This document sets forth the social teachings [1] of the Roman Catholic Church which are discussed in my essay "Matthew 25:31-46: What Would Jesus Do? Jesus Would Send All These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight to Hell (And Liberals May Not Be Far Behind)".

 

 

Both faith and works are required of a true believer in Christ:

 

Conversion, therefore, fosters a new life, in which there is no separation between faith and works in our daily response to the universal call to holiness. In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged. Where this gap exists, Christians are such only in name. To be true disciples of the Lord, believers must bear witness to their faith, and "witnesses testify not only with words, but also with their lives"… We must keep in mind the words of Jesus: "Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord!' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21)....

The social dimension of conversion...

[C]onversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them....  Hence, for the Christian people of America
conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good"... Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful.  Ecclesia in America

 

The world's resources were meant for all to share equitably, so that each individual and people have a sufficient share:

 

It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all… The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a "social mortgage"… which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods.  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone.  Centesimus Annus

 

One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [2]

 

Christian duty must be similarly global in scope, our responsibility being to all of humanity:

 

Sacred Scripture continually speaks to us of an active commitment to our neighbor and demands of us a shared responsibility for all of humanity. This duty is not limited to one's own family, nation or state, but extends progressively to all humankind, since no one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another member of the human family. No one can say that he is not responsible for the well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Gen 4:9; Lk 10:29-37; Mt 25:31-46). Attentive and pressing concern for one's neighbor in a moment of need [is] made easier today because of the new means of communication which have brought people closer together… Centesimus Annus

 

Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook... [G]iven the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed… this love of the preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the "rich man" who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying at his gate (cf. Lk 16:19-31) Solicitudo Rei Socialis [3]

 

The market alone can not address all human needs, and its shortcomings need to be addressed:

 

[T]here are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish… Even prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to the person because he is a person, by reason of his lofty dignity. Inseparable from that required "something" is the possibility to survive and, at the same time, to make an active contribution to the common good of humanity. Centesimus Annus

 

[I]f globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority… While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake. Ecclesia in America

 

There is certainly a legitimate sphere of autonomy in economic life which the State should not enter. The State, however, has the task of determining the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted, and thus of safeguarding the prerequisites of a free economy, which presumes a certain equality between the parties, such that one party would not be so powerful as practically to reduce the other to subservience. Centesimus Annus [4]

 

The existence of unjust political and economic structures must be recognized:

 

[O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [5]

 

So harmful are these structures that they can even be called "structures of sin":

 

If the present situation can be attributed to difficulties of various kinds, it is not out of place to speak of "structures of sin"... "Sin" and "structures of sin" are categories which are seldom applied to the situation of the contemporary world. However, one cannot easily gain a profound understanding of the reality that confronts us unless we give a name to the root of the evils which afflict us. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [6]

 

These "structures of sin" have created a scandalous situation where the poor are actually becoming ever more numerous:

 

[T]he leaders of nations and the heads of International Bodies... should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Unfortunately, instead of becoming fewer the poor are becoming more numerous, not only in less developed countries but--and this seems no less scandalous--in the more developed ones too. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

 [T]he poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America [7]

 

Working to remove these structural injustices, or "structures of sin," is critical, so much so that even the Vatican itself will become involved:

 

It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [8]

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

Individual acts of charity are not enough:

 

This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [9]

 

A government role can be appropriate in effectuating the social Gospel:

 

This applies both domestically:

 

This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America [10]

 

as well as internationally:

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [11]

 

The Vatican itself will go beyond charitable work and seek to influence governmental and international bodies:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

Extreme, life-threatening poverty is caused by injustice, not laziness:

 

[T]he poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

[O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Demonization of the poor is therefore wrong:

 

It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as people - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity. Centesimus Annus

 

Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person, who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment. Only such an awareness can give the courage needed to face the risk and the change involved in every authentic attempt to come to the aid of another. Centesimus Annus [12]

 

Christians must exercise a "preferential option for the poor":

 

As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... Centesimus Annus

 

It will not be superfluous… to re-examine and further clarify in this light the characteristic themes and guidelines dealt with by the Magisterium in recent years.

Here I would like to indicate one of them: the option or love of preference for the poor. This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities." Solicitudo Rei Socialis [13]

 

A living wage is required by fundamental justice:

 

 [I]n every case a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particularly important one and in a sense the key means… Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Laborem Exercens

 

Other Popes have also written of their support for a living wage:

 

"[T]he worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family. …[I]f this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman."  Quadragesimo Anno [14]

 

Help for immigrants, even for undocumented aliens, is required:

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters… leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being… It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need.

…Taking the Gospel as its starting-point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence.
Ecclesia in America

 

In its history, America has experienced many immigrations, as waves of men and women came to its various regions in the hope of a better future. The phenomenon continues even today, especially with many people and families from Latin American countries who have moved to the northern parts of the continent, to the point where in some cases they constitute a substantial part of the population... With this in mind, the Synod Fathers recalled that "the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration." Ecclesia in America

 

Fundamental changes in global economic structures and practices are necessary:

 

·       The interdependence produced by globalization includes but extends beyond economics, into the moral realm:

 

[I]t is already possible to point to the positive and moral value of the growing awareness of interdependence among individuals and nations. The fact that men and women in various parts of the world feel personally affected by the injustices and violations of human rights committed in distant countries, countries which perhaps they will never visit, is a further sign of a reality transformed into awareness, thus acquiring a moral connotation....It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       This broad-scale interdependence gives rise to a duty towards the suffering called "solidarity":

 

When interdependence becomes recognized... the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue", is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42; 20: 25; Mk 10: 42-45; Lk 22: 25-27). Solicitudo Rei Socialis [15]

 

·       The requirements of solidarity must inform all analyses of the costs and benefits of globalization:

 

The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good... The Church in America is called... to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization. Ecclesia in America

 

A feature of the contemporary world is the tendency towards globalization... [I]f globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority... While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake. Ecclesia in America [16]

 

·       Such analyses make clear a Christian duty to create a world economic system that is fair to all (not just to the richer nations):

 

By virtue of her own evangelical duty the Church feels called to take her stand beside the poor, to discern the justice of their requests, and to help satisfy them... The same criterion is applied by analogy in international relationships. Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, based upon the principle that the goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all... Surmounting every type of imperialism and determination to preserve their own hegemony, the stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis [17]

 

Specific areas that need to be addressed include:

 

·       the international trade system

 

The international trade system today frequently discriminates against the products of the young industries of the developing countries and discourages the producers of raw materials. There exists, too, a kind of international division of labor, whereby the low-cost products of certain countries which lack effective labor laws or which are too weak to apply them are sold in other parts of the world at considerable profit for the companies engaged in this form of production, which knows no frontiers. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       the international monetary system

 

The world monetary and financial system is marked by an excessive fluctuation of exchange rates and interest rates, to the detriment of the balance of payments and the debt situation of the poorer countries. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       technological exchanges

 

Forms of technology and their transfer constitute today one of the major problems of international exchange and of the grave damage deriving therefrom. There are quite frequent cases of developing countries being denied needed forms of technology or sent useless ones. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

·       international debt

 

The principle that debts must be paid is certainly just. However, it is not right to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples. It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find--as in fact is partly happening--ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress. Centesimus Annus [18]

 

 

INDEX

 

Both faith and works are required of a true believer in Christ: 1

The world's resources were meant for all to share equitably, so that each individual and people have a sufficient share: 1

Christian duty must be similarly global in scope, our responsibility being to all of humanity: 1

The market alone can not address all human needs, and its shortcomings need to be addressed: 2

The existence of unjust political and economic structures must be recognized: 2

So harmful are these structures that they can even be called "structures of sin": 3

Working to remove these structural injustices, or "structures of sin," is critical, so much so that even the Vatican itself will become involved: 3

Individual acts of charity are not enough: 3

A government role can be appropriate in effectuating the social Gospel: 4

Extreme, life-threatening poverty is caused by injustice, not laziness: 4

Demonization of the poor is therefore wrong: 4

Christians must exercise a "preferential option for the poor": 5

A living wage is required by fundamental justice: 5

Help for immigrants, even for undocumented aliens, is required: 6

Fundamental changes in global economic structures and practices are necessary: 6

 



[1]  Papal documents that will be cited in this essay are:

 

Quadragesimo Anno (The Fortieth Year ), Encyclical On Reconstruction of the Social Order,
Pius XI, 1931

 

Populorum Progresio (On the Development of Peoples), Encyclical Letter, Pope Paul VI, 1967

 

Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), Encyclical on Human Work , Pope John Paul II, 1981

 

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II, 1987

 

Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year), Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II, 1991

 

Ecclesia in America (The Church in America), post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation,  Pope John Paul II, 1999

 

All footnotes in the cited passages have been omitted.

 

[2] Also:

 

[T]he goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all.  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he developing countries are much more numerous than the developed ones; the multitudes of human beings who lack the goods and services offered by development are much more numerous than those who possess them. We are therefore faced with a serious problem of unequal distribution of the means of subsistence originally meant for everybody...  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[A]nother name for peace is development... [T]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities....  This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources, thus enabling every individual and all the peoples of the earth to have a sufficient share of those resources. Centesimus Annus

 

The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples.  Ecclesia in America

 

[3]  Also:

 

[P]art of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation she herself, her ministers and each of her members to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her "abundance" but also out of her "necessities." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[I]t is already possible to point to the positive and moral value of the growing awareness of interdependence among individuals and nations. The fact that men and women in various parts of the world feel personally affected by the injustices and violations of human rights committed in distant countries, countries which perhaps they will never visit, is a further sign of a reality transformed into awareness, thus acquiring a moral connotation.

It is above all a question of interdependence, sensed as a system determining relationships in the contemporary world, in its economic, cultural, political and religious elements, and accepted as a moral category. When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue", is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations." Ecclesia in America

 

[4]  Also:

 

More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as "neoliberalism" prevails; based on a purely economic conception of man, this system considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples. At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level... [t]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies... This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles... Centesimus Annus

 

[5]  Also:

 

[T]he poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust. Ecclesia in America

 

It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal." Ecclesia in America

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

cf.:

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[6]  Also:

 

Obviously, not only individuals fall victim to this double attitude of sin; nations and blocs can do so too. And this favors even more the introduction of the "structures of sin" of which I have spoken... I have wished to introduce this type of analysis above all in order to point out the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to "structures of sin." Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[W]hat is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and "structures of sin" are only conquered--presupposing the help of divine grace--by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to "lose oneself" for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to "serve him" instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage… Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[8]  Also:

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility for the other nations, so that a real international system may be established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[9] Also:

 

[T]he option or love of preference for the poor…affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25 :40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... Justice...is not merely a matter of "giving from one's surplus," but of helping entire peoples which are presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development...[I]t requires... a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies… Centesimus Annus

 

The passage directly following is from a section entitled "The social dimension of conversion":

 

[C]onversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them… Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good"... Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. Ecclesia in America

 

In reference to the next two passages, note that the Pope uses the term "development of peoples" in connection with the necessity to help the poor on an international level:

 

The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty, and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual. It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately, after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

As noted in the text, even the Church must be directly involved in this greater-than-individual-charity effort:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

[10]  Also:

 

[T]he Church's social teaching has an... experiential dimension... which is to be found at the crossroads where Christian life and conscience come into contact with the real world. This teaching is seen in the efforts of individuals, families, people involved in cultural and social life, as well as politicians and statesmen to give it a concrete form and application in history. Centesimus Annus

 

[11]  Also:

 

The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty, and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual. It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. Ecclesia in America

 

In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations." Ecclesia in America

 

[T]he decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately, after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[12] Also:

 

We are... faced with a serious problem of unequal distribution of the means of subsistence originally meant for everybody, and thus also an unequal distribution of the benefits deriving from them. And this happens not through the fault of the needy people, and even less through a sort of inevitability dependent on natural conditions or circumstances as a whole. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[13]  Also:

 

The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good... The Church in America is called... to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization. Ecclesia in America

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. "Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all. It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need"....  [t]his is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them...  [a] culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast... Ecclesia in America

 

cf.:

The Gospel text concerning the final judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46), which states that we will be judged on our love towards the needy in whom the Lord Jesus is mysteriously present, indicates that we must not neglect a third place of encounter with Christ: "the persons, especially the poor, with whom Christ identifies himself"...   At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI recalled that "on the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and must see the face of Christ (cf. Mt 25:40), the Son of Man". Ecclesia in America

 

[14]  Also: in the following passage, Pope John Paul II quotes approvingly the then-100-year-old encyclical "Rerum Novarum" of Pope Leo XIII:


The Pope immediately adds another right which the worker has as a person. This is the right to a "just wage," which cannot be left to the "free consent of the parties, so that the employer, having paid what was agreed upon, has done his part and seemingly is not called upon to do anything beyond…" It was said at the time that the State does not have the power to intervene in the terms of these contracts, except to ensure the fulfillment of what had been explicitly agreed upon. This concept of relations between employers and employees, purely pragmatic and inspired by a thoroughgoing individualism, is severely censured in the encyclical as contrary to the twofold nature of work as a personal and necessary reality. For if work as something personal belongs to the sphere of the individual's free use of his own abilities and energy, as something necessary it is governed by the grave obligation of every individual to ensure "the preservation of life." "It necessarily follows," the Pope concludes, "that every individual has a natural right to procure what is required to live; and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work…"

A workman's wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. "If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice…"

Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called "unbridled capitalism" was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity. Unfortunately, even today one finds instances of contracts between employers and employees which lack reference to the most elementary justice regarding the employment of children or women, working hours, the hygienic condition of the workplace and fair pay; and this is the case despite the international declarations and conventions on the subject and the internal laws of states. The Pope attributed to the "public authority" the "strict duty" of providing properly for the welfare of the workers, because a failure to do so violates justice; indeed, he did not hesitate to speak of "distributive justice…" Centesimus Annus

 

[15]  Also:

 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. "Solidarity is thus the fruit of the communion which is grounded in the mystery of the triune God, and in the Son of God who took flesh and died for all. It is expressed in Christian love which seeks the good of others, especially of those most in need"....  [T]his is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them...  [A] culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast...  The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. Ecclesia in America

 

[16]  Also:

 

For this reason, another name for peace is development... Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level... [T]o accomplish this, the poor--be they individuals or nations--need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies... This may mean making important changes in established lifestyles… Centesimus Annus

 

Today we are facing the so-called "globalization" of the economy, a phenomenon which is not to be dismissed, since it can create unusual opportunities for greater prosperity. There is a growing feeling, however, that this increasing internationalization of the economy ought to be accompanied by effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good, something that an individual state, even if it were the most powerful on earth, would not be in a position to do. In order to achieve this result, it is necessary that there be increased coordination among the more powerful countries, and that in international agencies the interests of the whole human family be equally represented. It is also necessary that in evaluating the consequences of their decisions, these agencies always give sufficient consideration to peoples and countries which have little weight in the international market, but which are burdened by the most acute and desperate needs, and are thus more dependent on support for their development. Much remains to be done in this area. Centesimus Annus

 

Today more than in the past, the Church's social doctrine must be open to an international outlook, in line with the Second Vatican Council... the most recent Encyclicals... and particularly in line with the Encyclical which we are commemorating.... [G]iven the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed… love of the preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the "rich man" who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying it his gate (cf. Lk 16:19-31)... Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Likewise the leaders of nations and the heads of International Bodies, while they are obliged always to keep in mind the true human dimension as a priority in their development plans, should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[17]  Also:

 

In this way, the solidarity which we propose is the path to peace and at the same time to development. For world peace is inconceivable unless the world's leaders come to recognize that interdependence in itself demands the abandonment of the politics of blocs, the sacrifice of all forms of economic, military or political imperialism, and the transformation of mutual distrust into collaboration. This is precisely the act proper to solidarity among individuals and nations.

The motto of the pontificate of my esteemed predecessor Pius XII was Opus iustitiae pax, peace as the fruit of justice. Today one could say, with the same exactness and the same power of biblical inspiration (cf. Is 32:17; Jas 3:18): Opus solidaritatis pax, peace as the fruit of solidarity. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

[18]  Also:

 

The existence of a foreign debt which is suffocating quite a few countries of the American continent represents a complex problem... I... have frequently expressed my concern about this situation, which in some cases has become unbearable. In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations. Ecclesia in America

 

Circumstances having changed, both within the debtor nations and in the international financial market, the instrument chosen to make a contribution to development has turned into a counter-productive mechanism. This is because the debtor nations, in order to service their debt, find themselves obliged to export the capital needed for improving or at least maintaining their standard of living. It is also because, for the same reason, they are unable to obtain new and equally essential financing.

Through this mechanism, the means intended for the development of peoples has turned into a brake upon development instead, and indeed in some cases has even aggravated underdevelopment. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

 

As noted earlier, even the Vatican itself will join in the effort to solve the Third World debt problem:

 

Once more I express the hope, which the Synod Fathers made their own, that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace together with other competent agencies, such as the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, "through study and dialogue with representatives of the First World and with the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will seek ways of resolving the problem of the foreign debt and produce guidelines that would prevent similar situations from recurring on the occasion of future loans." Ecclesia in America

 

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