Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A New Zealand Catholic on the "Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching"

Greg Bourke, A New Zealand Catholic, has an older post on a topic thats always timely. He cites a summary of the foundations of CST by Father Thomas Williams, Theology Dean at Regina Apostolorum. Behold:
1. Love. The first foundation of Catholic social teaching is Jesus' commandment to love: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
2. Dignity of the human person. Each person, created in the image and likeness of God, has an inalienable dignity and must therefore always be treated as an end and not only as a means. When Jesus, using the image of the Good Shepherd, spoke of the lost sheep, he taught us what God thinks about the value of the individual human person.
3. The common good. The selfishness that urges us to search for our own good to the detriment of others is overcome by a commitment to the common good.
4. Subsidiarity. This principle teaches us that society's decisions must be left at the lowest possible level, therefore at the level closest to those affected by the decision. This principle was formulated when the world was threatened by totalitarian systems with their doctrines based on the individual's subordination to the collectivity.
5. Solidarity. Solidarity invites us to increase our sensitivity for others, especially those who suffer... solidarity is not simply a feeling, but a real "virtue" which enables us to assume our responsibilities for one another. The Holy Father wrote that solidarity "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"
These principles all imply the Preferential Option for the Poor. The Right of Participation is not so clear, nor is the importance of Family explicitly stated. However, The Catholic understanding of the individual human person is that of a subjective moral agent that lives in relationship with other persons and with God. Therefore, support of the family would certainly constitute care for the Dignity of the human person. Likewise, subsidiarity implies that people have a basic right of participation in society.

Catholic Social Teaching offers all people the principles that allow moral justice to be put into practice at the societal level. They are rooted in Christ, yet also implicit in the Natural law and moral law already present in creation and our human natures. Thus, they're for everyone, not just confessional Christians. When Societies take them seriously, the people live in that love of neighbor that God has called all to do. We all live the golden rule, which virtually every civilization throughout history has acknowledged in one form or another.

All of us should work for the day when our societies truly act from the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. While they gurantee no utopia, the ensure that we have the opportunities to live the best that's in us instead of the worst.

What have we got to lose?