There has been some discussion about the Pope’s engagement of Catholic Social Teaching (Doctrine) recently in the press and the blogosphere. From what I’ve read I note that there’s a lot of misunderstanding and even distortion in what we hold as Catholic theological reflection on social concerns. I think we have to see Catholic Social Teaching is not optional, nor is it static; Catholic social teaching is a dynamic thing which extends to all people of our time; hence, we need to have a coherence, a consistence to our living the Gospel and Tradition.
Saint John Paul wrote an encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis where he moves us to a renewed understanding of the why, how, when, and to what end of the meaning of the theological virtue of charity to the point of having a heroic level; John Paul in Sollicitudo rei socialis is giving us a new certitude in the coherence.
One of the VERY striking things the Pope says is that the social doctrine of the Church is a “vocation” for all the baptized. AND, he notes that the social doctrine is located as part of the moral life, this part of theology is a direct consequence of one’s adherence to the Divine Presence. But I would add is it part of what we would call fundamental and liturgical theology.
Here are some key paragraphs:
The Church’s social doctrine is not a “third way” between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church’s tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior. It therefore belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology.
The teaching and spreading of her social doctrine are part of the Church’s evangelizing mission. And since 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.