Friday, February 17, 2017

Formation of conscience (in social involvement): a practical view

1.     The Church does not offer specific political-economic systems. This, however, does not stop the Church from forming the conscience of the faithful. The Church must still form and encourage the faithful, especially the laity. Christian faith is not abstract and outside social realities. The presence of the Church inside society is required by faith. Gaudium et spes # 75 states that it is an error to separate faith from social concerns today.
2.     The Church, in her faith, can make moral statements about social life. Whenever the Church sees violations of human dignity, the common good, etc., she can raise her voice. All social dimensions touching on ethics and morality fall in the competence of the Church.
3.     But, as we said it before, direct partisan political involvement is not in the competence of the whole Church. The competence lies in the hands of the laity. What the Church desires is that the faithful have conscience of their rights and duties in the light of the Gospel.Therefore the faithful work together inb the service of society.
4.     Priests and religious have work to “evangelize” temporal realities. They maintain a distance from partisan involvement. They are not engaged in specific parties and groups that will compromise the unity of the community.
5.     We have said that the domain of the laity is the temporal situation of society. The laity has hand-on engagement with politics and economics. Priests and religious are given the role of formation of conscience. The laity then feels supported by both the hierarchy and by people of consecrated life. The lay people, in their technical, political and scientific works are guided. Of course this will mean that the “formators” have a good understanding of the social doctrine and of moral theology of the Church.
6.     Still the laity also has the duty to seek for formation. The work to “evangelize” society is not given to the laity by the priests and religious. That duty is inherent in the laity. As baptized members of the Church the laity plays a critical role inside the temporal affairs of society. Maybe today we see more and more lay people getting involved. Lumen gentium # 33 says that in many situations the Church can never be “light of the world” (Lumen gentium) without the laity.

Formation of “formators” and laity

7.     The “formators” (priests and religious) are very important. The laity depend on the competence of the “formators”. A sufficient intuition of the social doctrine is necessary for “formators”. (This is perhaps why MAPAC is offering this course). Surely it will be helpful if “formators” read the documents of the social doctrine. Spiritual formation is also very helpful. Studying the social doctrine and developing a strong prayer life go together.
8.     The social doctrine of the Church touches on social realities. Thus there is also the need to have some amount of knowledge about society. A study of the social sciences can really help. Together with the knowledge of principles—like common good and subsidiarity—reflection on concrete realities in society is necessary too. It will be helpful if the “formator” can also comment on actual social issues. (This can explain why, in MAPAC, there is a course in social science.)
9.     Our societies experience a lot of changes. Social evolution can, at times, be fast. The “formator” should not be deprived of knowledge and onformation about the changes going on in society.
10. Priests and religious have direct contact with people. They have direct contact with what is going on in society. The experiences can differ—in place, culture, etc. The concrete experiences of “formators” can really be a big help.
11. Lay people may be so involved with the temporal concerns; it is helpful if they get information about the social doctrine of the Church. Is it possible to stimulate the interests of the laity on this subject? Is it possible to stimulate them into seeing the social engagement of the whole Church? Is it possible to stimulate their interests in documents of the Church, and documents on the social doctrine in particular?
12. Of course local Churches too have their documents. It is not enough to have an idea of what the universal Church says. It is also important to stimulate interest in what local Churches say.
13. Note then the formation towards a sensitivity about what the Church says regarding society. This is helpful for the laity who may need to be guided about how they will involve themselves directly in politics, economics and other social aspects.
14. Of course the central duty of the laity is to bear witness to Christ and his gospel in the midst of social life. Priests and religious can talk about Christ but can that penetrate actual society through the work of the laity? Everyone—priests, religious and laity—contribute in each one’s way in society through the proclamation of (and dialogue with) the gospel of Christ. How can the Gospel find its way into social realities? Everyone, united with Christ, has a role in society.
15. The laity needs to see their mission and responsibility in the domain of social affairs. Can they have awareness of this? Priests and religious can accompany the laity in their mission: support them with constant moral and spiritual formation. Priests and religious can accompany the laity in the daily struggles of social life. 

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