“Far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic social teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. This poses a serious challenge for all Catholics, since it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel. We need to do more to share the social mission and message of our Church.”
Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions
U.S. Catholic Bishops
Hello everyone! In the spirit of Lent and the Lenten Series based on the corporal works of mercy we are doing at St. John’s, I have decided to post ten of my favorite quotes from various Catholic social teaching documents. I am taking currently taking a Catholic social teaching course in pursuit of my Masters in Theology, so I have actually read some of these documents. That being said, the semester is not over, so there are still many documents I have not yet read…which means more quotes might be coming later! Hopefully these quotes and the websites below will get you excited about learning a little more about Catholic social teaching yourself this Lent. It is a beautiful part of our Church’s tradition and an invaluable tool for navigating the intricacies of our modern world. If one of the quotes sticks out to you, consider reading a page or two of the document, and if the Spirit calls you, maybe even the whole thing!
Peace to all of you on your Lenten journeys,
1. “..love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, [are] as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Love (Deus Caritas Est), 2006, paragraph 22
2. “Catholic social teaching isn’t only about dropping your spare change into a bucket at Christmas. Jesus calls us to a radically different kind of discipleship—a life that is daily marked by care and concern for the poor and for one another.” –United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Social Teaching Scripture Guide, page 2
3. “As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a fundamental ‘option for the poor’– to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenseless, to assess life styles, policies, and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. This ‘option for the poor’ does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather, strengthening the whole community by assisting those who are the most vulnerable. As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response.” –United States Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986, paragraph 16.
4. “[Solidarity] then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, 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.” –Blessed Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis) ,1987, paragraph 38
5. “The basis for all that the Church believes about the moral dimensions of economic life is its vision of the transcendent worth — the sacredness — of human beings. The dignity of the human person, realized in community with others, is the criterion against which all aspects of economic life must be measured. All human beings, therefore, are ends to be served by the institutions that make up the economy, not means to be exploited for more narrowly defined goals. Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God (Gn 1:27).” - United States Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986, paragraph 28
6. “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . The Church has a responsibility toward creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction…Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other.” –Pope Benedict XVI, On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth (Caritas In Veritate), 2009, paragraphs 48 & 51
7. “He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.” –Pope Paul VI, On the Development of Peoples (Populorum Progressio), 1967, Paragraph 23
8. “For God’s Word, through whom all things were made, was himself made flesh and dwelt on the earth of men…He himself revealed to us that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). At the same time he taught us that the new command of love was the basic law of human perfection and hence of the world’s transformation. To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, he gives assurance that the way of love lies open to all men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one. He cautions them at the same time that this love is not something to be reserved for important matters, but must be pursued chiefly in the ordinary circumstances of life.” -Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), 1965, paragraph 38
9. “It is not just a matter of eliminating hunger, or even of reducing poverty. The struggle against destitution, though urgent and necessary, is not enough. It is a question, rather, of building a world where every man, no matter what his race, religion, or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed on him by other men or by natural forces over which he has not sufficient control; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man. This demands great generosity, much sacrifice, and unceasing effort…Let each one examine his conscience…Is he prepared to support out of his own pocket works and undertakings organized in favor of the most destitute? Is he ready to pay higher taxes so that the public authorities can intensify their efforts in favor of development? Is he ready to pay a higher price for imported goods so that the producer may be more justly rewarded?” -Pope Paul VI, On the Development of Peoples (Populorum Progressio), 1967, Paragraph 47
10. “It is to all Christians that we address a fresh and insistent call to action…Let each one examine himself, to see what he has done up to now, and what he ought to do. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustices, and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action. It is too easy to throw back on others responsibilities for injustices, if at the same time one does not realize how each one shares in it personally, and how personal conversion is needed first. This basic humility…will also avoid discouragement in the face of a task which seems limitless in size. The Christian’s hope comes primarily from the fact that he knows that the Lord is working with us in the world, continuing in his body which is the Church—and, through the Church, in the whole of mankind—the redemption which was accomplished on the cross and which burst forth in victory on the morning of the resurrection. This hope springs also from the fact that the Christian knows that other men are at work, to undertake actions of justice and peace working for the same ends. For beneath an outward appearance of indifference, in the heart of every man there is a will to live in brotherhood and a thirst for justice and peace, which is to be expanded.” –Pope Paul VI, A Call to Action on the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (Octogesima Adveniens), 1971, paragraph 48
…Plus 5 Incredible Websites!!
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops give a short blurb on each of the seven themes of Catholic social teaching, followed by quotes for each theme taken from Church documents.
A website created specifically for helping college students to learn more about Catholic social teaching and to promote it on their campuses. The US Bishops score another win with this one! Tons of resources!
You could spend hours on this Catholic social teaching website from Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The gems include summaries of major Catholic social teaching documents and access to them, quotations sorted by topic, and links to even more resources. You rock, Minnesota!
A Catholic social teaching Scripture Guide can be found here, containing a list of verses which correspond to each of the seven themes of Catholic social teaching. The US Bishops just keep laying on the awesomeness.
The Vatican website! Super fantastic in many ways, but especially due to the fact that you can search for papal documents and read them for free (such as many of the documents cited above)!
For information on St. John’s Lenten outreach click here!