Social Teachings Of The Catholic Church Essay Topics

7 themes of Catholic Social teaching

The Catholic Spirit | February 12, 2014

Catholic social teaching is central to our faith, and is based on — and inseparable from — our understanding of human life and dignity. These teachings are derived from: the Gospels and the words of Christ; papal statements and encyclicals; and Catholic bishops’ statements and pastoral letters. Catholic social teaching calls us all to work for the common good, help build a just society, uphold the dignity of human life and lift up our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.

The following paragraphs describe the seven themes of Catholic social teaching.

1 LIFE AND DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, every person’s life and dignity must be respected and supported from conception through natural death. We believe that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

2 CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND PARTICIPATION
The human person is not only sacred, but social. How we organize our society — socially, economically, legally and politically — directly affects human dignity and the ability of every human person to grow in community. Marriage and family, the foundations for social life, should be strengthened and supported. Every person has a right to participate in society and a corresponding duty to work for the advancement of the common good and the well-being of all.

3 SOLIDARITY
We are one human family. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Our love for all of our brothers and sisters calls us to seek a peaceful and just society where goods are distributed fairly, opportunity is promoted equally and the dignity of all is respected.

4 DIGNITY OF WORK
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. To uphold the dignity of work, the basic rights of workers must be respected — the right to productive work, to fair and livable wages, and to organize and join a union.

5 RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Every person has a fundamental right to life — the right that makes all other rights possible. Each person also has a right to the conditions for living a decent life — food, health care, housing, education and employment. We have a corresponding duty to secure and respect these rights for others and to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to each other and to our larger society.

6 OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
Scripture teaches that God has a special concern for the poor and vulnerable. The church calls on all of us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. This preferential option for the poor and vulnerable should be reflected in both our daily lives and public policies. A fundamental measure of our society is how we care for and stand with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.

7 CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION
The world that God created has been entrusted to all of us. Our stewardship of the earth is a form of participation in God’s act of creating and sustaining the world. In our use of creation, we must be guided by a concern for generations to come. We show our respect for the Creator by our care for creation.

 

Source: Minnesota Catholic Conference. This information has been adapted from: “Catholic Teaching and Principles,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tags: Catholic social teaching, Dignity, Homelessness, Picks, Poverty

Category: Legislative Guide

PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE

COMPENDIUM
OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE
OF THE CHURCH


TO HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
MASTER OF SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND
EVANGELICAL WITNESS
TO JUSTICE AND PEACE

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abbreviations
Biblical Abbreviations
Letter of Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Presentation

INTRODUCTION

AN INTEGRAL AND SOLIDARY HUMANISM

a. At the dawn of the Third Millennium
b.
The significance of this document
c.
At the service of the full truth about man
d.
In the sign of solidarity, respect and love

PART ONE

CHAPTER ONE
GOD'S PLAN OF LOVE FOR HUMANITY

I. GOD'S LIBERATING ACTION IN THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL
a.
God's gratuitous presence
b.
The principle of creation and God's gratuitous action

II. JESUS CHRIST, THE FULFILMENT OF THE FATHER'S PLAN OF LOVE
a.
In Jesus Christ the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled
b.
The revelation of Trinitarian love

III. THE HUMAN PERSON IN GOD'S PLAN OF LOVE
a.
Trinitarian love, the origin and goal of the human person
b.
Christian salvation: for all people and the whole person
c.
The disciple of Christ as a new creation
d.
The transcendence of salvation and the autonomy of earthly realities

IV. GOD'S PLAN AND THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
a.
The Church, sign and defender of the transcendence of the human person
b.
The Church, the Kingdom of God and the renewal of social relations
c.
New heavens and a new earth
d.
Mary and her “fiat” in God's plan of love

CHAPTER TWO
THE CHURCH'S MISSION AND SOCIAL DOCTRINE

I. EVANGELIZATION AND SOCIAL DOCTRINE
a.
The Church, God's dwelling place with men and women
b.
Enriching and permeating society with the Gospel
c.
Social doctrine, evangelization and human promotion
d.
The rights and duties of the Church

II. THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL DOCTRINE
a.
Knowledge illuminated by faith
b.
In friendly dialogue with all branches of knowledge
c.
An expression of the Church's ministry of teaching
d.
For a society reconciled in justice and love
e.
A message for the sons and daughters of the Church and for humanity
f.
Under the sign of continuity and renewal

III. THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL DOCTRINE IN OUR TIME: HISTORICAL NOTES
a.
The beginning of a new path
b.
From Rerum Novarum to our own day
c.
In the light and under the impulse of the Gospel

CHAPTER THREE
THE HUMAN PERSON AND HUMAN RIGHTS

I. SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND THE PERSONALIST PRINCIPLE

II. THE HUMAN PERSON AS THE “IMAGO DEI”
a.
Creatures in the image of God
b.
The tragedy of sin
c.
The universality of sin and the universality of salvation

III. THE MANY ASPECTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON
A. The unity of the person
B. Openness to transcendence and uniqueness of the person

a. Open to transcendence
b.
Unique and unrepeatable
c.
Respect for human dignity

C. The freedom of the human person

a. The value and limits of freedom
b.
The bond uniting freedom with truth and the natural law

D. The equal dignity of all people
E. The social nature of human beings

IV. HUMAN RIGHTS
a.
The value of human rights
b.
The specification of rights
c.
Rights and duties
d.
Rights of peoples and nations
e.
Filling in the gap between the letter and the spirit

CHAPTER FOUR
PRINCIPLES OF THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL DOCTRINE

I. MEANING AND UNITY

II. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE COMMON GOOD
a.
Meaning and primary implications
b.
Responsibility of everyone for the common good
c.
Tasks of the political community

III. THE UNIVERSAL DESTINATION OF GOODS
a.
Origin and meaning
b.
The universal destination of goods and private property
c.
The universal destination of goods and the preferential option for the poor

IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBSIDIARITY
a.
Origin and meaning
b.
Concrete indications

V. PARTICIPATION
a.
Meaning and value
b.
Participation and democracy

VI. THE PRINCIPLE OF SOLIDARITY
a.
Meaning and value
b.
Solidarity as a social principle and a moral virtue
c.
Solidarity and the common growth of mankind
d.
Solidarity in the life and message of Jesus Christ

VII. THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF SOCIAL LIFE
a.
The relationship between principles and values
b.
Truth
c.
Freedom
d.
Justice

VIII. THE WAY OF LOVE

PART TWO

CHAPTER FIVE
THE FAMILY, THE VITAL CELL OF SOCIETY

I. THE FAMILY, THE FIRST NATURAL SOCIETY
a.
Importance of the family for the person
b.
Importance of the family for society

II. MARRIAGE, THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAMILY
a.
The value of marriage
b.
The sacrament of marriage

III. THE SOCIAL SUBJECTIVITY OF THE FAMILY
a.
Love and the formation of a community of persons
b.
The family is the sanctuary of life
c.
The task of educating
d.
The dignity and rights of children

IV. THE FAMILY AS ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN SOCIAL LIFE
a.
Solidarity in the family
b.
The family, economic life and work

V. SOCIETY AT THE SERVICE OF THE FAMILY

CHAPTER SIX
HUMAN WORK

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS
a.
The duty to cultivate and care for the earth
b.
Jesus, a man of work
c.
The duty to work

II. THE PROPHETIC VALUE OF “RERUM NOVARUM”

III. THE DIGNITY OF WORK
a.
The subjective and objective dimensions of work
b.
The relationship between labour and capital
c.
Work, the right to participate
d.
The relationship between labour and private property
e.
Rest from work

IV. THE RIGHT TO WORK
a.
Work is necessary
b.
The role of the State and civil society in promoting the right to work
c.
The family and the right to work
d.
Women and the right to work
e.
Child labour
f.
Immigration and work
g.
The world of agriculture and the right to work

V. THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS
a.
The dignity of workers and the respect for their rights
b.
The right to fair remuneration and income distribution
c.
The right to strike

VI. SOLIDARITY AMONG WORKERS
a.
The importance of unions
b.
New forms of solidarity

VII. THE “NEW THINGS” OF THE WORLD OF WORK
a.
An epoch-making phase of transition
b.
Social doctrine and the “new things”

CHAPTER SEVEN
ECONOMIC LIFE

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS
a.
Man, poverty and riches
b.
Wealth exists to be shared

II. MORALITY AND THE ECONOMY

III. PRIVATE INITIATIVE AND BUSINESS INITIATIVE
a.
Business and its goals
b.
Role of business owners and management

IV. ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS AT THE SERVICE OF MAN
a.
Role of the free market
b.
Action of the State
c.
Role of intermediate bodies
d.
Savings and consumer goods

V. THE “NEW THINGS” IN THE ECONOMIC SECTOR
a.
Globalization: opportunities and risks
b.
The international financial system
c.
Role of the international community in an era of a global economy
d.
An integral development in solidarity
e.
Need for more educational and cultural formation

CHAPTER EIGHT
THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS
a.
God's dominion
b.
Jesus and political authority
c.
The early Christian communities

II. FOUNDATION AND PURPOSE OF THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY
a.
Political community, the human person and a people
b.
Defending and promoting human rights
c.
Social life based on civil friendship

III. POLITICAL AUTHORITY
a.
The foundation of political authority
b.
Authority as moral force
c.
The right to conscientious objection
d.
The right to resist
e.
Inflicting punishment

IV. THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM
a.
Values and democracy
b.
Institutions and democracy
c.
Moral components of political representation
d.
Instruments for political participation
e.
Information and democracy

V. THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY AT THE SERVICE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
a.
Value of civil society
b.
Priority of civil society
c.
Application of the principle of subsidiarity

VI. THE STATE AND RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
A. Religious freedom, a fundamental human right
B. The Catholic Church and the political community

a. Autonomy and independence
b.
Cooperation

CHAPTER NINE
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS
a.
Unity of the human family
b.
Jesus Christ, prototype and foundation of the new humanity
c.
The universal vocation of Christianity

II. THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
a.
The international community and values
b.
Relations based on harmony between the juridical and moral orders

III. THE ORGANIZATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
a.
The value of international organizations
b.
The juridical personality of the Holy See

IV. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION FOR DEVELOPMENT
a.
Cooperation to guarantee the right to development
b.
The fight against poverty
c.
Foreign debt

CHAPTER TEN
SAFEGUARDING THE ENVIRONMENT

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS

II. MAN AND THE UNIVERSE OF CREATED THINGS

III. THE CRISIS IN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT

IV. A COMMON RESPONSIBILITY
a.
The environment, a collective good
b.
The use of biotechnology
c.
The environment and the sharing of goods
d.
New lifestyles

CHAPTER ELEVEN
THE PROMOTION OF PEACE

I. BIBLICAL ASPECTS

II. PEACE: THE FRUIT OF JUSTICE AND LOVE

III. THE FAILURE OF PEACE: WAR
a.
Legitimate defence
b.
Defending peace
c.
The duty to protect the innocent
d.
Measures against those who threaten peace
e.
Disarmament
f.
The condemnation of terrorism

IV. THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE CHURCH TO PEACE

PART THREE

CHAPTER TWELVE
SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND ECCLESIAL ACTION

I. PASTORAL ACTION IN THE SOCIAL FIELD
a.
Social doctrine and the inculturation of faith
b.
Social doctrine and social pastoral activity
c.
Social doctrine and formation
d.
Promoting dialogue
e.
The subjects of social pastoral activity

II. SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND THE COMMITMENT OF THE LAY FAITHFUL
a.
The lay faithful
b.
Spirituality of the lay faithful
c.
Acting with prudence
d.
Social doctrine and lay associations
e.
Service in the various sectors of social life

1. Service to the human person
2. Service in culture
3. Service in the economy
4. Service in politics

CONCLUSION
FOR A CIVILIZATION OF LOVE

a. The help that the Church offers to modern man
b.
Starting afresh from faith in Christ
c.
A solid hope
d.
Building the “civilization of love”

Index of references
Analytical index


ABBREVIATIONS

a. in articulo
AAS Acta Apostolicae Sedis
ad 1um in responsione ad 1 argumentum
ad 2um in responsione ad 2 argumentum et ita porro
Ap. Exhort. Apostolic Exhortation
Ap. Letter Apostolic Letter
c. corpore articuli
cf. conferatur
ch. chapter
d. distinctio
DS H. Denzinger - A. Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum
Ed. Leon. Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Doctoris Angelici Opera omnia iussu impensaque Leonis XIII P.M. edita
Enc. Letter Encyclical Letter
ibid. ibidem
PG Patrologia Graeca (J. P. Migne)
PL Patrologia Latina (J. P. Migne)
q. quaestio
v. verse
I Prima Pars Summae Theologiae
I-II Prima Secundae Partis Summae Theologiae
II-II Secunda Secundae Partis Summae Theologiae
III Tertia Pars Summae Theologiae

 

BIBLICAL ABBREVIATIONS

Acts Acts of the Apostles
Am
Amos
Bar
Baruch
1 Chr
1 Chronicles
2 Chr
2 Chronicles
Col
Colossians
1 Cor
1 Corinthians
2 Cor
2 Corinthians
Dan
Daniel
Deut
Deuteronomy
Eccles
Ecclesiastes
Eph
Ephesians
Esther
Esther
Ex
Exodus
Ezek
Ezekiel
Ezra
Ezra
Gal
Galatians
Gen
Genesis
Hab
Habakkuk
Hag
Haggai
Heb
Hebrews
Hos
Hosea
Is
Isaiah
Jas
James
Jer
Jeremiah
Job
Job
Joel
Joel
Jn
John
1 Jn
1 John
2 Jn
2 John
3 Jn
3 John
Jon
Jonah
Josh
Joshua
Jude
Jude
Jdg
Judges
Jdt
Judith
1 Kg
1 Kings
2 Kg
2 Kings
Lam
Lamentations
Lev
Leviticus
Lk
Luke
1 Macc
1 Maccabees
2 Macc
2 Maccabees
Mal
Malachi
Mk
Mark
Mt
Matthew
Mic
Micah
Nahum
Nahum
Neh
Nehemiah
Num
Numbers
Ob
Obadiah
1 Pet
1 Peter
2 Pet
2 Peter
Phil
Philippians
Philem
Philemon
Prov
Proverbs
Ps
Psalms
Rev
Revelation
Rom
Romans
Ruth
Ruth
1 Sam
1 Samuel
2 Sam
2 Samuel
Sir
Sirach
Song
Song of Songs
1 Thes
1 Thessalonians
2 Thes
2 Thessalonians
1 Tim
1 Timothy
2 Tim
2 Timothy
Tit
Titus
Tob
Tobit
Wis
Wisdom
Zech
Zechariah
Zeph
Zapheniah

***

SECRETARIAT OF STATE

 

His Eminence
Cardinal RENATO RAFFAELE MARTINO
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
VATICAN CITY

——————————————

From the Vatican, 29 June 2004
N. 559.332

Your Eminence,

Throughout the course of her history, and particularly in the last hundred years, the Church has never failed, in the words of Pope Leo XIII, to speak “the words that are hers” with regard to questions concerning life in society. Continuing to expound and update the rich patrimony of Catholic social doctrine, Pope John Paul II has for his part published three great Encyclicals — Laborem Exercens, Sollicitudo Rei Socialisand Centesimus Annus— that represent fundamental stages of Catholic thought in this area. For their part, numerous Bishops in every part of the world have contributed in recent times to a deeper understanding of the Church's social doctrine. Numerous scholars on every continent have done the same.

1. It was therefore hoped that a compendium of all this material should be compiled, systematically presenting the foundations of Catholic social doctrine. It is commendable that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has taken up this task, devoting intense efforts to this initiative in recent years.

I am pleased that the volume “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” has been published, sharing with you the joy of offering it to the faithful and to all people of good will, as food for human and spiritual growth, for individuals and communities alike.

2. This work also shows the value of Catholic social doctrine as an instrument of evangelization (cf. Centesimus Annus, 54), because it places the human person and society in relationship with the light of the Gospel. The principles of the Church's social doctrine, which are based on the natural law, are then seen to be confirmed and strengthened, in the faith of the Church, by the Gospel of Christ.

In this light, men and women are invited above all to discover themselves as transcendent beings, in every dimension of their lives, including those related to social, economic and political contexts. Faith brings to fullness the meaning of the family, which, founded on marriage between one man and one woman, constitutes the first and vital cell of society. It moreover sheds light on the dignity of work, which, as human activity destined to bring human beings to fulfilment, has priority over capital and confirms their rightful claim to share in the fruits that result from work.

3. In the present text we can see the importance of moral values, founded on the natural law written on every human conscience; every human conscience is hence obliged to recognize and respect this law. Humanity today seeks greater justice in dealing with the vast phenomenon of globalization; it has a keen concern for ecology and a correct management of public affairs; it senses the need to safeguard national consciences, without losing sight however of the path of law and the awareness of the unity of the human family. The world of work, profoundly changed by the advances of modern technology, reveals extraordinary levels of quality, but unfortunately it must also acknowledge new forms of instability, exploitation and even slavery within the very societies that are considered affluent. In different areas of the planet the level of well-being continues to grow, but there is also a dangerous increase in the numbers of those who are becoming poor, and, for various reasons, the gap between less developed and rich countries is widening. The free market, an economic process with positive aspects, is nonetheless showing its limitations. On the other hand, the preferential love for the poor represents a fundamental choice for the Church, and she proposes it to all people of good will.

It is thus apparent that the Church cannot fail to make her voice heard concerning the “new things” (res novae) typical of the modern age, because it belongs to her to invite all people to do all they can to bring about an authentic civilization oriented ever more towards integral human development in solidarity.

4. Contemporary cultural and social issues involve above all the lay faithful, who are called, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, to deal with temporal affairs and order them according to God's will (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31). We can therefore easily understand the fundamental importance of the formation of the laity, so that the holiness of their lives and the strength of their witness will contribute to human progress. This document intends to help them in this daily mission.

Moreover, it is interesting to note how the many elements brought together here are shared by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as by other Religions. The text has been presented in such a way as to be useful not only from within (ab intra), that is among Catholics, but also from outside (ab extra). In fact, those who share the same Baptism with us, as well as the followers of other Religions and all people of good will, can find herein fruitful occasions for reflection and a common motivation for the integral development of every person and the whole person.

5. The Holy Father, while hoping that the present document will help humanity in its active quest for the common good, invokes God's blessings on those who will take the time to reflect on the teachings of this publication. In expressing my own personal good wishes for the success of this endeavour, I congratulate Your Eminence and your collaborators at the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace for the important work carried out, and with sentiments of respect I remain

Yours sincerely in Christ,
Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State

***

PRESENTATION

I am pleased to present the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which, according to the request received from the Holy Father, has been drawn up in order to give a concise but complete overview of the Church's social teaching.

Transforming social realities with the power of the Gospel, to which witness is borne by women and men faithful to Jesus Christ, has always been a challenge and it remains so today at the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era. The proclamation of Jesus Christ, the “Good News” of salvation, love, justice and peace, is not readily received in today's world, devastated as it is by wars, poverty and injustices. For this very reason the men and women of our day have greater need than ever of the Gospel: of the faith that saves, of the hope that enlightens, of the charity that loves.

The Church is an expert in humanity, and anticipating with trust and with active involvement she continues to look towards the “new heavens” and the “new earth” (2 Pet 3:13), which she indicates to every person, in order to help people to live their lives in the dimension of authentic meaning. “Gloria Dei vivens homo”: the human person who fully lives his or her dignity gives glory to God, who has given this dignity to men and women.

The reading of these pages is suggested above all in order to sustain and foster the activity of Christians in the social sector, especially the activity of the lay faithful to whom this area belongs in a particular way; the whole of their lives must be seen as a work of evangelization that produces fruit. Every believer must learn first of all to obey the Lord with the strength of faith, following the example of Saint Peter: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Lk 5:5). Every reader of “good will” will be able to understand the motives that prompt the Church to intervene with her doctrine in the social sector, an area which, at first glance, does not belong to the Church's competence, and these same readers will see the reasons for an encounter, for dialogue, for cooperation in serving the common good.

My predecessor, the late and venerable Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, guided with wisdom, constancy and far-sightedness the complex phase of the preparation of this document; his illness prevented him from bringing it to a conclusion with its publication. This work, entrusted to me and now offered to those who will read it, carries therefore the seal of a great witness to the Cross who remained strong in faith in the dark and terrible years of Vietnam. This witness will know of our gratitude for all his precious labour, undertaken with love and dedication, and he will bless those who stop to reflect on these pages.

I invoke the intercession of Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer and Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the Universal Church and of Work, so that this text will bear abundant fruit in the life of society as an instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel, for justice and
for peace.

Vatican City, 2 April 2004, Memorial of Saint Francis of Paola.

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino
President

+ Giampaolo Crepaldi
Secretary 


COMPENDIUM
OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE
OF THE CHURCH

 

INTRODUCTION

AN INTEGRAL AND SOLIDARY HUMANISM

a. At the dawn of the Third Millennium

1. The Church moves further into the Third Millennium of the Christian era as a pilgrim people, guided by Christ, the “great Shepherd” (Heb 13:20). He is the “Holy Door” (cf. Jn 10:9) through which we passed during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000[1]. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6): contemplating the Lord's face, we confirm our faith and our hope in him, the one Saviour and goal of history.

The Church continues to speak to all people and all nations, for it is only in the name of Christ that salvation is given to men and women. Salvation, which the Lord Jesus obtained “at a price” (1 Cor 6:20; cf. 1 Pet 1:18-19), is achieved in the new life that awaits the righteous after death, but it also permeates this world in the realities of the economy and labour, of technology and communications, of society and politics, of the international community and the relations among cultures and peoples. “Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind, and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation”[2].

2. At the dawn of this Third Millennium, the Church does not tire of proclaiming the Gospel that brings salvation and genuine freedom also to temporal realities. She is mindful of the solemn exhortation given by Saint Paul to his disciple Timothy: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (2 Tim 4:2-5).

3. To the people of our time, her travelling companions, the Church also offers her social doctrine. In fact, when the Church “fulfils her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom”[3]. This doctrine has its own profound unity, which flows from Faith in a whole and complete salvation, from Hope in a fullness of justice, and from Love which makes all mankind truly brothers and sisters in Christ: it is the expression of God's love for the world, which he so loved “that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). The new law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits, since the proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ extends “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

4. Discovering that they are loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity, they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves but to encounter their neighbour in a network of relationships that are ever more authentically human. Men and women who are made “new” by the love of God are able to change the rules and the quality of relationships, transforming even social structures. They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where there prevails the exploitation of man by man. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves. This is the perspective that allows every person of good will to perceive the broad horizons of justice and human development in truth and goodness.

5. Love faces a vast field of work and the Church is eager to make her contribution with her social doctrine, which concerns the whole person and is addressed to all people. So many needy brothers and sisters are waiting for help, so many who are oppressed are waiting for justice, so many who are unemployed are waiting for a job, so many peoples are waiting for respect. “How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their head? The scenario of poverty can extend indefinitely, if in addition to its traditional forms we think of its newer patterns. These latter often affect financially affluent sectors and groups which are nevertheless threatened by despair at the lack of meaning in their lives, by drug addiction, by fear of abandonment in old age or sickness, by marginalization or social discrimination ... And how can we remain indifferent to the prospect of an ecological crisis which is making vast areas of our planet uninhabitable and hostile to humanity? Or by the problems of peace, so often threatened by the spectre of catastrophic wars? Or by contempt for the fundamental human rights of so many people, especially children?”[4].

6. Christian love leads to denunciation, proposals and a commitment to cultural and social projects; it prompts positive activity that inspires all who sincerely have the good of man at heart to make their contribution. Humanity is coming to understand ever more clearly that it is linked by one sole destiny that requires joint acceptance of responsibility, a responsibility inspired by an integral and shared humanism. It sees that this mutual destiny is often conditioned and even imposed by technological and economic factors, and it senses the need for a greater moral awareness that will guide its common journey. Marvelling at the many innovations of technology, the men and women of our day strongly desire that progress be directed towards the true good of the humanity, both of today and tomorrow.

b. The significance of this document

7. The Christian knows that in the social doctrine of the Church can be found the principles for reflection, the criteria for judgment and the directives for action which are the starting point for the promotion of an integral and solidary humanism. Making this doctrine known constitutes, therefore, a genuine pastoral priority, so that men and women will be enlightened by it and will be thus enabled to interpret today's reality and seek appropriate paths of action: “The teaching and spreading of her social doctrine are part of the Church's evangelizing mission”[5].

It is in this light that the publication of a document providing the fundamental elements of the social doctrine of the Church, showing the relationship between this doctrine and the new evangelization[6], appeared to be so useful. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which has drawn up the present document and is fully responsible for its content, prepared the text in a broad-based consultation with its own Members and Consulters, with different Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with the Bishops' Conferences of various countries, with individual Bishops and with experts on the issues addressed.

8. This document intends to present in a complete and systematic manner, even if by means of an overview, the Church's social teaching, which is the fruit of careful Magisterial reflection and an expression of the Church's constant commitment in fidelity to the grace of salvation wrought in Christ and in loving concern for humanity's destiny. Herein the most relevant theological, philosophical, moral, cultural and pastoral considerations of this teaching are systematically presented as they relate to social questions. In this way, witness is borne to the fruitfulness of the encounter between the Gospel and the problems that mankind encounters on its journey through history. In studying this Compendium, it is good to keep in mind that the citations of Magisterial texts are taken from documents of differing authority. Alongside council documents and encyclicals there are also papal addresses and documents drafted by offices of the Holy See. As one knows, but it seems to bear repeating, the reader should be aware that different levels of teaching authority are involved. The document limits itself to putting forth the fundamental elements of the Church's social doctrine, leaving to Episcopal Conferences the task of making the appropriate applications as required by the different local situations[7].

9. This document offers a complete overview of the fundamental framework of the doctrinal corpus of Catholic social teaching. This overview allows us to address appropriately the social issues of our day, which must be considered as a whole, since they are characterized by an ever greater interconnectedness, influencing one another mutually and becoming increasingly a matter of concern for the entire human family. The exposition of the Church's social doctrine is meant to suggest a systematic approach for finding solutions to problems, so that discernment, judgment and decisions will correspond to reality, and so that solidarity and hope will have a greater impact on the complexities of current situations. These principles, in fact, are interrelated and shed light on one another mutually, insofar as they are an expression of Christian anthropology[8], fruits of the revelation of God's love for the human person. However, it must not be forgotten that the passing of time and the changing of social circumstances will require a constant updating of the reflections on the various issues raised here, in order to interpret the new signs of the times.

10. The document is presented as an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time; as a guide to inspire, at the individual and collective levels, attitudes and choices that will permit all people to look to the future with greater trust and hope; as an aid for the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality.

From this there can spring new strategies suited to the demands of our time and in keeping with human needs and resources. But above all there can arise the motivation to rediscover the vocation proper to the different charisms within the Church that are destined to the evangelization of the social order, because “all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension”[9]. In short, the text is proposed as an incentive for dialogue with all who sincerely desire the good of mankind.

11. This document is intended first of all for Bishops, who will determine the most suitable methods for making it known and for interpreting it correctly. It is in fact part of the Bishops' “munus docendi” to teach that “worldly things and human institutions are ordered, according to the plan of God the Creator, towards people's salvation, and that they can therefore make no small contribution to the building up of the Body of Christ”[10]. Priests, men and women religious, and, in general, those responsible for formation will find herein a guide for their teaching and a tool for their pastoral service. The lay faithful, who seek the Kingdom of God “by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will”[11], will find in it enlightenment for their own specific mission. Christian communities will be able to look to this document for assistance in analyzing situations objectively, in clarifying them in the light of the unchanging words of the Gospel, in drawing principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and guidelines for action[12].

12. This document is proposed also to the brethren of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to the followers of other religions, as well as to all people of good will who are committed to serving the common good: may they receive it as the fruit of a universal human experience marked by countless signs of the presence of God's Spirit. It is a treasury of things old and new (cf. Mt 13:52), which the Church wishes to share, in thanksgiving to God, from whom comes “every good endowment and ever perfect gift” (Jas 1:17). It is a sign of hope in the fact that religions and cultures today show openness to dialogue and sense the urgent need to join forces in promoting justice, fraternity, peace and the growth of the human person.

The Catholic Church joins her own commitment to that made in the social field by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, whether at the level of doctrinal reflection or at the practical level. Together with them, the Catholic Church is convinced that from the common heritage of social teachings preserved by the living tradition of the people of God there will come motivations and orientations for an ever closer cooperation in the promotion of justice and peace[13].

c. At the service of the full truth about man

13. This document is an act of service on the part of the Church to the women and men of our time, to whom she offers the legacy of her social doctrine, according to that style of dialogue by which God himself, in his only-begotten Son made man, “addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and moves among them (cf. Bar 3:38)”[14]. Drawing inspiration from the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, this document too places “man considered whole and entire, with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will” [15] as the key to its whole exposition. In this perspective, the Church is “inspired by no earthly ambition and seeks but one solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. For Christ entered this world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served”[16].

14. By means of the present document, the Church intends to offer a contribution of truth to the question of man's place in nature and in human society, a question faced by civilizations and cultures in which expressions of human wisdom are found. Rooted in a past that is often thousands of years old and manifesting themselves in forms of religion, philosophy and
poetic genius of every time and of every people, these civilizations and cultures offer their own interpretation of the universe and of human society, and seek an understanding of existence and of the mystery that surrounds it. Who am I? Why is there pain, evil, death, despite all the progress that has been made? What is the value of so many accomplishments if the cost has been unbearable? What will there be after this life? These are the basic questions that characterize the course of human life[17]. In this regard, we can recall the admonition “Know yourself”, carved on the temple portal at Delphi, which testifies to the basic truth that man, called to be set apart from the rest of creation, is man precisely because in his essence he is oriented to knowing himself.

15. The direction that human existence, society and history will take depends largely on the answers given to the questions of man's place in nature and society; the purpose of the present document is to make a contribution to these answers. The deepest meaning of human existence, in fact, is revealed in the free quest for that truth capable of giving direction and fullness to life. The aforementioned questions incessantly draw human intelligence and the human will to this quest. They are the highest expression of human nature, since they require a response that measures the depth of an individual's commitment to his own existence. Moreover, it is dealt here with questions that are essentially religious: “When the ‘why of things' is investigated integrally with the search for the ultimate and exhaustive answer, then human reason reaches its apex and opens itself to religiousness. ... religiousness represents the loftiest expression of the human person, because it is the culmination of his rational nature. It springs from man's profound aspiration for truth and is at the basis of the free and personal search he makes for the divine”[18].

16. The fundamental questions accompanying the human journey from the very beginning take on even greater significance in our own day, because of the enormity of the challenges, the novelty of the situations and the importance of the decisions facing modern generations.

The first of the great challenges facing humanity today is that of the truth itself of the being who is man. The boundary and relation between nature, technology and morality are issues that decisively summon personal and collective responsibility with regard to the attitudes to adopt concerning what human beings are, what they are able to accomplish and what they should be. A second challenge is found in the understanding and management of pluralism and differences at every level: in ways of thinking, moral choices, culture, religious affiliation, philosophy of human and social development. The third challenge is globalization, the significance of which is much wider and more profound than simple economic globalization, since history has witnessed the opening of a new era that concerns humanity's destiny.

17. The disciples of Jesus Christ feel that they are involved with these questions; they too carry them within their hearts and wish to commit themselves, together with all men and women, to the quest for the truth and the meaning of life lived both as individual persons and as a society. They contribute to this quest by their generous witness to the free and extraordinary gift that humanity has received: God has spoken his Word to men and women throughout history; indeed he himself has entered history in order to enter into dialogue with humanity and to reveal to mankind his plan of salvation, justice and brotherhood. In Jesus Christ, his Son made man, God has freed us from sin and has shown us the path we are to walk and the goal towards which we are to strive.

d. In the sign of solidarity, respect and love

18. The Church journeys along the roads of history together with all of humanity. She lives in the world, and although not of the world (cf. Jn 17:14-16) she is called to serve the world according to her innermost vocation. This attitude, found also in the present document, is based on the deep conviction that just as it is important for the world to recognize the Church as a reality of history and a leaven in history, so too is it important for the Church to recognize what she has received from history and from the development of the human race[19]. The Second Vatican Council gave an eloquent demonstration of solidarity, respect and affection for the whole human family by engaging in dialogue with it about many problems, “bringing the light kindled from the Gospel and putting at the disposal of the human race the saving resources which the Church has received from her Founder under the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is man himself who must be saved; it is human society which must be renewed”[20].

19. The Church, the sign in history of God's love for mankind and of the vocation of the whole human race to unity as children of the one Father[21], intends with this document on her social doctrine to propose to all men and women a humanism that is up to the standards of God's plan of love in history, an integral and solidary humanism capable of creating a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity. This humanism can become a reality if individual men and women and their communities are able to cultivate moral and social virtues in themselves and spread them in society. “Then, under the necessary help of divine grace, there will arise a generation of new men, the moulders of a new humanity”[22].

 

PART ONE

“The theological dimension is needed both
for interpreting and for solving
present day problems in human society”.
(Centesimus Annus, 55)

CHAPTER ONE

GOD'S PLAN OF LOVE FOR HUMANITY

I. GOD'S LIBERATING ACTION
IN THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL

a.God's gratuitous presence

20. Every authentic religious experience, in all cultural traditions, leads to an intuition of the Mystery that, not infrequently, is able to recognize some aspect of God's face. On the one hand, God is seen as the origin of what exists, as the presence that guarantees to men and women organized in a society the basic conditions of life, placing at their disposal the goods that are necessary. On the other hand, he appears as the measure of what should be, as the presence that challenges human action — both at the personal and at the social levels — regarding the use of those very goods in relation to other people. In every religious experience, therefore, importance attaches to the dimension of gift and gratuitousness, which is seen as an underlying element of the experience that the human beings have of their existence together with others in the world, as well as to the repercussions of this dimension on the human conscience, which senses that it is called to manage responsibly and together with others the gift received. Proof of this is found in the universal recognition of the golden rule, which expresses on the level of human relations the injunction addressed by the Mystery to men and women: “Whatever you wish that men should do to you, do so to them” (Mt 7:12)[23].

21. Against the background of universal religious experience, in which humanity shares in different ways, God's progressive revelation of himself to the people of Israel stands out. This revelation responds to the human quest for the divine in an unexpected and surprising way, thanks to the historical manner — striking and penetrating — in which God's love for man is made concrete. According to the Book of Exodus, the Lord speaks these words to Moses: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:7-8). The gratuitous presence of God — to which his very name alludes, the name he reveals to Moses, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14) — is manifested in the freeing from slavery and in the promise. These become historical action, which is the origin of the manner in which the Lord's people collectively identify themselves, through the acquisition of freedom and the land that the Lord gives them.

22. The gratuitousness of this historically efficacious divine action is constantly accompanied by the commitment to the covenant, proposed by God and accepted by Israel. On Mount Sinai, God's initiative becomes concrete in the covenant with his people, to whom is given the Decalogue of the commandments revealed by the Lord (cf. Ex 19-24). The “ten commandments” (Ex 34:28; cf. Deut 4:13; 10:4) “express the implications of belonging to God through the establishment of the covenant. Moral existence is a response to the Lord's loving initiative. It is the acknowledgment and homage given to God and a worship of thanksgiving. It is cooperation with the plan God pursues in history”[24].

The Ten Commandments, which constitute an extraordinary path of life and indicate the surest way for living in freedom from slavery to sin, contain a privileged expression of the natural law. They “teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person”[25]. They describe universal human morality. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds the rich young man that the Ten Commandments (cf. Mt 19:18) “constitute the indispensable rules of all social life”[26].

23. There comes from the Decalogue a commitment that concerns not only fidelity to the one true God, but also the social relations among the people of the Covenant. These relations are regulated, in particular, by what has been called the right of the poor: “If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, ... you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need” (Deut 15:7-8). All of this applies also to strangers: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev 19:33-34). The gift of freedom and the Promised Land, and the gift of the Covenant on Sinai and the Ten Commandments are therefore intimately linked to the practices which must regulate, in justice and solidarity, the development of Israelite society.

24. Among the many norms which tend to give concrete expression to the style of gratuitousness and sharing in justice which God inspires, the law of the sabbatical year (celebrated every seven years) and that of the jubilee year (celebrated every fifty years) [27] stand out as important guidelines — unfortunately never fully put into effect historically — for the social and economic life of the people of Israel. Besides requiring fields to lie fallow, these laws call for the cancellation of debts and a general release of persons and goods: everyone is free to return to his family of origin and to regain possession of his birthright.

This legislation is designed to ensure that the salvific event of the Exodus and fidelity to the Covenant represents not only the founding principle of Israel's social, political and economic life, but also the principle for dealing with questions concerning economic poverty and social injustices. This principle is invoked in order to transform, continuously and from within, the life of the people of the Covenant, so that this life will correspond to God's plan. To eliminate the discrimination and economic inequalities caused by socio-economic changes, every seven years the memory of the Exodus and the Covenant are translated into social and juridical terms, in order to bring the concepts of property, debts, loans and goods back to their deepest meaning.

25. The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature[28]. They show how the principles of justice and social solidarity are inspired by the gratuitousness of the salvific event wrought by God, and that they do not have a merely corrective value for practices dominated by selfish interests and objectives, but must rather become, as a prophecy of the future, the normative points of reference to which every generation in Israel must conform if it wishes to be faithful to its God.

These principles become the focus of the Prophets' preaching, which seeks to internalize them. God's Spirit, poured into the human heart — the Prophets proclaim — will make these same sentiments of justice and solidarity, which reside in the Lord's heart, take root in you (cf. Jer 31:33 and Ezek 36:26-27). Then God's will, articulated in the Decalogue given on Sinai, will be able to take root creatively in man's innermost being. This process of internalization gives rise to greater depth and realism in social action, making possible the progressive universalization of attitudes of justice and solidarity, which the people of the Covenant are called to have towards all men and women of every people and nation.

b. The principle of creation and God's gratuitous action

26. The reflection of the Prophets and that found in the Wisdom Literature, in coming to the formulation of the principle that all things were created by God, touch on the first manifestation and the source itself of God's plan for the whole of humanity. In Israel's profession of faith, to affirm that God is Creator does not mean merely expressing a theoretical conviction, but also grasping the original extent of the Lord's gratuitous and merciful action on behalf of man. In fact, God freely confers being and life on everything that exists. Man and woman, created in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27), are for that very reason called to be the visible sign and the effective instrument of divine gratuitousness in the garden where God has placed them as cultivators and custodians of the goods of creation.

27. It is in the free action of God the Creator that we find the very meaning of creation, even if it has been distorted by the experience of sin. In fact, the narrative of the first sin (cf. Gen 3:1-24) describes the permanent temptation and the disordered situation in which humanity comes to find itself after the fall of its progenitors. Disobedience to God means hiding from his loving countenance and seeking to control one's life and action in the world. Breaking the relation of communion with God causes a rupture in the internal unity of the human person, in the relations of communion between man and woman and of the harmonious relations between mankind and other creatures[29]. It is in this original estrangement that are to be sought the deepest roots of all the evils that afflict social relations between people, of all the situations in economic and political life that attack the dignity of the person, that assail justice and solidarity.

II. JESUS CHRIST
THE FULFILMENT OF THE FATHER'S PLAN OF LOVE

a. In Jesus Christ the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled

28. The benevolence and mercy that inspire God's actions and provide the key for understanding them become so very much closer to man that they take on the traits of the man Jesus, the Word made flesh. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus describes his messianic ministry with the words of Isaiah which recall the prophetic significance of the jubilee: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Jesus therefore places himself on the frontline of fulfilment, not only because he fulfils what was promised and what was awaited by Israel, but also in the deeper sense that in him the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. He proclaims: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Jesus, in other words, is the tangible and definitive manifestation of how God acts towards men and women.

29. The love that inspires Jesus' ministry among men is the love that he has experienced in his intimate union with the Father. The New Testament allows us to enter deeply into the experience, that Jesus himself lives and communicates, the love of God his Father — “Abba” — and, therefore, it permits us to enter into the very heart of divine life. Jesus announces the liberating mercy of God to those whom he meets on his way, beginning with the poor, the marginalized, the sinners. He invites all to follow him because he is the first to obey God's plan of love, and he does so in a most singular way, as God's envoy in the world.

Jesus' self-awareness of being the Son is an expression of this primordial experience. The Son has been given everything, and freely so, by the Father: “All that the Father has is mine” (Jn 16:15). His in turn is the mission of making all men sharers in this gift and in this filial relationship: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15).

For Jesus, recognizing the Father's love means modelling his actions on God's gratuitousness and mercy; it is these that generate new life. It means becoming — by his very existence — the example and pattern of this for his disciples. Jesus' followers are called to live like him and, after his Passover of death and resurrection, to live also in him and by him, thanks to the superabundant gift of the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, who internalizes Christ's own style of life in human hearts.

b. The revelation of Trinitarian love

30. With the unceasing amazement of those who have experienced the inexpressible love of God (cf. Rom 8:26), the New Testament grasps, in the light of the full revelation of Trinitarian love offered by the Passover of Jesus Christ, the ultimate meaning of the Incarnation of the Son and his mission among men and women. Saint Paul writes: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rom 8:31-32). Similar language is used also by Saint John: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).

31. The Face of God, progressively revealed in the history of salvation, shines in its fullness in the Face of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; truly distinct and truly one, because God is an infinite communion of love. God's gratuitous love for humanity is revealed, before anything else, as love springing from the Father, from whom everything draws its source; as the free communication that the Son makes of this love, giving himself anew to the Father and giving himself to mankind; as the ever new fruitfulness of divine love that the Holy Spirit pours forth into the hearts of men (cf. Rom 5:5).

By his words and deeds, and fully and definitively by his death and resurrection[30], Jesus reveals to humanity that God is Father and that we are all called by grace to become his children in the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6), and therefore brothers and sisters among ourselves. It is for this reason that the Church firmly believes that “the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in her Lord and Master”[31].

32. Meditating on the gratuitousness and superabundance of the Father's divine gift of the Son, which Jesus taught and bore witness to by giving his life for us, the Apostle John grasps its profound meaning and its most logical consequence. “Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:11-12). The reciprocity of love is required by the commandment that Jesus describes as “new” and as “his”: “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). The commandment of mutual love shows how to live in Christ the Trinitarian life within the Church, the Body of Christ, and how to transform history until it reaches its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem.

33. The commandment of mutual love, which represents the law of life for God's people[32], must inspire, purify and elevate all human relationships in society and in politics. “To be human means to be called to interpersonal communion”[33], because the image and the likeness of the Trinitarian God are the basis of the whole of “human ethos', which reaches its apex in the commandment of love”[34]. The modern cultural, social, economic and political phenomenon of interdependence, which intensifies and makes particularly evident the bonds that unite the human family, accentuates once more, in the light of Revelation, “a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons, is what we Christians mean by the word 'communion'”[35].

III. THE HUMAN PERSON IN GOD'S PLAN OF LOVE

a. Trinitarian love, the origin and goal of the human person

34. The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love. This revelation sheds light on every aspect of the personal dignity and freedom of men and women, and on the depths of their social nature. “Being a person in the image and likeness of God ... involves existing in a relationship, in relation to the other ‘I'”[36], because God himself, one and triune, is the communion of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In the communion of love that is God, and in which the Three Divine Persons mutually love one another and are the One God, the human person is called to discover the origin and goal of his existence and of history. The Council Fathers, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, teach that “the Lord Jesus Christ, when praying to the Father ‘that they may all be one ... as we are one' (Jn 17:21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine Persons and the union of the children of God in truth and love. It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself (cf. Lk 17:33)”[37].

35. Christian revelation shines a new light on the identity, the vocation and the ultimate destiny of the human person and the human race. Every person is created by God, loved and saved in Jesus Christ, and fulfils himself by creating a network of multiple relationships of love, justice and solidarity with other persons while he goes about his various activities in the world. Human activity, when it aims at promoting the integral dignity and vocation of the person, the quality of living conditions and the meeting in solidarity of peoples and nations, is in accordance with the plan of God, who does not fail to show his love and providence to his children.

36. The pages of the first book of Sacred Scripture, which describe the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27), contain a fundamental teaching with regard to the identity and the vocation of the human person. They tell us that the creation of man and woman is a free and gratuitous act of God; that man and woman, because they are free and intelligent, represent the “thou” created by God and that only in relationship with him can they discover and fulfil the authentic and complete meaning of their personal and social lives; that in their complementarities and reciprocity they are the image of Trinitarian Love in the created universe; that to them, as the culmination of creation, the Creator has entrusted the task of ordering created nature according to his design (cf. Gen 1:28).

37. The Book of Genesis provides us with certain foundations of Christian anthropology: the inalienable dignity of the human person, the roots and guarantee of which are found in God's design of creation; the constitutive social nature of human beings, the prototype of which is found in the original relationship between man and woman, the union of whom “constitutes the first form of communion between persons”[38]; the meaning of human activity in the world, which is linked to the discovery and respect of the laws of nature that God has inscribed in the created universe, so that humanity may live in it and care for it in accordance with God's will. This vision of the human person, of society and of history is rooted in God and is ever more clearly seen when his plan of salvation becomes a reality.

b. Christian salvation: for all people and the whole person

38. The salvation offered in its fullness to men in Jesus Christ by God the Father's initiative, and brought about and transmitted by the work of the Holy Spirit, is salvation for all people and of the whole person: it is universal and integral salvation. It concerns the human person in all his dimensions: personal and social, spiritual and corporeal, historical and transcendent. It begins to be made a reality already in history, because what is created is good and willed by God, and because the Son of God became one of us[39]. Its completion, however, is in the future, when we shall be called, together with all creation (cf. Rom 8), to share in Christ's resurrection and in the eternal communion of life with the Father in the joy of the Holy Spirit. This outlook shows quite clearly the error and deception of purely immanentistic visions of the meaning of history and in humanity's claims to self-salvation.

39. The salvation offered by God to his children requires their free response and acceptance. It is in this that faith consists, and it is through this that “man freely commits his entire self to God”[40], responding to God's prior and superabundant love (cf. 1 Jn 4:10) with concrete love for his brothers and sisters, and with steadfast hope because “he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). In fact, the divine plan of salvation does not consign human creatures to a state of mere passivity or of lesser status in relation to their Creator, because their relationship to God, whom Jesus Christ reveals to us and in whom he freely makes us sharers by the working of the Holy Spirit, is that of a child to its parent: the very relationship that Jesus lives with the Father (cf. Jn 15-17; Gal 4:6-7).

40. The universality and integrality of the salvation wrought by Christ makes indissoluble the link between the relationship that the person is called to have with God and the responsibility he has towards his neighbour in the concrete circumstances of history. This is sensed, though not always without some confusion or misunderstanding, in humanity's universal quest for truth and meaning, and it becomes the cornerstone of God's covenant with Israel, as attested by the tablets of the Law and the preaching of the Prophets.

This link finds a clear and precise expression in the teaching of Jesus Christ and is definitively confirmed by the supreme witness of the giving of his life, in obedience to the Father's will and out of love for his brothers and sisters. To the scribe who asks him “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Mk 12:28), Jesus answers: “The first is: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength'. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself'. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29-31).

Inextricably linked in the human heart are the relationship with God — recognized as Creator and Father, the source and fulfilment of life and of salvation — and openness in concrete love towards man, who must be treated as another self, even if he is an enemy (cf. Mt 5:43-44). In man's inner dimension are rooted, in the final analysis, the commitment to justice and solidarity, to the building up of a social, economic and political life that corresponds to God's plan.

c. The disciple of Christ as a new creation

41. Personal and social life, as well as human action in the world, is always threatened by sin. Jesus Christ, however, “by suffering for us ... not only gave us an example so that we might follow in His footsteps, but He also opened up a way. If we follow this path, life and death are made holy and acquire a new meaning”[41]. Christ's disciple adheres, in faith and through the sacraments, to Jesus' Paschal Mystery, so that his old self, with its evil inclinations, is crucified with Christ. As a new creation he is then enabled by grace to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This “holds true not for Christians alone but also for all people of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal Mystery”[42].

42. The inner transformation of the human person, in his being progressively conformed to Christ, is the necessary prerequisite for a real transformation of his relationships with others. “It is necessary, then, to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him. The acknowledged priority of the conversion of heart in no way eliminates but on the contrary imposes the obligation of bringing the appropriate remedies to institutions and living conditions when they are an inducement to sin, so that they conform to the norms of justice and advance the good rather than hinder it”[43].

43. It is not possible to love one's neighbour as oneself and to persevere in this conduct without the firm and constant determination to work for the good of all people and of each person, because we are all really responsible for everyone[44]. According to the Council's teaching, “they also have a claim on our respect and charity that think and act differently from us in social, political and religious matters. In fact the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through kindness and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them”[45]. This path requires grace, which God offers to man in order to help him to overcome failings, to snatch him from the spiral of lies and violence, to sustain him and prompt him to restore with an ever new and ready spirit the network of authentic and honest relationships with his fellow men[46].

44. Even the relationship with the created universe and human activity aimed at tending it and transforming it, activity which is daily endangered by man's pride and his inordinate self-love, must be purified and perfected by the cross and resurrection of Christ. “Redeemed by Christ and made a new creature by the Holy Spirit, man can, indeed he must, love the things of God's creation: it is from God that he has received them, and it is as flowing from God's hand that he looks upon them and reveres them. Man thanks his divine benefactor for all these things, he uses them and enjoys them in a spirit of poverty and freedom. Thus he is brought to a true possession of the world, as having nothing yet possessing everything: ‘All [things] are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's' (1 Cor 3:22-23)”[47].

d. The transcendence of salvation and the autonomy of earthly realities

45. Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man in whom and thanks to whom the world and man attain their authentic and full truth. The mystery of God's being infinitely close to man — brought about in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who gave himself on the cross, abandoning himself to death — shows that the more that human realities are seen in the light of God's plan and lived in communion with God, the more they are empowered and liberated in their distinctive identity and in the freedom that is proper to them. Sharing in Christ's life of sonship, made possible by the Incarnation and the Paschal gift of the Spirit, far from being a mortification, has the effect of unleashing the authentic and independent traits and identity that characterize human beings in all their various expressions.

This perspective leads to a correct approach to earthly realities and their autonomy, which is strongly emphasized by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council: “If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. This ... harmonizes also with the will of the Creator. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. Man must respect these as he isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts”[48].

46. There is no state of conflict between God and man, but a relationship of love in which the world and the fruits of human activity in the world are objects of mutual gift between the Father and his children, and among the children themselves, in Christ Jesus; in Christ and thanks to him the world and man attain their authentic and inherent meaning. In a universal vision of God's love that embraces everything that exists, God himself is revealed to us in Christ as Father and giver of life, and man as the one who, in Christ, receives everything from God as gift, humbly and freely, and who truly possesses everything as his own when he knows and experiences everything as belonging to God, originating in God and moving towards God. In this regard, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “If the expression ‘the autonomy of earthly affairs' is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator, the creature would disappear”[49].

47. The human person, in himself and in his vocation, transcends the limits of the created universe, of society and of history: his ultimate end is God himself[50], who has revealed himself to men in order to invite them and receive them into communion with himself[51]. “Man cannot give himself to a purely human plan for reality, to an abstract ideal or to a false utopia. As a person, he can give himself to another person or to other persons, and ultimately to God, who is the author of his being and who alone can fully accept his gift”[52]. For this reason, “a man is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self-giving and of the formation of an authentic human community oriented towards his final destiny, which is God. A society is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish this solidarity between people”[53].

48. The human person cannot and must not be manipulated by social, economic or political structures, because every person has the freedom to direct himself towards his ultimate end. On the other hand, every cultural, social, economic and political accomplishment, in which the social nature of the person and his activity of transforming the universe are brought about in history, must always be considered also in the context of its relative and provisional reality, because “the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). We can speak here of an eschatological relativity, in the sense that man and the world are moving towards their end, which is the fulfilment of their destiny in God; we can also speak of a theological relativity, insofar as the gift of God, by which the definitive destiny of humanity and of creation will be attained, is infinitely greater than human possibilities and expectations. Any totalitarian vision of society and the State, and any purely intra-worldly ideology of progress are contrary to the integral truth of the human person and to God's plan in history.

IV. GOD'S PLAN AND THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH

a. The Church, sign and defender of the transcendence of the human person

49. The Church, the community of those who have been brought together by the Risen Christ and who have set out to follow him, is “the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent dimension of the human person”[54]. She is “in Christ a kind of sacrament — a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men”[55]. Her mission is that of proclaiming and communicating the salvation wrought in Jesus Christ, which he calls “the Kingdom of God” (Mk 1:15), that is, communion with God and among men. The goal of salvation, the Kingdom of God embraces all people and is fully realized beyond history, in God. The Church has received “the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is, on earth, the seed and the beginning of that Kingdom”[56].

50. The Church places herself concretely at the service of the Kingdom of God above all by announcing and communicating the Gospel of salvation and by establishing new Christian communities. Moreover, she “serves the Kingdom by spreading throughout the world the ‘Gospel values' which are an expression of the Kingdom and which help people to accept God's plan. It is true that the inchoate reality of the Kingdom can also be found beyond the confines of the Church among peoples everywhere, to the extent that they live ‘Gospel values' and are open to the working of the Spirit who breathes when and where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8). But it must immediately be added that this temporal dimension of the Kingdom remains incomplete unless it is related to the Kingdom of Christ present in the Church and straining towards eschatological fullness”[57]. It follows from this, in particular, that the Church is not to be confused with the political community and is not bound to any political system[58]. In fact, the political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields, and both are, even if under different titles, “devoted to the service of the personal and social vocation of the same human beings”[59]. Indeed, it can be affirmed that the distinction between religion and politics and the principle of religious freedom constitute a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions.

51. According to the plan of God brought about in Christ, there corresponds to the identity and mission of the Church in the world “a saving and eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the next life”[60]. Precisely for this reason, the Church offers an original and irreplaceable contribution with the concern that impels her to make the family of mankind and its history more human, prompting her to place herself as a bulwark against every totalitarian temptation, as she shows man his integral and definitive vocation[61].

By her preaching of the Gospel, the grace of the sacraments and the experience of fraternal communion, the Church “heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, ... consolidates society and endows the daily activity of men with a deeper sense and meaning”[62]. At the level of concrete historical dynamics, therefore, the coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be discerned in the perspective of a determined and definitive social, economic or political organization. Rather, it is seen in the development of a human social sense which for mankind is a leaven for attaining wholeness, justice and solidarity in openness to the Transcendent as a point of reference for one's own personal definitive fulfilment.

b. The Church, the Kingdom of God and the renewal of social relations

52. God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person but also the social relations existing between men. As the Apostle Paul teaches, life in Christ makes the human person's identity and social sense — with their concrete consequences on the historical and social planes — emerge fully and in a new manner: “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” (Gal 3:26-28). In this perspective, Church communities, brought together by the message of Jesus Christ and gathered in the Holy Spirit round the Risen Lord (cf. Mt 18:20, 28:19-20; Lk 24:46-49), offer themselves as places of communion, witness and mission, and as catalysts for the redemption and transformation of social relationships.

53. The transformation of social relationships that responds to the demands of the Kingdom of God is not fixed within concrete boundaries once and for all. Rather, it is a task entrusted to the Christian community, which is to develop it and carry it out through reflection and practices inspired by the Gospel. It is the same Spirit of the Lord, leading the people of God while simultaneously permeating the universe[63], who from time to time inspires new and appropriate ways for humanity to exercise its creative responsibility[64]. This inspiration is given to the community of Christians who are a part of the world and of history, and who are therefore open to dialogue with all people of good will in the common quest for the seeds of truth and freedom sown in the vast field of humanity[65]. The dynamics of this renewal must be firmly anchored in the unchangeable principles of the natural law, inscribed by God the Creator in each of his creatures (cf. Rom 2:14-15), and bathed in eschatological light through Jesus Christ.

54. Jesus Christ reveals to us that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) and he teaches us that “the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love. He assures those who trust in the love of God that the way of love is open to all people and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood will not be in vain”[66]. This law is called to become the ultimate measure and rule of every dynamic related to human relations. In short, it is the very mystery of God, Trinitarian Love, that is the basis of the meaning and value of the person, of social relations, of human activity in the world, insofar as humanity has received the revelation of this and a share in it through Christ in his Spirit.

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