The Catholic Church has a long and storied history of social teaching that goes back centuries and provides a compelling challenge for living responsibly and building a just society. Modern Catholic Social Teaching, rooted in Scripture and articulated through a tradition of written documents, has evolved over time in response to the challenges of the day. Today I would like to look much deeper into the differences between Catholic Social Justice and Political Social Justice
First, let us look at the seven parts of Catholic Social Justice. They are several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society in economics and politics, in law and policy directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially poor and vulnerable people.
- Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
- Preferential Option for the Poor
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition instructs us to put the needs of poor and vulnerable people first.
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
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. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.
We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is a requirement of the Catholic faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
You should notice that each one of these is based on Bible principles and have a strong focus on God. We are not asking for what the Social Justice Warriors of this generation are asking for at all.
Whereas the core beliefs for Social Justice in the 21st Century are summarized in these five main points
The Goal of Social Justice In the 21st Century
Typically, those who strive for social justice seek the redistribution of power to enhance the well-being of individuals through equal access to healthcare, justice, and economic opportunity.
While activists have been part of the push toward social justice, the proactive changes required often fall to public administrators—in government, non-profit organizations, foundations, public health, and regulatory agencies—who are responsible for shaping policies and proposals.
The work of public administrators is often quieter and less dramatic than that of the activists pushing for reform or politicians making promises to constituents. Progress toward social justice requires carefully crafted public policies. In today’s highly polarized political climate, effective policies also require a nuanced understanding of political, economic, and social systems, as well as a strong grasp of the legal and social implications of any action.
Universal Access To Resources
Access to resources is a fundamental principle of social justice. Unfortunately, in many areas of society, communities have had different levels of access based on factors such as socioeconomic status, education, employment, and environment. Education, for example, is associated with better opportunities for employment, higher-paying jobs, and economic advancement. It follows, then, that when quality, equitable education is not available, that lack feeds the cycle of unemployment, low-wage occupations, and poverty, limiting access for future generations. By leveling the playing field, we expand underserved communities’ access to resources affecting health, education, and the community.
In broad public policy terms, that could mean offering free public education for everyone, thereby eliminating the financial barriers created by economic disparities in the educational system. We could implement more equitable funding distribution for essential resources, improving the quality of education for students in disadvantaged communities.
It’s easy to confuse the terms ‘equity’ and ‘equality,’ but those things which are equitable are not always equal. The effort and resources required for two different people to achieve a common goal can vary widely. For example, in order to complete a college degree, some students may need more support and educational resources than their peers do. To achieve social justice and ensure equal opportunities for success, it is important to provide equitable resources that focus on the specific needs of communities and the individuals within them.
Advocating for justice could mean promoting policies that address systemic barriers. Implementing policies for inclusive education and adding more educators for students, based on their needs, would be important first steps.
Social Justice will be better equipped to craft policies that address everyone’s needs when they acknowledge the differences that exist between individuals and groups. To be effective, policy-makers must recognize and accept all factors that create barriers, then work on ways to overcome them. By understanding diversity and embracing cultural differences, we expand opportunities and access.
We can improve access to healthcare by increasing diversity among administrators and requiring written resources in multiple languages. We can reduce employment discrimination by implementing policies that bar it when it’s based on race, gender, gender identity, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, and a host of other human traits.
Social justice requires that individuals have the opportunity and platform to participate in making the policies that affect their well-being. Even well-meaning public administrators can create exclusionary policies when they fail to bring diverse voices to the table.
Policies are often created by a select group of people in powerful government positions. Public administrators can prevent this by carefully considering who will be part of the decision-making process, purposely inviting advocates for groups not adequately represented, and encouraging them to apply for long-term and permanent positions.
Perhaps the most important principle in this discussion, human rights are inherent to all individuals, regardless of socioeconomic status. Human rights and social justice are inevitably intertwined, and it's impossible to have one without the other. In this country, these rights are manifest in the laws that grant freedom of speech, voting rights, criminal justice protections, and other basic rights.
What is the main difference and why is this difference important?
This is a question that we should all ask ourselves before we lose the right to ask questions entirely. Social justice through the teachings of the Church is centered on the teachings of Christ and God. Social Justice as practiced in today’s society is centered around human people. We can not nor we should not confuse the two types of justice. One will lead to eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the other will lead to eternal life that will be far from that.
GK Chesterton explained this well when he said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Social Justice is much harder to work for when you look toward Heaven for help. You can not replace God with the Government and expect that to be social justice. This is social injustice? If we really cared for humanity we would work for the salvation of their souls, not the meager sharing of some bread crumbs here on earth. What good would it do to inherit everything you wanted here (a temporary gain) for the loss of your eternal soul?
The real social justice people are in the Church- fighting to get the word out of the Good News. Remember the words of Bishop Fulton Sheen, “You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.” We must not and we shall not love the things of this world so much that we lose sight of the fact that our lives here are temporary and test. Soon this life will be over, so we should start working towards the goal of the next life now and forever. Amen