August 4, 2012

Social Justice and The Moral Law

Catechism Paragraphs 1928 – 1986

I had expected more of these two catechism doctrines.  “Social Justice” is such a rallying cry in the Public Sector that I expected much detail on what the Church’s teaching was, and how it differed from the meaning of the same term used by so many today.  Over the years, the term “Social Justice” seems to have been deliberately used for another meaning, much like the word “gay” has a new meaning in our society.  I expected much, but these doctrines as presented in the catechism are the foundational teachings of the Church; much more detail and interpretation has been written elsewhere, and to find the applications I sought you must do other homework.

“Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. 1928  Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature.  They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority.”  1931  Talking about Equality and Differences Among Men, the catechism notes that “these differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular ‘talents’ share the benefits with those who need them.  These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods.”  1937  God wills the interdependence of creatures.  No creature is self-sufficient.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.”  340  The doctrine looked at this way espouses the principle of subsidiarity, we are to love one another --- something no government can do.

Speaking on Human Solidarity, the catechism notes that “The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of ‘friendship’ or ‘social charity,’ is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.  Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work.  It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.  1939-40  Solidarity is an eminently Christian virtue.  It practices the sharing of spiritual goods even more than material ones.”  1948

“The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom.  Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction … the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude.  1950  There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated:  eternal law – the source (in God) of all law; natural law; revealed law – comprising the Old Law and the New Law (or Law of the Gospel); finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.”  1952

“The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie.  The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man.  1954  The natural law hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him.  Its principle precepts are expressed in the Decalogue.  It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties.  1955-6  In the diversity of cultures, the natural law imposes on (men) beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.  The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history.  The rules that express it remain substantially valid.  The natural law provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices.  Finally, it provides the necessary basis for civil law with which it is connected."  1957-9

“The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil:  God wrote on the tables of the Law what man did not read in their hearts.  1962  The New Law is the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity.  It uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it.  1965-6   The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear, (and) inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ.”  1972

Once again we found that YOUCAT, the youth catechism, stated some principles simply and more easily remembered:  “Human rights are an immediate consequence of human dignity, and no State can abolish or change them.  A society is not perfected by laws, however, but rather by love of neighbor, which makes it possible for everyone to ‘look upon his neighbor (without exception) as another self.’” Q329  “Nothing is really ours until we share it. (C.S. Lewis)”  “There is another sort of inequality among men that is quite in keeping with God’s will:  inequality in talents, initial conditions, and opportunities.  These are an indication that being human means being there for others in charity so as to share and to promote life.” Q331  Principle of Solidarity:  (from Latin solidus: thick, firm, strong): a principle of Catholic social teaching that aims at strengthening community and promoting a ‘civilization of love.’” (Pope John Paul II)

Next week we’ll go through Grace and Justification, catechism paragraphs 1987 – 2011.  These are deep doctrines, and often a point of confusion between Catholics and their Protestant brothers.  I’m reminded of the discussions between Catholics and Protestants titled “That They Might Be One,” initiated by Fr. John Riccardo.  I was present at the talks (which can be obtained at Ave Maria radio) and recall fondly when the topic moved to “Justification by Faith Alone” (Protestant words) vs “Justification by Faith and Works” (Also, as it turned out, Protestant words).  When the Protestant and Catholic views on Justification were orated, it was Fr. John who got up afterwards and asked: “Did you hear what they said?  It was the same thing.  We believe the same thing!!”  And everyone in that SRO church stood and applauded.  It was a great moment.        

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