Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

No Longer the 'Best Kept Secret'

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

No Longer the 'Best Kept Secret'

Article excerpt

Pope Francis is bringing renewed attention to Catholic social teaching-and not only for Catholics.

SiNCe HiS eLeCTiON as the 265th successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis has pro- vided a refresher course on Catholic social teaching to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. "Catholic social teaching is no longer a secret," says Jean Hill, director of peace and justice for the diocese of Salt Lake City. "Everything Pope Francis is saying comes from social doctrine and is about social justice."

Through his various homilies, speeches, and meetings, Francis is "reading the signs of the times" and making practical application to the issues of the day. Some of his most powerful statements to date were made in his first pastoral document, "The Joy of the Gospel," including this declaration: "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church that is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

Pope Francis is calling the faithful to be more merciful, compassionate, joy- ful, and centered upon the needs of the poor and vulnerable. He wants a church that sees the human person before the law and one that does not "obsess" about a narrow set of issues, but affirms both human life and human dignity. He invites Catholics to pray, reflect, and embrace the beauty and breadth of Catholic social teach- ing-a rich tradition that is predicated on the dignity of the human person.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) defines Catholic social teaching as "a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a cov- enant of love and justice." This teaching is also founded on the life and words of Jesus. It posits that "every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and wor- thy of respect as a member of the human family."

For Catholics and people of other faiths, this teaching matters because it can serve as a moral compass that provides guidance for addressing contemporary issues, such as domestic and global poverty, abortion, the death penalty, immigration, health care, human trafficking, and the environment. The moral dimensions of this teaching provide hope and inspiration to a world that has too often become cynical, disillu- sioned, and alienated. Finally, such teaching can function as a common ground upon which people of various faiths can come together to promote the common good of our society.

This social tradition is best summarized by seven principles or themes, as illustrated by Pope Francis' teachings:

1. Life and Dignity of the Human Person

"A human being is always sacred and invi- olable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolv- ing other problems. ... It is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty."

2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation

"Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon, and reconcil- iation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!"

3. rights and responsibilities

"Today we also have to say 'thou shall not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly home- less person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

4. Option for the Poor and vulnerable

"Each individual Christian and every com- munity is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and the promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. …

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