Centesimus Annus (CA) is extraordinary in the way it reconfigured the basic framework of Catholic Social Theory. Prior to it, CST viewed society as the interplay among politics/government and economics.

Pope Saint John Paul the Great established the need to maintain vibrant and critical interaction among economics politics and culture. He also emphasized that, of these three, culture is, by far, the most important.

"Man is understood in a more complete way when he is situated within the sphere of culture through his language, history, and the position he takes towards the fundamental events of life, such as birth, love, work and death. At the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence. " (CA, 24) 
  • What are the problems facing our culture?
  • Why did Saint John Paul add Culture to what constitutes society?
    • One of Saint John Paul’s major innovations was to redefine what constitutes society. Prior to Centesimus Annus the major social encyclicals dealt with issues of government/politics and economics. Centesimus Annus is extraordinary in the way it reconfigures the basic framework of CST and definition of society. It establishes the need to maintain vibrant and critical interaction among economics, culture, and politics, emphasizing that of these three, culture is the most important. 
    • Saint John Paul the Great points out that at the heart of culture lay morality and at the heart morality lay religion. And by insisting on a vibrant, publicly assertive moral-cultural order, he throws down a gauntlet to the modern world and what he calls “skeptical relativism” and what Pope Benedict has called the “Dictatorship of Relativism”.
    • Saint John Paul said, 
    • “Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is determined by the majority or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, than ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” (CA, 46)
    • With this, CST demands a dialogue with society. A dialogue unashamedly based on our faith.
    • “The greatest challenge of our time is secularization”. (Benedict XVI, Encounter with the Youth, #3, 6 April 2006)
    • “The ‘Dictatorship of relativism’, in the end, is nothing less than a threat to genuine human freedom, which only matures in generosity and fidelity to the truth.” (Benedict XVI, Response to Questions Posed by US Bishops, 16 April 08, Washington, DC) 
    • Society creates an illusion that God does not exist or that God can be restricted to the realm of purely private affairs. CST insists that Christians cannot accept that attitude. 
    • “Freedom…demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.” (Benedict XVI, White House Welcoming Ceremony, 16 April 2008, Washington, DC)
    • “Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power...” (CIV, 5)  
    • “Fidelity to the truth…alone is the guarantee of freedom”. (CIV, 9)
    • CST makes it clear that the health of a culture demands that religious values be part of the democratic debate. Absent that,
    • “public life is sapped of its motivation and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive character. Human rights risk being ignored”. (CIV, 56)  

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Just a Thought
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, and Assistant National Eccelsiastical Counselor for the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation (CAPP-USA), stressed in his article in the June 18, 2018, issue of the "Fairfield County Catholic," the importance of taking a stand and being the witnesses to the Truth, no matter the consequences. Bishiop Caggiano stated, "The Lord Jesus could not have been more explicit about welcoming the stranger and protecting the dignity of all human persons." Read more
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