USCCB Social Justice Appointment and Archbishop Chaput's Interview: Liberating Catholic Social Teaching
rarified academic debates in which they do little practical good and offer them as yeast for the quickly collapsing loaf of American culture. I hope this appointment, along with the comments from Bishops like Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Chaput signal that the liberation of Catholic Social Thought is underway.
It is time to wrest these principles from the camp of some on the political left who have wrongly used them as proof-texts for their social engineering efforts. It is time to offer them to any on the right who have failed to place the human person at the center of all considerations in their dalliance with libertarianism. Both left and right teeter on the brink of losing an authentic humanism which affirms the primacy of the person, the family and the common good.
The truths and principles offered by Catholic social teaching are neither left nor right. They are truly human and critical for our efforts to build a truly just and human society together. The application of the principles can also require the exercise of prudential judgment.
For example, as Archbishop Chaput noted, agree or disagree with Paul Ryan's exercise of his prudential judgment - and his proposed legislative solutions to the current fiscal crisis- he does exactly what a Catholic in public service should do with the Social Doctrine of the Church.
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church confronts what Pope Benedict properly called the "Dictatorship of Relativism" even before he assumed the Papal office. It insists there are unchangeable truths which are revealed by the Natural Law, can be known through the exercise of reason and should inform the social order in every just society.
At the foundation of these truths is the dignity of every human person at every age and stage. To be Pro-Life is NOT to be "single issue" in your political positions; it is about having a world view. It is the 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 one of these truths 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 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 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 affirms our obligation in solidarity to one another. We are our brother/sister's keeper.
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 grow in freedom when we choose what is good and what is true. Otherwise "freedom" becomes a counterfeit and enslaves us, as individuals and as nations.
The social doctrine offers principles to help us order our economies. It does not propose any particular economic theory. It insists that every economic order be at the service of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and the family. We are 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 - when properly understood and morally structured. However, the Catholic Church stood against the materialism of the atheistic Marxist system and now properly 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 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.
The appointment of Jonathan J. Reyes, Ph.D. to serve as the new Executive Director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Archbishop Chaput's interview both give me hope that the Catholic Social Teaching is being liberated - just in the nick of time.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Jonathan Reyes, John Carr, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, justice, peace, human development, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Christendom College, evangelization, Archbishop Chaput, National Catholic Reporter, Social Justice, John Allen, Paul Ryan, Deacon Keith Fo
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