We started this series on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching with Jesus’ inaugural statement in the synagogue in Nazareth. We finished it this past weekend with Jesus calling his first disciples to follow him. Again, a great gospel to discuss Catholic Social Teaching. Because we are also called to be disciples of Jesus, but this being a disciple comes with our desire to see life and others the way Jesus did. We are sacred, and we are social; we are called to live lives of holiness and to grow and contribute to building a society that will increasingly look more like the Kingdom of God. The way Jesus looked at the world and at people is at the foundation of these principles we have been reviewing. Rooted in Jesus’ worldview, the Church has discerned through the centuries how to respond to the different social challenges she has encountered.
The fifth principle is the Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers. Catholic tradition teaches that any economic system is at the service of the person, not the other way around. The economy serves people, not the opposite. Our tradition looks at work/labor not just as a necessity, but as the way in which individuals fulfill their human potential—it is a form of participation in God’s Creation, which is why we protect the dignity of labor. And if labor is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected: a right to decent and fair wages that will allow families not only to survive but also to grow and thrive; the right to organization and joining of unions, but also the right to private property and to economic initiative.
Again, as we warned you in earlier parts of this series, some of these principles sound conservative and some sound progressive—as with this principle. A Catholic will hold at the same time the progressive concepts of fair wage and unions, and the more typically conservative concepts of the right to private property and to economic initiative.
The sixth principle is Solidarity. We are one human family regardless of our national, racial, ethnic, economic or ideological differences. Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the answer is yes, indeed we are. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. At the core of the principle of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. As Paul VI said, we cannot aspire to social peace unless there is first social justice. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
The last principle is Care for God’s Creation. It does sound like a catchy slogan, but care for Creation is an essence of our faith. Care for Creation is a challenge that has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions: We are called to protect people and the planet as an essential part of our faith. We are not called to be just users of creation, but stewards. We show respect for the Creator by our stewardship of Creation. We do not own Creation, we are called to enjoy Creation and administer it knowing that it does not belong to us, and it needs to be there not only for us but also for our children and grandchildren.
We have come to the end of this series, and we would like to emphasize a few things. Following Christ, saying yes to his call to be his disciples entails a certain way to live, to behave. These principles are interconnected and are a whole: you cannot pick and choose which principles or consequences of a given principle you are comfortable with. It is like a seamless fabric, all interwoven together, that cannot be pierced where we feel like it.
This is a magnet we offered to our parishioners as we concluded this series. Let us know if you want one.