10/25/2004, 00.00
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Social Doctrine: a guide for Catholics in today's globalized world

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church shows that faith is a social reality, not only an inward one. It calls for efforts by Christians on life, family, economy, ecumenism. Clarifications on preventive wars and the death penalty.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) -- An instrument "for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time; a guide to inspire, at the individual and community levels, attitudes and choices that will permit all people to look to the future with greater trust and hope; an aid for the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality". Such is the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church in the words of Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who presented the publication this morning.

The volume consists in an introduction and three parts: the first, made up of 4 chapters, deals with the fundamental presuppositions of social doctrine -- God's plan of love for humanity and society, the Church's mission and the nature of social doctrine, the human person and human rights, and the principles and values of social doctrine; The second part, made up of seven chapters, deals with the contents and classical themes of social doctrine -- the family, human work, economic life, the political community, the international community, the environment and peace. The third part contains a series of recommendations for the use of social doctrine in the pastoral activity of the Church and in the life of Christians, above all the lay faithful. The Conclusion, entitled "For a Civilization of Love", is an expression of the underlying purpose of the entire document, which is made up of 320 pages of content, 25 pages of endnotes, a 156-page index and a 13-page table of contents.

As indicated by the Cardinal, the purpose of the Compendium is to promote "new strategies suited to the demands of our time and in keeping with human needs and resources. But above all there can arise the motivation to rediscover the vocation proper to the different charisms within the Church that are destined to the evangelization of the social order". This purpose highlights a view that rejects the idea of religion as a private and inward reality, devoid of any social relevance. From this stems the reaction against the attempt of "intolerant laicism" to "confine the Church within its walls". "The ever present accusations of political interference every time the Church raises her voice to ensure the rights of the weakest and most defenceless are guaranteed also by the laws of the state; outcasting in other cases of those who openly profess, without being fundamentalist or extremist, Christian principles: such occurrences are in plain sight every day".

If the Compendium, by its very nature, examines the full range of human activity that falls under the possible provisions of social doctrine, the attention afforded to questions regarding the family seems to be a sign of the times, a "social question" typical of our day and age. Thus, it starts from the defence of marriage, distinctly rejects the juridical recognition of homosexual unions. "If, from the legal point of view, marriage between two people of different sex were to be considered just one of the possible forms of marriage, the concept of marriage itself would undergo a radical change, to the serious detriment of the common good. By placing homosexual unions on the same juridical level as that of marriage or the family, the state acts arbitrarily and contradicts its own duties". Therefore, it is expected not only that the state duly defends the family,  but there is also the principle that the family is to be promoted, recognizing its right to be established, lived and recognized for its role as an  educational community.  It must also be guaranteed decent livelihood, recognizing and thus defending, its economic role also.

The Compendium also has a large part dedicated to the economy, which begins however with the statement that "wealth exists to be shared" and that "even if the proper function of profit must be recognized", "any form of undue accumulation is immoral, as this is in open contrast with the universal destination assigned by God the Creator to all creation". Enterprises must therefore "be characterized by the ability to serve the common good of society", without forgetting "authentic values that allow for the real development of the person and of society". The Compendium then recognizes the "fundamental role played by labour unions" (but class struggle is "unacceptable") and underscores solidarity between workers in the global era, in which "the historical forms in which human work is expressed are changing, but its permanent needs must not change: these can be summarized in the respect for the inalienable rights of the worker"' both in developed countries, and in those of the Third World.

The Compendium then gives no quarter to terrorism which "is to be absolutely condemned. It shows a total contempt for human life and no purpose can justify it, in that man is always an end, never a means". This is especially true of the kind of terrorism that invokes divine justification: "It is a profanation and a blasphemy to proclaim oneself a terrorist in the name of God". For this reason, according to Christian doctrine, "to define as martyr those who die committing terrorist acts is to completely distort the concept of martyrdom, which is the witness of those who let themselves be killed rather than renounce their faith in God and in His love and not those who kill in the name of God".

Finally, the Compendium backs those who take action against the death penalty. Though not explicitly rejecting it, in line with the Catechism, the Compendium confirms its uselessness. The text also confirms the censure against "preventive war", which can be envisaged only in the case of the evident risk of being attacked and, in any case, only with "international legitimization".

Cardinal Martino also stressed that the Church proposes the volume as an instrument to nourish  ecumenical and interreligious dialogue of Catholics with all those who sincerely want the good of mankind. It is stated, in fact, in point no. 12, that this document "is proposed also to the brethren of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to the followers of other religions, as well as to all people of good will who are committed to serving the common good". "Social doctrine, indeed, is intended for a universal audience, in addition to those to whom it is primarily and specifically addressed, the sons and daughters of the Church. The light of the Gospel, which social doctrine brings to shine on society, illuminates every person; every conscience and every intellect is able to grasp the human depths of meaning and values expressed in this doctrine, as well as the outpouring of humanity and humanization contained in its norms for action." (FP)


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