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Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

ISBN13: 9781853908392

ISBN10: 1853908398

Publisher: Veritas (Jan 2005)

Extent: 494 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 23 x 15.5 x 4 cm

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  • The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace presents a concise and complete overview of Catholic social teaching drawing mainly on papal documents from Leo XIII to John Paul II, decrees of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  • The Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference

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    In this Compendium you will find principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and directives for action which are the starting point for the promotion of a solid and integral humanism. Making the Churchs social doctrine known is part of the Churchs evangelising mission. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace arranged, prepared and edited the content of this book in consultation with the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia and its members and consulters worldwide.

    It is not an easy read, but it is a book that will reward careful scrutiny. Part One looks at the human person and society in the light of the Gospel and moves on to identify the basis of human rights as well as the reasons why they should be promoted. It goes on to treat well-documented Catholic principles of social justice - the common good, the universal destination of goods, subsidiarity, participation, solidarity and important values like truth, freedom, justice and love.

    Part Two asks how these principles find their application in important areas of human life - the family, human work, economic life, the political and international community, safeguarding the environment, and promoting peace. Part Three stresses that promoting the Churchs social teaching is an integral part of evangelisation and that it is the lay faithful who have the pre-eminent role. It concludes by promoting "a civilisation of love" that must embrace the entire human race.


  • Chapter One: Gods Plan of Love and Humanity

    I. Gods Liberating Action in the History of Israel

    a. Gods gratuitous presence
    20. Every authentic religious experience, in all cultural traditions, leads to an intuition of the Mystery that, not infrequently, is able to recognise some aspect of Gods face. On the one hand, God is seen as the origin of what exists, as the presence that guarantees to men and women organised in a society the basic conditions of life, placing at their disposal the goods that are necessary. On the other hand, he appears as the measure of what should be, as the presence that challenges human action - both at the personal and at the social levels - regarding the use of those very goods in relation to other people. In every religious experience, therefore, importance attaches to the dimension of gift and gratuitousness, which is seen as an underlying element of the experience that the human beings have of their existence together with others in the world, as well as to the repercussions of this dimension on the human conscience, which senses that it is called to manage responsibly and together with others the gift received. Proof of this is found in the universal recognition of the golden rule, which expresses on the level of human relations the injunction addressed by the Mystery to men and women: Whatever you wish that men should do to you, do so to them (Mt 7:12). (23)

    21. Against the background of universal religious experience, in which humanity shares in different ways, Gods progressive revelation of himself to the people of Israel stands out. This revelation responds to the human quest for the divine in an unexpected and surprising way, thanks to the historical manner - striking and penetrating , in which Gods love for man is made concrete. According to the Book of Exodus, the Lord speaks these words to Moses: I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:7-8). The gratuitous presence of God - to which his very name alludes, the name he reveals to Moses, I am who I am (Ex 3: 14) , is manifested in the freeing from slavery and in the promise. These become historical action, which is the origin of the manner in which the Lords people collectively identify themselves, through the acquisition of freedom and the land that the Lord gives them.

    22. The gratuitousness of this historically efficacious divine action is constantly accompanied by the commitment to the covenant, proposed by God and accepted by Israel. On Mount Sinai, Gods initiative becomes concrete in the covenant with his people, to whom is given the Decalogue of the commandments revealed by the Lord (cf. Ex 19-24). The ten commandments (Ex 34:28; d. Deut 4: 13; 10:4) express the implications of belonging to God through the establishment of the covenant. Moral existence is a response to the Lords loving initiative. It is the acknowledgment and homage given to God and a worship of thanksgiving. It is cooperation with the plan God pursues in history. (24)

    The Ten Commandments, which constitute an extraordinary path of life and indicate the surest way for living in freedom from slavery to sin, contain a privileged expression of the natural law. They teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person. (25) They describe universal human morality. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds the rich young man that the Ten Commandments (d. Mt 19:18) constitute the indispensable rules of all social life. (26)

    23. There comes from the Decalogue a commitment that concerns not only fidelity to the one true God, but also the social relations among the people of the Covenant. These relations are regulated, in particular, by what has been called the right of the poor: If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, ... you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need (Deut 15:7-8). All of this applies also to strangers: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34). The gift of freedom and the Promised Land, and the gift of the Covenant on Sinai and the Ten Commandments are therefore intimately linked to the practices which must regulate, in justice and solidarity, the development of Israelite society.

    24. Among the many norms which tend to give concrete expression to the style of gratuitousness and sharing in justice which God inspires, the law of the sabbatical year (celebrated every seven years) and that (27) (celebrated every fifty years) stand out as important guidelines - unfortunately never fully put into effect historically - For the social and economic life of the people of Israel. Besides requiring fields to lie fallow, these laws call for the cancellation of debts and a general release of persons and goods: everyone is free to return to his family of origin and to regain possession of his birthright.

    This legislation is designed to ensure that the salvific event of the Exodus and Jidelity to the Covenant represents not only the Jounding principle of Israels social, political and economic life, but also the principle of dealing with questions concerning economic poverty and social injustices. This principle is invoked in order to transform, continuously and from within, the life of the people of the Covenant, so that this life will correspond to Gods plan. To eliminate the discrimination and economic inequalities caused by socio-economic changes, every seven years the memory of the Exodus and the Covenant are translated into social and juridical terms, in order to bring the concepts of property, debts, loans and goods back to their deepest meaning.

    25. The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature. (28)They show how the principles of justice and social solidarity are inspired by the gratuitousness of the salvific event wrought by God, and that they do not have a merely corrective value for practices dominated by selfish interests and objectives, but must rather become, as a prophecy of the future, the normative points of reference to which every generation in Israel must conform if it wishes to be faithful to its God.

    These principles become the focus of the Prophets preaching, which seeks to internalise them. Gods Spirit, poured into the human heart - the Prophets proclaim - will make these same sentiments of justice and solidarity, which reside in the Lords heart, take root in you (cf. Jer 31 :33 and Ezek 36:26-27). Then Gods will, articulated in the Decalogue given on Sinai, will be able to take root creatively in mans innermost being. This process of internalisation gives rise to greater depth and realism in social action, making possible the progressive universalisation of attitudes of justice and solidarity, which the people of the Covenant are called to have towards all men and women of every people and nation.

    b. The principle of creation and Gods gratuitous action
    26. The reflection of the Prophets and that found in the Wisdom Literature, in coming to the formulation of the principle that all things were created by God, touch on the first manifestation and the source itself of Gods plan for the whole of humanity. In Israels profession of faith, to affirm that God is Creator does not mean merely expressing a theoretical conviction, but also grasping the original extent of the Lords gratuitous and merciful action on behalf of man. In fact, God freely confers being and life on everything that exists. Man and woman, created in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1 :26-27), are for that, very reason called to be the visible sign and the effective instrument of divine gratuitousness in the garden where God has placed them as cultivators and custodians of the goods of creation.

    27. It is in the free action of God the Creator that we find the very meaning of creation, even if it has been distorted by the experience of sin. In fact, the narrative of the first sin (cf. Gen 3: 1-24) describes the permanent temptation and the disordered situation in which humanity comes to find itself after the fall of its progenitors. Disobedience to God means hiding from his loving countenance and seeking to control ones life and action in the world. Breaking the relation of communion with God causes a rupture in the internal unity of the human person, in the relations of communion between man and woman and of the harmonious relations between mankind and other creatures. (29) It is in this original estrangement that are to be sought the deepest roots of all the evils that afflict social relations between people, of all the situations in economic and political life that attack the dignity of the person, that assail justice and solidarity.

    II. Jesus Christ :the Fulfilment of the Fathers Plan of Love

    a. In Jesus Christ the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled
    28. The benevolence and mercy that inspire Gods actions and provide the key for understanding them become so very much closer to man that they take on the traits of the man Jesus, the Word made flesh. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus describes his messianic ministry with the words of Isaiah which recall the prophetic significance of the jubilee: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk 4:18-19; d. Is 61: 1-2). Jesus therefore places himself on the frontline of fulfilment, not only because he fulfils what was promised and what was awaited by Israel, but also in the deeper sense that in him the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. He proclaims: He who has seen me has seen the Father (In 14:9). Jesus, in other words, is the tangible and definitive manifestation of how God acts towards men and women.

    29. The love that inspires Jesus ministry among men is the love that he has experienced in his intimate union with the Father. The New Testament allows us to enter deeply into the experience; that Jesus himself lives and communicates, the love of God his Father - Abba - and, therefore, it permits us to enter into the very heart of divine life. Jesus announces the liberating mercy of God to those whom he meets on his way, beginning with the poor, the marginalised, the sinners. He invites all to follow him because he is the first to obey Gods plan of love, and he does so in a most singular way, as Gods envoy in the world.

    Jesus self-awareness of being the Son is an expression of this primordial experience. The Son has been given everything, and freely so, by the Father: All that the Father has is mine (Jn 16: 15). His in turn is the mission of making all men sharers in this gift and in this filial relationship: No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (Jn 15: 15).

    For Jesus, recognising the Fathers love means modelling his actions on Gods gratuitousness and mercy; it is these that generate new life. It means becoming - by his very existence - the example and pattern of this for his disciples. Jesus followers are called to live like him and, after his Passover of death and resurrection, to live also in him and by him, thanks to the superabundant gift of the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, who internalises Christs own style of life in human hearts.

    b. The revelation of Trinitarian love
    30. With the unceasing amazement of those who have experienced the inexpressible love of God (cf. Rom 8: 26), the New Testament grasps, in the light of the full revelation of Trinitarian love offered by the Passover of Jesus Christ, the ultimate meaning of the Incarnation of the Son and his mission among men and women. Saint Paul writes: If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Rom 8:31-32). Similar language is used also by Saint John: In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).

    3I. The Face of God, progressively revealed in the history of salvation, shines in its fullness in the Face of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; truly distinct and truly one, because God is an infinite communion of love. Gods gratuitous love for humanity is revealed, before anything else, as love springing from the Father, from whom everything draws its source; as the free communication that the Son makes of this love, giving himself anew to the Father and giving himself to mankind; as the ever new fruitfulness of divine love that the Holy Spirit pours forth into the hearts of men (cf. Rom 5:5).

    By his words and deeds, and fully and definitively by his death and resurrection, (30) Jesus reveals to humanity that God is Father and that we are all called by grace to become his children in the Spirit (cf. Rom 8: 15; Gal 4:6), and therefore brothers and sisters among ourselves. It is for this reason that the Church firmly believes that the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of mans history is to be found in her Lord and Master. (31)

    32. Meditating on the gratuitousness and superabundance of the Fathers divine gift of the Son, which Jesus taught and bore witness to by giving his life for us, the Apostle John grasps its profound meaning and its most logical consequence. Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1Jn 4: 11-12). The reciprocity of love is required by the commandment that Jesus describes as new and as his: that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn 13:34). The commandment of mutual love shows how to live in Christ the Trinitarian life within the Church, the Body of Christ, and how to transform history until it reaches its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem.

    33. The commandment of mutual love, which represents the law of life for Gods people, (32) must inspire, purify and elevate all human relationships in society and in politics. To be human means to be called to interpersonal communion, (33) because the image and the likeness of the Trinitarian God are the basis of the whole of human ethos, which reaches its apex in the commandment of love. (34) The modern cultural, social, economic and political phenomenon of interdependence, which intensifies and makes particularly evident the bonds that unite the human family, accentuates once more, in the light of Revelation, a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons, is what we Christians mean by the word communion. (35)

    1.. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 1: AAS 93 (2001) 266.
    2. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 11: AAS 83 (1991) 260.
    3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2419.
    4. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50-51: AAS 93 (2001) 303-304.
    5. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socia/is, 41: AAS 80 (1988) 571-572.
    6. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, 54: AAS 91 (1999) 790.
    7. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, 54: AAS 91 (1999) 790; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 24.
    8. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 55: AAS 83 (1991) 860.
    9. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 15: AAS 81 (1989) 414.
    10. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree Christus Dominus, 12: AAS 58 (1966) 678.11. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 31: AAS 57 (1965) 37.
    12. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 4: AAS 63 (1971) 403.
    13. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 92: AAS 58 (1966) 1113-1114.
    14. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 2: AAS 58 (1966) 818.
    15. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 3: AAS 58 (1966) 1026.
    16. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 3: AAS 58 (1966) 1027.
    17. cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes 10: AAS 58 (1966) 1032.
    18. John Paul II, Address at General Audience (19 October 1983) LOsservatore Romano, English edition, 24 October 1983, p.9.
    19. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. 44: AAS 58 (1966) 1064.
    20. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudiurn et Spes 20. AAS 58 (1966) 1026.
    21. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium 1: AAS 57 (1965) 5.
    22. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes 3. AAS 58 (1966) 1050.
    23. cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789, 1970, 2510.
    24. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2062.
    25. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2070.
    26. John Paul II, Enyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 97: AAS 85 (1993) 1209.
    27. These laws are found in Ex 23, Deut 15, Lev 25.
    28. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 13: AAS 87 (1995) 14.
    29. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 13: AAS 58 (1966) 1035.
    30. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 4: AAS 58 (1966) 819.
    31. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 10: AAS 58 (1966) 1033.
    32. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 9: AAS 57 (1965) 12-14.
    33. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 7: AAS 80 (1988) 1666.
    34. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 7: AAS 80 (1988) 1665-1666.
    35. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 40: AAS 80 (1988) 569.

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Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

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