10 Jul Symbolon Sundays: Catholic Social Teaching (Part 1)
Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God’s special love for the poor and called God’s people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came “to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . liberty to captives . . . recovery of sight to the blind”(Lk 4:18-19), and who identified himself with “the least of these,” the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the Eucharist.
Catholic social teaching emerges from the truth of what God has revealed to us about himself. We believe in the triune God whose very nature is communal and social. God the Father sends his only Son Jesus Christ and shares the Holy Spirit as his gift of love. God reveals himself to us as one who is not alone, but rather as one who is relational, one who is Trinity. Therefore, we who are made in God’s image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love and justice.
Catholic social teaching is lived out in our daily lives, in our families, and in the way we treat every person with whom we come in contact.
From the video we learned about these main points:
- Catholic Social Doctrine: It begins with living and loving as Jesus did and promotes a deeper understanding of how to live together in society. From this revelation of Christ, the Church offers principles, criteria, and guidelines for ordering a just society that fosters the flourishing of all human persons. This teaching is known as the social doctrine of the Church (CCC 2419 – 2422).
- The Vocation of Humility: Human persons are made to show forth the image of God and to live in unity together, reflecting the unity of the Trinity (1877 – 1889).
- Love of neighbour cannot be separated from love of God (CCC 1878). Catholic social teaching sheds light on our entire lives to teach us to live in accord with the dignity of each person. It provides a foundation for the greater flourishing of human person.
- Individuals participate in the common good of society first by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility (one’s family, works etc) and secondly by actively taking part in public life to ensure institutions promote the common good and dignity of the human person (CCC 1913 – 1915).
- “The human person…is and ought to be the principle, the subject, and the object of every social organisation” (CCC 1892). We are called to treat each person as our “neighbour” (CCC 1931).
- Society through its social, economic and political practices and institutions, should promote the exercise of virtue and the priority of spiritual values, which point to what is truly most important in life (CCC 1886 – 1888, 1895).
- Social Justice: A just society respects the dignity of every human person, considering the other person as “another self” (CCC 1941).
- Social justice allows each person to obtain what is rightfully theirs according to their nature and vocation (CCC 1928).
In the video the presenter said that the teachings of Christ help build a society of love in which all people can flourish. What does such a society look like?
- Our answer:
- Heaven – a place of peace, love, happiness and joy, where everyone would be in communion as they look out for one another.
- A perfect world
- Priest/Guide answers:
- All would be concerned for the poor and the most vulnerable. Society would ensure that the dignity of human life is protected (so no abortion or euthanasia etc).
- Authority in the society would be concerned for and committed to the good of all people and not just a selected few.
- All would take seriously their duty to have responsibility for the poor and most vulnerable, and actively participate in public life to ensure institutions promote the common good and dignity of the human person.
- Families would be the first and primary place where virtuous living is fostered.
- Both those in authority and individuals would work in solidarity to ensure that economic systems are just, that workers receive just wages, and that all have just living conditions.
Does the catholic social teaching support utopia?
- Priest Answer: Be careful not to confuse heaven with utopia. The church doesn’t support the notion of utopia i.e. an ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects. Where citizens are all equal and live in the same simple existence. Communist societies were created due to the vision of utopia. This can lead to anarchy and protests as human nature is flawed so the notion of a perfect world (one defined without God) is flawed. So going back to Christ’s teachings we should focus on having a personal individual responsibility towards society. This is acting out on Christ’s’ definition of love.
How would you treat people if you saw each person as created in the image of God and possessing an immortal soul? What would change in your everyday life if you had that attitude?
- Seeing others as an image of Christ would increase our love and concern for them as brothers and sisters of Christ. It would also reduce our fear of others being ‘out to get us’ in the Nigerian context.
- The poor and most vulnerable would not just be seen as another “Social ill” but real people whom God loves and whose dignity deserves out love, care and personal concern. This means we would be less inclined to run away from beggars or those in need eg. Mentally challenged or the incarcerated.
- Our awareness of the needs of others around us would increase, therefore reducing our selfish nature and developing a greater capacity to love. We would be more willing to help the poor and the most vulnerable around us through acts of charity.
- We would be called to a deeper sense of responsibility for the needs of those around us and actively participate in public programs and civil action to ensure their needs are being met and their dignity is protected.
How are we to give and who are we to give it to? Seeing beggars on the street and not giving them, is that bad? Then what is the amount of tithe to give to church?
- In terms of giving, one can never give too much. i.e You can never do wrong by being charitable. So methods of charity are not cast in stone. You can work out what works for you and do that whether that is tithe giving, feeding the poor, beggars etc. What is important is one’s disposition, as long as it is all dedicated to God. Be humble enough to accept that God has heard your petition/prayer and don’t worry about whether your efforts are in vain or whether the money you give isn’t going to the right place, because God sees your heart and will bless you for it according to the intentions of your giving. Also, it is important to note that acts of charity cancels out a multitude of sins.
- Tithe giving to the Catholic Church is not compulsory as Father Anthony explained:
- Although the Church teaches that offering some form of material support to the Church is obligatory for all Catholic adults who are able to do so, it doesn’t specify what percent of one’s income should be given. Remember, tithing was an Old Testament obligation that was incumbent on the Jews under the Law of Moses. Christians are dispensed from the obligation of tithing ten percent of their incomes, but not from the obligation to help the Church. To paraphrase: God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money from us; he wants us to give from the heart. If people are forced by their church to give a certain percent of their income, that’s extortion. If they give freely and cheerfully the amount they are able, that’s a gift.
- He also pointed out that if you do decide to pay tithe, accept that you are not in control of what the tithe is used for. As you give, you are putting your trust in God that he knows what’s best for it and trust in that. In other words, “You don’t determine what you want God to do with your tithe.“ Pay your tithe to where you receive spiritual nourishment i.e. if you receive spiritual nourishment at Church of the Assumption in Falomo, you shouldn’t be paying tithe at Divine mercy.
We concluded that the definition of “giving” is not just limited to finances. One can give their time, love, efforts, talents, prayers etc. To expand on our definition we must:
- Look deeply at the theological virtue of Charity and readings in the bible that help us to understand what Charity is.
- Put into prayer for God to grant the graces for us to be Charitable in our daily lives.
- Practice regularly being charitable i.e. loving our neighbours
- Meditate/study particularly charitable saints such as Mother Theresa and St. Vincent de Paul.
- Also spend time reflecting on the points in the photo below: