Social Doctrine of the Church (Notes of 2014)
Social Doctrine of the Church: Introduction
The common documents read in the Social Doctrine of the Church
Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, 1891
Letter to Mgr Liénart, 1929
Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno, 1931
Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge, 1937
Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, 1937
Pius XII, Radio-message, 1941
John XXIII, Mater et magistra, 1961
John XXIII, Pacem in terris, 1963
Council Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 1965
Council Vatican II, Dignitatis humanae, 1965
Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 1967
Paul VI, Octogesima adveniens, 1971
Synod of Bishops, Justitia in mundo, 1971
John-Paul II, Redemptor hominis, 1979
John-Paul II, Dives in misericordia, 1980
John-Paul II, Laborem exercens, 1981
John-Paul II, Message to International Work Conference, 1982
John-Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 1987
John-Paul II, Centesimus annus, 1991
Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 2005
Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, 2009
1. Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC)? It is not exactly a matter of a set of “texts”…although there are indeed texts and documents—many. But let us not reduce the doctrine to a “doctrine of texts”. The SDC is not a “norm” giving sort of activity of the Church.
2. When we say “Social Doctrine of the Church”, the emphasis is less on the documents and more on the acting agent. In other words, it is about the Church acting in the social world. The Good News that the Church is called to proclaim in the world also must have a social force. So we need to reflect on how the Church places her actions in society.
3. Compendium # 79 says: “The social doctrine belongs to the Church because the Church is the subject that formulates it, disseminates it and teaches it. It is …the expression of the way that the Church understands society and of her position regarding social structures and changes. The whole of the Church community — priests, religious and laity — participates in the formulation of this social doctrine, each according to the different tasks, charisms and ministries found within her”.
4. So the SDC is the work and reflection of the whole Church—including us. We all contribute to the action of the Church. Then comes the documents. The Compendium (#79) continues: “These many and varied contributions…are taken up, interpreted and formed into a unified whole by the Magisterium, which promulgates the social teaching as Church doctrine”.
5. We have an idea here of a Church that is trying her best to live in society and take into consideration the web of many elements that contribute to social understanding and action.
6. How did this all start? Well, the Church has always been trying her best to be “social”. But the SDC is said to have been “officialised” by the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, the Rerum novarum. It is a sort of “foundational” document. It was a fruit of reflections and struggles of many Catholics at that time when Europe was in the hands of a growing industrialization—and workers were so marginalized. Catholics gathered to see what social action can be done to help the workers. Reflections on love and justice were done by many who wanted to propose models of understanding and action. The objective was to give a social form to the Kingdom.
7. The assembly of Catholics was full of tensions. There were different sides taken—and some were really extreme radicals. They went to the Pope and asked him to say something.
8. Later the Pope authorized Cardinal Langénieux, archbishop of Reims, to declare how the Rerum Novarum was fruit of workers (many from France) coming to Rome and demanding clarification from the Church.
9. We can appreciate what the workers did—and we can appreciate what the SDC is. Through their interventions with the Pope, they started a “framework” of thinking that would later become an encyclical. Once the encyclical was published, many new reflections emerged in the Church—and from many other sectors.
10. So the SDC is a mixture of reflections, call for action, and documents, of course. They are all designed for really making sense of the social struggles of the times. Pope John Paul II wrote: “This teaching is seen in the efforts of individuals, families, people involved in cultural and social life, as well as politicians and statesmen to give it a concrete form and application in history (Centesimus annus # 59). He would also say that “it is a doctrine aimed at guiding people's behavior, it consequently gives rise to a ‘commitment to justice’, according to each individual's role, vocation and circumstances (Sollicitudo rei socialis # 41).
11. The SDC is part of moral theology. It is not an “ideological” set of teachings. As we know, moral theology is a reflection on Christian life that is committed to the well-being of everyone. It is a research on true action in the world.
12. So, the SDC may be a bunch of documents, ok. But in the heart of it is a search for life—social life that cooperates with the message of Christ and the Kingdom. It is a search for “what should we do in society”. But it is a should that wants to root itself in Christ. The way we live and the way we bear witness to Christ in society is the way that the SDC wants to promote. Again, Pope John Paul II has this to say: “The Church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency” (Centesimus annus # 57).
On the Environment
Some excerpts from Church documents
The Created World is Good
1. And God saw that it was good (Gn 1:25). These words from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis reveal the meaning of what God has done. To men and women, the crown of the entire process of creation, the Creator entrusts the care of the earth (cf. Gn2:15). This brings concrete obligations in the area of ecology for every person. Fulfillment of these obligations supposes an openness to a spiritual and ethical perspective capable of overcoming selfish attitudes and lifestyles which lead to the depletion of natural resources. (Ecclesia in America, n. 25)
2. 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. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. (CCC, n. 2415)
3. [N]atural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but, above all, for generations to come.... We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious con sequences for the health of the population. Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to `use and misuse,' or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree (cf. Gn 2:16 17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity. (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 34)
4. We seem to be increasingly aware of the fact that the exploitation of the earth, the planet on which we are living, demands rational and honest planning. At the same time, exploitation of the earth not only for industrial but also for military purposes and the uncontrolled development of technology outside the framework of a long term authentically humanistic plan often bring with them a threat to man's natural environment, alienate him in his relations with nature and remove him from nature. (Redemptor Hominis, n. 15)
5. Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which un fortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and, in a certain sense, create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can take arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though the earth did not have its own requisites and a prior God given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him. In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man's outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations. (Centesimus Annus,n. 37)
6. While the horizon of man is thus being modified according to the images that are chosen for him, another transformation is making itself felt, one which is the dramatic and unexpected consequence of human activity. Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming, in his turn, the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity but the human framework is no longer under man's control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family. The Christian must turn to these new perceptions in order to take on responsibility, together with the rest of men, for a destiny which from now on is shared by all. (Octogesima Adveniens, n. 21)
7. In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. Although people are rightly worried though much less than they should be about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic `human ecology.' Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man, too, is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed. In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to live, and of the attention which should be given to a `social ecology' of work. (Centesimus Annus, n. 38)
So this means we, humans, are stewards
8. Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. (CCC, n. 2432)
9. The promotion of human dignity is linked to the right to a healthy environment, since this right highlights the dynamics of the relationship between the individual and the society. A body of inter national, regional, and national norms on the environment is gradually giving juridic form to this right. But juridic measures are by themselves not sufficient.... The world's present and future depend on the safeguarding of creation, because of the endless interdependence between human beings and their environment. Placing human well being at the center of concern for the environment is actually the surest way of safeguarding creation. (World Day of Peace Message, 1999, n. 10)
How do we treat technology?
10. The present generation knows that it is in a privileged position: progress provides it with countless possibilities that only a few decades ago were undreamed of. Man's creative activity, his intelligence and his work, have brought about profound changes both in the field of science and technology and in that of social and cultural life. Man has extended power over nature and has acquired deeper knowledge of the laws of social behavior.... Today's young people, especially, know that the progress of science and technology can produce not only new material goods but also a wider sharing in knowledge.... The achievements of biological, psychological and social science will help man to understand better the riches of his own being.... But side by side with all this, or rather, as part of it, there are also difficulties that appear whenever there is growth. (Dives in Misericordia, n. 10)
Let us reflect theologically on the ecological issue
1. In the old times—when our countries were still outside the influence of Christianity and the “big” religions—people believed in spirits and other divinities dwelling in rocks and streams and trees. The divinities were part of the world. Our ancient descendants had myths of origins that explained the reasons why there were trees, why there were humans, why there were the things around them. Gods and divinities and nature formed a whole picture of reality. Do not disturb nature—the spirits will be disturbed too. So our very ancient peoples tried to live in parallel with the divinities surrounding them.
2. But then things have changed especially with the coming of Christianity to our lands. We know that Christianity is marked by Judaism. For this Judea-Christian tradition, God is outside the world. God is beyond the created world—God is the creator. God placed the “stewardship” of the created world in the hands of the human being. The human can therefore “interfere” in nature. No divinity is disturbed. There is no sacrilege. In fact, by “intervening”—by “mastering over”—the world, the human is fulfilling the mandate given by God. Be master over the created world. It is a responsible mastery, yes.
3. Ok, we know the Genesis creation stories. The human is made in the image and likeness of God. The human is given the charge to be master over the world. Multiply and fill the earth. At one point in Genesis, the human gives names to the beasts—a very “high” status!
4. Because the human can intervene in the world, something new is presented. It opens the doors to science and technology. As we know science and technology see themselves as having the right to explore the world and even transform it.
5. Since modernity rose, science and technology have been successful in exploring and transforming the world. For many centuries this never raised a major question as to the validity of the existence of science and technology. But slowly, we begin to feel that “something is wrong” too.
6. For one, humanity started to see in science the “answer to all problems”. Any problem can be resolved by “scientific approaches”. Yet, science and technology have been very instrumental in massive wars. All we have to do is look back at the atomic bomb in Japan…or the sophisticated wars in Iraq and Kuwait. In other words, science and technology have opened the doors to our self-destruction.
7. Just look at how we treat nature today. We pollute her. We destroy her. We spend non-renewable resources…we throw them up in waste. Now we say that we need to change our view of the world and our dependency on science and technology.
8. Let us admit it. In our Christianity we have been so focused on social issues. The place of “nature” and the issues of “ecology and the environment” have not been so central in our discussions. In fact the Social Doctrine of the Church seems to have looked at the ecology issue only recently. Our reading of Genesis may have even led us to do some extreme activities unfavorable to nature. Multiply, fill the earth, dominate (see Gn 1/28).
9. In fact we can be criticized for having promoted the ruin of nature. The ecological issue might appear to be more of an “anti-Christian” movement too.
10. Maybe we, Christians, have been quite distant from the ecological issues. But we too are hit. We might also want to ask if our Genesis reading are favorable to ecology. How well do we understand the Genesis stories of creation?
11. Let us try some Biblical understanding. Maybe we will be reviewing what we learned in our class in Pentateuch.
12. After the exile of Babylon the Jews had to fill the land of Palestine. They had to rebuilt their properties. They had to reconstruct their nation. The Jews were surrounded—and exploited—by different nations. Because the Jews believed in the Lord God as beyond creation and as creator, the Jews had to show this faith to the other nations. For them—the Jews—it was ok to intervene in nature without trouble with any divinities. God gave the human the role of “mastering over”. Nature would be “brute nature” without spirits and divinities. So the view of nature was hostile—it was brute nature that had to be tamed.
13. So “dominate”. Let nature “submit under”. But wait, remember that the Jewish people had faith in the Lord God. So their understanding of “dominating” and putting nature “under” had to put God in the picture too. God had a plan—and so the responsibility of the human was to see to it that the plan was respected. So to dominate and to submit nature did not stop with the human domination. It meant putting nature under the plan of God. Submit it to God’s plan. And what was that plan? It was the plan of happiness—the plan of letting all creation participate in the joy and life of the Lord God. Domination was not brute domination—it had to include respect.
14. We saw this in Pentateuch. We said that the human was given the charge to “be master”….but the human had to “master mastery”. There is a limit—the limit of respect—in mastering over nature. The human being would be like a “gardener” of the nature confided. Nature is not human property. It was simply confided. Genesis 2-3 tell us what happens when the human being becomes auto-god….a god unto oneself. You may eat of all the trees, but there is a limit. The human being has the tendency to go beyond. The human tends to live in the imagination of becoming absolute. But no! God is creator. God is absolute. The human remains creature.
15. The ecological issue tells us what Genesis 2-3 have already been telling us. We have created a culture that dis-respects nature. We have been trying to be “auto-gods”. The ecological issue really forces us to look at ourselves and how auto-gods we have been trying to be. How can we refuse to listen to the problem when our very own reading of Genesis alerts us to our capacity to destroy?
16. Ok, so Christianity is so focused on “social issues”. Love one another. Live in justice. But we recognize that ecological respect is also a way of loving one another. We love not just ourselves at this time but also future generations. By ecological respect we show love to the future people.
17. Let us go back to our class in Socio-Culture. Remember what we said about human-cultural evolution. The human started with “hunting-foraging” then moved to horticulture and agriculture…etc. Well, we see how it has also been very human to master over nature. The Bible confirms this. The Bible has confirmed that mastery-domination is human. This mastery does not necessarily put in danger the environment. Never, however, has the Bible said that nature and the environment have become human property. Never has the Bible put us “on top” of the world “looking down on creation”—as that song goes. In fact, just look closely. The Bible affirms how much we are part of the created world—that in us are the minerals and the cellular-animal-biological. We are still part of nature.
18. We are, let us admit, reflecting and learning. Before the idea of human rights was not so prevalent. Slavery was an accepted practice for many Christians. But slowly we learned. So today we can say we too are learning with the ecological issues.
19. The ecological issue obliges us to re-read our “foundation” texts—namely the creation stories in Genesis. We may need to be a lot more humble with our stand in the world of nature. The ecological issue may even ask us to re-think what God really wants in the created world.
20. It is a crisis—this ecological situation. Really, nature is hurting. But as Christians we can look at this with the perspective of Christ. Christ has taught us to live—to really live. Christ has told us that from death life arises—there is the resurrection. The uncertainties of what we face may open up doors of hope.
21. We can try our best to “die” to harming nature—and be more ecological. We may have to recognize the uncertainty of ecological respect—implying a change in our life styles, like with consumerism, the use of plastic, the use of paper, the “farm mile”, etc. We might need to conform to Christ, die to things that ruin nature—in order to give life again for our contemporaries and our future generations.
22. To follow Jesus is not just to follow certain doctrines and principles. It is to have a life too. Discipleship is life.
23. One note that we might need to take seriously. Do we really believe that the resurrection has overcome darkness, death and sin? Do we really accept the fact that there is the fulfillment of all time when God will gather all—not just humanity but the environment? Ever since Christ has “won”, nothing else can win—no death, no darkness, no sin, and no absolute destruction of nature. In Christ we know that human history is not vain. Maybe we need to be clear with this. Maybe the reason why we disrespect nature is because we are not so convinced that Christ has won. We still feel the need to “appropriate” nature and make her our property. We need to reflect on this.
24. As Christians we can dialogue with those who are ecologically interested in nature. No, we are not “dominators”. Our faith does not promote the wild domination and mastery over nature. We too love nature and we see nature in the light of God’s plan and in the light of the redemption offered by Christ.
Excursus: Humans and animals
1. Some of us like pets. Sometimes pets are so nice we get attached to them. Some people cannot accept a big distance from their pets. They are so attached to their pets. But then we also know that some treat their pets badly—even torturing pets at times. Let us take a look at this phenomenon of linking with animals. Let us try a theological perspective.
2. At the start of modernity in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s there was the scientific “revolution” that decentralized the earth—and the human. In the centre would be the sun and not the earth. The human being then began to be seen as a small part of the whole universe. Something bigger was out there. Human place began to be just like the place of animals. Human life began to be seen as fragile as animal life.
3. Sometime in the 1800’s a new scientific statement was made. The human came from the animals! The theory of evolution spread in the world of understanding humanity. The human being has become a chain in the flow of changes. The human and the chimpanzee would then be having the same ancestor!
4. Today there are many scientific studies—like studies of the brain. We humans share many features with animals—our brain structures have strong similarities. So are we really that distant and far from the animals? Certain psychological ideas would say that we are quite the same as the animals—we have instincts.
5. Centuries ago it was a scandal—and it was unacceptable—that the human be similar to animals. But today every child in school learns how close we are to animals. There is no more shock when we hear that we come from a more primitive monkey. We are not anymore disturbed to compare ourselves with animals.
6. In a way we find the tendency to respect not just the human being but all life and all nature. We hear about the right of animals and the right of the environment. The idea of the human as centre of all is highly challenged.
7. But is it true that the Bible and the Christian tradition have over emphasized the human to the point of neglecting the place of animals? As early as this point, we say no. The Bible has not been looking down on animals. Neither has our Christian tradition. So let us look at these.
What can the Bible say?
8. If we recall our studies of the Pentateuch—and the Torah, in particular—we realize that the Hebrew society that made the Torah was a desert society. It was at the start nomadic and then slowly became settled—sedentary. The animal had an important place in society. The book of Genesis mentions animals a lot—indicating how important they were. Animals had a place in the plan of God!
9. In Genesis the human received blessings from God. The birds and the fishes too! Be fruitful and multiply—this was a command given to humanity and to the fishes and birds!
10. In Gn 9/9-10, we read that God made a covenant with the human and the animals: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: the birds, the tame animals, and all the wild animals that were with you—all that came out of the ark”. And who showed that the flood ended? It was a dove—an animal!
11. If we go to the story of Exodus, we note how humans and animals were so linked. The animals suffered equally with the humans when plagues hit Egypt (see Ex 8/14 ; Ex 9/10 ; Ex 19/22 ; Ex 11/5]. We can read passages like this: “But among all the Israelites, among human beings and animals alike, not even a dog will growl” (Ex 11/7). The animals were as protected as the Hebrews.
12. The animal, like the donkey, would be given as much respect—even in terms of protection: “When you notice the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you should not desert him; you must help him with it” (Ex 23/5). In Deuteronomy the ox is given as much right as the human: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out grain” (Dt 25/4). The animal would participate even in Sabbath! (See Ex 23/12 ; Dt 5/14).
13. Remember the donkey of Balaam? Well, the Biblical author made a donkey speak—and the donkey would know the action of God (see Nb 22). Is this not a sign of how an animal is respected too?
14. If we go to the prophets we see something similar. The Lord God would not always be happy with animal sacrifices (see Am 5/21-22 ; Is 1/1-11]. In Isaiah, during the end of time the animals will be together living harmoniously with humans (see Is 11/6-9). Remember the dog of Tobie (see Tb 6/2 and 11/4). Remember the sheep of the prophet Nathan (see 2 Sam 12/1-6). Remember the crow of Elijah (see 1 Kg 17/6). Remember the big fish that swallowed Jonah. The very end of the Jonah story gives mention of God’s concern for humans and animals: “And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?” (Jn4/11).
15. The Psalms are filled with animals giving glory to God. See Ps104. For the Psalmist the Lord God saves humans and animals: “Human being and beast you sustain, LORD” (Ps 36/7). In wisdom literature we also see the level or status given to animals. Life is short, according to wisdom thinking, and death strikes both humans and animals (see Ecc 3/18-21). Wisdom thinking would prevent doing harm to animals: “The just take care of their livestock” (Pr 12/10).
16. Let us go to the New Testament. Remember how Jesus appreciated the birds (see Mt 6/26). Foxes and birds have places to rest (see Mt 8/20). Jesus spoke of the hen and her chicks (see Mt 23/37). When it came to the Sabbath, even animals needed respect (see Lk 13/15; 14/5). In the New Testament the dove is a special animal—representing the Spirit (see Mt 3/6).
17. Jesus presented himself as a good shepherd taking care of sheep (see Jn 10). He was the Paschal Lamb (see Jn 1/29; Ac 8/32). Jesus ended animal sacrifices (see He 9/12 and 10/4-13).
18. Jesus reconciled all—human and human, human and God, human with self and human with nature. We see this clearly in the inauguration of messianic times when Jesus went to the desert in the company of beasts: “he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts” (Mk 1/13). The resurrection of Jesus opened up a new perspective about all creation (see Mk 16/15 and Rm 8/19-22; see also Col 1/15-20; see Ep 1/3-14).
What about Christian tradition?
19. In Christian tradition we also find respect for animals. Look at CCC.2415-2418. Notice how respectful Christianity is towards animals. Pope John Paul II underlined the fact that the Lord God was first of all redeemer of the whole world before even becoming redeemer of humanity (see Redemptor Hominis 8).
20. It is, however, worth citing CCC 2418: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons”. Animals have rights and they should be respected, yes. Care for animals need not be incompatible with care for humans. We need not isolate the human from nature.
21. For some time criticism was put on Christianity and the Scriptures for having put the human so superior over animals that humans have the right to do whatever to animals—and nature. But with the citations we make above, it must be clear that this criticism is not fair. The Bible and Christian tradition have always given proper respect to the animals.
1. Ok, we respect animals and we recognize their dignity. But we cannot dissolve the human to the animal. What does this mean?
2. Biblically we are considered “stewards” of Creation. We live among other creatures, yes, we are part of nature, yes. But the emergence of the human contains something “more”.
3. We have language. Sure, animals have their own ways of expressing themselves. But our language allows us to exchange in abstract terms. Our language allows us to express our sentiments and thoughts and plans and goals. The parrot may repeat sounds. Bees may be doing movements with sounds. The human, however, has the added feature of taking distance from the surrounding. Our language does not just stay stuck in where we are. In language we reflect. We can look at ourselves and we evaluate ourselves. This makes us not only different from animals but altogether other than animals. We uproot from the “animality”.
4. The animal lives directly linked with instinct and genes. We reflect. We take some distance and we can look at ourselves. This makes us other than animals. We are the only creature that can self-reflect.
Again what can the Bible say?
5. Let us look at Genesis. Both the human and the animal emerge from fragility. Thanks to God’s plan we emerged. So it is true that we have a common beginning. Yet Genesis gives the human an “added” status.
6. Look at the blessings that God gave to the human and to the birds/fishes. The birds/fishes are given the same blessing to be fruitful and multiply. But to the human, God said something more. Dominate! Have dominion. “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth” (Gn 1/28).
7. In the summit of all creation the human alone is given the status as image of God. The human alone is given the status of being in the “likeness” of God.
8. In Genesis 2 the human is the only one to receive the breath of God (see Gn 2/7). The human is given the power to name the animals (Gn 2/19-20). The animal may be there present with the human, yet the animal cannot serve as a face-to-face with the human (see Gn 2/18-23). Then in the Torah tradition the beastly is not allowed to the human (see Ex 22/18; Lv 18/23; Dt 27/21).
9. If we look at the Isaac story, remember that in the end, when Abraham did not continue his sacrifice of his son, a ram substituted for the child. (See Gn 22/12-13).
10. Look at the psalmist literature. Sure, the animal, we saw, is respected. But something is added to the human. Psalm 8 is a good example. The human is made “a little less than a god” but still crowned with glory and honour, having dominion over other creatures”.
11. It is not correct to fully equate the human with the animal—not in the Old Testament. The animal cannot reflect. This gift belongs to the human alone. When living in splendour, without reflection, the human is like the beast that does not reflect (see Ps 49/13-21).
12. If we look at the New Testament, we see also how the human has this “added” feature. “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Mt 6/26). Yes, Jesus saw that we have “more importance”.
13. In the Letters of Paul we might take note. Yes, God is concerned about everything and everyone. Yet God has a particular love for the human. “Is God concerned about oxen, or is he not really speaking for our sake? It was written for our sake” (1 Co 9/9-10).
14. Let us add, as a final observation to the New Testament, a passage from James. There he compares us to the animals. At one point the animals can be tamed more easily than our tongue, he wrote! (See Jm3/2-8).
What about the Christian tradition?
15. Surely in Christian tradition there is a strong sense of keeping the distance between humans and animals. We have cited CCC 2418.
LET US CONCLUDE:
16. We are the same as the animals yet we are other than them. We have dominion over them but we do not have the right to abolish them. Christian view puts us in the summit of creation, ok. The life of animals is not our life. We have been given a dignity proper to us. God entered into human life—human history—to save us. Not only did God enter into nature, God also entered into human history. There is something unique and other in the human world.
17. Ok, so the pet dies. The pet has been a companion for many years. Fine. We feel sad. We may feel very bad. But this pet is not the same as our grandmother.
18. Yes, we may spend some money for the pet. It is not indecent to do this. But there is a limit too. Animals are sentient creatures. They too feel and have emotions. This is why we respect them and we even give them rights. But we have to know the limits.
On Human Dignity and Rights
1. In # 105 we read that by the incarnation Christ has united himself with every person. So the Church must make sure this is respected—that this unity of Christ with everyone is respected and always respected. The incarnation of Christ has, in fact made each of us “a brother or sister ‘for whom Christ died’ (1 Cor 8/11; Rom 14/15)”.
2. The human person is a creature of God and image of God. God put the human creature at the centre and summit of the created order. Because we are in the image of God we have dignity. The human person is not just something but “someone”. Also the human person is called to offer God a response of faith and love that no other creature can do. The human being is called to be in relationship with God.
3. St. Paul would say that Christ is the perfect image of God (see 2 Cor 4/4; Col 1/15). Christ makes complete our image and likeness of God. We are called to conform ourselves to Christ. (see Rom 8/29).
4. In the Noah’s Ark story we read that God requires that human life be sacred and inviolable—sacred and should not be violated. It should not be violated to the point that love must rule. “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19/18). Jesus himself gave this command (see Mt 22/37-40; Mk 12/29-31; Lk 10/27-28).
5. Now we can ask: how do we respect human dignity? In # 132 we read that the human being is central to social order. Society must work for the benefit of the human person. The social order must be “subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around”. All done in politics, economics, science and other programmes must give primacy to the human being. Do not use the human person for the goals of programs.
6. Do not manipulate the human being for goals that are not part of human development. Do not violate human fulfilment which is, in the ultimate sense, God’s plan of salvation. So the compendium states that human life—including thinking and well-being—should not be “subjected to unjust restrictions in the exercise of their rights and freedom” (#132).
7. Let us quote from #132: “The person cannot be a means for carrying out economic, social or political projects imposed by some authority, even in the name of an alleged progress of the civil community as a whole or of other persons, either in the present or the future. It is therefore necessary that public authorities keep careful watch so that restrictions placed on freedom or any on us placed on personal activity will never become harmful to personal dignity, thus guaranteeing the effective practicability of human rights. All this, once more, is based on the vision of man as a person, that is to say, as an active and responsible subject of his own growth process, together with the community to which he belongs”.
8. In # 134 we see that if ever we want changes in society they must be based on changes in persons. If we want changes and improvements we start with people—because people have dignity. This is a basic principle…an assumption. Moral attitudes of people are necessary to have real social changes. If we want a society of justice, honesty, corrupt-free, develop moral attitudes. This work cannot be just the work of an institution or office in society. In fact it is the work of everyone in society—and more especially “those who hold various forms of political, judicial or professional responsibility”. These people who hold responsibility in society must be filled with conscience and they must be “the first to bear witness to civil social conditions that are worthy of human beings”.
9. Another way of exercising respect for human dignity is by respecting all members of society—without preferences!
10. In # 144 we read that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10/34; cf. Rom 2/11; Gal 2/6; Eph 6/9). All of us have the same dignity—we are all creatures of God made in God’s image and likeness. We are all images of Christ and we are all destined to conform with Christ. Christ’s incarnation was a solidarity with all humans. The dignity of every one in front of God is the basis of the dignity of one person in front of another. If in front of God someone has dignity, so too in front of myself—I woo must recognize that dignity…regardless of race, nation, sex, origin, culture, or class.
11. Personal and social growth are possible because of the recognition of human dignity (see James 2/1-9). This happens by starting with helping the least in society. Ensure conditions of equal opportunity for everyone. Do not just give opportunities to a selected few.
12. And important aspect of the Social Doctrine of the Church is respect for human rights. If the human person has dignity, then respect human rights. Let us look at this topic.
13. The notion of “human rights” has been developed a lot starting with modernity—and in particular with the United Nations declaration in 1948. Affirming human rights is also affirming human dignity.
14. In # 153 we read that human rights are not just given by political powers or by government powers. Rights are integral to the human person endowed with dignity as creature and image of God. By the fact that a person is a person, that person has rights. Human rights are “universal, inviolable, inalienable”. What do these mean? Let us quote from #153:
15. “Universal because they are present in all human beings, without exception of time, place or subject. Inviolable insofar as ‘they are inherent in the human person and in human dignity’ and because ‘it would be vain to proclaim rights, if at the same time everything were not done to ensure the duty of respecting them by all people, everywhere, and for all people’. Inalienable insofar as ‘no one can legitimately deprive another person, whoever they may be, of these rights, since this would do violence to their nature’”. Human rights are to be respected and promoted for the whole good of both the person and society.
16. What are some of human rights? In #155 a mention is made about a list drawn by Pope John Paul II. Let us quote:
· “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother's womb from the moment of conception;
· the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child's personality;
· the right to develop one's intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth;
· the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth's material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one's dependents;
· and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one's sexuality.
· In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one's faith and in conformity with one's transcendent dignity as a person”.
17. Of course, when there are rights there are also duties. In #156 we read: “(I)n human society to one man's right there corresponds a duty in all other persons/ the duty, namely, of acknowledging and respecting the right in question”. If we have rights we also have duties, we do not “build with one hand and destroy with the other”.
18. The Compendium recognizes that rights are not always respected in many societies. There is a “gap” between what is said about rights and what is done about them. It seems that the rights are just written texts—just formal declarations that are not observed. Is there is possible solution? One way is by making the fortunate people of society “renounce some of their rights” (#158). The affirmation of equality can be excessive and can therefore neglect the common good. Each one claims rights and equality—at the expense of others! ”.
19. The Church promotes human rights. Of course she denounces the injustices that violate human rights, but she must also proclaim the Christian foundations of human rights.
Appendix: Sections on Men-Women and the Handicapped
146. “Male” and “female” differentiate two individuals of equal dignity, which does not however reflect a static equality, because the specificity of the female is different from the specificity of the male, and this difference in equality is enriching and indispensable for the harmony of life in society/ “The condition that will assure the rightful presence of woman in the Church and in society is a more penetrating and accurate consideration of the anthropological foundation for masculinity and femininity with the intent of clarifying woman's personal identity in relation to man, that is, a diversity yet mutual complementarily, not only as it concerns roles to be held and functions to be performed, but also, and more deeply, as it concerns her make-up and meaning as a person”.
147. Woman is the complement of man, as man is the complement of woman/ man and woman complete each other mutually, not only from a physical and psychological point of view, but also ontologically. It is only because of the duality of “male” and “female” that the “human” being becomes a full reality. It is the “unity of the two”, or in other words a relational “uni-duality”, that allows each person to experience the interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift that at the same time is a mission/ “to this ‘unity of the two' God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but the creation of history itself”. “The woman is ‘a helper' for the man, just as the man is ‘a helper' for the woman!”/ in the encounter of man and woman a unitary conception of the human person is brought about, based not on the logic of self-centredness and self-affirmation, but on that of love and solidarity.
148. Persons with disabilities are fully human subjects, with rights and duties/ “in spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man”. Since persons with disabilities are subjects with all their rights, they are to be helped to participate in every dimension of family and social life at every level accessible to them and according to their possibilities.
The rights of persons with disabilities need to be promoted with effective and appropriate measures/ “It would be radically unworthy of man, and a denial of our common humanity, to admit to the life of the community, and thus admit to work, only those who are fully functional. To do so would be to practise a serious form of discrimination, that of the strong and healthy against the weak and sick”. Great attention must be paid not only to the physical and psychological work conditions, to a just wage, to the possibility of promotion and the elimination of obstacles, but also to the affective and sexual dimensions of persons with disabilities/ “They too need to love and to be loved, they need tenderness, closeness and intimacy”, according to their capacities and with respect for the moral order, which is the same for the non-handicapped and the handicapped alike.
Certain Challenges on Human Rights
1. One challenge is to see who can participate in discussions. Who is authorized to participate in public debate? We can ask about the power of being heard and ask if this is given to a few persons…or to a family…to a clan…etc. The challenge is given to Christian communities too. How does a Christian participate? How is the Christian educated regarding citizenship?
2. This is a challenge of public opinion. We know the effectiveness of public opinion in our countries. Sometimes public opinion can influence politicians. Sometimes it manipulates people. The challenge is how to have everyone have a place in public opinion. Of course public opinion can be difficult to manage. The challenge is not just about the contents o what people talk about but also the way the ideas are transmitted. In public opinion transmission is also a challenge. Who holds the channels of communication? How are the ideas received (reception of ideas)? The challenge, for Christians, then is how to adapt our modes of communication for the real transmission of truth contents.
More than Politics
3. Now, those who fight for human rights should not be contented with those who hold political power. There are other areas of power now—not just the areas of politicians. There is, for example, the financial power. There is also, for example, information power. Habitually we think that human rights are in the care of political power—that politicians and their law making powers can do something to promote human rights. Today we see the other powers. Certain issues of human rights are also in these areas—like the primacy of finances over human resources, or the channelling of information. Human rights can be violated here too—and not just in politics.
4. The challenge for the Christian today may involve looking at the other powers—not just the political powers. How can we promote human rights here too?
5. We face the challenge of making human rights universal. Is the promotion universal enough? Certain problems can be arising. One is that universality may be contested. Human rights can be applied—but there are moments of exemptions, according to the contestation. Yes, human rights are good, ok, legitimate—but they need not be for all and for all times. There are moments when they can be set aside…for “better results”.
6. One area of contesting universality is the emphasis on culture. Culture has its own style, its own ways. So sometimes culture does not follow all human rights—like right of women. So human rights for women can be set aside in the name of culture.
7. Another example of contesting universality is the surveillance of information and communication. In some areas it is ok “for national security” to check the communications we make.
8. Another example is torture and punishment. In some countries it is acceptable to do corporal punishment on certain persons…like those who did heinous crimes. This is ok, and though it may be against rights, they serve to protect society.
9. Then there is the challenge of being criticized by others. This is the challenge of external criticism.
10. The right to criticize may be a challenge. To be criticized by external communities and societies does not mean that we copy them at once. But neither does it mean we are immediately condemned and judged. It is not easy to face external criticism. Criticism is not always just for the heck of it. It is not just to criticize for the fun of criticizing. (See Kropophilia).
11. It is a human right to criticize to manifest that the person or group criticized accepts to be criticized and sees the need to be criticized. (This can hold for the Church too—she requires criticism too).
12. Human rights cannot be promoted in the right to criticize is refused. The promotion of human rights can develop if we see the desire to be criticized to deepen and enrich wisdom and insight. It is to accept possible revisions and changes in the way we behave and decide—maybe we fail to notice certain limitations. The desire to be criticized is to accept being subjected to the demands of life…so that we are not stuck in constipated behaviour. We want to pass through new questions and new horizons—because we want life to win.
“The poor you will always have with you” (Mk.14/7)
So do we tolerate poverty?
1. Sometimes it is hard to talk about poverty and social injustice—especially when we are do not experience the hardships. So instead of facing the issue, one might be tempted to say, taking from the Bible, “You will always have the poor with you”. So by saying this one might think that the issue is closed. There will always be the poor so it is better to accept this and move on. Now, did Jesus really say this? Yes, he did. What could he have meant by it?
2. The statement of Jesus is in a context that does not necessarily involve the poor—not directly. It is said in a story with a woman to whom the Good News is announced. In the account of Matthew the story happens a little bit before the last supper and the arrest of Jesus. A woman comes to Jesus and pours perfume on him. The perfume, we know, is very expensive. The gesture of the woman is a gesture honouring Jesus and it imitates the preparation of the dead before putting it in the tomb. So the woman foresees the cross of Jesus.
3. The disciples have a different view. They criticize the gesture—they do not like the devotion. It is a waste of money—the perfume is so expensive. Jesus answers them—in a rather dry way. Why get disturbed with what the woman just did. What she had done was beautiful. Jesus sees the gesture of the woman as beautiful.
4. The woman discerns the sacrifice of Jesus. She makes her own gesture—she participates by her sacrifice to the Lord. It is at this point when Jesus says, “You always have the poor with you…but you will not always have me”. There is a reference to Dt 15. It seems that only Jesus and the woman know the full sense of not having Jesus.
5. Just think about some people who are so “engaged” with the poor that their involvement affect their family lives and even their health. This is not in conformity with the Gospel. It is not exactly what Jesus had in mind. Our devotion is towards Jesus and not the poor themselves. Yes, we must love our neighbour—especially our poor neighbour—but we are devoted to Jesus.
6. The woman understands this…but not the disciples. The spiritual life must be guided properly to be able to manage well the service towards the poor.
7. Note the verse in Deuteronomy that Jesus cites. “There will be no poor with you” (Dt.15/4). Why? Because the Lord God will fill you will good things. The Lord God “will bless you abundantly in the land, he will give you to possess as a heritage”. In this situation nobody will be poor and needy. In the land to be given by the Lord, there will be enough for all. There will even be surplus that will allow trade and commerce with other nations (see Dt.15/6).
8. God never wants a world of lack. God never put the human in a world that cannot meet human basic needs. God had created a world of abundance for the human. But, again with Deuteronomy, there is a requirement involved: “listen to the voice of the LORD, your God, and carefully observe this entire commandment” (Dt.15/5). Abundance depends on fidelity to God.
9. Yet it does happen that there are the poor and people in need. So, Deuteronomy adds, “…you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand against your kin who is in need. Instead, you shall freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet that need” (Dt.15/7-8). Strange, is it not, that even if God gives abundance there are still the poor.
10. Why are there the poor in Israel, so much so that God requires an open hand and support for the needy? In the promised land there is still injustice and people are not so faithful to the commands of the Lord. Israel has failed to comply to the Lord. (And is this not true also today?)
11. Let us return to Jesus. What might he mean when he says that the poor will always be with us? Jesus speaks of adoration. Jesus speaks of the poor in answer to the critique against the devotion of the woman. Jesus mentions Deuteronomy to remind the disciples that there are the poor because of the negligence of society—injustice is still the “favourite sport”. Self-centeredness is still the favourite “pass time”. The disciples do not care for the poor nor for the woman. Jesus reproaches his disciples. Deuteronomy gives a command. There are the poor and the needy…therefore “open your hand freely to your poor and to your needy kin in your land” (Dt 15/11). The land is a land of abundance given by the Lord God. There is enough for all. The human creature—in the likeness of the Lord God—is so gifted with creativity and the capacity for production and service to all. But the darkness of the human heart contradicts the created order of God.
12. When Jesus says that the poor will always be with us, he is triggering shame. The fact that there are poor is a cause of shame. We are reminded of the true cause of poverty: human darkness, human selfishness. No, Jesus is not justifying the presence of the poor.
13. Jesus is not giving a pretext about the poor. Jesus reminds the disciples—and us—that the poor are with us because we do not keep the commandments of God.
14. Our relationship with the Lord God has degenerated. It has degenerated up to the point of injustice to others and to nature itself.
15. Jesus is not teaching us toleration about poverty. He is not saying that there is nothing we can do about poverty since the poor is always present anyway. No. In fact, we should share…and when we share “…give generously and not with a stingy heart” (Dt 15/10). Share and the result will be “…that the LORD, your God, will bless you in all your works and undertakings”.
Sin Against the Spirit?
1. See Mk 3/29, Mt 12/32 and Lk 12/10. Lk can help us a lot because…well, he wrote the Acts and something in the Acts explain the problem.
2. Lk says that there is the sin against the Son of Man—a sin which can be forgiven. Jesus was in his earthly work and he was Son of Man. The Spirit was…well, “breath” or “wind”. To speak of the Spirit was to speak of the “breath” of God. It meant the power of God to act in the world. The “breath”—the Spirit—is God’s way of exercising his power over all creation. In the Bible the power is expressed as “personified”.
3. We know how often in the Bible God breathes into someone…with the aim to to accomplish something, an action for the people. There is a specific action to be done.
4. The breath of God is also source of life…. So we remember God breathing into Adam.
5. Now we say that Jesus has Risen and acts with power on the community. He was given the Spirit. Jesus has the fullness of life and death never wins on him.With the fullness of life Jesus can now exercise his being Christ—his messianic mission. Now we go to Acts. There we read (in Peter’s speech) that God raised Jesus and made him Christ—Lord. God gave Jesus the Spirit. (see Act 2/32-33).
6. So in Acts, to speak of the Holy Spirit is to speak of Jesus Christ too—risen and exercising power over the community. For the early Christians the works of Christ were so clear that to deny them would be a voluntary denial.
7. Let us return to Lk 12/10. We cite: ““Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven”. Now remember that Luke wrote his gospel account after Easter—after the whole experience of faith in the risen Jesus. So Luke saw Jesus not just in an earthly ministry but a Christ and Lord. The gospel account (not just of Luke but also of Matthew, Mark and John) are also confessions of faith. They are “retrospect” accounts.
8. So when we read that blaspheme against the Son of Man can be forgiven, we can say that it refers to Jesus in an earthly ministry. But Jesus is also Lord, Christ. To blaspheme against the Spirit means to refuse to recognize the works already accomplished by the Lord in the Church. The early Church, remember, was so convinced that the Spirit of Christ was really acting in the Church. Christ has really reconciled us to God and to one another. This was clear. To refuse it—and blaspheme against the Spirit—is to refuse the pardon and reconciliation brought by Christ. It is to refuse for oneself all forms of reconciliation. Peter and John said, before the Sanhedrin that “it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Act4/20). It is impossible to refuse the Spirit. So to refuse—and to blaspheme—is really a voluntary choice. It is like saying “I really do not want the Spirit”. What then can we do with that choice?
9. Another point to keep in mind is that the gospel accounts were written in specific contexts. There were the communities who were receiving the texts. So Luke may have written this verse to address a particular issue of the community he was writing to. To keep this in mind may help us also be careful in saying that the blasphemy against the Spirit is referring to a situation we have now. Well, anyway….it is a challenging verse.
The Trinity and the Church
Simplified translation of a text by Prof. Bruno Forte, Rome
The Vatican II council was concerned with the renewal of the Church. The council re-discovered the interior and supernatural dimension of the Church beyond the accent given on the visible, juridical and institutional aspects made especially by the Counter Reform movement.
The renewal which put attention on the biblical notion of “People of God” gave value to the historical dimension of the Church situated between the origin of missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit and fullness of time in the glory of God I all. By looking at the sources of the Church Vatican II re-instated in Catholic Ecclesiology an awareness of the link with the Trinity. The council also re-instated awareness on the fact that the people of God is on the way to the eschaton—the fullness of time. So the council worked on three questions dealing with the Trinitarian roots of our faith:
a. from where is the Church?
b. what is the Church?
c. where is the Church going?
FROM WHERE IS THE CHURCH
The answer of the council to this question can be summarized in the statement Trinitate Ecclesia—Trinitarian Church. The origin of the Church is not from here, earth. The origin of the Church is not a result of human interests…not even of very generous human hearts. The origin is from above, from God, from whom has come the Son according to the flesh (incarnation) and the Holy Spirit. So the origin is Trinitarian. By recalling this the council shows that the Church is
a. a mystery (and mystery means the hidden plan of God which has been revealed in history),
b. and a gift which is received…not invented nor produced.
This makes us re-look back at the contemplative side of life. Yet, the gift of the Church happens in history—just like the Incarnation of the Word. The Church, just like the Incarnate Word, faces the contradictions of human existence—life and death. The Church must therefore present herself in all human situations to infuse the force of peace of the Redeemer. The Trinitarian Church lives primarily in charity.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH
Sustained by the Trinity, the Church is “icon of the Trinity”…a communion in the image of the divine communion. The baptised members of the Church participate in the same Spirit (communion Sancti) and they are enriched by a variety of gifts oriented for common service and communion. Each one is gifted with charisms—nobody is zero. Charisms come from the Lord and they are oriented to service and communion. They are oriented to the construction of the same unified Body which is the Church (see 1 Cor 12/4-7). Nobody is to stay stuck in the past because the Spirit is always at work. The communion expresses itself
a. in co-responsibility,
b. in dialogue that respects differences and
c. in the constant tension of responding to the call of God.
This makes it clear why the Church is icon of the Trinity—she participates in the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity (perichoresis). The whole Church is in communion presided by the Church of Rome, of whom the Bishop is sign and servant of the unity of the whole Church.
This communion is expressed in the Eucharistic celebration—the summit and source of all “sacramentality” of the Church. The Eucharist makes the Church.
Now, if the Eucharist makes the Church, it is true also that the Church makes the Eucharist. The Word must be proclaimed. Someone must announce the Word. The Easter memory must be celebrated and someone must celebrate it following the mandate of the Lord. So Word and Sacrament presuppose the “ministeriality” of the Church—the service of announcing, celebrating, and bringing all humanity united as God’s people.
The whole Church is involved in the prophetic, priestly and kingly mission. The Church is ministering by forming an image of the Trinitarian communion (ecclesiological perichoresis).
WHERE IS THE CHURCH GOING
The communion of the Church comes from above—the Father, through Christ and in the Spirit. This is a unity of diversity of gifts and services in the image of the Trinitarian communion. So the community is not the goal itself. The communion seeks to re-root in her origin yet walks towards the Trinity. The end-goal of the Church is not herself. This tells us that the Church is not an absolute. She is an instrument—a means, not an end. She is poor and a servant. She is called to live constantly conversion and reform.
This allows the Church to also criticize whatever it is in society that assumes so much “greatness”—the myopia of the world. Here is where we find the deep inspiration that Christian presence can offer in the different cultural, social, political contexts. The Church cannot identify with any ideology, any partisan force of system. She sees herself as critical conscience that reminds everyone the origin and end of being human—that each human be truly human.
The Trinity is source of joy for the Church. The promise of fullness is already in her hopes. The Church knows that she is looking forward to the final Resurrection promised by the Crucified. She is the icon of the Trinity in time, in history…moving towards encountering fully the Trinity when God will be all in all and the world will be with God.
Mission to a Runaway World: Future Citizens of the Kingdom
Conference given at SEDOS 2002
fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.
I have been asked to reflect upon a spirituality of mission for our globalised world. What does it mean to be a missionary in Disneyland? When I was asked to give this lecture I was delighted, because it is a fascinating topic, but I was also hesitant, because I have never been a missionary in the usual sense of the word. At the elective General Chapter of the Order in Mexico eight years, the brethren identified the criteria for candidates to be Master of the Order. Crucially he should have pastoral experience outside his own country. They then elected me who had only ever been an academic in England. I do not know whether all congregations act so eccentrically, but it shows why I feel rather unfitted to give this lecture.
What is so new about our world, that we must look for a new spirituality of mission? How is it so different from the world to which previous generations of missionaries were sent? We may reply automatically that what is new is globalisation. E-mails stream into our offices from all over the world. Trillions of dollars circulate around the markets of the world every day, though not around the Domincian Order! As it is so often said, we live in a global village. Missionaries are no longer dispatched on ships to unknown countries; almost everywhere is no more than a day’s journey away. But I wonder if “globalisation” really identifies the new context for mission. The global village is the fruit of an historical evolution that has been taking place for at least five hundred, if not five thousand, years. Some experts argue that in many ways the world a hundred years ago was just as globalized as today.
Perhaps what is really distinctive about our world is a particular fruit of globalisation, which is that we do not know where the world is going. We do not have a shared sense of the direction of our history. Tony Blair’s guru, Anthony Giddens, calls it “the runaway world” . History appears to be out of our control, and we do not know where we are heading. It is for this runaway world that we must discover a vision and a spirituality of mission.
The first great missions of the Church outside Europe were linked with the colonialism of the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries . The Spanish and the Portuguese brought their mendicant friars with them, just the Dutch and the English took their Protestant missionaries. The missionaries may have supported or criticised the conquistadors, but there was a shared sense of where history was going, towards the Western domination of the world. That gave the context of mission. In the second half of this century, mission occurred within a new context, that of conflict between the two great power-blocks of east and west, of communism and capitalism. Some missionaries may have prayed for the triumph of the proletariat, and others for the defeat of godless communism, but this conflict was the context of mission.
Now, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, we do not know where we are going. Are we going towards universal wealth, or is the economic system about to collapse? Will we have the Long Boom or the Big Bang? Will the Americans dominate the world economy for centuries, or are we at the end of a brief history when the West was at the centre of the world? Will the global community expand to include everyone, including the forgotten continent of Africa? Or will the global village shrink, and leave most people outside? Is it global village or global pillage? We do not know.
We do not know because globalisation has reached a new stage, with the introduction of technologies whose consequences we cannot guess. We do not know because, according to Giddens , we have invented a new sort of risk. Human beings have always had to cope with risk, the risk of plagues, bad harvests, storms, drought, and the occasional invasions of barbarians. But these were largely external risks, that were out of our control. You never knew when a meteorite might hit the planet, or a flee ridden rat might not arrive with the bubonic plague. But now we are principally at risk from what we ourselves have done, what Giddens calls “manufactured risk”: global warming, overpopulation, pollution, unstable markets, the unforeseen consequences of genetic engineering. We do not know the effects of what we are now doing. We live in a runaway world. This produces profound anxiety. We Christians have no special knowledge about the future. We do not know any more than anyone else, whether we are on the way to war or peace, prosperity or poverty. We too are often haunted by the anxiety of our contemporaries. I happen to be deeply optimistic about the future of humanity, but is this because I have inherited St Thomas’ belief in the deep goodness of humanity, or my mother’s optimistic genes?
In this runaway world, what Christians offer is not knowledge but wisdom, the wisdom of humanity’s ultimate destination, the Kingdom of God. We may have no idea of how the Kingdom will come, but we believe in its triumph. The globalized world is rich in knowledge. Indeed, one of the challenges of living in this cyber world is that we are drowned with information, but there is little wisdom. There is little sense of humanity’s ultimate destiny. Indeed such is our anxiety about the future, that it is easier not to think about of it at all. Let us grab the present moment. Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die. So our missionary spirituality must be sapiential, the wisdom of the end to which we are called, a wisdom which liberates us from anxiety.
In this lecture I wish to suggest that the missionary may be the bearer of this wisdom in three ways, through presence, epiphany and through proclamation. In some places all we can do is to be present, but there is a natural thrust towards making our hope visible and our wisdom explicit. The word has become flesh and now in our mission the flesh becomes word .
A missionary is sent. That is the meaning of the word. But to whom are missionaries sent in our runaway world? When I was a schoolboy with the Benedictines, missionaries came to visit us from far away places, like Africa and the Amazon. We saved up our money so that children would be baptised with our names. There should be hundreds of middle aged Timothys around the world. So missionaries were sent from the West to other places. But from where are missionaries sent these days? They used to come especially from Ireland, Spain, Brittany, Belgium and Quebec. But few missionaries are from those countries today. The modern missionary is more likely to come from India or Indonesia. I remember the excitement in the British press when the first missionary arrived in Scotland from Jamaica. So in our globalized village, there is no centre from which missionaries are despatched. In the geography of the world-wide web, there is no centre, at least in theory. In fact we know that there are more telephone lines in Manhattan than in sub-Saharan Africa.
As the beginning of an answer I would suggest that in this new world, missionaries are sent to those who are other than us, who are distant from us because of their culture, faith or history. They are far away but not necessarily physically distant. They are strangers though they may be our neighbours. The expression “the global village” sounds cosy and intimate, as if we all belong to one big happy human family. But our global world is traversed by splits and fractures, which make us foreign to each other, incomprehensible and even sometimes enemies. The missionary is sent to be in these places. Pierre Claverie, the Dominican bishop of Oran in Algeria, was assassinated by a bomb in 1996. Just before he died he wrote: “L’Eglise accomplit sa vocation quand elle est présente aux ruptures qui crucifient l’humanité dans sa chair et son unité. Jésus est mort écartelé entre ciel et terre, bras étendus pour rassembler les enfants de Dieu dispersés par le péché qui les sépare, les isole et les dresse les uns contre les autres et contre Dieu lui-même. Il s’est mis sur les lignes de fracture nées de ce péché. En Algérie, nous sommes sur l’une de ces lignes sismiques qui traversent le monde: Islam/Occident, Nord/Sud, riches/pauvres. Nous y sommes bien à notre place car c’est en ce lieu là que peut s’entrevoir la lumière de la Résurrection.”
These lines of fracture do not run just between parts of the world: the north and the south, the developed world and the so-called developing world. These lines traverse every country and every city: New York and Rome, Nairobi and Sao Paolo, Delhi and Tokyo. They divide those who have clean water and those who do not, those who have access to the Internet and those who do not, the literate and the illiterate; the left and the right, those of different faiths and none, black and white. The missionary is to be the bearer of a wisdom, of God’s “purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1.10) And this wisdom we represent by being present to those who are divided from us by the walls of division.
But we must take a further step. Being a missionary is not what I do; it is who I am. Just as Jesus is the one who is sent (Hebrews 3.1). Being present to the other, living on the lines of fracture, implies a transformation of who I am. In being with and for that other person I discover a new identity. I think of an old Spanish missionary whom I met in Taiwan, who had worked in China for many years and suffered imprisonment. Now he was old and sick, and his family wished him to return to Spain. But he said, “I cannot go back. I am Chinese. I would be a stranger in Spain”. When John XXIII met a group of American Jewish leaders in 1960, he astonished them by walking into the room and saying “I am Joseph, your brother”. This is who I am, and I cannot be myself without you. So, being sent implies a dying to who one was. One lets go of a little identity. Chrys, McVey, one of my American brethren who lives in Pakistan, was asked how long he would remain there, and he replied, “until I am tired of dying”. To be present for and with the other is a sort of dying to an old identity so as to be a sign of the Kingdom in which we will be one.
Nicholas Boyle wrote that “the only morally defensibly and conceptually consistent answer to the question ‘who are we now?’ is ‘future citizens of the world’” . We are not just people who work for a new world order, who try to overcome war and division. Who we are now is future citizens of the world. One could adapt Boyle’s words and say that now we are the future citizens of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is my country. Now I discover who I am to be by being close to those who are farthest away. It is precisely our Catholicism which pushes us beyond every small and sectarian identity, every narrow little sense of myself, to that which we can barely glimpse now. That is the embodiment of our wisdom.
This is not easy, and above all it requires fidelity. The missionary is not a tourist. The tourist can go to exotic places, take photographs, enjoy the food and the views, and go back home proudly bearing T-shirts. The missionary is only a sign of the Kingdom in staying there. As one of my brethren said, “you do not only unpack your bags, you throw your bags away.”
I do not mean that every missionary must stay until death. There may be many good reasons to leave: a new challenge to be faced elsewhere, illness or exhaustion, and so on. But I am suggesting that mission implies fidelity. It is the fidelity of a Spanish missionary whom I met in the Peruvian Amazon, who just goes on being there year after year, visiting his people, making his way around the little settlements, faithfully remaining even if not much appears to happen. Often the pain of the missionary is discovering that one is not wanted. Maybe the local people, or even the local vocations to one’s order, wait for him or her to go. It is the stamina to go on being there, sometimes unappreciated. The heroism of the missionary is in daring to discover who I am with and for these others, even if they do not wish to discover who they are with and for me. It is remaining there faithfully, even if it may cost one one’s life, as it did for Pierre Claverie and the Trappist monks in Algeria.
I escaped from Rome just before the World Youth Day. But in my meeting there with some of the young Dominican laity, I was struck by their delight in being with those who are different, who are unlike themselves. Germans and French, Poles and Pakistanis, there is an astonishing openness which reaches across the boundaries of race and culture and generation and faith. This is a gift of the young to the mission of the Church, and a sign of the Kingdom. Perhaps the challenge for the young missionary is learning that stamina, that enduring fidelity to the other, faced with our own fragility and anxiety. Our houses of formation should be schools of fidelity, where we learn to hang in there, stay put, even when we fail, even when there are misunderstandings, crises in relationship, even when we feel that our brethren or sisters are not faithful to us. The answer is not then to run away, to start again, to join another Order or to get married. We have to unpack our bags and throw them away. Presence is not merely being there. It is staying there. It takes the form of a life lived through history, the shape of a life that points to the Kingdom. The enduring presence of the missionary is indeed a sign of the Real Presence of the Lord who gave his body to us forever.
In many parts of the world, all that the missionary can do is to be there. In some Communist and Islamic countries nothing more is possible, just being an implicit sign of the Kingdom. Sometimes in our inner cities or working with the young or the alienated, the mission must begin anonymously. The worker-priest is simply there in the factory. But our faith yearns to take visible form, to be seen. This year Neil MacGregor, the Director of the National Gallery in London organised an exhibition called “Seeing Salvation”. For most of European history, our faith has been made visible, in glass and painting and sculpture. The celebration of Christ’s birth used to begin with Epiphany, the disclosure of the glory of God among us. When Simeon receives the child Jesus in the Temple he rejoices, “for my eyes have seen thy salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” (Luke: 2.31f). As St John says, we proclaim “that which we have heard, and which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” (1 Jn: 1.1f). Mission pushes beyond presence to epiphany.
Ever since the Iconoclastic Controversy in the ninth century, Christianity has sought to show God’s face. In the Europe in the Middle Ages, people rarely saw the image of any face except those of Christ and the saints, but in our world we are bombarded by faces. We have new icons on our walls: Madonna, Princess Diana, Tiger Woods, the Spice Girls. To be someone important today is to achieve “icon status”! Everywhere there are faces: Politicians, actors, footballers, the rich, people who are famous just for being famous. They smile at us from the billboards in our streets and our television screens. But we believe that all of humanity hungers to see another face, the face of God, the beatific vision. How can we manifest that face?
It would not be enough just to add Christ’s face to the crowd. It would be good but insufficient for Walt Disney to make a cartoon of the gospels. Putting Jesus’ face on the screen along with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck would not achieve epiphany. Many Protestant churches in Britain have signs outside their churches with the words of the gospel competing with the adverts in the streets. This may be admirable, but I always find it rather embarrassing. I remember our giggles as children when we drove past the sign outside a local Church which asked “whether we watched with the wise virgins or slept with the foolish virgins?”
The challenge is this: how can we disclose the glory of God, God’s beauty? In this world filled with images, how can God’s beauty be manifested. Balthasar talks of the “self-evidence” of beauty, “its intrinsic authority” . We recognise in beauty a summons that we cannot easily ignore. C. S. Lewis said that beauty rouses up the desire for “our own far-off country” , the home for which we long and have never seen. Beauty discloses our ultimate end, that for which we are made, our wisdom. In this runaway world, with its unknown future, the missionary is the bearer of wisdom, the wisdom of humanity’s final destiny. This final destiny is glimpsed in the beauty of God’s face. How can we show it now?
This question is easier to ask than to answer; I hope that you may be able to come up with some more stimulating answers than I have! I would suggest that we need to present images, faces which are different in type from the faces that we see in our streets. In the first place, beauty is disclosed not in the faces of the rich and the famous but the poor and the powerless. And secondly, the images of the global village offer entertainment, distraction, whereas the beauty of God is disclosed in transformation.
The images of the global village show the beauty of power and wealth. It is the beauty of the young and the fit who have everything. It is the beauty of a consumerist society. Now, do not think that I am jealous of the young and fit, however nostalgic I may be, but the gospels locate beauty elsewhere. The disclosure of the glory of God is the cross, a dying and deserted man. This is such a scandalous idea that it seems to have taken four hundred years for this to be represented. Possibly the first representation of the crucified Christ is on the doors of Santa Sabina, where I live, which were made in 432, after the destruction of Rome by the barbarians. God’s irresistible beauty shines through utter poverty.
This may seem a crazy idea, until one thinks of one of the most attractive and beautiful of all saints, St Francis of Assisi. I made a little pilgrimage to Assisi this summer. The Basilica was filled with crowds, who were drawn by the beauty of his life. The frescoes of Giotto are lovely, but the deeper loveliness is that of il poverello. His life is hollowed by a void, a poverty, which can only be filled by God. Cardinal Suhard wrote that to be a missionary “does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would make no sense if God did not exist.” . We see God’s beauty in Francis, because his life would make no sense if God is not.
Just as important, Francis found an new image for God’s own poverty (though why I am doing all this advertising for the Franciscans, I cannot imagine!). Neil MacGregor says that it was Francis who invented the crib, the sign of God embracing our poverty. In 1223 he wrote to the Lord of Greccio, “ I would like to represent the birth of the Child just as it took place at Bethlehem, so that people should see with their own eyes the hardships He suffered as an infant, how He was laid on hay in a manger with the ox and the ass standing by.” In the world of the thirteenth century Renaissance, with its new frescoes, new exotic consumer goods, its new urban civilisation, its mini-globalisation, Francis revealed the beauty of God with a new image of poverty.
That is our challenge in the global village, to show the beauty of the poor and powerless God. It is especially hard because often our mission is in the places of most terrible poverty, in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, where poverty is evidently ugly. Missionaries build schools, universities and hospitals. We run powerful and absolutely vital institutions. We are seen as rich. But in many countries the health and educational system would collapse if it were not for the Church. How then can we show the beauty of the glory of God, visible in poverty? How can we offer these irreplaceable services, and still lead lives which are mysteries, and which make no sense without God?
I now glance quickly at a second way in which we can manifest God’s beauty, and that is through acts of transformation. I begun this lecture by suggesting that what is perhaps unique about our world is not so much that it is global, as that we do not know where it is going. We have no idea what sort of future we are creating for ourselves. Even the north-pole has melted and become a pool of water. What next? This uncertainty provokes a deep anxiety. We hardly dare to even contemplate the future, and so it is easier to live just for now. This is the culture of instant gratification. As Kessler writes, “Most people live today less from great overarching hopes and perspectives than from short-term intentions and tangible goals. ‘Experience your life – now’ is the imperative of the secondary culture which now spans the globe. It is enough to live life like this, in the present – without a goal.”
When I fly into London, I often see the Millennium wheel, the city’s proud celebration of two thousands years since the birth of Christ. But all it does is to go round and round, and that i s on good days! It goes nowhere. It offers us the chance to be spectators, who observe the world without commitment. It entertains us, and enables us to momentarily escape the hectic city. It is a good symbol of how often we seek to survive in this runaway world. We are content to be entertained, to escape a while. And this is what so many of our images offer, entertainment which lets us forget . Computer games, soap operas, films offer us amnesia in the face of an unknown future. Mind you, I am still waiting for one of my nieces to take me on the Millennium wheel!
This escapism is above all expressed in that late twentieth century phenomenon, the “happening”. There is even the French word for it, “Le happening”. When France celebrated the Millennium with a 1000 kilometre breakfast, it was “un incroyable happening”! A happening may be a disco, a football match, a concert, a party, a fiesta, the Olympics. A happening is a moment of exuberance, of ecstasy, where we are transported out of our dull, unmalleable world, so that we can forget. When Disneyland built a new town in Florida, in which people could try to escape from the anxieties of modern America, it was named Celebration.
But Christianity finds its centre also in “un incroyable happening”, which is the Resurrection. But it is an utterly different sort of happening. It does not offer escapism, but transformation. It does not invite us to forget tomorrow, but is the future breaking in now. Faced with all our anxiety in this runaway world, not knowing where we are going, Christians cannot respond either with amnesia or with optimistic predications about the future. But we find signs of the Resurrection breaking in with gestures of transformation and liberation. Our celebrations are not an escape but a foretaste of the future. They offer not opium, as Marx thought, but promise.
An English Dominican, called Cornelius Ernst, once wrote that the experience of God is what he calls the “genetic moment”. The genetic moment is transformation, newness, creativity, in which God irrupts into our lives. He wrote: “Every genetic moment is a mystery. It is dawn, discovery, spring, new birth, coming to the light, awakening, transcendence, liberation, ecstasy, bridal consent, gift, forgiveness, reconciliation, revolution, faith, hope, love. It could be said that Christianity is the consecration of the genetic moment, the living centre from which it reviews the indefinitely various and shifting perspectives of human experience in history. That, at least is or ought to be its claim: that it is the power to transform and renew all things: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Apoc. 21.5)”
So the challenge for our mission is how to make God visible through gestures of freedom, liberation, transformation, little “happenings” that are signs of the end. We need little irruptions of God’s uncontainable freedom and his victory over death. Strangely enough, I have found it easier to think of rather obvious secular images than religious ones: the small figure in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square, the fall of the Berlin war.
What might be explicitly religious images? Perhaps a community of Dominican nuns in northern Burundi, Tutsis and Hutus living and praying together in peace in a land of death. The little monastery, surrounded by the greenery of cultivated fields in a countryside that is burnt and barren, is a sign of God, who does not let death have the last word. Another example might be an ecumenical community which I visited in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Catholics and Protestants lived together, and when anyone was killed in the sectarian battles, then a Catholic and a Protestant would go from the community to visit the relatives, and to pray with them. This community was an embodiment of our wisdom, a sign that we are not fated to violence, a little epiphany of the Kingdom. We do not know whether peace is around the corner or whether the violence will get worse, but here was a word made flesh which spoke of God’s ultimate purpose.
We have progressed from mission as presence to mission as epiphany. Our eyes have seen the salvation of the Lord. But we must make one last step, which is to proclamation. Our gospel must come to word. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, the disciples are sent out to all the nations to make disciples, and to teach all that Jesus has commanded. The Word becomes flesh, but the flesh also becomes word.
Here we encounter what is perhaps the deepest crisis in our mission today. There is a profound suspicion of anyone who claims to teach, unless they come from the East or have some strange New Age doctrine. Missionaries who teach are suspected of indoctrination, of cultural imperialism, of arrogance. Who are we to tell anyone what they should believe? To teach that Jesus is God is seen as indoctrination, whereas to teach that God is a sacred mushroom is part of the rich tapestry of human tradition! Anyway our society is deeply sceptical of any truth claims. We live in Disneyland, in which the truth can be reinvented as we wish. In the virtual age, the truth is what you conjure up on your computer screen. I read of a pilot who took off from an airport in Peru, but all his controls went crazy. When he turned left, the controls said that he was going right, when he went up, they said that he was going down. His last recorded words were “It’s all fiction”. Alas, the mountain he hit was not.
In Christianity Rediscovered Vincent Donovan describes how he worked for many years as a missionary with the Maasai, building schools and hospitals, but never proclaiming his faith. He was not encouraged to do so by his superiors. Finally he could restrain himself no longer and he gathered together the people and told them about his belief in Jesus. And then ( if I remember correctly since my copy of the book is lost) the elders said, “We always wondered why you were here, and now at last we know. Why did you not tell us before?”. This is why we are sent, to tell people about our faith. We do not always have the freedom to speak, and we must choose well the moment, but it would ultimately be patronising and condescending not to proclaim what we believe to be true. Indeed it is part of the good news that human beings are made for the truth and can attain it. As Fides et Ratio puts it, “One may define the human being ….as the one who seeks the truth” (para 28), and that search is not in vain. We have, as the Dominican Constitutions say, a “propensio ad veritatem”, (LCO 77.2), an inclination to the truth. Any spirituality of mission has to include a passion for the truth.
At the same time, it is central to traditional Catholic teaching that we stand at the very limits of language, barely glimpsing the edge of the mystery. St Thomas says that the object of faith is not the words we speak, but God whom we cannot see and know. The object of our faith is beyond the grasp and dominion of our words. We do not own the truth or master it. Faced with the beliefs and claims of others we must have a profound humility. As Claverie wrote “je ne possède pas la vérité, j’ai besoin de la vérité des autres”, I am a beggar after the truth.
At the heart of a spirituality of mission is surely an understanding of the right relationship between the confidence that we have in the revelation of the truth and the humility that we have before the mystery. The missionary must seek that right integration between confidence and humility. This is a source of an immense tension within the Church, between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and some Asian theologians, and indeed within many religious orders. It can be a fruitful tension at the heart of our proclamation of the mystery. I remember a General Chapter of the Dominicans in which a fierce argument broke out between those who staked their whole lives and vocations on the proclamation of the truth, and those who stressed how little Aquinas thought we could know of God. It ended with a seminar in the bar on a text of the Summa contra Gentiles, and the consumption of much beer and cognac! To live that tension well, between proclamation and dialogue, I believe that the missionary needs a spirituality of truthfulness and a life of contemplation.
It may appear strange to talk of a spirituality of truthfulness. Obviously the preacher must say only what is true. But I believe that one will only know when to speak and when to be silent, that balance of confidence and humility, if one has been trained in acute discipline of truthfulness. This is a slow and painful asceticism, becoming attentive to one’s use of words, in one’s attention to what others say, in an awareness of all the ways in which we use words to dominate, to subvert, to manipulate rather than to reveal and disclose.
Nicholas Lash wrote, “Commissioned as ministers of God’s redemptive Word, we are required, in politics and in private life, in work and in play, in commerce and scholarship, to practise and foster that philology, that word-caring, that meticulous and conscientious concern for the quality of conversation and the truthfulness of memory, which is the first causality of sin. The Church accordingly is, or should be, a school of philology, an academy of word-care.” The idea of the theologian as a philologist sounds very dry and dusty. How can a missionary have time for that sort of a thing? But to be a preacher is to learn the asceticism of truthfulness in all the words we speak, how we talk about other people, our friends and our enemies, people when they have left the room, the Vatican, ourselves. It is only if we learn this truth in the heart that we will be able to tell the difference between a good confidence in the proclamation of the truth, and the arrogance of those who claim to know more than they can; between humility in the face of the mystery and a wishy-washy relativism which does not dare to speak at all. The discipline is part of our assimilation to the one who is the Truth, and whose word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4.12)
Secondly, we will only be confident and humble preachers if we become contemplative. Chrys McVey said that “mission begins in humility and ends in mystery”. It is only if we learn to rest in God’s silence, that we can discover the right words, words that are neither arrogant nor vacuous, words that are both truthful and humble. It is only if the centre of our lives is God’s own silence that we will know when language ends and when silence begins, when to proclaim and when to be quiet. Rowan Williams wrote that “what we must rediscover is the discipline of silence – not an absolute, unbroken inarticulacy, but the discipline of letting go of our own easy chattering about the gospel so that our words may come again from a new and different depth or force from something beyond our fantasies” . It is this contemplative dimension that destroys the false images of God that we may be tempted to worship, and which liberates us from the traps of ideology and arrogance.
Future Citizens of the Kingdom
I must now conclude by gathering together the threads. I have suggested that the beginning of all mission is presence; it is being there as a sign of the Kingdom, with those who are most different, separated from us by history, culture or faith. But this is just the beginning. Our mission pushes us towards epiphany and ultimately to proclamation. The Word becomes flesh, and flesh becomes word. Each stage in the development of our mission asks of the missionary different qualities: fidelity, poverty, freedom, truthfulness and silence. Am I offering a picture of an impossibly saintly missionary, unlike any actual missionary? Does this add up to a coherent “Spirituality of mission”?
I have suggested that at this stage in the history of the Church’s mission, we might best think of the missionary as the future citizen of the Kingdom. Our runaway world is out of control. We do not know where it is going, whether to happiness or misery, to prosperity or poverty. We Christians have no privileged information. But we do believe that ultimately the Kingdom will come. That is our wisdom, and it is a wisdom that missionaries embody in their very lives.
St Paul writes to the Philippians, that “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil: 3. 13f). This is a wonderfully dynamic image. St Paul is stretched out, pressed forward like an Olympic athlete in Sidney going for gold! To be a future citizen of the Kingdom is to live by this dynamism. It is to be stretched, reaching out, pressed forward. The missionary endures incompletion; he or she is half made until the Kingdom, when all will be one. We stretch out to the other, to those most distant, incomplete until we are one with them in the Kingdom. We reach out for a fullness of truth, which now we only glimpse dimly; all that we proclaim is haunted by silence. We are hollowed out by a longing for God, whose beauty may be glimpsed in our poverty. To be a future citizen of the Kingdom is to be dynamically, radiantly, joyfully incomplete.
Eckhart wrote that, “just as much as you go out of all things, just so much, neither more nor less, does God come enter in with all that is His – if indeed you go right out of all that is yours.” The beauty of Eckhart is that the less one knows what he is talking about, the more wonderful it sounds! Perhaps he is inviting us to that radical exodus from ourselves that makes a hollow for God to enter. We stretch out to God in our neighbour, God who is most other, so to discover God in the centre of our being, God as most inward. For God is utterly other and utterly inward. Which is why to love God we must both love our neighbour and ourselves. But that is another lecture!
This love is very risky. Giddens says that in this dangerous world, careering away towards an unknown future, the only solution is to take risks. Risk is the characteristic of a society that looks to the future. He says that “a positive embrace of risk is the very source of that energy which creates wealth in a modern economy…..Risk is the mobilising dynamic of a society bent on change, that wants to determine its own future rather than leaving it to religion, tradition, or the vagaries of nature.” He clearly sees religion as a refuge from risk, but our mission invites us to a risk beyond his imagining. This is the risk of love. It is the risk of living for the other who might not want me; the risk of living for a fullness of truth, that I cannot capture; the risk of letting myself be hollowed out by yearning for the God whose Kingdom will come. This is most risky and yet most sure
- Runaway World. How globalisation is reshaping our lives. London 1999
- On the first two stages of mission, cf Robert J Schreiter The New Catholicity. Theology between the global and the local. New York 1997.
- Runaway World. How globalisation is reshaping our lives London 1999
- I am sure that that is a quote from someone, but I cannot remember whom!
- Lettres et Messages d’Algerie Paris, 1996
- Who are we now? Christian humanism and the global market from Hegel to Heaney. Edinburgh 1998, p. 120
- Aidan Nichols OP The Word has been abroad. Edinburgh 1998 p.1
- quoted by R. Harries Art and the Beauty of God: A christian understanding, London 1993, p. 4.
by S. Hauerwas, Santify them in the truth Edinburgh 1998 p.38
Neil MacGregor Seeing Salvation BBC London 2000 p.49
- Hans Kessler “Fulfilment – Experienced for a moment yet Painfully Lacking?” Concilium September 1999. P.103
- c.f. Alberto Moreira “The dangerous Memory of Jesus Christ in a post-Traditional society” and Ferdinand D Dagmang “Gratification and Instantaneous Liberation” both in Concilium September 1999
- The Theology of Grace Dublin 1974 p. 74f
- ibid, p.166
- Open to Judgment London 1996, p. 268
Introducing the principles of the Social Doctrines
1. The Social Doctrine of the Church hold certain principles that are permanent. They stay and do not change over time. One principle is the principle of human dignity. This we discussed earlier in class. All principles are rooted in this—that the human being is a being with inalienable dignity coming from God. Human dignity is the foundation of all principles.
2. There are other principles coming from the basic principle of human dignity. These other principles are: the common good; universal destination of goods; participation; subsidiarity; and solidarity. We will study each of them. These principles presuppose the Gospel message and what the Gospel requires—which is love of God and neighbour in justice.
3. Let us look at how a Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, views “justice”. He would say that justice is concerned with relationships among persons. In those relationships we give to each one his or her right. We give what is proper to others. We do justice in proportion to what is due to others. The proper act of justice is precisely to render to each one his own.
4. Justice, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a great virtue (and virtue, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a faculty of doing good to others) because in justice we consider what is good and best for others and not just our passions and feelings for ourselves. In fact, what is good and best for others is their own exercise of justice. When we do acts of justice, the ideal result is to “empower” others to also be just. (See Summa Theologica Second Part of the Second Part Question 58).
5. So now can say that the common good; universal destination of goods; participation; subsidiarity; and solidarity all presuppose the Gospel—they may be results of our human wisdom and reflections but they presuppose our encounter with the Gospel. They are all meant for life of justice. They touch on society—our social lives (in all levels, including politics, economics, the legal system, etc.). For the Church, these principles are references for interpreting and evaluating society. If we are to discern what actions to do in society we look at the principles—they can guide us.
6. Compendium # 163 says that these are moral principles regarding the “ultimate and organizational foundations of life in society”. So all our social decisions and actions must always consider them.
The Common Good (Compendium 164-170)
1. What does “common good” mean? Compendium 164 says it is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily”. We do actions that are hopefully good. We can do things in our private ways. The common good involves social decisions and actions—not just private ones. In society there are actions that must be meant for the good of everyone—for the common good. Social life must be lived according to the good of everyone—that everyone be whole and fully humans…persons with dignity and rights. We would like that every single member of society be truly fulfilled! Pope John XXIII gave a clear definition of the common good: The common good concerns “all those social conditions which favour the full development of human personality” (Mater et Magistra 65).
2. Vatican II, in the document Gaudium et Spes (26) would put it this way: The the common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment”. The good word we can use is “bloom”. In the common good everyone “blooms”. We find conditions so that everyone “blooms”.
3. It is clear that “no one is an island”. We find fulfilment with others. We are humans who exist living-with-others. As Genesis 2/18 would say, it is not good to be alone. There is a strong inter-link and inter-dependency between the integral development—the “blooming”—of each one and the integral development of the whole society. Compendium 165 says that “living-with” does not simply mean that we interact with others. It also means that we “seek unceasingly — in actual practice and not merely at the level of ideas — the good, that is, the meaning and truth, found in existing forms of social life”. Our social interactions must consider what is good for everyone. This is what common good means. It is an element of social life.
4. What for example are things we must consider for the good of all? There is, as examples given by the Compendium 166
· “the commitment to peace,
· the organization of the State's powers,
· a sound juridical system,
· the protection of the environment,
· and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom”.
5. The common good is the responsibility of everyone in society…each to his or her own capacities. Social life should always be geared to the assumption of greater responsibility. It is never always easy because of the efforts and abilities required. It is always never always easy because in common good we act “to seek the good of others as though it were one's own good” (#167). Striving for the good of all is a task that may be hindered by each one’s desire to enjoy life independent of concern for others.
6. Our being “image of God” occurs in our links with each other. It is not good to be alone. So we orient our efforts in justice for the common good.
7. The Compendium gives a special focus on politics. Here is one area where we can be less full of ourselves and be more socially oriented. In Compendium 168 we read that the responsibility for attaining the common good also is political—it is a task of the State. Here is a strong statement of the Compendium: “the common good is the reason that the political authority exists”. The Compendium picks this up from the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1910. Reflect on this: the reason why politics exist is because of the concern for the good of all. Of course this is not exactly our experiences in our countries—but it is in principle what politics is all about! (Or what politics should be all about).
8. But why emphasize politics and the whole State apparatus? The Compendium explains (168): “The individual person, the family or intermediate groups are not able to achieve their full development by themselves for living a truly human life. Hence the necessity of political institutions, the purpose of which is to make available to persons the necessary material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods”. In other words, we really need political institutions to attain full human development. One our own small scales, we are not that able.
9. The common good is a dynamic process in which the different social groups and individuals live in cooperation with each other in charity, of course. It is this exercise of charity that guides justice and the unity of all will. The government of a country is designed—or must be designed—to facilitate this.
10. The rights of members of society form the limits of our governments. Or to put it in the style of Genesis 2/16-17, our government MAY do as it pleases in making programs, BUT people have rights to the common good.
11. Our governments must find ways in which justice prevails while interests of social members are catered to. People in the government—being elected by the nation—must seek for the common good “according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority” (#169). Notice what the Compendium is emphasizing—the governments are interested in what is really goof for all and not just what is in the interests of the “majority”. So even the minority of the country have rights to common good. (As excursus: This may be supplemented by a study of A. de Tocqueville’s “tyranny of the majority”.)
12. We might think that the common good is the goal of social life. Compendium 170 states that there is a higher goal—a more important end. The common good has value “only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation”. For the Compendium God is still the ultimate goal. We may have a well functioning society but all must still lead to God. Why? Well, remember that human dignity is define also by the transcendent vocation of the human person. We all still have our communion with God as ultimate goal.
13. But the task for the common good takes its motivation too from our sense of our ultimate goal. We do not calculate what is best for everyone according to “market values” or “development in year X” values. Because our ultimate goal is in God, we organize social life according to the common good!
14. So #170 concludes that “our history — the personal and collective effort to elevate the human condition — begins and ends in Jesus: thanks to him, by means of him and in light of him every reality, including human society, can be brought to its Supreme Good, to its fulfilment. A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing”. We do not end with a material goal. We have a transcendent goal—this is our ultimate common good.
Catechism on Church and Politics by CBCP
- Concretely, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, i.e., the Church "must be involved in the area of politics when Gospel values are at stake" (PCP-II, 344). Specific roles for different members of the Church: PCP-II pointed out these roles. "The Church's competence in passing moral judgments even in matters political has been traditionally interpreted as pertaining to the clergy. Negatively put, the clergy can teach moral doctrines covering politics but cannot actively involve themselves in partisan politics. Religious men and women are also included in this prohibition" (PCP-II, 340). But lay people have competence in active and direct partisan politics. (PCP-II, 341).
- Why should priests, religious men and women refrain from involvement in partisan politics? The Church prohibits Clergy and Religious from involvement in partisan politics because they are considered the symbols of unity in the Church community. For them to take an active part in partisan politics, with its wheeling and dealing, compromises, confrontational and adversarial positions, would be to weaken their teaching authority and destroy the unity they represent and protect. Still, it must be admitted that sometimes even the teaching of moral principles is actually interpreted by some as partisan politics, because of actual circumstances (PCP-II, 343-344).
- What is the specific mission of the laity in politics? The mission of the laity is the same as that of the entire Church, which is to renew the political order according to Gospel principles and values. Such renewal by the laity is through active and partisan political involvement, a role generally not allowed to priests and religious men and women. The lay faithful (must) not to be passive regarding political involvement but to take a leading role. Moreover, the laity must "help form the civic conscience of the voting population and work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office" (PCP-II, Art. 8, #1).
- Are there so called "Catholic candidates" or is there a "Catholic vote"? The Gospel does not prescribe only one way of being political or only one way of political governing (such as monarchical, presidential, parliamentary, etc.), much less only one political party or even one slate of candidates. No one political option can fully carry out the Gospel mandate of renewing the political order or of serving the common good. No one political party or platform or set of candidates can exclusively claim the name Catholic. Hence to Catholics there are many political options that the Gospel does not prohibit. Therefore, there is generally no such thing as a "Catholic vote" or "the Bishops' candidates". This is simply a myth. The Bishops do not endorse any particular candidate or party but leave to the laity to vote according to their enlightened and formed consciences in accordance with the Gospel.
- Is there any case when the Bishops can authoritatively order the lay faithful to vote for one particular and concrete option? Yes, there is, and the case would certainly be extraordinary. This happens when a political option is clearly the only one demanded by the Gospel. An example is when a presidential candidate is clearly bent to destroy the Church and its mission of salvation and has all the resources to win, while hiding his malevolent intentions behind political promises. In this case the Church may authoritatively demand the faithful, even under pain of sin, to vote against this particular candidate. But such situations are understandably very rare.
- Since politics is seen as "dirty", should not Catholic leaders stay away from politics? No, on the contrary they should involve themselves directly in partisan politics so that they can renew it and make it work for the common good. "Catholics in politics have to work in favor of legislation that is imbued with these [Christian] principles. Knowing that the wrong behavior and values are often rewarded or left unpunished, Catholic politicians have to put teeth to good legislation by making certain that the correct system of rewards and punishment be strictly enforced in public life".
Document signed by Bishop Oscar Cruz
THE UNIVERSAL DESTINATION OF GOODS
1. Compendium #171 would say that God gave the earth to humanity for sustenance. But this is for all without excluding or favouring anyone. God created the world and said all was good. Then God gave the whole earth to the human. All that the earth contains is for all so that all would be shared fairly by all.
2. Earth is God’s gift to us. Earth takes care of our basic needs—our “primary needs” allowing us to feed ourselves, grow, communicate, associate and attain our vocation—our highest purposes. The right to use resources of the earth is a right of all. The goods of the earth are for all—universally. They are destined for all.
3. This means that access must be granted to all members of society. Compendium 173 would then affirm what the Church sees as characteristics of the destination of goods. First of all every human person has the natural and inherent right to have access to earth’s resources. So before any system that intervenes in this access—legal or economic or political—the right is already affirmed. All forms of organizing resources must be subordinated to the universal destination of goods.
4. This does not mean that everything is at the disposal of everyone. The right must be exercised equitably. Compendium 173 emphasizes that regulated interventions are necessary. These are national and international agreements, economic and juridical. The agreements must be inspired by moral values. The agreements must be “guided by resourcefulness, planning and labour, and used as a means for promoting the well-being of all men and all peoples and for preventing their exclusion and exploitation” (174).
5. The universal destination is also inspired by the Gospel teaching us how to overcome the craving to possess and deny access to others (see Mk 1/12-13; Mt 4/1-11; Lk 4/1-13) in order to teach us how to overcome them with his grace.
6. Now one of the big issues here is that of private property. Is the Church against it?
7. In 176 we read that work allows the human to make part of the earth a private ownership. We work—and we have right therefore to ownership. Now, what is private ownership? It is what allows for us to have personal and family autonomy. Private ownership is “an extension of human freedom” (176).
8. Everyone has the common right to use the goods of the whole of creation. Goods are meant for everyone. For God the goods of creation are destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity. So each one has the right to own something—to have private property. But this ownership must be regulated. As each person has ownership, the goods owned cannot be simply exclusive of the owner. Even as they are privately owned, they have a common goal—the benefit of others.
9. The Church puts limits to private ownership as demanded by the principle of the universal destination of goods. This principle has primacy over private ownership. This is the limit given. The earth is given to all—not just to the wealthy people. So in principle, private ownership is not exactly “from me”. It is from the resources given by God in creation. In sharing with others, we do not exactly share what is “from me”. This is why in sharing we are doing what justice requires—we give what is due to others.
10. Private property is not an absolute. It is only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods. To have private property is “not an end but a means” (177).
11. Compendium 178 explains the social function of private ownership. Private ownership is still oriented to something social—what we own should be able to benefit not only us but also others. ” So ownership of goods must be equally accessible to all. The Church is saying that my private ownership must allow others their right to private ownership too. I cannot exercise my right to private ownership by prohibiting others to exercise their right to private ownership. So, the Church would emphasize that private ownership has an obligation. The obligation is to consider the effects of private ownership. Private ownership is still oriented to the common good. Owners have the obligation “not to let the goods in their possession go idle”. Goods privately owned must be channelled “to productive activity, even entrusting them to others who are desirous and capable of putting them to use in production”.
12. So it is still to remove monopolies that marginalize people and countries. We must still provide all with the basic conditions that allow all to “bloom”.
13. What is the possible result of allowing private ownership for all? There is “better living conditions, security for the future, and a greater number of options from which to choose” (181). Just make sure that private ownership is not made absolute. Recognize that whatever it is that we own “are dependent on God the Creator” and we must direct them for the common good. Private ownership is for the common good (181).
14. With this in mind we see how poverty is addressed with the notion of the “preferential option for the poor”. The universal destination of goods requires that the poor and marginalized by the focus of concern. Compendium 182 tells us that “the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force”. The inspiration here is Jesus himself. He identified himself with the “least”. The Church's love for the poor is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, by the poverty of Jesus and by his attention to the poor (184). What we do to the poor we do the Christ. The poor is sign of Christ's presence (182).
15. In case we think that we can remove all poverty, the Compendium says no. This will happen only “upon Christ's return” (183). So for now we have the poor with us and we will be judged according to how we treat the poor.
16. The notion of justice is here very helpful. Caring for the poor is itself an exercise of justice. “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice” (184). The immoderate craving for wealth is not just—it is incompatible with love for the poor.
Group Work Towards the end of the Semester
Each group will work on the following
CAPITAL/BUSINESS/PROPERTY: Business involves competition and profit and a lot of private property. This creates a struggle because there is a perceived (note it is a perception…it needs verification) contradiction between making profit and moral values. There is a perceived contradiction between production and respect for workers (like there is need to produce and have profits while workers will have fixed salaries). A Christian might want to be in business. But how will this Christian face the dilemma—the contradictions?
The group will work on this question: How can the group explain the possibility of doing business as a Christian?
You may want to consult the following (and feel free to consult other documents):
CA 32 What is modern business for Pope JPII
CA 33 A good reflection of Pope JP II
CA 43 When is private ownership wrong.
CV 45 The notion of investment in business
GS 4 New form of property in modernity
GS 4 New form of property;
MM 104 Managing capital
MM 75 Workers should participate in the life of business
QA 113 Church does not condemn Capitalism but is careful that capitalism does not violate the social order
QA 113 Managing capital
Do not forget the Compendium
WOMEN: Modern societies are often faced with certain difficulties regarding the relationship between men and women. Women want more “independence”. They do not want to stay always in their traditional roles—“stay at home” roles. In fact the weight of traditional roles is decreasing in many societies. Certain feminists say that women are discriminated when they are not allowed public roles. Women must have a share in public life—like work, politics, etc. What about the task at home—like who cooks in the house, who goes to work, who brings the children to school, who washes the clothes, etc. Traditionally these are tasks of women—mothers. Do women have to let men do the same tasks?
So the group will handle the question of men and women sharing tasks in both household and public lives. How far should the sharing extend?
You may want to consult the following (and feel free to consult other documents):
GS 29 Rights of women;
GS 60 Women in Public life—in social and cultural activities.
JM 45 Women in society and in the Church
OA 13 Discrimination against women;
PT 19 Work of mothers of families
QA 77 Work of mothers of families
RN 33 Work of women
Do not forget the Compendium
EMPLOYMENT: One of the strategies of business today is to level off salaries. Salaries are liabilities in business; salaries reduce the chance of more profits. SO the trend is to put salaries or wages on a “minimum” level. If this is not done, the business may fail. So it seems that fixing salaries is a practical thing to do. The group will work on the question of just salary. At what point can we say that workers should have a correct and just salary?
You may want to consult the following (and feel free to consult other documents):
CA 8 Correct Salary
DR 49 Just salary
GS 67 Society must help people look for work
QA 81 On unemployment and salaries
QA 81 Salary and family
RN 17 Duties of employers
RN 34 The correct fixing of salary
Do not forget the Compendium
DEMOGRAPHY: This is another word for “population”. We know that this is a hot issue. Many countries have big populations. Do we reduce them? What is a good way? Some would say that there is a conflict between economic growth and population growth. Poverty is due to big populations. So maybe it is better to reduce poverty to allow economic growth and reduce poverty. This may even have to accept “population control” methods. The group will answer this question: What might be the stand of the Church regarding population growth? (Remain in the Church Social Doctrine documents….you do not have to go discuss the RH Bill problem, for example).
You may want to consult the following (and feel free to consult other documents):
GS 27: respect life
GS 47: Problem of demography
GS 51: Life must be protected;
GS 87 Demography and politics
JM 25: Right to live
MM 185 Demography and economic development
MM 192: Life is more important than things;
MM 194: Life is sacred
OA 18: Malthus would be the reference for population control. The Church does not follow this.
PP 37: Demography and government
Do not forget the Compendium
The documents proposed in your reports:
CSD: Compendium of Social Doctrine
CV: Caritas in Veritate (Benedict)
DR: Divini Redemptoris (Pius XI)
GS: Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II document)
JM: Justicia in Mundo (Synod of Bishops, 1971)
MM: Mater etMagistra (John XXIII)
OA: Octogesima adveniens (Paul VI)
PP: Populorum Progressio (Paul VI)
PT: Pacem in Terris (John XXIII)
QA: Quadresimo Anno (Pius XI)
RM: Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII)
A Bit of History
1. In the early centuries of most of our countries, people were grouped in small units. There was still no such thing as big nations with centralized states. Political power, which was in a very minimum, was mostly involved with making sure there was peace and order among people. The different groups and individuals were made to unify peacefully, more or less. So what we would find, at that time, was the dominance of small social units like the family and the village.
2. Slowly, over time, societies became more complex…and slowly centralized States were organized. In passing, it may be interesting look at the history of the Church. What we can notice is that the Church played a social role that later on will be done by the State. Affairs like education and health care were more in the hands of Church activities than in the States. If one had any problems, it was mainly the Church who was consulted. Even Kings and Princes consulted the Church.
3. Later on, societies became really complex and the State became more important. Then began the problem of State rule and domination. Some philosophers and even theologians began to promote the idea of freedom in front of centralized State authorities. So there was the beginning of moving out of the “organic” living in society to a more individual living in society. Surely we see the effects even today.
4. Over the course of history more and more societies tried to look for autonomy of local groups. More and more the government was understood as “helping out” the local levels. The totalitarian way was discouraged. Taking care of the whole society should not be the exclusive competence of the State. People, in individual and small units, had to have a voice. This was the start of “subsidiarity”.
5. So this idea of subsidiarity is not anything new in history. During the time of Pope Leo XIII the big problem was industrialisation—many people were in very hard work conditions. Many individuals and families did not have a voice in their work conditions. So Catholics called for help—how to help the voiceless workers of industrialism.
6. Years later, with the “Cold War”, the human rights were so violated by governments. Pope John XXIII for example, had to worry about how to limit the power of States over individuals. He raised the question of how to let everyone have a voice in governance of whole societies.
7. Society is basically composed of people. This is easy to see. But how are people living together—socially? The Compendium gives us an idea of this “living together” by discussing civil society (see Compendium #185). Civil society involves all and everyone in society related as individuals and as groups. Individuals are not isolated from one another. Individuals are social beings—they live “in” a social setting. Each individual is really within a network of relationships with others.
8. As each individual (and we can also add the small social group like the family) lives within a wider social setting, each one can take an initiative regarding how to live and how to pursue happiness. It is not wise to remove this capacity to take initiative. Every social activity must keep in mind the place that each one can have—the role that each one can play for the good of the whole. In society we find more complex and more assembled areas…but we also find individuals. We find the “higher orders” and also the “lower orders”. An example of a higher order is “the economic world” or “the market” or “the State”. An example of the “lower order” is me and my family, me and my circle of friends, or even myself. Social life is not just run by the “higher orders”…it is also run by the “lower orders”.
9. Compendium 186 would insist that a society must have the “attitude of subsidiarity”. This is the attitude of supporting, promoting and developing the “lower orders” of society. Let this not look so abstract. What the document is saying is that people—even in their own levels of social life—must have the chance to say something about the way the whole society should run. Let people—individuals and small social units—have a role. Let people in the “lower level” have a voice.
10. Why is this important? This is important because very often in society the small individual level—the “lower level”—is “absorbed and substituted”. Only the higher order makes decisions. Only the higher order says how society should run…and everyone else just follows. The individual, therefore, is so absorbed in the group and it is the group that substitutes for the individual.
11. So we read that subsidiarity is a way of “assistance offered to lesser social entities” (186). Now because the lower order is respected, the higher order—like the State—should “refrain from anything that would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society” (186). The initiative, freedom and responsibility of social members in their own realms must not be supplanted.
12. Is this important? Yes, it is. If individuals and very small social units have no voice, they can be easily abused by the higher levels. It is also important because t reminds the higher orders to give space for the lower orders. Again, as we said above, give voice to the people. “This principle is imperative because every person, family and intermediate group has something original to offer to the community” (187). The absence of subsidiarity would result to the ruin of initiative and freedom. There will be the domination of bureaucracy, for example. There will be the domination of big monopolies of higher levels.
13. So how will subsidiarity be put to effect? The Compendium proposes the following (187):
· “respect and effective promotion of the human person and the family;
· ever greater appreciation of associations and intermediate organizations in their fundamental choices and in those that cannot be delegated to or exercised by others;
· the encouragement of private initiative so that every social entity remains at the service of the common good, each with its own distinctive characteristics;
· the presence of pluralism in society and due representation of its vital components;
· safeguarding human rights and the rights of minorities;
· bringing about bureaucratic and administrative decentralization;
· striking a balance between the public and private spheres, with the resulting recognition of the social function of the private sphere;
· appropriate methods for making citizens more responsible in actively “being a part” of the political and social reality of their country”.
14. Be careful. The document is not saying that the higher order be dropped. The higher order must be present and active. But it should always stimulate the lower order. For example there is the need to “stimulate the economy because it is impossible for civil society to support initiatives on its own” (187). Once the lower order is stimulated and given the chance to take initiatives, then the higher level will again have to refrain from intervening. The Compendium tells us that “institutional substitution must not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary, since justification for such intervention is found only in the exceptional nature of the situation” (187).
1. Together with subsidiarity is a principle that is closely related. This is the principle of participation. In participation every single person in society “contributes to the cultural, economic, political and social life of the civil community to which he belongs…with a view to the common good” (189) So the concern is to give voice (subsidiarity) and to allow contributing to social life (participation). See how related they are.
2. The document would give importance to the “least” in society. Encourage the participation, says the document, “above all of the most disadvantaged, as well as the occasional rotation of political leaders in order to forestall the establishment of hidden privileges” (189). The goal is that social administration becomes the responsibility of everyone.
3. Democracy is precisely this—that everyone participates. In a democracy powers and functions are assigned to everyone (190). This means three things (190): that the different subjects of civil community at every level
· must be informed,
· must be listened to and
· must be involved in the exercise of the carried-out functions.
4. What exactly is the issue that the Compendium is targeting? It does happen that in society some people try to arrange relationships in their favour alone. The Compendium 191 mentions that some might “‘make deals’” with institutions in order to obtain more advantageous conditions for themselves”. Surely you see this happening in your countries. People with some form of “prestige” and “power” are able to arrange things but at the expense of others, especially the little ones.
5. Let us not forget that the Popes writing their social doctrine were addressing not just Bishops and Priests but people of good will. This included workers, professionals…etc. Let us not forget the “intermediary groups” like unions and cooperatives. Also we include the youth. So the principle of subsidiarity has a political relevance. It is not just “talk”.
6. Let us remember too what St. Paul wrote. “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col.3/11). Democracy, if it is to be true, is about equality and the right for each to have a voice. For the Christian this also means the Christ is all and in all. Reviewing our discussion of human dignity, we say that nobody is above others. Christ is all and in all. The tendency to rule absolutely with one’s power—as the case can happen with some governments, is idolatry. It is the idolatry of unjust power.
7. Yes, of course, our societies have become so complex that we need a centralized rule. Fine, that’s a fact. But do our governments respect the “little ones” and allow them their voices? The principle of subsidiarity can serve as a point of critique against the monopoly of centralized power. It can help us, Christians, to question the way society is run by centralized powers. All people of goodwill have the duty to ask questions. We need to help give voice especially to the “little ones”—the voiceless of our societies.
1. The word “solidarity” has been associated with juridical cases in law. When someone owes another person money, the debtor is obliged to be “solid”—or “one with” the lender—and this means that the debtor must really commit to pay later. The lender is solid with the person borrowing too—that by lending the debtor is assuming help to the borrower. SO what would “solidarity” mean? Well, the word itself says it: solid. Something is “hard” and “consistent”…not fluid and not open to too much changes. So if people are “solid” with each other, they support each other.
2. Let us see what the Church would say.
3. Pope Paul VI in his Populorum progressio showed the desire for a world of solidarity where people are fraternally one with each other (see PP 43 and PP 64).
4. Remember Pope John Paul II. He was Polish and in Poland there was a political party called “Solidarity”. The workers in Poland were so organized that they saw themselves solidly one…solidly together. To fight for their rights and for justice, workers had to be solid—together. So in the writings of Pope John Paul II we can note the theme of being-one and being together. Well, that pope took inspiration also from the Church’s Vatican Council II—and notably from the document of Gaudium et Spes. In that document we read about the “signs of the times” and the importance of the growing solidarity among people (see GS 46). The same document would criticize individualism—and self-centeredness—which forgets social solidarity. (See GS 30). Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis used the word solidarity a lot. He notes in that encyclical how many poor people are in solidarity with each other (see SRS 39). He would add that so many people suffer injustice that those people are solid—together—in their concerns for justice (see SRS 38).
5. But why are people solidly one? Pope John Paul would say that the solidarity has something to do with the unity of humanity (see SRS 39-40).
6. Solidarity is not just a nice feeling of being together. It is a matter of persevering to work for the common good (SRS 38). In solidarity people look for making human rights respected. Solidarity is about justice. People organize themselves to get out of the “dead-end” of injustice and poverty.
7. Let us look at more ancient times—like that of St. Thomas Aquinas. Thmas Aquinas would say that since the human person is with dignity then nobody is meant to be isolated. The good of one is at the same time the good of the whole society. Everyone is in communion with others—there is a solid unity.
8. The fact that the Church is “Body of Christ” is, already, a sign of solidarity. In other words, solidarity is part of God’s project for all. Solidarity is mde through the institutions and groups recognizing human rights. We see ourselves as one—solid—and so we move along together in social justice.
9. Solidarity needs to be re-awakened now and then. Why? Well, it can become mechanical. By this it means that solidarity may become “ghetto” behavior—being one only with those who resemble us. So we are in-solidarity with those of the same ethnic group or the same workers group. No, solidarity may indeed mean we are together but it does not mean “ghetto” living together. Solidarity may involve a small group—but it must open up to all society.
10. What about the government? For Pope John Paul II, the work of the government is be in solidarity with society. For example the government must assure the union of workers (see LE 8), The government must do its best to consider the plight of the poor and little ones. The weak ones need the support of the government.
11. Solidarity, for the same Pope, is a Christian virtue (see SRS 40). Why? Well, when we shape our behavior for the good, it is a virtue. Solidarity recognizes our mutual one-ness…we engage in reciprocity…we engage in concrete charity. We convert to being solid with others and we are not stuck with our own selves. We convert into the attitude of struggling against whatever perverts society.
12. Pope Benedict XVI would even go as far as saying that solidarity is also fraternity where charity is in the service of developing society (see CV 13). Solidarity is love in action…love in truth…going out of mere emotional sentimentalism.
What is “Solidarity” in the COMPENDIUM
1. So the basic starting point is the equality of human dignity. We are all same in dignity. Because of equal dignity why should we not be one? Already in terms of today’s “information technology” or IT we see how easy it is to communicate and reach out to as many as we can. The distances that separate us geographically are easily bridged now by IT.
2. Yet, as the Compendium notes, there are “inequalities stoked also by various forms of exploitation, oppression and corruption that have a negative influence on the internal and international life of many States” (192). There is so much improvement in technology but is there ethical improvement? This is why there is need for “solidarity” today. Compendium 194 gives us a brief summary of the meaning of solidarity: “The term ‘solidarity’… expresses in summary fashion the need to recognize in the composite ties that unite men and social groups among themselves, the space given to human freedom for common growth in which all share and in which they participate”. Note that solidarity is about a. recognizing unity—the ties that put us together and b. within that unity human freedom and growth can happen. So we are united to help each other grow and live properly.
3. Today we might say that we are more and more “solid” in terms of technology—we have a common unifying element. But we also need an ethical solidarity…not just technological solidarity. This shows two important parts—or components—of solidarity: social and moral/ethical (193). The moral-ethical component is crucial. Our societies are marked by “structures of sin”. We do injustice to one another—and the injustice is ingrained in our social lives. To correct this, we need structures of solidarity (194). From an institutional point of view we need to set laws, market regulations, and juridical systems to counter structures of sin. Moral structures are needed to counter sinful structures.
Excursus: Structural Sin
4. We have an idea of “individual sin”. Each of us commit sins. But there is also such a thing as “social sin” or “structural sin”.
5. Sin is a wound in ourselves and in our relationships with others. So there such a thing a “social” or “structural sin”. This means that even if sin is personal it is also inter-personal and social. The crazy things we do have social consequences. We affect others and we are affected by the crazy things others do. The hard fact is this: we experience the inability to get out of this situation. We do harm to one another and it is the basis of most of our relationships. We relate by harming…by injustice…by promoting injustice. So social-structural sin is something we are stuck in.
6. Why are stuck in it? Well, the word is “solidarity”. Whether we like it or not, we are social creatures. No one is an island. We live with others all the time. Even if a person decides to be alone in a house or room…this person still “lives-with” others. The person buys…pays the bills…goes to work…watches TV….reads newspapers…etc. The person may feel alone, but the interaction on a social level is going on. So technically we are solid with others. There is an inescapable solidarity. So what one does has repercussions in society.
7. We cannot remove our individual responsibilities within the social world. Social-structural sin presupposes individual participation in a system devoid of concern for moral and spiritual matters. The prophets of long ago have already noted this when they struggled with idolatry and injustice.
8. The hard fact is also this: we live in a solid system of relationships so much so that even things we do not personally do right now influence our lives and pressure us to live in a specific…and sinful way. In other words, sins spreads out in spite of me…and yet I am there participating. In each of us is something very personal and social that merits either fault or virtue. In social sin, we are all “at fault” in spite of each of us.
9. This explains why the Compendium talks of solidarity that must be ethical. Yes, we are already and unavoidably socially solid, So to correct a sinful solidarity, we need a moral-ethical solidarity. We need to “de-solidify” from sinful social structure to “re-solidify” with a true form of solidarity.
Let us continue with the Compendium then.
10. For the Compendium, solidarity is a virtue. It is not just a feeling of being together. Why is it a virtue? Virtue means “force”—the force and efforts we make in our moral behaviour. For example courage can be a virtue—it is the force to face struggles and challenges. Charity is a virtue. Temperance is a virtue. Now, for the Compendium, solidarity is also a force the shapes our behaviour in society. It is a virtue marked by commitment to justice. We make an effort to commit ourselves for the common good. It is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (193). We “lose ourselves” so that others may be (see Mt 10/40-42, 20/25; Mk 10/42-45; Lk 22/25-27).
11. Solidarity, as we can see clearly by now, means that we determine our ties and links that makes us one and solid. Within those links we commit to justice…we make sure that the links are just. In areas of social life where we see separation and fragmentation, solidarity makes the effort to address that with justice. So the individual goes beyond self and try to see the needs of others. Solidarity “translates into the willingness to give oneself for the good of one's neighbour, beyond any individual or particular interest” (194).
12. Remember in our introduction, we said that in legal terms solidarity is applied in cases of lending—in the relationship between the lender and the person in debt. Both are “solid” in their commitment. The lender is committed to help, the debtor is committed to pay. In society we are, in a way, “in-debt” to each other. We “owe” a lot to people who work for us, who make sure we are ok, that we eat well, that we study, etc. These are people in our societies…in culture, in science, in education, in work, in business etc. We continue this even in our own lives. Somehow society is not static—it moves on. People in many different areas also benefit from what we do. The future depends on us too. Solidarity is not just geographical, it is also temporal. We owe to what others have done in the past, those in the future will owe it to us too. There is a “temporal” responsibility in solidarity.
13. If we are to look for a model to follow—who is the best person to show us how to be in-solidarity. Clearly it is Jesus. He is Immanuel—God with us. His incarnation and his life showed how he was “solid-with-us”. Ok, so in our social lives we find a lot of contradictions and confusions. Can we not look at Jesus and ask how we can re-adjust our lives modelling after him? “In him and thanks to him, life in society too, despite all its contradictions and ambiguities, can be rediscovered as a place of life and hope, in that it is a sign of grace that is continuously offered to all and because it is an invitation to ever higher and more involved forms of sharing. Jesus of Nazareth makes the connection between solidarity and charity shine brightly before all, illuminating the entire meaning of this connection” (196)
14. The specific Christian way of living in solidarity can be guided by our faith in Christ. In him we learn forgiveness and reconciliation. In Christ we discover how each and everyone of us is “living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit” (197). How can we refuse solidarity even with those we do not like—like our enemies? The Compendium concludes this section with this: “One's neighbour must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person's sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one's life for the brethren (cf. 1 Jn 3:16)”” (197).
The Latin and the Oriental Church
1. The composition of the Catholic Church is “Roman”. She is marked by a hierarchy with the Pope as the “Bishop of Rome”. The whole Catholic Church is divided into two assemblies, namely the “Latin Church” and the “Oriental Church”. The Church is “Catholic” to mean that she is destine to the ends of the earth—to the whole world. Her mission is for all. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: (1203) “The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the Church are the Latin (principally the Roman rite, but also the rites of certain local churches, such as the Ambrosian rite, or those of certain religious orders) and the Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean rites. In ‘faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way’".
2. So we notice the liturgical traditions of the two assemblies. The Latin Church has the Roman rites. The Oriental Church conserves the rites of the east—like the Greek Byzantine rite, the Copt rite, the Armenian rite, the Chaldean rite, the Adysinian rite, the Syro-Malabar rite, etc.
3. The Latin Church is the more know assembly. Majority of Catholics are of this assembly. We are of that “branch”. The rites are Latin rites (of course this does not just mean the Latin language). The European influence over the whole globe has also brought with it the expansion of the Latin rite. We can think of the Spanish and Portugal empires that brought the Latin Church with them. France and Belgium entered much of Africa and so too in African we see the Latin rite.
4. The Oriental Church is within the whole Catholic Church. She, however, has her own rites. She has her liturgical styles. Let us try to identify these Churches (Wiki source):
5. Armenian (in union with Rome in the year 1740), Catholic-Byzantine (in union with Rome in the year 1924), the Catholic Chaldean Church (in union with Rome in the year 1830), the Catholic Coptic Church (in union with Rome in the year 1895), the Catholic Ethiopian Church (in union with Rome in the year 1961), the Maronite Church (in union with Rome in the year since the XII century), the Catholic Syriac Church (in union with Rome in the year 1662), the Syro Malabar Church (in union with Rome in the year 1599), the Catholic Syro-Malankare Church (in union with Rome in the year 1930), and the different Catholic Greek Orthodox Churches. These have a strong Byzantine liturgy. (Albany, Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italian-Albany Church, Russia, Melkite, Slovakia, Checkoslovakia, Ukraine, Georgia etc.).
MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH: FROM THE CCC
"I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH"
Paragraph 4. Christ's Faithful - Hierarchy, Laity, Consecrated Life
1. Who are members of the visible Church? “Membership” can mean, for sake of simplifying our discussion, incorporation in the visible body of Christ. (see New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03744a.htm). The CCC 871 tells us that members:
· are those who are “incorporated in Christ through Baptism”.
· They are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church
2. A quick summary is given in 873. The Church has one mission in which everyone is participating. With this mission there are different peoples with their ways of living.
· There are the apostles and their successors. Christ has entrusted them with the task of teaching, sanctifying and governing. They are therefore prophetic, priestly and kingly. If we read “apostles and successors”, of course see in that the Pope and the Magisterium, including the priests, bishops and cardinals. What do we notice? They are all “ordained” with an ecclesial ministry.
· Then there are the laity. The laity also share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ. They have their own mission “assignment”.
· Then there are people of “consecrated life”. They can be in the hierarchy or among the laity. They participate in the mission of the Church through the profession of the evangelical counsels.
Let us look at the “hierarchy”, the priests—including Pope, Bishop and even Deacon.
3. CCC 874 tells us that the “priests” or the “hierarchy” have the main work of servicing the good of the whole community. They kind of “shepherd” the flock of the Church, making sure that each one is not “mocking around” and is, in fact, on the road to salvation. So, in simple terms we say that the “hierarchy” has the work of making sure we are all holy. To do this, the “hierarchy” must preach and teach “by virtue of Christ's authority…speaking…in the name of Christ” (CCC 875). Bishops and priests speak and act in the person of Christ. Their ministry is a sign—a “sacrament”. In other words, they do no do things on their own behalf. They present to the Church what is from God.
4. Their ministry must form a “college”. Bishops, for example, function “in college” with other Bishops. CCC 877 calls this the “episcopal college”. Bishops are united together; they consult each other and make decisions for the whole Church (as “college”) in communion with the bishop of Rome. Priests in the diocese of a bishop function within that diocese in communion, of course, with the Bishop. Notice then that it is one “solid” unity—a “solidarity” among the members of the hierarchy. Of course priests and Bishops work in their own personal ways and styles, but always in a collegial way. Why is this emphasize? Well, each Bishop is head of a diocese…but each diocese is within the whole universal Church. So a diocese cannot be an exclusive “ghetto” organisation. It is for this reason that all Bishops are united as a college and always in union with the Pope. The Pope facilitates and guides the whole Church. See CCC 879. The Pope, the visible source of unity for the whole Church. We say he is the successor of Peter.
5. Jesus, from the very start, called the Twelve—and it was already a “college”. Peter was put as leader of the Twelve—leader of the “college”. The Pope—the Roman Pontiff—is Peter’s successor. The bishops are successors of the apostles. They all form a “college”. See CCC 880.
6. Note the importance of the Pope. The “college” of Bishops has not authority unless united with the Pope (CCC 883). The “college” has authority over the whole Church but exercised in agreement with the Pope.
7. When do Bishops sit together as a “college”? One occasion is during an ecumenical council—like that of Vatican II. The Pope, however, must confirm and recognize that council. There cannot be a council without the Pope’s affirmation. (See CCC 884).
8. If the Pope is a visible source of unity for the whole Church, the Bishops are visible sources within their dioceses. The work of the Bishop is within the diocese. He is assisted by priests (and deacons), of course. But as we just said above, the Bishop does not work in a “ghetto”…not in an exclusive portion of the Church. Each bishop is also concerned for the whole Church.
9. So, just to have terms clear, the diocese is the “local” Church and the whole Church is the “universal” Church.
10. By taking care of a local Church the Bishop also takes care of the universal Church. (CCC 886). Remember that the universal is within the local.
11. There is what we call as the “Magisterium”. It is actually the “teaching office” of the Hierarchy. What is this work of “teaching”? This is the priestly aspect of the hierarchy. Remember that the hierarchy works to make sure we are holy. So a big part of that work is to teach us. CCC 890 tells us that the Magisterium works “to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error”. The Magisterium makes sure that we stay faithful to the truth. So this explains why the Hierarchy is infallible. This infallibility, by the way, has been endowed by Christ. (CCC 890). In matters of faith and morals, the Hierarchy is infallible. How do we see this?
12. In CCC 891 we read that the Pope is infallible. He “proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals”.
13. Still in CCC 891, we read that the Bishops are infallible. Together with the Pope the Bishops form an Ecumenical Council that proposes a doctrine of revelation. In other words, the Bishops through the council tell the whole Church what are the revealed truths of the faith. The infallibility of the Bishops is in this work.
14. There are occasions when the Bishops and the Pope offer a teaching without arriving at an infallible definition. They do not propose anything “that” definitive…they propose an “ordinary” teaching. CCC 892 calls this as the “ordinary Magisterium” which is to lead us to understand better Revelation. We are invited to agree with this “ordinary” teaching…but it is different from infallible teaching. In infallible teaching we should accept the teaching in faith. In “ordinary Magisterium” we may raise questions and maybe even disagree. There is no definite should.
15. We continue in emphasizing that the work of the Hierarchy is to make sure we are holy. If there is the work of teaching, there is also the work of sanctifying. This is the priestly aspect of the hierarchy. When we think of “priest” we might also think of the Mass—the Holy Eucharist. This is one area of sanctifying the Church. Through the Eucharist we are kept holy.
16. CCC 893 tells us that “the Eucharist is the centre of the life of the particular (or local) Church”.
17. Bishops and priests sanctify the Church by their ministry of the word and of the sacraments. (Of course we add “by example”).
18. Then there is the Kingly aspect of the Hierarchy. This is the governing office. The hierarch governs by giving counsels, by exhortations, by example…but also with authority. This authority, hopefully clear by now, is exercised in service and not in power. CCC 894 makes this clear. The authority is “in the spirit of service which is that of their Master”. Authority is exercised always with communion with the Pope and the Universal Church.
What about the laity?
19. These are everybody else except the ordained priests and the people of consecrated life. The have their role in the the priestly, prophetic, and kingly tasks. (CCC 897). They have their role in the mission of the Church.
20. For the laity, the area of work is the “temporal world”. This is the world of work, the world of schools, the world of business, politics, etc. Their task is very important. They have to let the “temporal world” be permeated by the Kingdom. (CCC 899). The faith must mark society, economics, politics, arts, etc. “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church” (CCC 899).
21. Yes, the hierarchy has its role, but the effectiveness of the hierarchy happens thanks to the lay people.
22. How are the lay people “priestly”?
23. CCC 901 tells us that the daily sacrifices of the laity—at work, in the family, in society—are also sanctifying when accomplished in the Spirit…they are “spiritual sacrifices” too. In their “temporal affairs” the laity consecrate the world to God. Is this not itself very priestly? In their “temporal” ways the laity make Church and society holy.
24. How are they prophetic? The laity can be witnesses in their lives inside society (CCC 904). They are prophetic also through evangelization within the very ordinary affairs of life, "that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life" (CCC 905). Because lay people are in the streets, in the workplace, in the offices, in the concrete of daily life, they have the competence to know how to really evangelize and transform society. They can therefore tell the members of the hierarchy how they see fit to govern the Church. Laity people have the right to make their opinions heard in view of the common good of the Church (CCC 907).
25. How are lay people kingly?
26. The lay are in the better position to work for justice. They are in the heart of society. They can unite their energies “to remedy the institutions and conditions of the world when the latter are an inducement to sin, that these may be conformed to the norms of justice, favoring rather than hindering the practice of virtue” (CCC 909). Society is marked by moral life thanks to the laity.
27. Of course the laity can also participate in the service of the Church through ministries serving the sacraments, for example. They can be part of synods and other conferences.
Finally, we can look at you…people of consecrated life.
28. People of consecrated life take the “evangelical counsels” or what is more known as the “vows”. All members of the consecrated life are marked by their vows. The CCC mentions the different consecrated life “branches”: there is the eremitic life, there is the life of “consecrated virgins and widows”, there is the religious life, there is the life within secular institutes, and there is life within “apostolic societies”.
29. You are studying “theology of religious life” so we do not need to go through a discussion of the vows here. What we can emphasize here is the fact that you make vows that will permanently mark you. The vows imply your desire to live more intimately your consecration to God. So you totally dedicate all of your lives to God. “God alone is enough” for you. You “imitate” Christ more closely in the service of the Kingdom. Through your vows you show the world the reality of the Kingdom.
30. The eremitic life is a life o strict “separation from the world”. It is a life of silence and solitude, showing to the world “the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church” (CCC 921).
31. What about the “consecrated virgins and widows”? These are persons who have “decided with the Church's approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity” (CCC 922). Why? It is "for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven."
32. Simply being a virgin or a widow is not enough. There is still, an official status here. The consecrate themselves to God “by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite” (CCC 923). This rite is the consecratio virginum. Remember that virginity is an eschatological image…it tells us of what the relationships will be in the fullness of the Kingdom. “Consecrated virgins can form themselves into associations to observe their commitment more faithfully” (CCC 924).
33. Then there is “religious life”. This is life lived “within institutes canonically erected by the Church” (CCC 925). Unlike the other forms of consecrated life, religious life does profession of vows publicly. Religious people are bound to live in fraternal community. Religious people are bound to be witnesses. (CCC 925).
34. To live as a religious is to live called. The call is a gift received from the Lord. (See CCC 926). When society sees a religious, society sees Christ, of course, and the Church as bride of Christ. Religious people show to society the love of God in the language of our time.
35. Then there are the “secular institutes”. Members of the secular institute “live in the world”—in the secular affairs of the world. In this way they help sanctify society. They share in the Church's task of evangelization through their participation in the secular “temporal” affairs of the world (CCC 927). They live their vows within the temporal affairs of the world.
36. Then there are “societies of apostolic life”. These observe certain constitutions and they may do vows in accordance to their constitutions (CCC 930).
Solidarity and Subsidiarity
1. Solidarity means that we are “one with”…”solid with”….. So we hear people say “solidarity with the workers” or “solidarity with women”. So if a person is in solidarity with, say, workers, then that person claims to be “one with” the workers. That person participates in the conditions of workers. The Church social doctrine would emphasize that in any area of social life we are “one with” others. Church Solidarity would say that we “de-solidify” from solidarity with “structures of sin” to find a new and more just form of solidarity. So solidarity can take many forms—like with the poor, with women, with workers, with the youth, etc. Solidarity however should not be “ghetto” solidarity. It should not be exclusive. It should open up to wider fraternity. An example that Jesus gives us is the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable Jesus explains that we be neighbour to others. We do not look for who to consider as neighbour…the initiative of being neighbour is in us…it starts with us.
2. Subsidiarity, this time, emphasizes how social action and decision must be done. They have to be done at the “lowest level” as possible. The “higher levels”—like State and Market—must “give voice” to the “lower levels”—like family, small village, worker’s union. The State, for example, should not be doing all the decisions as if the “lower levels” have nothing to say. Very often big decisions are made in society in which ordinary people are so affected. Their lives are touched by the decisions of the “higher levels” and they cannot be heard—either in opposition or in suggestion. The idea here is that everyone has the right to participate and have a share in the growth of society. This giving of voice to others is a form of charity. It allows people to give shape to their lives too and not just be “pawns” and “puppets” of big social forces.
3. If we have subsidiarity without solidarity, we risk having social privatism. Each one is to one’s own—privately. If we have solidarity without subsidiarity we have social paternalism. We just expect others to give us and do things for us. There are roles for both solidarity and subsidiarity. Pope Benedict XVI wrote about this in his Caritates in Veritate ( see #38).
4. In our economic lives, said the Pope, we need to promote “conditions of equal opportunity”…give everyone the chance to participate in the economic life. We need “room for commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends to take root and express themselves”. So here we see a sense of subsidiarity which “civilizes the economy”. The Pope does not expect to reject profit but economic initiative should “aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself”. We must also consider those who are marginalized by the economic world. We also have to think of solidarity. Apply this to the government. In subsidiarity the government must make the market as free as possible…but the government must also consider the plight of those who cannot participate…like the poor, and here we have solidarity.
5. Note that solidarity is not just dole out. It is not just “giving”…period. It must be paired with subsidiarity wherein empowerment of the capacities of others is promoted. For the Pope this is not just the worry of the government. It is everyone’s task. Solidarity-with-subsidiarity is an act of charity that belongs to everyone. Of course we expect a lot from the government but we cannot assume that it is exclusively the government’s work.
6. Maybe in your own workplaces—like schools—you can think of this link between subsidiarity and solidarity.
“Giving” (and you)
This essay is in response to one question that has made
some religious people struggle with their
acts of giving. How far can you really give?
The experience of giving and receiving: the positive experience
1. We “give”…like we give gifts to friends. We give cards. We give a feast. We give our time to someone in the hospital. We give someone a hand. We give hospitality to someone. Some might give an organ to a sick. We might be giving our blood to the Red Cross. Etc. So giving is not anything strange to us. It is quite nice to give. We can be impressed by people who “give a lot”…like rich people who give a lot of money to charity programs.
2. But do we really give without expecting anything in return? Jews from Israel, for example, came to help the victims of the Yolanda typhoon considering that 75 years ago Jews who fled from Nazi Germany came to the Philippines for refuge. So the Yolanda-aid was in return to what was given to Jews before. (See http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.559367).
3. Ok, we give without necessarily making an official agreement that the other person will return that gift. It will be strange if we expect a return…Imagine giving a birthday gift and saying, “Next time, when it is my birthday, I expect a gift from you, ok”. So the “return” is not obligatory—it is given freely. It is possible that there is no return-gift.
4. But let us look closely at the way we give gifts and similar things. When we give a gift we are emphasizing the link we have with the receiver. There is a difference between buy-and-sell and gift giving. In the buy-and-sell relationship there is a contract and an obligation. I-give-you-twenty-pesos-and-you-give-me-a-sandwich. We do this in a store or restaurant. We do not emphasize our relationship with the other person—we are in a pure contract system. But note that when we give a gift, say to a friend, we give in view of the other person being a friend. My gift is a way of saying that you are my friend. I affirm this with my gift. My gift leaves “something” in my friend. When the Jews during the Nazi time were given refuge here, the Philippine gift of welcoming them left in them a “something”. So this “something” made the Jews return that gift.
5. In the buy-and-sell relationship, once the activity is finished…it is finished. The cashier in the store owes nothing more…neither the customer. In gift giving, the receiver feels the obligation to return that gift with another gift…or something similar. You gave me a gift for my birthday…I must get one for you one your birthday. In our cultures surely we have this experience. There is this “something” that makes us give back in return. Check out your languages…surely you have words or phrases to explain this experience. Actually, there is no obligation—no contract to force a giving-back. It is free for the receiver to give-back or not to give back. Of course I may be so tough-a-nut that when I receive something I just say, “Wow, lucky me…goodbye” and then I just forget my friend. In the usual situation we are not like this. Maybe because our societies turn to complexity that we become more and more marked by contract relationships… But surely this “giving-back” is not yet completely absent in our cultures…hopefully.
6. Why does this happen? Many social scientists study this…and we are not in the competence to do the same. Let us reflect simply on what we experience. When we receive a gift, something is triggered in us. Check it out. Let us look closely at what happens.
7. In our languages we may have this explained. When we receive a gift, we are “indebted”. But it is not a debt that we do not like. It is not a negative debt. (If I owe the bank money, I feel it negatively because I want it paid sooner or later—it is a burden obliging my payment.) We know this positive experience of receiving a gift from someone and we are so pleased…and we feel that maybe we cannot justly give the same in return. I “owe” my friend a gift too. This debt is about a relationship and not about contract buy-and-sell.
8. Think well about it because the relationship touches on life itself! I “owe” so much to people who have done so much for me. My friends. My family members. My colleagues at work. My life is “indebted” to them not in a contractual way but in a life-relationship way. All the different gifts—gestures, hospitality, services, and objects—are marked by a generosity of sharing life with me. We have this still in our cultures that are not so modernized and complex, right? This is one reason why we feel it strange and un-usual to stand outside life-with-others. It is strange to be so “auto-sufficient”—like what that song says: “I am a rock, I am an island, I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain, it’s loving and it’s laughter I disdain”. A big chunk of who I am now and what my life is now is indebted to people who have given to me life.
9. Check it out. When we receive a gift from a friend, do we evaluate it according to cost? (Maybe in a more modern life, this happens.) Our cultures show that we evaluate according to the motivation, the intention…not the cost. Imagine receiving two gifts, one more costly than the other…and we say, “Person A loves me more than person B because her gift is more expensive”. No!
10. The gift contains a “message”—it is the message of our links with those who give. The gift is about identity and the identity of our relationships. This explains why, in a deeper level, a gift contains a “gift of self”. There is something if myself in my gift to you…and it is not just the selling-price of the gift.
The experience of giving and receiving: the negative experience
11. Ok, so the picture looks nice and rosy. But surely we have experienced negative swings in this too. Sometimes we experience something negative in gifts. We sense that we might not give equally in return. I owe you so much I might not be able to repay you. We feel a pressure. The receiver may feel humiliated, in fact. The receiver might feel “negated” by the gift...my identity looks bad because I have received so much that I am so overwhelmed. This happens especially when the giver might say, “It’s ok, give nothing in return”. The message behind the gift might negate the receiver! The message might signal something like this: “Give nothing in return (—anyway you cannot give in return)”. The identity of the receiver who will not give back is hit. There is no affirmation of the identity of our relationship too…there is no link between us. This is a pure gift…it is all yours and give nothing in return…you need not reciprocate. A negation is possibly created. (Possibly, could the giver be making the impression of being “superior” to the receiver?)
12. The possible result of this is that the receiver will avoid the giver. It is humiliating to be receiving always and…feeling “inferior”. So the gift does not extend the relationship…it cracks the relationship. Sometimes the humiliated receiver gives the gift to some other persons (not the gift-giver).
13. (The other negative aspect is when the giver expects a return…and this we know is not so ok. It creates a burden to the receiver. It is almost like a buy-and-sell relationship).
14. Now let us look at experiences in the history of our countries. There are the European and other rich countries “giving without expecting anything in return”…. Has “charity” become very humiliating? Would we not prefer the buy-and-sell relationship where we do not feel inferior and humiliated? Do we not prefer “market” than “aid”? But it is a tough world—this world of the market. Chances are we’d be crushed in the long run. So we try to “develop” and emphasize “growth” of GNP or GDP or whatever.
15. What is attractive with the “market” system? In terms of business, is it not true that we say that “the customer is always right”? Underneath this is the assumption that it is the customer who evaluates the value of something—like the value of a Jolibee sandwich. If the customer does not like the taste, then the business gets into trouble. This is quite different from the case of receiving gifts. In receiving gifts the receiver is…well, receiving. It is the giver who decides what to give.
16. In a modern buy-and-sell world of the market, the receiver is quite like a boss. The service or the product is “given”—say Jolibee—and the receiver—the customer—is boss. In a way the negative effects of giving is avoided in the market world—the receiver is not humiliated. Possibly, there is already subsidiarity and solidarity here! (What do you think?) The customer feels the sense of “subsidiarity” because the customer is given a “voice”. The customer can go the “manager” and feel empowered to voice out. Then there is a feeling of “solidarity” because Jolibee serves…and is concerned with the needs of the customer. The customer is given good service that will sustain, say, for the day.
17. Possibly, in the world of the market, both principles might be present already. Right or wrong? Well, it is both right and wrong. There is a certain amount of solidarity-subsidiarity in the market world. We can understand why, in a certain way, the Church herself is not absolutely against the capitalist world. Yet, and yet…we also have to admit that the market can function brutally. The common good can be negated. The universal destination of goods can be negated.
18. How is it possible to have both solidarity and subsidiarity without the brutality?
19. Here is a story—a true story. It happened in a school in which a new teacher was hired. She was not yet saving much from her salary so she was quite financially handicapped. Her clothes were shabby, and she felt uncomfortable wearing them in front of the other teachers (and students who were from rich families). One day the teachers decided to put together their old but “decent” clothes and to pretend to hold an “ukay-ukay”. The new teacher did not know of the plot. She joined in the buying of clothes. Eventually, with the cheaper prices of clothes, she was able to wear clothes that went well with her and made her feel more at ease in school. The teachers thought of both—solidarity in helping out the new teacher…and subsidiarity in not shaming her.
20. The example may be too simplistic but it can give us an idea. One problem with giving is that it can shame people. Or it can make people so dependent…people will not stand on their own.
21. You are people who “give”. It is quite a mark of religious life. But you know the risk of giving. Again, it can make people feel inferior… or it can make people stop taking initiatives in life. Maybe it will be wise to look at the situation of the giver. It is possible to give even in the absence of return…and yet the giving does not shame and it even empowers. How and when can this happen?
22. One situation is the emergency situation. Of course in this case the receiver is really so unable to give anything in return. The receiver is in much dependency on what you give. (You know this from experience, like when Marikina families were struck by floods). The giving is not humiliating nor is it negative. Here we can say that we are concerned with the “victim” (of the flood, for example) and we recognize a solidarity with the humanity of the victim. We admit that every human person when in such a need must be helped without conditions. So even if the receiver cannot pay back, the message given is that “we are in the same human condition”—the same human dignity. So we affirm the solidarity with the humanity of the other and we sustain the empowering of others, knowing (and recognizing) thay they too are capable of helping. Underneath this is the assumption that, of course, when we are in a similar trouble, we will not be abandoned by the people we help now. It is not that we will force them to help us but we assume that we are all in the same human condition. Our common humanity is what calls us to share and help each other mutually. We do not close the door to the possibility of receiving in return one day. This, we suggest, is what was behind the Israeli help given to the Yolanda victims.
23. Another situation is that of staying “in-between” giver and receiver. We see this in typhoon areas where religious people distribute donations coming from others. No, the goods are not from the religious people, they are from donations. But the religious serve as being “in-between”. Note that the persons “in-between” are the ones who will absorb the possible shame and negative feelings. It is they who seek help for the victims. They go in solidarity with the victims by asking for donations for them…and they engage in subsidiarity by absorbing the (possible) shame of not being able to pay back later.
24. Then there is the case of working for justice. Here it is clear that giving is for the sake of justice. A religious works for justice—to repair an injustice. So the gift here is really justice. Think of religious people who enter into solidarity with, say, farmers who are unjustly treated. Think of those who marched with the people of Casiguran, Aurora all the way to Manila to voice out the injustice of the business world there in Aurora. What can the religious (and priests) give? They give their presence, their time, their effort…and surely that does not promote shame. It is also a basic human experience that justice is not “payable”. It is a fact of human dignity. To help people find justice is to be solid with them…and it is to help them find their voice.
25. Another case is the promotion of the “usefulness” of the receiver. One of the major difficulties of receivers is that they feel they are “useless”. They receive but they cannot serve in any way. This can be humiliating. What can the religious do? The religious can identify the usefulness of the receiver. Is the receiver a handicapped? Is the receiver manual? Is the receiver a street child? These are not useless people. Identify their capacities and show the givers that the handicapped, the manual labourer, the street child are all capable of some service. They are not just receivers…they too can contribute to society. Here is where many religious people are “experts” in. They train and form people and empower people to raise their self-esteem and gain some skills here and there. Then they can show the world that the poor receivers are people who can participate in social life. Corollary to this is helping the receiver become givers. Take the case of the story of some unwed mothers. They were so crushed by their conditions, they were housed by nuns. The shame of having children without fathers was so painful. But then, one day, they were made to be counsellors to women struggling with the similar issues. So what did the nuns do? They trained the unwed mothers and put them in contact with struggling women. Seminars were organized and the unwed mothers were invited to speak. That empowered them…pulled them out of shame and made them feel “useful”. The poor can serve well!
26. Then there is the case of moral support. This is certainly a common area of experience among you all. People approach you and they are lost. They may have done something crazy and shameful. They may have deep psychological issues. Whatever. What can you give them that will empower them and yet not feel shamed? Give them moral support. (Of course, give them spiritual support too). The objective of a moral support is, of course to help the suffering person arise from the painful condition. But it is also to help that person be able to live properly and serve others. Of course you, religious people, have the training in counselling and spiritual directing.
27. Giving is an invitation. Of course when we give we invite others to receive. Fine. But we also invite them to belong. We invite them to be in solidarity with other and we invite them to work in empowering others. So it is an invitation to solidarity and subsidiarity. It is an invitation “to belong” and “to live in justice”.
28. Now, let us go back to the market world. Imagine if in this world nobody gives and everything is just a matter of buying-and-selling. Imagine if all is governed by market operations. Imagine a world without solidarity and subsidiarity—that all is a matter of paying, buying, paying. On Christmas, we pay for the gifts of our parents. During birthday we pay for the gifts of our friends. During a flooding of a town, people will have to pay first before being served. It will be hideous. There will be no place for belonging and no place for asking if justice is served. And then imagine how you, religious people, will have a role in this!
29. Here we can end with what we have said early in the semester. The whole created world is a gift of God to empower all humanity. We have received from God so that we becomes givers to each other. In a world of pure market, this is no longer possible. Hopefully the principles of solidarity and subsidiary—which go beyond just market operations—can help us re-situate the way we give.
A FEW REMARKS ON HUMAN WORK
1. In the Compendium (256) work is not a curse or a punishment. It has, however, become toil and very hard when the human started wanting absolute dominion over all things, and this absolute dominion was outside the will of God, the Creator (see Gen 3/17,19 and Gen 4/12).
2. Work is so honourable—it makes a for a decent life. Yet work is not to be idolized because the meaning of life is not found in work. God and not work is the main goal of life. God himself—following a reading of the early Chapters of Genesis—seems to know well the world of work. God knows what it means to be tired in work…just as he knows the pain of childbirth. Well, one thing we can say clearly is that God took a rest—his Sabbath rest—after days of work. If we look closely, Sabbath is a day of rest and satisfaction. It is like the “crowning day” of the week. We can understand work in this perspective. Work is crowned with rest. Work is a partner of rest! In a sense, human work can imitate the work of God. But often work is seen as tough, painful, and it is like a burden. So we partner it with “having fun”. Note that there is a difference between “having fun” and “resting”.
3. In the old Greek times there was the practice of putting work on the shoulders of slaves so that the “free” persons could have so much fun. In Genesis the Sabbath day would be a day of rest—not necessarily leisure. This is revolutionary! Why? Well, the Sabbath day is not just for some people—it is for all. If we read closely the Decalogue we will notice that rest is given to all—including strangers and animals.
4. In Compedium 258 we read that on the Sabbath rest there is the opening up of “a fuller freedom”—which is “the eternal Sabbath (see Heb 4/9-10)”. Why, what is there is the Sabbath rest? In the Sabbath rest we remember and we experience again God's work “from Creation to Redemption” and so we recognize ourselves as God’s work too (see Eph 2/10). In Sabbath we give thanks to God who is author of our existence. The God of Israel is not a lazy God. He is a God who works and rests. As we imitate God we too work and rest. This means that we make it possible for us to participate in the worship of God. In the book of Exodus we see the meaning of this. Remember that liberation initially meant giving the Hebrews in Egypt the chance to worship God. It was an initial move of liberation. So the Sabbath worship can be understood also as a move of recognizing that we are not slaves of the Pharaoh—we are free. It says that we, today, are “free from the antisocial degeneration of human work” (Compendium 258).
5. Jesus was a man of work. He belonged to the world of work, a carpenter in the workshop of Joseph (see Mt 13/55; Mk 6/3). The life of Jesus showed how he recognized work and how he respected work. (See Compendium 259-261).
6. If we look at St. Paul we see a very similar line of thinking. St. Paul also valued work. He himself was proud to say that he worked so that he will not be a burden to anyone (see 2 Th 3/8). In fact, for St. Paul if anyone in Thessalonica did not want to work, then that person should not eat too (see 2 Th 3/10). In work, for St. Paul, one would be in solidarity with “those in need” (Eph 4/28). (See Compendium 264).
7. As we know the Church started giving more official statements on the social conditions starting with the Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII. In the treatment on work the encyclical gave witness to the problems of work—and work in the industrial world, in particular—and the problems of the undignified and degrading conditions imposed on workers. Work has become heavy—painful…a burden.
8. Later, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical devoted exclusively to the question of work and the conditions of workers. The Encyclical was Laborem Exercens. There Pope John Paul II denounced the conditions of work in which workers have not been given respect to their human dignity. Work, according to the Pope, has becomes a source of toil and suffering. In other words, in the modern world, work seems to have degraded considerably.
9. But work has dignity. Here we see the place of one principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church: the principle of human dignity. We cannot dis-honour the human person—the person has dignity. This dignity is demanded by the fact that through work the human self-constructs! Beneath every work is always the human person. From this presence of the human person, work finds its value and dignity. So in way work is “for” the human. Yes, work is “for” the human and not the inverse.
10. Given the conditions of work today we might feel that whenever we work we feel pain and toil. We might say that work is not good. We sense that work is an imposition. It is alien to us…it is not from us. So we seem to experience the inverse; the fact that the human is for work.
11. The Compendium tries to address this problem by showing two dimensions of work: the objective and the subjective. The objective is changing—it is “contingent”. The subjective is stable and permanent. Let us see these two (see Compedium 270-272).
12. The “objective” aspect involves all the different activities, resources, technologies, instruments, etc., that are used to do things—to produce goods or to do service. (See Compendium 270). What about the “subjective” aspect? It is really about the subject of the work. It is about the human person as worker. So Compendium 270 says that in the “subjective” sense “work is the activity of the human person as a dynamic being capable of performing a variety of actions that are part of the work process and that correspond to his personal vocation”.
13. The “objective” sense of work is contingent—it is not permanent. Over time technology changes, for example. Tools change. If before people worked with hammers and machines to manufacture things, now they have computers. The machines have become more sophisticated and operate with more precision. If before farmers used work-animals in their fields, now they might be using tractors. So there are changes going on. This is the “objective” aspect. The “subjective” aspect is stable. It does not change. It is the human worker himself or herself, in full dignity. That human presence is always there; its dignity cannot be removed.
14. Note the emphasis on dignity. Work is an act of the human person. The human person is fundamental in work. So the human person cannot be treated like a machine or tool or instrument—it is a violation of human dignity to turn the “subjective” into “objective”.
15. Compendium 271 says that the worker cannot be treated like a “material value”, a “labour force”. If this happens the human worker becomes second in importance and the primacy will be given to the objective—to the machines and to the tools. This loses the dignity of the human person and the dignity of work. Remember: “The human person is the measure of the dignity of work” (Compendium 271). Whoever does work is a human person. That dignity is permanent.
16. If the human person is the starting point in work, the goal of work is also the human being. Compendium 272 says that “the end of work, any work whatsoever, always remains man”. Work is always for the “blooming” of the human person. The purpose of work is the human development, growth, deepening and fulfilment. Work must serve the human person.
17. Of course by human person we include the human society. Work is for the “blooming” of each and every member of society. A social order—like that of law—must watch over the world of work to make sure that no abuse of work is done. A person works for the family, of course, and eventually for the whole society. Work is to help maintain and develop human life—and dignity.
18. In the business world, there is the distinction made between “labour” and “capital”. For the business company “capital” will mean money, machines, etc. This is different from the work of human hands—labour itself. The Church insists that “labour has an intrinsic priority over capital” (Compendium 277). This is another way of saying that the “subjective” has priority over the “objective”. It is clear that the principal resource of work is the human worker—the human person. As societies move on, it is more and more clear that in work the participation of workers improves the quality of work. In previous times, especially at the start of industrial modernity, workers had little or no voice in production. But today we see how valuable workers’ voices are. Today, more and more, “the subjective dimension of work tends to be more decisive and more important than the objective dimension” (Compendium 278). So we see also the application of the principle of subsidiarity (participation).
19. The Compendium will say that even workers should be considered “part-owners” of production. One basic reason is that workers “know” the work. They are there in the hands-on context. This knowledge entails, for the worker, the right to participate in decision making, in directing and orienting the goals of production (see Compendium 282).
Social Doctrine of the Church: Theme on “The ‘State ruled by the Law’”
1. The expression “state ruled by the law” is striking and it can be quite new. Let us look at from the
view of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (issued in 2005). The first time we
read it in the text is in chapter 8: “In a State ruled by law the power to inflict punishment is correctly
entrusted to the Courts” (Com.#402). Notice the importance given to the “courts”—or the judiciary
branch of the government. The “state ruled by the law” has something to do with the constitutions
and other laws of the country. It implies the independence of the judiciary.
2. The document mentions the idea of democracy. The Compendium cites the encyclical of Pope
John Paul II—the Centesimus annus: “The Encyclical Centesimus Annus contains an explicit and
articulate judgment with regard to democracy: ‘The Church values the democratic system inasmuch
as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed
the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing
them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus she cannot encourage the formation of
narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological
ends. Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct
conception of the human person…..’” (Com.#406).
3. Notice in this citation that the “state ruled by the law” is linked with a “correct conception of the
human person”. Democracy is true and authentic in these two cases. Democracy does not work
where there are “narrow ruling groups” functioning for their own interests and ideas. The “correct
conception of the human person” is opposite to the private interests of narrow groups. The “state
ruled by law” is opposed to control of power by narrow groups. So “state ruled by law” means
taking care of the interests of everyone.
4. Again we see the term “state ruled by law” in another citation. It also mentions Centesimus
annus: “The Magisterium recognizes the validity of the principle concerning the division of powers
in a State: “it is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres
of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds. This is the principle of the ‘rule of law', in
which the law is sovereign, and not the arbitrary will of individuals” (Com.#408). Here we notice
that powers are given their limits. What the encyclical emphasizes is the separation of powers
(executive, legislative and judiciary). One power must be balanced by the other. It is interesting to
note that the document mentions also the “other spheres of responsibility”. In other words, there
is not just the presence of the three branches, there is also the presence of many other areas—like
opinions of jurists, teachings of moral authorities, etc. In a government and in a society, it is wrong
to have arbitrary wills and decisions. Everyone must still “toe the line” of the law. The law, says the
document, is sovereign.
5. We can still see the expression “state ruled by law” in another section of the document: “Because of
its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition
on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or
social order for other religious groups. The vision of the relations between States and religious
organizations promoted by the Second Vatican Council corresponds to the requirements of a
State ruled by law and to the norms of international law” (Com#423). Here we see the recognition
given to a religious community or group. This does not mean that discrimination will be created—
like favoring a group over another. It is in international law already that religious liberty should
be respected. The “state rule of law” prohibits cutting this freedom. Notice then the defense for
everyone in any religion provided by “the state ruled by law”.
6. Let us take one more part of the document mentioning “state ruled by law”. The document
mentions the right to defend against terrorism. “However, this right cannot be exercised in the
absence of moral and legal norms, because the struggle against terrorists must be carried out with
respect for human rights and for the principles of a State ruled by law (Com#514). What we see here
is that the “state ruled by law” is always connected with human rights. Those in power should not
just do what they want, they have to consider moral rules.
7. With what we see what can we say about “state ruled by law”? A central idea is that there is a limit
to power. Power does not just act arbitrarily. For example, in punishing criminals or in combatting
terrorists, consideration must be given to legal principles and human rights. In recognizing religion,
there should be no favoritism. Power does not exercise all powers. A limit must be assigned to
power. Power does not have in itself all the reasons of its actions. There is limit that must impose:
the good of everyone and the right of each member. None in society must be submitted to the
tyranny of the arbitrary.
8. This, in a way, is not just a Church assumption. We know that power has to be limited—and we do
not need the Church to remind us of this. Our countries have constitutions, the different branches of
government, legal rules on crime and penalties, the independence of courts, the sovereignty of the
law, international agreements, human rights, moral principles, etc.
9. Look at our constitutions. They tell us how powers are to be used. The three powers are defined—
executive, legislative and judiciary. The executive decides while respecting the regulations issued by
the legislative. The courts are given the independence to make decisions on litigations. None of the
three is the absolute source of the law. All of them have to “toe the line” of the law.
10. In fact, as we look at the constitutions of our countries, we see them emphasizing certain rights
of citizens that public servants must respect. These rights are protected by the constitutions.
What does this tell us? It tells us that power must be guided and limited. Power is not absolute.
This is how we can understand “state ruled by law”. The whole government with its branches of
governance must “toe the line” of the law. The state is ruled by the law.
11. So the Social doctrine of the Church is really in line with the whole idea of “state ruled by law”. Yet,
there is something “ecclesial” in the stand of the Church. It is not enough to say that people have
rights and that they should be protected from the tyranny of the arbitrary. The Church also looks
at “the Word”. This is clear. The Church has a particular stand on the relationship between power
and rights of people. Let us see what this is.
12. Ok, so we say that the essence of governance is to place power under limits. There are rules and
norms that tell power how far it should go. But the norms and rules are themselves derived from
a certain power. Let us say that a group of persons write the constitutions and in the constitutions
there are limits given to power. But what about the people who write the constitutions? What
norms do they obey?
13. In a society there are powers that limit powers. There are powers that say how far rules will go. But
these “higher” powers—from where do they get their own powers? If our constitutions tell us the
limits of powers, from where do the constitutions get their power to say this?
14. If we look closely, we are in difficulties here. Will we rely on “international laws”? But this begs the
question too: from where will international laws get their power.
15. What is the basis of all powers?
16. There is a deeper problem here. When we look at a law, it obeys a higher law. Laws of the country,
for example, must refer themselves to the constitutions. If the city council says “put Mr. X to jail”,
the constitutions will still have to say whether the decision is correct or not—and whether the
rights of the accused are respected. The constitutions are higher than the other laws of the land.
A rule justifies itself through a higher law. (If this looks abstract, just think of the computer. The
software has “commands” inside. But the commands come from the authors of the software. So
the commands of who made the programs for the software are “higher” than the commands in the
17. In our countries, normally the courts are given the work of checking if the laws we make
are “constitutional”. If the lawmakers, for example, prohibit certain cyber posting, the courts have
the work of checking if the prohibition is constitutional or not. The constitutions are “higher”.
18. If a country makes rules regarding trade and commerce in export-import, international laws have to
be considered too. A country does not just make its own regulations on trade without verifying if the
regulations conform to international agreements.
19. So what is the “highest” power to say that the laws we make are just or unjust? What is the highest
power that can define the limits of all powers? Surely constitutions have to obey something higher.
Surely international laws have to obey something higher.
20. Now, let us look at the word “vows”. People in consecrated life do “vows”. The religious brother or
sister makes an “oath” witnessed by God. Well, even in secular life, we see people making “vows”. In
court a witness is asked to make an oath.
21. In fact, we do see our leaders—in all branches of the government—make oaths. It is through
the “vows” and “oaths” that persons agree to respect the laws—especially the higher laws. When a
person makes a vow or an oath, the person is obliged to be true to his/her word. The respect given
to the vow or oath is crucial—respect for the constitutions, for example, depend on the respect in
the oaths. This is important: being true to one’s word. Within each and every member of society is
the “requirement” to respect the word. And this is not something that is derived from another law.
There is not law telling us to be honest and faithful with our word.
22. In us—humans—is a norm or a rule or a law that serves as foundation for social order. This may not
even be written and formulated officially. But it is here, present. The heart of the “state ruled by
law” is actually here—it is in the conscience of everyone.
23. Well, we can say this easily. But can we agree? In philosophy there are those—let us call
them “positivists”. “Positivists” say that power is simply “formal”. So a “state ruled by law” is just a
formal statement. Positivists would simply accept that a law or rule makes sense only in reference to
a higher law. Positivists prefer to say that laws simply have a hierarchy. A government must simply
respect the hierarchy. It is useless to say “state ruled by law” because a state is defined by norms,
laws and rules. Do not say that a state should be ruled by law because a state is, by nature, already
ruled by law. Do not waste words. For the positivist, there should be no “morality” or “ethics”
that say what is ultimate power. In a state, laws just have to adjust in hierarchy—one law links to
another law. This is enough. There is no need to look for the “highest”. So stop worrying about “the
24. So, if we follow this line, it is enough that a country has constitutions. Ok, but what if there are
conflicts with other countries—one set of constitutions do not agree with another set. So the
positivist will say: look at international law. In the summit is a kind of international agreement
among all countries.
25. Yet, can we really be satisfied with this? Do we just seek for what is effectively global.
26. There are philosophers—let us call them the “naturalists”—who say that the human has a rational
nature which is ultimate. Power takes its ultimate right to exercise itself from the human capacity to
reason. This avoids regression proposed by the positivists.
27. In modern philosophy there is this idea of the “subject”. The human is a “subject”, source of thinking
and deciding and values. So each and every human is not “better” than others. Each one is “subject”
and can think and decide for oneself. So a “state ruled by law” is a state that makes sure that
everyone is respected as “subject” and that nobody is discriminated. This looks ok. The Church is
more inclined to follow this. But the Church still has something more to say.
28. When power recognizes the equal liberty of each member of society, the Church agrees. Power is
not meant to stay as power. Power is for the sake of people. Power should recognize that it has its
limits—that it will have to stop somewhere. Power applied must always give in to power in law. In
other words, if power is to be applied to people, it must always consider people as “subjects” (and
not “objects”). The law demands respect of dignity. So applying power must stop if it is against the
respect of people as “subjects”.
29. The Church is happy about this. But do not forget the “vow” or “oath”. There is always the risk of
the tyranny of the arbitrary. At any given moment, leaders can go arbitrary and snap into doing
what they want in any way they want. They will justify themselves and their regimes. There is always
the need for “vows” or “oaths”.
30. The law is not just “talk”. A “state ruled by law” is not just following discourses. The state must go
as far as accept what is inherent in the human person. The Church is not satisfied with simply saying
that the human is “subject” and can think and decide for oneself. There is still the fact that the
human is Image of God. A state can make its decisions and apply its laws—but never in contradiction
with the human as image of God. If the leaders of a country reject this fact, the Church will have
to denounce the injustice. In other words, the state has no right. It is not a “state ruled by laws” as
envisioned by the Church.
31. Of course, this can be “corny” for some leaders. But the Church has to be prophetic too.
Some reflections on Christian Social Action
Think of the poor and think of God. When we say “social doctrine” we might think of documents and statements—mostly from Popes. This time, let us consider a deeper aspect—that of encountering the poor and God. Doctrine is also action—Christian social action. Some central points can be made.
Social engagement, a result of faith
1. Social engagement is a result of faith. God entered into covenant with humanity, manifesting his concern for us. Because of this we respond. In the heart of our faith we put into concrete ways our attitudes, behaviour, values and actions. We put to concrete expressions our faith. This is how we can appreciate what Pope Benedict entitled his encyclical: “Love in Truth” (Caritas in veritate). The Pope saw how Jesus incarnated and was witness to the love of God in his earthly life…and in his death and resurrection. Love is a great force that makes us move with courage. Let us read the Pope: “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace” (Caritas in veritate 1).
2. Adhere in Christ, stick it out with Christ. This has a social impact. It means searching for justice and truth. It means searching for the common good. Again we read the Pope: “‘Caritas in veritate’” is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns, a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that govern moral action. I would like to consider two of these in particular, of special relevance to the commitment to development in an increasingly globalized society: justice and the common good” (Caritas in veritate 6). Life is oriented morally in love. Life is pushed to act in justice. Remember what Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt.7/21). It is not enough to shout Jesus, Lord, or whatever else. What matters is living correctly.
3. One way to express this “living correctly” is by showing the light of the Gospel in society. Is my social life coherent? Is it in line with values of the Gospel? Is the social world around me marked by Gospel values? Remember the Gospel is for life—it is for the good and happiness of life. The Gospel has social implications. It inspires attitudes and norms of living. It denounces injustice. The Gospel marks Christian life.
4. No, the Gospel is not just a story…not just a nice story. It is not just something we hear about separately from concrete life. The Gospel is about the link we have with God—the love of God telling us how to live with true attitudes and values in life.
Social Action as a way of bringing life
5. Ok, so we live and act according to the love of God. Life is a response to this love of God. There is something more. As we engage socially, we also bring life. God reveals himself as source of life in the heart of human action. Life is set out of confusion and darkness.
6. God is before us, calling us to action. We can take cue from St. Paul: “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rm 6/3-4). There is a “new life”. We discover this new life as we move on and encounter others—the poor. Our baptism is a call to engage in the world and there bring out new life. As we engage socially we discover the truth about this. Social action becomes the moment when faith takes on a new life and we sense, in a clearer way, God who, himself gives life.
7. Discovering God who gives life makes us give life too. We give life. In our social action we see how we collaborate—or “participate” (in the Thomistic sense)—in God’s active life. Jesus has taught this to us: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn.5/17).
8. Social engagement gives the sense of life, so we say. This means, in more concrete sense, the sense of the future. There is a future in society. There is a future in a world where injustice reigns. No, injustice is not the fate of people. Social engagement is an emphasis on this sense of future.
9. This “sense of the future” can be a model or reference for Christian social action. In social action we tell society that our God is a God of the future. Our God pulls us out of contradictions and pulls us out of the hold of darkness. Remember, be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world. So there is no victory for darkness, never in the future. Social action invites society to look at its suffering in the light of the resurrection.
Social Action is the action of a poor God: Solidarity
10. Now, we speak of the resurrection. Remember that Christ passed through the cross before the resurrection. We have a different kind of God—not of power but of weakness and fragility. In terms of representing God in social action we present a God who is himself poor. Jesus himself said it: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me… whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt.25/ 35 and 40). Jesus revealed himself as one poor man also hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, in prison. Our engagement with the poor is our engagement with Christ.
11. To be engaged socially with the poor is itself a way of encountering Christ. God loved the world he sent his son—incarnated into human life and human conditions. This is the incarnation of God’s love for all, especially the poor, the marginalized, the little ones who suffer so much. This is the solidarity of God with humanity. It is God’s participating concretely in our human lives.
12. Christian social action, therefore, is not exempted from tensions, difficulties and contradictions. Jesus is among the little ones, not among the powerful ones. So Christian action enters into that world of the poor—a world of tensions and contradictions. It is never easy, we know. Engagement is not running away from tension and contradiction. In fact, it is in engaging with the poor where the credibility of the faith is made more manifest.
Social action as a way of saying God is present in real time
13. Christian social engagement is a witnessing to the fact that God is actually engaged in the concrete history of society. God is concrete. God is true and really is involved. God is someone who accompanies the poor in the search for truth, justice, peace, etc. God is “pverty”—God retains nothing for himself. His nature is “giving totally”—the giving of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.
14. In fact, in social engagement, the strongest image of God is that of a mysterious presence each time people take seriously their struggle for justice—when people assume their responsibility to let their society live properly. Suddenly God is revealed!
15. Remember the prophets. They denounced the hypocrisy of religious practices that went together with the practice of injustice. Amos, for example, even went to say that religious practices were used to justify injustice. Powerful people used religious practices to exploit the poor. The prophets, already during their time, tried to weave together justice and faith.
16. Now we come to Jesus. In his words and actions, showed something different. Jesus showed the message of the unity between social life and life with God. God is made more present in the life of justice—or in the life of the search for justice. We hinted on this during our class in Christology. Miracles, we said, were signs of the Kingdom. Christian life, we said, can be miracle whenever it is lived in view of liberating—in view of showing the Kingdom. Christian life—and Christian social action—is a clear expression of the faith in the God who is present in real time. Christian social action is a way of manifesting God in society.
17. Christian social action is a combat with others, notably he poor. It is a combat that wishes to make the Kingdom emerge. The way is, again, not easy. But we say it is a combat with. It is a community work—a solidarity with the poor. Together we perceive the truth of the Kingdom. Together we manifest and announce the love of the Father. Together we do our best to live in justice and peace. It is a true combat—not of violence, of course.
Social Action is ecclesiological
18. Social action—our Christian social action—is a work of the Church for society. Christian social action is part of Church fidelity to Christ. Let us look at what Pope Benedict XVI would say: “For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being” (Deus Caritas Est 25). It is a Church in communion not just within but with all humanity. The Church suffers with and struggles with all. In this way the image we have of the Church deepens. We are not just a “churchy” Church, but an engaged Church—engaged for the poor. The Church is an assembly—an ekklesia—on the move where each is responsible for others. The Church is a manifestation of our being brothers and sisters to all. We join in fraternity, in solidarity with others, knowing that the presence of Christ is here.
19. The Church is God’s way of being present in the World. We adhere to Christ in the Church. We are in Christ in the Church. The revelation about Christ is transmitted by the witnessing of the Church. So the Church is with Christ too…passionate for life. So in a way, social action is Church action. It is the Church’s way of responding in faith to the love of Christ and admitting the presence of Christ in the world.
Some Floating Ideas about Political Life
by Francisco C. Castro (http://philippinethoughts.blogspot.com/)
Clearly my essay is “floating”. It is all words. As one friend used to say, “it’s all armchair talk”. But why not say something? Why should the “armchair” prohibit me from saying something? So here goes.
One has this opinion that the public leaders are powerless in resolving problems today and cannot even offer a clear future. Economic growth is a big hurray, but unemployment continues unabated. The poverty index is continually miserable. Shall we mention crime? Yes, there is economic growth but what does it do with income inequality? Politicians give us the impression that they are more interested in political survival than in putting to effect deep and necessary reforms. We do not have a sense of a “bright future”, do we? Our leading and governing offices that make decisions for us are in a world of anonymity. They fear, for example, transparency and transparency of information. We are not to know what they do…we are just told to be confident.
One gets this impression that the leaders are far from the realities of everyday life. They make promises as if they are in touch. The gap seems to widen. We see inconsistencies in the statements of our leaders and still we are told to have confidence. Have we given up participating in a “great destiny” because all we have is confidence on people whose actions we have no idea of. As usual, transparency is not in the exercise of governance. Have we also lost militancy? Have we grown indifferent to what is going on around us?
What we see among our leaders is a world of suspicion and generalized accusations. Has politics degenerated into conflicts of interests and the submission to a dominant political apparatus? Do we “live together” only if we submit to a dominant political colour?
Yes, politics is essential. It is important. But what does it have to do with daily life? It is something that is in the hands and control of a few—a “class” of leaders? I have always understood politics as a manner of living together; it is a way of organizing social life so that we are not strangers to each other. In other words, even if in society we do not know each other, we can treat each other fraternally. We are sisters and brothers to each other and political life is designed to assure us of this. In society human rights, for example, are respected.
Political life exists also to assure us that the resources in our social world are destined for the accomplishment of our being-humans. The Tagalog word has a strong term for this: pagpapakatao. Tao is the Tagalog word for “human being”. All of us are humans. But pagpapakatao is a task we have to do. It is a word to mean “becoming a human person”. Resources are channelled so that each and everyone has the opportunity to live decently and with dignity, grow and development in a human (pagpapakatao) way. Hence a major task of political life is to take into account the most marginalized and powerless—for they have the least access to the resources.
Violence is exerted not only when crime or corruption takes place. Violence also happens when the right to information and the right to be heard are thwarted. To give as much space as possible to the word of an other person is a step away from the brute life. Political life seeks to substitute this violence with the right to be informed and the right to speak.
Political life embraces the many parts of social life: economics, family life, the ecology, etc. Politics is in all of these but these are not always about politics. When political leaders try to have a hold even within the independence say, of family life and reproduction, the leaders become despotic.
Where in social life can politics serve? I can name a few:
1. Human rights must be respected. Even if one is an adversary, there is no justification to deny his or her human rights. Even if one is an adversary, there is no justification to lose respect for her or him.
2. Vigilance must be given to the plight of the poor. Economic growth is not just about GDP and financial investments. It is even ideal to be prosperous even without growth. That the poor have enough security in food and health and water is already prosperity.
3. Economic growth by disadvantaging the environment is not healthy. It is not growth. It is an illusion of growth.
4. Consider the rights of the future generations too. Think of the future with a plan that will benefit those generations.
5. Freedom of information must be pursued. It is the health of a nation to make citizens well-informed of what governance is all about. To be kept in the dark is to develop suspicion and mistrust.
Political life today needs virtues. In other words, we let ourselves be guided—and this is virtue—by important values like the dignity of persons, justice and knowledge. Virtues are visible when leaders promote dialogue and even debates rather than quarrelling and forming juvenile alliances.
“Non-Negotiables” in Political Life
1. Can we try looking at the possibility of non-negotiable choices in the political scene? What might be the position of the Church here?
2. Let us see the following: Select the party or individual who protects life in all stages…from conception onwards. Select the party or individual who recognizes the natural structure of the family founded on marriage and the natural union of man-husband and woman-wife. Select the party or individual who protects the right to educate and deepen the lives of children.
3. They look ok, right? Pope Benedict mentioned them in a talk (March 30, 2006) to a group of political minded people. Let us see if there are other possible non-negotiables. To help us here, let us look at a document entitled “DOCTRINAL NOTE on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”. This document was composed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it was signed by Joseph Card. RATZINGER-Prefect and by Tarcisio BERTONE, S.D.B. on November 24, 2002. You might want to read the whole text: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20021124_politica_en.html.
4. The document is modest. It wants to remind us of certain principles proper to our Christian conscience. So we can say that the document helps form our conscience. The goal can be made clearer when the document says that in any political choice the whole dignity and integrality of the human person must be considered.
a) So, the human dignity must be respected from the moment of conception to the end of life. Therefore euthanasia and abortion are “no no”. In this case, the human embryo must be respected—there is humanity there already.
b) Human dignity is respected also in the promotion of the human family founded on monogamous marriage between man and woman. So the “same sex” marriage is a “no no”.
c) Human dignity is respected in the freedom of education of children. Children must be given the opportunity—the guarantee—of education so that they can grow and understand life.
d) Human dignity is respected in the social respect of minors.
e) Human dignity is respected in the liberation from modern forms of slavery.
f) Human dignity is respected in religious freedom.
g) Human dignity is respected in developing an economy that is in the service of the human person and common good.
h) Human dignity is respected in justice for all and in the promotion of human solidarity and subsidiarity.
i) Human dignity is respected in the promotion of peace.
5. Sure there can be other lists to add, but the list given above show the concern of the Church for human dignity and the integration of the human person.
6. Notice how the document moves. It starts with the promotion of life at its beginning—so in conception, the family and the child. Notice the emphasis on developing the person from the start—with education and respect of minors, for example.
7. The whole integral person however is not just in the family. It is also in the whole social system. This is why it is important to talk about “modern slavery”. Just imagine the work in factories or hospitals. In the economic world today what is important is “what makes money”. So even labour is not given dignity.
8. If what is most important is “what makes money” and “what makes us secured and surviving”, then we open the door to things like getting rid of the sick and the weak—in terms of abortion and euthanasia, for example. Some persons are “not acceptable” because they hinder our “making money” and our “security”.
9. Also, if all social life is reduced to “making money” and surviving, then there is no need for solidarity with the poor—or with the weak and the ill and the handicapped. Anything that is a hindrance to survival is deleted.
10. The document may not give a complete list of the non-negotiables, but it is clear that it is concerned with human dignity and the integration of the whole person. Human dignity and the integration of the whole person require moral-ethical approach to society.
11. When making a political choice, then, we have some guidelines here. Choose those who will promote human dignity.
12. But what exactly is a “non-negotiable”? It is in line with ethics and morality. It is not just juridical. A “non-negotiable” is that which is seen in line with basic Christian principles…such as those we mention above. Check out the political party-and-candidates. Do we see basic Christian principles in them?
13. We may be divided according to our choices of candidates and parties. But we should be one in the concern for human dignity and integration. We might be arguing and debating regarding concrete policies in economics and politics. But we need to be coherent in the fact that we operate according to moral principles…not just according to the principles of “survival”.
14. Now, one point needs to be kept. Political life does not end with the vote. We need to mobilise our conscience and to keep forming our conscience so that we can participate deeper into the political life of our societies.