its subsequent incorporation into Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo anno. This encyclical’s formulation of subsidiarity is the touchstone from which further interpretations tend to depart: "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them." As with many social encyclicals in the modern period, this one occurs in the historical context of the intensifying struggle between communist and capitalist ideologies, exactly forty years – hence the title – after the Vatican’s first public stance on the issue in Rerum novarum. Promulgated in 1931, Quadragesimo anno is a response to German National Socialism and Soviet communism, on the one hand, and to Western European and American capitalist individualism on the other. It broke the surface of Catholic social teaching in this context, and it is helpful to keep this in mind.
Gregory Beabout suggests that subsidiarity draws upon a far older concept as well: the Roman military term subsidium. He writes that "the role of the ‘subsidium’ (literally, to sit behind) is to lend help and support in case of need."Employing Beabout’s etymology, subsidiarity indicates that the higher social unit ought to “sit behind” the lower ones to lend help and support in case of need. Another etymological interpretation states that subsidiarity literally means “to ‘seat’ (‘sid’) a service down (‘sub’) as close to the need for that service as is feasible.” Either interpretation indicates a hermeneutic of subsidiarity in which the higher social body’s rights and responsibilities for action are predicated upon their assistance to and empowerment of the lower.
Francis McHugh states that in addition to the “vertical” dimension of subsidiarity, there is also a “horizontal” dimension which “calls for a diversity of semi-autonomous social, economic, and cultural spheres.”Quadragesimo anno presents these “spheres” as occupying the space between the poles of individual and State: "...things have come to such a pass through the evil of what we have termed “individualism” that, following upon the overthrow and near extinction of that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there remain virtually only individuals and the State. This is to the great harm of the State itself; for, with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore. the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties." These associations or “lesser societies” are encouraged because they are the vehicle by which society functions most effectively and corresponds most closely with human dignity. Examples of these associations today would include the family, unions, nonprofit organizations, religious congregations, and corporations of all sizes.
Subsidiarity charts a course between the Scylla of individualism and Charybdis of collectivism by locating the responsibilities and privileges of social life in the smallest unit of organization at which they will function. Larger social bodies, be they the state or otherwise, are permitted and required to intervene only when smaller ones cannot carry out the tasks themselves. Even in this case, the intervention must be temporary and for the purpose of empowering the smaller social body to be able to carry out such functions on its own.
Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, not merely "vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others" (Joseph Donders, John Paul II: The Encyclicals in Everyday Language). Solidarity, which flows from faith, is fundamental to the Christian view of social and political organization. Each person is connected to and dependent on all humanity, collectively and individually.
In Caritas in veritate , the Catholic Church declared that "Charity is at the heart of the Church". Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (Matthew 22:36-40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships but with friends, family members or within small groups.
The church has chosen the concept of "charity in truth" to avoid a degeneration into sentimentality in which love becomes empty. In a culture without truth, there is a fatal risk of losing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word love is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in God and the Bible.
Distributism is a school of economic and social thought developed by Catholic thinkers G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. It holds that social and economic structures should promote social justice, and that social justice is best served through a wide distribution of ownership. For support, distributists cite Rerum novarum , which states:
We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.
This principle is then used as a basis for progressive tax rates, anti-trust laws and economic cooperatives including credit unions.Rerum novarum, Quadragesimo anno and Centesimus annus are all documents which advocate a just distribution of income and wealth. Still more recently, in Caritas in veritate , Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the point to such an extent that the term "redistribution" is mentioned no less than eight times throughout the encyclical, each time in a positive manner.
As with the principles above, there is no official list of key themes.The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has identified these seven key themes of Catholic Social Teaching set out here. Other sources identify more or fewer key themes based on their reading of the key documents of the social magisterium.
The foundational principle of all Catholic social teachings is the sanctity of human life. Catholics believe in an inherent dignity of the human person starting from conception through to natural death. They believe that human life must be valued infinitely above material possessions. Pope John Paul II wrote and spoke extensively on the topic of the inviolability of human life and dignity in his watershed encyclical, Evangelium Vitae , (Latin for "The Gospel of Life").
Catholics oppose acts considered attacks and affronts to human life, including abortion,fornication (including contraception), capital punishment, euthanasia, genocide, torture, the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war, and every deliberate taking of innocent human life. In the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes (Latin for "Joy and Hope"), it is written that "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care." The church does not oppose war in all circumstances. The church's moral theology has generally emphasized just war theory.
The post–Vatican II Catechism of the Catholic Church says of capital punishment:
The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]."
Applying this argument to the situation in the United States today, in 2005 the USCCB launched "a major Catholic campaign to end the use of the death penalty."
Believing men and women are made in the image and likeness of God,Catholic doctrine teaches to respect all humans based on an inherent dignity. According to John Paul II, every human person "is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God." Catholics oppose racism and other forms of discrimination. In 2007 the USCCB wrote:
Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us ... to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering. Nations are called to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort, always seeking first to resolve disputes by peaceful means. We revere the lives of children in the womb, the lives of persons dying in war and from starvation, and indeed the lives of all human beings as children of God.
A belief in the inherent dignity of the human person also requires that basic human needs are adequately met, including food, health care, shelter, etc. The bishops have see this as a basis for the support of social welfare programs and of governmental economic policies that promote equitable distribution of income and access to essential goods and services.
According to the Book of Genesis, the Lord God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone".The Catholic Church teaches that man is not only a sacred but also a social person and that families are the first and most basic units of a society. It advocates a complementarian view of marriage, family life, and religious leadership. Full human development takes place in relationship with others. The family—based on marriage (between a man and a woman)—is the first and fundamental unit of society and is a sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children. Together families form communities, communities a state and together all across the world each human is part of the human family. How these communities organize themselves politically, economically and socially is thus of the highest importance. Each institution must be judged by how much it enhances, or is a detriment to, the life and dignity of human persons.
Catholic Social Teaching opposes collectivist approaches such as Communism but at the same time it also rejects unrestricted laissez-faire policies and the notion that a free market automatically produces social justice. The state has a positive moral role to play as no society will achieve a just and equitable distribution of resources with a totally free market.All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society and, under the principle of subsidiarity, state functions should be carried out at the lowest level that is practical. A particular contribution of Catholic social teaching is a strong appreciation for the role of intermediary organizations such as labor unions, community organizations, fraternal groups and parish churches.
Every person has a fundamental right to life and to the necessities of life. The right to exercise religious freedom publicly and privately by individuals and institutions along with freedom of conscience need to be constantly defended. In a fundamental way, the right to free expression of religious beliefs protects all other rights.
The church supports private property and teaches that "every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own."The right to private property is not absolute, however, and is limited by the concepts of the "universal destiny of the goods of the earth" and of the social mortgage. It is theoretically moral and just for its members to destroy property used in an evil way by others, or for the state to redistribute wealth from those who have unjustly hoarded it.
Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. Rights should be understood and exercised in a moral framework rooted in the dignity of the human person and social justice. Those that have more have a greater responsibility to contribute to the common good than those who have less.
We live our lives by a subconscious philosophy of freedom and work. The encyclical Laborem exercens (1981) by Pope John Paul II, describes work as the essential key to the whole social question. The very beginning is an aspect of the human vocation. Work includes every form of action by which the world is transformed and shaped or even simply maintained by human beings. It is through work that we achieve fulfilment. So in order to fulfil ourselves we must cooperate and work together to create something good for all of us, a common good. What we call justice is that state of social harmony in which the actions of each person best serve the common good.
Freedom according to Natural Law is the empowerment of good. Being free we have responsibilities. With human relationships we have responsibilities towards each other. This is the basis of human rights. The Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, in their document "The Common Good" (1996) stated that, "The study of the evolution of human rights shows that they all flow from the one fundamental right: the right to life. From this derives the right to a society which makes life more truly human: religious liberty, decent work, housing, health care, freedom of speech, education, and the right to raise and provide for a family" (section 37). Having the right to life must mean that everyone else has a responsibility towards me. To help sustain and develop my life. This gives me the right to whatever I need to accomplish without compromising the mission of others, and it lays on others the corresponding responsibility to help me. All justice is the power of God compensated solely in terms of individual relationships.
The Ten Commandments reflect the basic structure of the Natural Law insofar as it applies to humanity. The first three are the foundation for everything that follows: The Love of God, the Worship of God, the sanctity of God and the building of people around God. The other seven Commandments are to do with the love of humanity and describe the different ways in which we must serve the common good : Honour your father and mother, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour, you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour (Exodus 20:3–17). Our Lord Jesus Christ Summarized the Commandments with the New Commandment: "Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 13:34, 15:9–17). The mystery of Jesus is a mystery of love. Our relationship with God is not one of fear, of slavery or oppression; it is a relationship of serene trust born of a free choice motivated by love. Pope John Paul II stated that love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. By his law God does not intend to coerce our will, but to set it free from everything that could compromise its authentic dignity and its full realization. (Pope John Paul II to government leaders, 5 November 2000.)
Jesus taught that on the Day of Judgement God will ask what each of us did to help the poor and needy: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."This is reflected in the church's canon law, which states, "The Christian faithful are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources."
Through our words, prayers and deeds we must show solidarity with, and compassion for, the poor. When instituting public policy we must always keep the "preferential option for the poor" at the forefront of our minds. The moral test of any society is "how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor."
Pope Benedict XVI has taught that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel".This preferential option for the poor and vulnerable includes all who are marginalized in our nation and beyond—unborn children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and terminally ill, and victims of injustice and oppression.
Society must pursue economic justice and the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Employers must not "look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but ... respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character." Employers contribute to the common good through the services or products they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers.
Workers have a right to work, to earn a living wage, and to form trade unionsto protect their interests. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. Workers also have responsibilities—to provide a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, to treat employers and co-workers with respect, and to carry out their work in ways that contribute to the common good. Workers must "fully and faithfully" perform the work they have agreed to do.
In 1933, the Catholic Worker Movement was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. It was committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the marginalized and poorest in Society. Today over 185 Catholic Worker communities continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms.
Pope John Paul II wrote in the 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis , "Solidarity is undoubtedly a Christian virtue. It seeks to go beyond itself to total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It leads to a new vision of the unity of humankind, a reflection of God's triune intimate life. ..."It is a unity that binds members of a group together.
All the peoples of the world belong to one human family. We must be our brother's keeper,though we may be separated by distance, language or culture. Jesus teaches that we must each love our neighbors as ourselves and in the parable of the Good Samaritan we see that our compassion should extend to all people. Solidarity includes the Scriptural call to welcome the stranger among us—including immigrants seeking work, a safe home, education for their children, and a decent life for their families.
Solidarity at the international level primarily concerns the Global South. For example, the church has habitually insisted that loans be forgiven on many occasions, particularly during Jubilee years.Charity to individuals or groups must be accompanied by transforming unjust political, economic and social structures.
The world and its goods were created for the use and benefit of all of God´s creatures and any structures that impede the realization of this fundamental goal are not right. This concept ties in with those of Social Justice and of the limits to private property.
A Biblical vision of justice is much more comprehensive than civil equity; it encompasses right relationships between all members of God's creation. Stewardship of creation: The world's goods are available for humanity to use only under a "social mortgage" which carries with it the responsibility to protect the environment. The "goods of the earth" are gifts from God, and they are intended by God for the benefit of everyone.Man was given dominion over all creation as sustainer rather than as exploiter, and is commanded to be a good steward of the gifts God has given him. We cannot use and abuse the natural resources God has given us with a destructive consumer mentality.
Catholic Social Teaching recognizes that the poor are the most vulnerable to environmental impact and endure disproportional hardship when natural areas are exploited or damaged. US Bishops established an environmental justice program to assist parishes and dioceses who wanted to conduct education, outreach and advocacy about these issues. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops Environmental Justice Program (EJP) [ citation needed ]calls Catholics to a deeper respect for God's creation and engages parishes in activities that deal with environmental problems, particularly as they affect the poor.
Several organs of the Holy See are dedicated to social issues. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is tasked with promoting "justice and peace in the world, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church."It works to clarify, expand upon, and develop new teachings in the areas of peace, justice, and human rights. The council also collaborates with local and international Catholic organizations working in those areas, and works with the social welfare organs of the United Nations, through the Secretariat of State. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is the Holy See's primary organ devoted to charitable works. The council supervises the activities of Caritas Internationalis. It also operates the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel and the Populorum Progressio Foundation. The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences promotes the study and progress of social sciences. The academy works with various dicasteries, especially the Council for Justice and Peace, to contribute to the development of the church's social teachings.
The Holy See has established the World Movement of Christian Workers as the church's organization for working men and women to advance Catholic social initiatives.
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Christian democracy, a political movement in numerous European and Latin American countries, is significantly influenced by Catholic social teaching. It has influenced other political movements in varying degrees throughout the world.
The subsidiarity principle which originated in Rerum novarum was established in European Union law by the Treaty of Maastricht,signed on 7 February 1992 and entered into force on 1 November 1993. The present formulation is contained in Article 5 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (consolidated version following the Treaty of Nice, which entered into force on 1 February 2003).
Progressio Ireland, a nongovernmental development organization based in Dublin, is also founded on the principles of Catholic social teaching. It works to achieve sustainable development the eradication of poverty in the world's underdeveloped nations.
Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a cooperative based in Mondragón, Spain, was founded on the then extant principles of Catholic social teaching.
The International Movement of Catholic Professionals and Intellectuals, "Pax Romana", is another organization firmly based on Catholic Social Teaching principles. It is active in all continents, particularly Europe, the Americas, and Africa.
In the run up to the 2010 General Election, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales produced the booklet Choosing the Common Good in order to clarify the principals of Catholic Social Teaching.
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There is an important movement of Catholic social activism in the United States.
Catholic institutions are often dependent upon the generosity of benefactors who are politically and religiously conservative, wary of or outright disapproving of feminism. Catholic traditions and current official church stands are at odds with many feminist positions.
Other feminist concerns, such as changes in sexist language, have been an issue for almost a decade in the Roman Catholic Church and most other churches as well.
2123 'Many... of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time.'
Distributism is an economic ideology asserting that the world's productive assets should be widely owned rather than concentrated. It was developed in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries based upon the principles of Catholic social teaching, especially the teachings of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum novarum (1891) and Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno (1931). It views both capitalism and socialism as equally flawed and exploitative, and it favors economic mechanisms such as small-scale cooperatives and family businesses, and large-scale antitrust regulations.
Oswald von Nell-Breuning SJ was a Roman Catholic theologian and sociologist.
Quadragesimo anno is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum, further developing Catholic social teaching. Unlike Leo XIII, who addressed the condition of workers, Pius XI discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He describes the major dangers for human freedom and dignity arising from unrestrained capitalism, socialism, and totalitarian communism. He also calls for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
Pacem in terris was a papal encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII on 11 April 1963 on the rights and obligations of individuals and of the state, as well as the proper relations between states. It emphasized human dignity and equality among all people, and made mention of issues such as the rights of women, nuclear non-proliferation, and the United Nations, all of which it endorsed. It was the last encyclical drafted by John XXIII, who had been diagnosed with cancer in September 1962 and died two months after the encyclical's completion. Biographer Peter Hebblethwaite called it Pope John's "last will and testament". Published on Holy Thursday, the Pope called it his "Easter gift".
Centesimus annus is an encyclical which was written by Pope John Paul II in 1991 on the hundredth anniversary of Rerum novarum, an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. It is part of a larger body of writings, known as Catholic social teaching, that trace their origin to Rerum novarum and ultimately the New Testament.
Mater et magistra is the encyclical written by Pope John XXIII on the topic of "Christianity and Social Progress". It was promulgated on 15 May 1961. The title means "mother and teacher", referring to the role of the church. It describes a necessity to work towards authentic community in order to promote human dignity. It taught that the state must sometimes intervene in matters of health care, education, and housing.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was a dicastery of the Roman Curia dedicated to "action-oriented studies" for the international promotion of justice, peace, and human rights from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. To this end, it cooperates with various religious institutes and advocacy groups, as well as scholarly, ecumenical, and international organizations.
Divini Redemptoris is an anti-communist encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI. It was published on 19 March 1937. In this encyclical, the pope sets out to "expose once more in a brief synthesis the principles of atheistic Communism as they are manifested chiefly in bolshevism".
Populorum progressio is the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI on the topic of "the development of peoples" and that the economy of the world should serve mankind and not just the few. It was released on March 26, 1967.
Vix pervenit: On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit was an encyclical, promulgated by Pope Benedict XIV on November 1, 1745, which condemned the practice of charging interest on loans as usury. Because the encyclical was addressed to the Bishops of Italy, it is generally not considered ex cathedra. The Holy Office applied the encyclical to the whole of the Roman Catholic Church on July 29, 1836, during the reign of Pope Gregory XVI.
Octogesima adveniens is the incipit of the 14 May 1971 Apostolic Letter addressed by Pope Paul VI to Cardinal Maurice Roy, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum. Generally known as A Call to Action on the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum novarum, it discusses themes such as securing democratic foundations in society.
Development and Peace is the official international development arm of the Catholic Church in Canada. It is a member of Caritas Internationalis, and Halifax Initiative.
Social teachings of the papacy gives a succinct review of salient features in the papal social encyclicals beginning with Rerum novarum, the groundbreaking encyclical of Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and going to the present time.
The World Day of Peace is a feast day of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to universal peace, held on 1 January, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Pope Paul VI established it in 1967, being inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII and with reference to his own encyclical Populorum Progressio. The day was first observed on 1 January 1968.
Caritas in veritate is the third and last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, and his first social encyclical. It was signed on 29 June 2009 and was published on 7 July 2009. It was initially published in Italian, English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.
Laudato si' is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. The encyclical has the subtitle "on care for our common home". In it, the pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take "swift and unified global action."