Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teachings

In 2020-2021, the Justice and Peace Committee sent OLL parishioners and school families extensive educational emails about each of the seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Click on each button to view the corresponding email's content:
Artwork by Bro. Mickey McGrath
"The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy, I came that they might have life and have it to the full".--John, 10:10. The foundational Catholic Social Teaching theme "Life and Dignity of the Human Person" is the moral vision for our life in society that reflects the Good Shepherd's mission on earth.
 
It asks us to be like Him in His love of each person and His special love for the least among us. He linked love of God and love of neighbor: "as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me".---Matthew 25:40. Likewise, when we defend human life, support a poor child at home or abroad, forgive a murderer or refrain from violence against those who might oppose us, we affirm the life and dignity of humanity, as Jesus instructed.
 
Cardinal Bernardin used the image of Christ's seamless garment in advocating that Catholics live out all the facets of life and dignity of the human person included in this Catholic Social Teaching theme--all of them constitute its fabric. For him this "systemic vision of life seeks to expand the moral imagination of a society". Pope John Paul II challenged us to "Place all of your intelligence, talents, enthusiasm, compassion and fortitude at the service of life."
 
How can we summon up the courage to be countercultural, to seek life to the full for all of our sisters and brothers? By living closely with Jesus, praying for grace to advance God's will for the common good of humanity, leaning on God with 100% trust and hope, forging community with others actively seeking life to the full for our suffering sisters and brothers, educating ourselves about how our government allocates our money, and urgently and habitually taking actions in alignment with our ethic of life and nonviolence and including our children in them. By using voice, pen, keyboard, ballot, wallet, hands and feet.
 
Wherever we find ourselves, we can live our belief in the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. We thus bring the fullness of life to ourselves, build up the life of the Kingdom and give glory to God. In the words of Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, "Today, as always, humanity is led by minorities who hope against all hope, as did Abraham."
 
Advocate for peace, justice and human development...
 
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Call to Family, Community, and Participation is one of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. It states that people have a right and duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being ofall, especially the poor and vulnerable.
 
As with all the Catholic Social Teaching themes, this one has its basis in Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan. As you will remember, the man who had been robbed was passed by the Levite and a priest before the Samaritan stopped to help. In Biblical times Samaritans were considered social outcasts and yet the Samaritan was the one to rescue and seek help for the robber.s victim. That is the kind of neighbor we all want.one who looks beyond race, religion, economic status, sees the need and reaches out to help as best they can.
 
Normally, we first learn love of God and others in our immediate family. We also learn that part of our love is justice.that is, that others. needs are as important as our own. Unfortunately, we also learn negative values, likeprejudices, in these social settings.
 
The Church in the Modern World, a document of the Second Vatican Council, stated .Every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God.s intent..(no. 29)
Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.. Expanded, this theme is complex in its entirety and even more difficult to live. We see this as our families, communities and nation struggle in this time of economic upheaval. Church documents stress the importance of freedom or the God-bestowed gift of free will in the life-choices we make. .Freedom is not simply the absence of tyranny or oppression. Nor is freedom a license to do whatever we like. Freedom has an inner .logic' which distinguishes it and ennobles it: freedom is ordered to the truth, and is fulfilled in [one's]quest for truth and in [one's] living in the truth.
 
This theme emphasizes that every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency . starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education - not to a life of survival and anonymity. Our civic leaders pledge their allegiance to .One Nation Under God., but what does this sacred pledge mean when budgetary and social decisions are made? Are the .least of these. considered first? As Catholic Christians, are we in obedience to God or to our cultural ideals of individualism, consumerism and violence? Do we get hot under the collarwhen people talk about the common good and helping those people?
 
Responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to the larger society accompany rights. Poverty, greed and violence are the result of being out of a right relationship with our God. .In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation. One's neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One's neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her.. (Cardinal Van Thuan)
Seems like it should all be so easy, to simply make the choice to support our society as a whole. Working toward a stronger community. Feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. Doing what Jesus would do -- in current times, what would Jesus do? We have citywide construction & development and taxes to pay and schools to support. All this, as we attend to the daily nourishment and maintenance of our own lives and homes.
 
The reality of our local, national, and global economy is that the gap between rich and poor is ever present and growing. The poor and elderly continue to be neglected in the world at large. And, in our own neighborhoods, we see a rising request for assistance at food banks, and an increasing need for housing and basic home and self-care items.
 
As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make the preferential option for the poor non-optional. We have a special obligation to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception; to identify the injustice and look for those persons who are most marginalized. Those with the greatest need require the greatest response.
 
The Latin American Catholic Bishops' conferences at Medellin, Colombia in 1968 and Puebla, Mexico in 1979 aimed to emphasize the use of "option" as a verb rather than as a noun. As such, each Christian must make the choice, make the commitment to lift up the poor and disadvantaged in very real and concrete ways. "Preferential option for the poor" means that Christians are called to look at the world from the perspective of the marginalized and to work in solidarity for justice. To strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable.
 
Here at OLL we are blessed with a multitude of individuals who generously donate their time and dollars to keep the church alive. Take a moment to step outside of our community, and ask yourself - in what ways are you conscious of those who are economically poor or disadvantaged? How can you make "option" a verb?
The US Catholic Bishops' statement on .The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. begins by stating that "The economy must serve people, not the other way around". That this assertion might be interpreted in our present time as radical says a lot about how perverse our society's priorities have become.
 
Work is more than a means of survival. It is a part of the legacy God gave us in "dominion" over the earth, with its implied mandate of stewardship. Humankind is unique among all our planet's creatures in being able to make tools, cultivate the soil and transform our surroundings to suit our needs and desires. Everyone's job in this great scheme is important, and while not everyone should expect the same paycheck, every worker deserves respect. In return, everyone who is able should work, and be afforded the opportunity to do so.
 
Gainful and meaningful employment should be a universal right of anyone able and willing to work. In a global economy dominated by laissez-faire capitalism, this seems to be less of a given. Putting workers on opposite sides of the world in competition increases pressure to do more for less and decreases the ability of people to bargain for better pay and treatment. Likewise, in our current difficulties, part of the business community not only fails to resist the temptation but embraces the opportunity to exploit desperation. This would seem ultimately self-defeating. Even Henry Ford, no friend of organized labor, saw that his own success required making sure the cars from his factories could be bought by those who built them. The trite saying "business is business" neglects that it is actually "busy-ness", and needs a justification other than merely profit. Not giving workers their due is no different morally from cheating customers or defrauding shareholders.
 
In "Economic Justice For All" in 1986, the US Bishops declared a "normal" jobless rate of 6-7% unacceptable. The situation hasn't improved. The truth is that the more wealth that moves upward into the hands of a privileged few, the more things seem to be coming apart at the seams, from tainted hamburger to collapsing bridges. Let us work toward "Economic Justice For All", toward an economy that serves people.
One of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching is Solidarity, the idea that we are all one family in this world in God's eyes. Thus, we are called to pursue justice for our "brothers and sisters", especially for those who are not able to advocate for themselves due to poverty, health, or living in environments filled with conflict and violence. How are we to respond to this call for Solidarity?
 
A 3-step process is the key (that will need many repetitions).
 
1. Examine our own beliefs and prejudices--do we think we are "one and the same" with all people or do we harbor judgments and feelings of superiority over a class, race, or culture? We are all victims of cultural and media biases. Some of us also were raised or have family members with prejudice. These sources, along with limited real contact and engagement with people different from ourselves, can lead us to dismiss, or worse, ignore, people who need our advocacy, support, and love. Prayfully examine your own conscience and ask God to help you open your heart and mind to expand your idea of "family".
 
2. Do we respond to the needs of people in our own community? Do we actively seek out information and ideas to find ways to address the underlying cause of their needs? This often involves research, time, and legislative advocacy, but we can also simply make an effort to learn more by attending cultural fairs and events, stopping by the neighborhood service center (i.e. Lake City) to see what needs don't often get filled, or volunteer with our own church's outreach---the bulletin has descriptions of many of these. Also, make a personal commitment to reach out with respect and dignity to people of difference you encounter every day!
 
3. Respond to national and international challenges and people in need through your time (write to your legislators, read a variety of publications to learn more in-depth about what's going on and why, pray for God's mercy and kindness) and resources (travel and contributions).
 
We are called to be God's followers by acting in Solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters. We all can do something. Act now and we can make this world a better place!
In his encyclical Laudate Sí  - On Care for Our Common Home  Pope Francis calls out to Christians and all humanity in the words of Francis of Assisi to care for our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us.
 
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”
 
Humanity can and must respond to this continuing challenge and preserve the God-given ecosystem services that sustain us.  Examples of successful responses to humanity’s abuses of nature can be found in recent history.  In response to the call of Rachel Carson in her 1962 book Silent Spring, awareness of the risks of pesticide use was increased and DDT production was greatly reduced so that we now have eagles soaring above Lake Washington.  Damage to human health and natural systems from sulfuric acid release from coal burning plants was successfully reduced by government regulation and international agreements in the 1970’s.  Human release of long-lived chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere that destroy the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere was banned by international agreements in the late 1980’s, so that we expect the ozone shield to return to near preindustrial levels by 2050 or so.  Yes, humans can produce completely artificial gases that remain in the atmosphere for many decades or centuries, and they can increase the release of natural gases like carbon dioxide, that also remain in the atmosphere for more than a century.
 
Human-induced climate change, or global warming, has been a particularly difficult problem for humanity to deal with.  It comes on slowly with the gradual release of carbon dioxide by fossil fuel burning, but the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere will take centuries to go back to natural levels. The weather anomalies that it produces will continue to increase in severity, which will include extreme heat waves, floods, drought, more intense tropical storms, reduced snowpack, rising seas and warmer stream temperatures that are fatal to salmon.  The means to reduce the rate of warming of Earth while retaining human prosperity are available, but to achieve this will require bold and urgent action, which will require that citizens inform their leaders of their concern for Earth.  Personal actions can have an important effect, but to really make a difference individuals must have access to carbon-free energy, which requires partnership between government and private industry.  For us as individuals, we must go about our life with a sensibility for our effects on our environment, conserving and preserving in the best ways we can.
 
Human-induced climate change is just one of many serious challenges that humanity’s abuse of Earth has raised.  Laudato Sí also recognizes the effects of other forms of pollution that fall unjustly primarily on the poor. The increasing scarcity of fresh water for human consumption and food production will increase with global warming.  Losses of biodiversity and ecosystems caused by humanity’s increasing demands can be permanent.
 
Our personal response to all of this can be based on our faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ, as reflected in the gospels, especially loving God and our neighbor.  God is present in God’s creation and nature is our neighbor.  To love nature we must  know nature and care for it.