I invite you to look around at the new things which surround us and in which we find ourselves… (Saint John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991)
Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is a teaching of the Church that contains commentary on social issues of the day (Contemporary Issues), contained in letters written by the Popes, called Papal Encyclicals. We call the texts that deal specifically with social isses the Social Encyclicals.
For those new to Catholic Social Teaching
Welcome! Saint John Paul the Great said,
"[I invite you] to "look to the future" at a time when we can already glimpse the third Millennium of the Christian era, so filled with uncertainties but also with promises — uncertainties and promises which appeal to our imagination and creativity, and which reawaken our responsibility, as disciples of the "one teacher" (cf. Mt 23:8), to show the way, to proclaim the truth and to communicate the life which is Christ (cf. Jn 14:6)." (CA, 3)
- In addition to Scripture and Church Tradition, what else does CST contain?
- CST contains a set of criteria using principles of Natural Law that allow for use in prudential judgment to evaluate society, as well as to form one’s conscience.
- Why should the Church give us these Catholic Social Teachings?
In a world that hungers for a sense of meaning and moral direction, this teaching offers ethical criteria for action. In a society of rapid change and often-confused moral values, this teaching offers consistent moral guidance for the now and the future. For Catholics, this social teaching is a central part of our identity. In the words of Saint John Paul II,
"The Church, in fact, has something to say about specific human situations, both individual and communal, national and international. She formulates a genuine doctrine
for these situations, a corpus which enables her to analyze social realities, to make judgments about them and to indicate directions to be taken for the just resolution of the problems involved." (CA, 5)
- What is the Nature of Catholic Social Teaching?
- Catholic Social Teaching is knowledge illuminated by faith, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Is Catholic Social Teaching a dialogue with the sciences?
- It is a dialogue with all branches of knowledge: social sciences, political science, sociology, anthropology, theology, philosophy, economics, and the natural sciences.
- What field of study does Catholic Social Teaching belong to?
- Catholic Social Teaching belongs to the field of Moral Theology.
- Faith & Reason:
- Reason is the natural instrument of our intellect.
- Faith is our response to revealed truth. (Catechism, 2419-2422)
- What is the Purpose of Catholic Social Teaching?
"Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just." (DCE, 28)
"She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper." (DCE, 28)
- What is the Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching?
- Catholic Social Teaching challenges us, the laity, to live our faith, and to transform society with the light of faith.
- What is the place of CST in the Church’s Teaching?
- The Magisterium is the living teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in written form or in the form of Tradition. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 85)
- The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals.
- Where does this teaching authority of commenting on social issues comes from?
- The authority comes from the apostolic office, given by Jesus Christ himself to Peter to tend his sheep.
"the Pope [Leo] did not hesitate to intervene by virtue of his "apostolic office",9 that is, on the basis of the mission received from Jesus Christ himself to "feed his lambs and tend his sheep" (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and to "bind and loose" on earth for the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:19)." (CA, 5)
- The place of CST in the Magisterium
- As the teaching office of the Church, the Magisterim ensures the fidelity of the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles.
- Is everything written in the Social Teachings what a Catholic must believe to be Catholic?
- No. Yes. Why? The Social teachings contain commentary on the social issues of the day based upon wisdom enlightened by our faith and reason. The social encyclicals contain commentary as well as doctrine.
- Then what must a Catholic believe in to be Catholic?
- Catholics believe in the Dogma of the Church which contain the ‘tenets of the faith’.
- How are we to believe in the Social Teachings found in the Social Encyclical?
- The faithful are to adhere to the social teachings with ‘religious assent’, which though distinct from the assent of faith (Dogmas – the tenets of faith) is nonetheless an extension of it.
- What is Church Dogma?
- Dogma contain the ‘tenets of faith’ which are the revealed teachings of Christ, truths that are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the exercise of the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. These are the infallible teachings – the tenets of the Catholic Faith (Catechism)
- Examples: The changeless truths of the Gospel. Jesus is both 100% divine and 100% human. Mary is the Mother of God.
- What is Church Doctrine?
- Is the revealed teachings of Christ taught by his successors in which the faithful are to adhere to. (Catechism). They are the theological explanations of dogmas. They explain and teach how a particular dogma may be understood.
- What is Church Tradition?
- The Church looks to the past for future guidance in matters of faith and morals. The sum of what God has taught us down through the ages is what is called Tradition. (CCC, 75)
- What are Church Teachings?
- 'Teachings' can be considered a more general term used to describe the Church’s interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures and its own Tradition, that is, what it has traditionally been taught about a topic in question.
- What are the Social Teachings?
- The social teachings are found within various Papal and Episcopal documents, which are part of a systematic moral framework and a precious intellectual heritage of the Church.
- What is the main Challenge of Catholic Social Teachings as found in the Social Encyclicals?
- What practical advice does CST offer for the laity to help reshape the world?
- CST offers direction for creating moral and just social, political, and economic policies and actions, by one forming their conscience and acting on those Natural Law Principles and the truths of revelation.
- What are the Natural Law Principles found in Catholic Social Teaching?
- The cornerstone principles of the Catholic Social Teachings as stated by Pope Saint John Paul II are Human Dignity, Solidarity, and Subsidiarity; these principles are to be used to form one conscience for decision making and moral action in the world.
- How do I use these 3 principles to form my conscience?
- By understanding what these principles from their philosophical and theology roots, why they are important, and their moral and practical applications in the social, cultural, political and economic fields.
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Just a Thought
"Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us."(Pope Francis, Laudato Si', par. 161)