Guide An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought (Introduction to Religion)

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Participation and solidarity are two other fundamental principles of Catholic social thought. Participation is defined by the recent Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church as when each. Some Christian thinkers conceive of the state or government as being established simply to repress evil desires and evil people. In Catholic thought, the government also has a more positive role, namely to help secure common good.

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Pope John Paul II put the point as follows:. The government has many necessary and indispensable functions to play, roles that cannot be accomplished by individuals acting alone or even by smaller groups in society. Yet states and governments often exceed their legitimate role and infringe upon individuals and groups in society so as to dominate rather than to serve them. To combat this tendency, Catholic social thought emphasizes the principle of subsidiarity.

Non-Catholics also have discovered this principle.

About CST « Catholic Social Teaching

National defense, interstate cooperation, and treaties with other nations are obvious examples of matters properly undertaken by the federal government. Administration of the criminal justice system is another example of a matter that properly pertains to government. On the other hand, the government should not intervene to attempt to alleviate all problems.


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A welfare or "nanny" state, offering cradle-to-grave security and attempting to provide for all human needs, expands the state beyond its proper scope and violates the principle of subsidiarity. Pope John Paul II explained:. Government should be as small as possible, but as big as necessary to accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished that cannot be accomplished in any other way. This overreaching by the state leads to situations that are both inefficient and detrimental to human welfare:.

When should the state intervene and when should governmental authority refrain? Such questions are difficult to answer outside of the concrete situation, for they depend upon prudential judgments about particular situations. People of good will, including Catholics who are attempting to put into action Catholic social teaching, may legitimately disagree about whether a given piece of legislation or governmental intervention is warranted to alleviate a social problem.

Many social questions, such as, "Should this welfare benefit be offered to people in this particular situation?


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Nevertheless, all Catholics are obliged to work to find solutions to contemporary social problems in light of the Gospel and their best practical wisdom. According to Genesis, God not only creates man but puts him to work naming the animals and caring for the garden. Obviously, this task was not given to Adam because God was too tired to finish the job. Rather, human work participates in and reflects God's creative and providential care of the universe. Even before the fall, man is created to till and keep the Garden of Eden, to imitate God's work in creation through human work. After the fall, work becomes at times a toilsome task, but work remains part of man's vocation from God.

Any honest work can be sanctified, offered to God, and made holy through the intentions of the worker and the excellence of the work done. Furthermore, workers are not mere drones, means to the production of capital for owners, but must be respected and accorded the opportunity to form unions to secure collectively a just compensation. In Catholic thought, the right of association is a natural right of the human being, which therefore precedes his incorporation into political society.

Indeed, the formation of unions "cannot be prohibited by the state" because, as Pope John Paul II notes, "the state is bound to protect natural rights, not to destroy them; and if it forbids its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence" Centesimus Annus 7. The Church was instrumental in helping workers form unions to combat the excesses of industrialization.

Peace means more than just an absence of violent conflict. Peace is the "tranquility of order" in Augustine's phrase. War between nations may be necessary at times — but solely in order to restore peace. The Catholic Church from at least the time of Augustine has endorsed "just war theory. Realism, in the context of the ethics of war, contends that war has no rules whatsoever, aside perhaps from survival of the fittest.

Just war theory is a mean between pacifism and realism, a mean that has been explicitly adopted and appealed to by most contemporary governments. As articulated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church , the criteria for a just war include that:. Recent discussions have addressed the question of whether a "preemptive" war, a war launched into order to prevent attack, could be justified according to traditional just war teaching. Other discussions question, given contemporary technology, whether a just war is possible. These questions notwithstanding, the fact remains that peace involves a just ordering of society.

This just order of society also includes solicitude for the poor. Not only the direct or indirect effects of individual actions, but also wise social policies are necessary for a just ordering of society, social policies that must take into account the likely effect on the poor. As noted, Catholic social teaching does not address exactly how this should be done in every society. It may be that aggressive social action through the intervention of governmental policy is necessary. It may be that private and voluntary initiatives of religious groups such as St. Vincent de Paul and secular groups such as the United Way should take place.

It may be that businesses should be compelled by law or voluntarily adopt policies that aid the poor. It may be that families and private persons should undertake the responsibility. Most likely a combination of governmental, social and religious, and individual initiatives are needed. What exactly will help the poor and society in general will not always be clear in every situation, but every Catholic has an obligation to think seriously and act purposely to aid those suffering around them and around the world.

These seven principles — respect for the human person, promotion of the family, the individual's right to own property, the common good, subsidiarity, the dignity of work and workers, and pursuit of peace and care for the poor — summarize some of the essentials of Catholic social teaching from Leo XIII through Benedict XVI.

Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the home, he only said, "I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel — this is the greatness of people who are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor.

We are not social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we must bring that presence of God into your family, for the family that prays together, stays together. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom. Solidarity CCC Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples.

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International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this. Stewardship of Nature CCC The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.

Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives.


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  • Subsidiarity CCC Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature.

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