“If you want peace, work for justice.” -Pope Paul VI
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF!
The Church teaches us that our personal faith is lived out in relationship both to God and others. Our faith is inescapably about moral responsibility.
Our moral responsibilities lie in concentric circles:
The Church’s social teachings encompass Catholic doctrine relating to the collective welfare of humanity as an integral part of our Christian duties. A distinctive feature is the concern for the poorest members of society.
At the heart of this teaching are the words of Jesus, “whatever you have done for one of the least of my brothers, you have done to me.” (Matthew 25.40)
The foundations of contemporary Catholic social teaching were laid in1891 by Pope Leo XIII’s great encyclical letter Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labour). The teachings draw on the words of Jesus and the prophets; official church documents; Catholic philosophers and theologians and the lived practice of modern activists and past saints.
THE KEY THEMES OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
The sanctity and dignity of human life
From conception to natural death, human life must be valued infinitely above all material possessions.
We are members of a community
We are social beings in our innermost nature. As members of our community we have a right and duty to participate in society for the common good.
We have rights and responsibilities
Every person has the right to life and the necessities of life. We have social, economic and political rights. And we have a responsibility to see that all enjoy those same rights.
Economic justice and the rights of workers
The economy must serve the people not the other way around. Caring for the weakest and the poorest of our community is a moral obligation.
Solidarity with poor and vulnerable people
Through our words, deeds and prayers we must show solidarity with the poor. In public policy, we must always keep the “preferential option for the poor” at the forefront. It is the basis for international humanitarian aid (Caritas).
Our common humanity transcends all differences and divisions among people
We belong to one human family. Solidarity is the principle that cuts across divisions of gender, race, class and culture and binds people together including foreigners, refugees and immigrants. The moral test for society is how it treats and respects its most vulnerable members.
Respect for the decisions and autonomy of lesser social units and institutions. A vexed question in modern times, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonía being a case in point, subsidiarity has a long history in the Church as a counter to centralism and centralisation.
Care for God’s creation and the environment
The Biblical vision of justice goes much wider than civil society – it covers right relationships between all members of God’s creation, and between human beings and God.
The “goods of the earth” are gifts from God, and we must not use and abuse the natural resources God has given us with a destructive consumer mentality. We must care for planet earth.
The encyclical letter of Pope Francis on Care for our Common Home is the most significant social document of the modern Church. Pope Francis, a scientist and a Jesuit, from Latin America the birthplace of liberation theology, uses the ‘see, judge, act’ method. He expounds what is wrong with our entire environment, not just the ecological environment. The Pope then goes on to judge the state in which we find ourselves against the what the Church and our Faith teach us. In his call for action he pleads for conversion, international dialogue, transparency in decision-making and ecological education and spirituality.
J&P Bryanston use Laudato Si’ to inspire our work. We have adopted as our motto ‘Cry of the earth. Cry of the Poor’. We have heeded the Pope’s call for a ‘new lifestyle’ and so have an additional theme ‘Transforming ourselves, our community, our society.’
The ‘Greening the Parish’ project has its origins in J&P. It is a Laudato Si’ inspired environmental project of the PPC and J&P to make the premises of the Catholic Church of the Resurrection, Bryanston, sustainable and an example to the parish and the wider community.
What can we do about the injustices in our society?
Our South African society is violent and fractured and hugely unequal. Poverty, unemployment, economic hardship, crime, racial antagonism and xenophobia are stark realities for all. But especially for the poor.
Adding to the lack of peace of mind is climate change. There are more prolonged droughts, more intense incidents of storms and floods and fires.
Corruption is rife in politics and business. Public figures speak and act irresponsibly and divisively. Far too many of the poorest of the poor are still waiting for democracy to deliver. Legitimate protest action often turns violent. Many of us are tempted by negativity, fear and despair.
Our values as Christians are also challenged by many powerful forces in contemporary global culture. These forces include media, especially strident social media, self-serving politicians, profit‑at-all-costs business and the dubious entertainment industry.
Although we rejoice in Creation and the Incarnation, in many ways Christianity must always stand in opposition to “the world”.
But we live in this world. The Church tells us that the laity have a special responsibility for the common good of society. Wherever we are, we must think clearly, speak courageously, and act with vision.
We use the same space and technology as the forces working against us – media, civic or political structures, business and even entertainment.
Our world is a shared world. We must respond by living generously and responsibly through prayer and action wherever we are called to live out our Christian life, seven days a week.
Justice and Peace in the Parish
Justice and Peace is a ministry, not a movement or sodality. Here in Bryanston the group works under the auspices of the Parish Pastoral Council to make known the social teachings of the Church.
J&P meets monthly. Morning and evening meetings alternate. Prayer, with reflection, is an integral part of our meetings. We use the see, judge, act method of discernment and the encyclical Laudato Si’ as our handbook.
Want to work with the J&P group?
Or simply be on the mailing list? Or do you have ideas about what we should be doing to make social justice a living issue in our parish – in every sense of the word?
People to contact:
Ruth Busschau, 083-449-5186, email@example.com
Tracy Mpofu, 082-321-0009, firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy Stockill, 083-267-7070, email@example.com
Gary Watkins, 082-416-7712, firstname.lastname@example.org
Further sources of information
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Paulines Publications Africa (2004)
The Compendium is available from the Paulines’ Catholic Bookshop, 118 Queen Street, Kensington, Johannesburg- 011 622 5195
For Laudato Si’ and other encyclicals _www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0223
For secular history and definitions en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_social_teaching