As far as being a Catholic I’ve done all the right things. Married a Catholic in a Catholic church, children educated in catholic schools, Parish councils. Worked for the Catholic Church. Killed no one. Maybe coveted some of my neighbours goods. Millions of venials, no mortals to speak of. I toed the party line. I was Captain Catholic and I was going straight up.
Things changed however when I began to work for Caritas Australia. I discovered Catholic Social Teaching
– commonly referred to as the church’s best kept secret.
In the last 2 centuries numerous Papal encyclicals and documents on contemporary issues have been written. Concerns such as the widening gap between the rich and the poor, worker’s rights, globalization and care of the earth have been examined in light of the Gospel.
Put simply, Catholic Social Teaching is a collection of guiding principles, based on the combination of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the wisdom and common threads from Papal encyclicals. They help form a basis on which the church and its people make judgement and commentary on contemporary social issues.
Underpinning all principles is the Dignity of the Human Person. Every human is made in the image and likeness of God and therefore has innate human dignity.
The Preferential Option for the Poor is a core principal. Jesus was a friend of the poor. As his followers we are challenged to defend those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
The Common Good suggests that every person should have access to enough resources to enable them to live fulfilling lives. When we work together to improve the well-being of all people we are working towards the common good.
Solidarity acknowledges that our responsibility to each other crosses racial, religious, economic and ideological differences. Nazareth Parish through REACH Vietnam is in solidarity with young schoolgirls in Kon Tum.
In today’s world a critical principle is Care of the Earth. Indigenous Australians are a great example to us - protecting the land rather than exploiting its resources.
Francis has clearly articulated that he wants a poor church for the poor. For him the vulnerable and marginalized are paramount. Just imagine a hierarchical church that shared his vision. Just imagine the Australian Catholic Bishops sharing that vision. Just imagine that the principles of Catholic Social Teaching were fundamental to their thinking and subsequent actions. Were this the case we may have had a very different and far more compassionate outcome for those survivors of clerical sexual crimes.
Amidst the challenges of modern society, the Church’s Social Teachings are a rich treasure of wisdom urging us to build a just society and to live honourable and ethical lives, mindful of those in our society who are the most vulnerable.
For me, the principles of CST are a lens through which to ascertain whether I’m on the straight and narrow. Of course I have more than my fair share of the world’s resources. My carbon footprint is far too large. I don’t always treat people with the dignity they deserve. I fear my Captain Catholic badge has been severely tarnished. I’m not sure now if I’ll go straight up!!!.
Mary Anne Collins' talk on Social Justice at Mass was pithy and challenging to say the least. You can find some further information and a set of questions
that might chllenge one's own thinking in such a personal way a to initiate action. if you are looking for a discussion topic for a group meeting these would be ideal.