Introduction to Catholic social teaching, Rev. Raymond de Souza

by Chris Armstrong

…After the war, there was a human rights revolution in the thinking of the church. Facing the horrors of totalitarianism, there was a shift in emphasis: defense of human person, dignity, rights was essential. Universal declaration of human rights made after war. State no longer as in Aquinas’s time, a sacral actor: a thing thought of as exercising benign influence, but the source of evil, malign forces. Emphasized in documents of the 1960s: Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, Vat II emphasized religious liberty—a contested concept! Right to worship God freely! 1965 Dignitatis Humanae Personae.

Then toward end of 60s, shift to another problem that emerged: world that seemed to have prosperous, advancing societies, and those left behind with nothing. 1967, Paul VI, looked at question of income and equality. Not everyone sharing in fruits and goods of earth: focus on development, redistribution of wealth.

Then key figure, JP II, in social teaching of Catholicism: 27 year papacy. And lived in totalitarian world—came out of that. Three encyclicals: first: defense of right of workers, similar to that of Leo XIII. More deeply into anthropology of work: man’s work shapes him. Attacked communism not so much on loss of liberties, but mistakes about work: work is to be controlled by state to liberate man. NO man liberates through work, broadly speaking. Fundamental part of man’s liberty is exercised in his work, understood in broadest sense. Work is an expression of liberty. We use our intelligence in our work, gift of God. Our creativity is being applied, which is in the image of God.

Then a few  years later, the “Concern for the things of the social order” encyclical: Right to economic initiative. Sollicitudo rei socialis, 1987. Liberty not just in political, cultural, religious spheres. Also right to economic initiative—a liberty proper to man in his economic work, which should not be stifled by state. That expression is new. The idea goes back a long time. And the idea of entrepreneurship (Acton involved in this) affirmed for the first time here too.

Then Centesimus Annus, 1991, defense of free economy, as he calls it. Economic liberty exercised with others: if you mean this by capitalism, then that is good. But if you separate economic liberty from all other liberties—freedom to exploit—then that is not a Christian vision.

Wrapping up: that’s where things stood. Enter Benedict XVI, 2005. Not a lawyer like Pius XI, Leo XIII, not a historian like ____, not a diplomat like _____, not a philosopher like JPII, but a gifted theologian. That’s the exception. That’s unusual. Maybe never in history of church is the successor of Peter also the most accomplished theologian alive. He starts with a theological point on social teaching: the basic reality that ought to characterize our social relations is charity. Usually Catholic social teaching had started with justice. Ubi caritas, not ubi justitio. Where there is charity, there is God. Not where there is justice.

This is a challenge, therefore. For Christians, he says, we must start with charity. We wouldn’t disagree, but it’s a challenge to the way things has been done….

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Liberals and progressives at USCCB have exchanged the Catholic principle of subsidiarity for socialist stateism

For anyone who needs a reminder of what this principle (of subsidiarity) means, here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (CCC 1883):

Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good’.

It’s important to note that subsidiarity is not an “anti-government” or “anti-state” principle. Indeed it affirms that there is a role for government because (1) there are some things that only governments can and should do and (2) sometimes the state does need to intervene when other communities are unable to cope temporarily with their particular responsibilities. Nor, it should be added, does subsidiarity always translate into the very same policy-positions, precisely because some elements of the common good are in a constant state of flux.

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A Guiding Principle to the Debate on Healthcare: The Principle of Subsidiarity

Given the anti-Catholic bias in many circles, I must point out that the Catholic Church has no desire to gain power over the State, or even impose its teachings on those who do not share our Faith. Nevertheless, the Church offers her various social teachings, such as the Principle of Subsidiarity, as guiding principles in order to do Her part to promote reasonable dialogue and to make the Church’s own contribution toward the common goal of a just solution to social issues such as healthcare.

We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est , 28).

The Principle of Subsidiarity, which has been an integral part of Catholic Social teaching for over a century, states that only things that need to be done at the national or “federal” level should be done by a “federal” government; and allows for things that can be done at the local or smaller level to be done at the more local and smaller units of society. Where individuals, intermediary groups, or small private groups of persons can address the particular exigencies and realities of a given situation, it is best to defer to such smaller groups because human beings need some flexibility and autonomy in order to effectively address their particular circumstances.

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POPE AND OBAMA’S VIEWS CONVERGING?

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July 9, 2009

POPE AND OBAMA’S VIEWS CONVERGING?

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on reports that the pope’s new encyclical, Charity in Truth, places the Holy Father to the left of President Barack Obama on some issues:

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good advises Catholics to “Suggest to your pastor that he give a homily highlighting the Pope’s reflections on social justice and the common good.” Notice what was excluded: the pope’s thoughts on the sanctity of human life, bioethics, the indiscriminate acceptance of all lifestyles, sexuality as a form of entertainment, the role of religion in the public square, etc. It is hardly surprising that left-wing Catholics do not want to highlight these issues, but the ironies run even deeper.

In his encyclical, the pope says that “respect for life” [his italics] is “an aspect which has acquired increasing prominence in recent time, obliging us to broaden our concept of poverty….” Are the pope’s new fans prepared to think of abortion as a poverty issue?

The best way to service the poor, according to the pope, is not to create bureaucratic monstrosities that cripple the dignity of the indigent. “By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, [the principle of] subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.” Similarly, the pope admonishes us not to promote “paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.” In other words, the tried and failed, dependency-inducing welfare programs that mark the social policy prescriptions of the poverty industry are seen by the pope as a disaster. Not exactly what those who work for HHS want to hear.

Finally, when the pope slams greed and criticizes a market economy shorn of moral principles, he is hardly upsetting most of those who champion the rights of the unborn. But some stereotypes are hard to break.