Social Action in Church and Parish
This is sometimes called the church’s best kept secret! For over 100 years Popes have issued encyclicals and other documents on the social problems of our times.
Here is a taste of church teaching....
The Second Vatican Council said this
Gaudium et Spes: The Church in the Modern World
Main points: Up to all Catholics, as the "People of God," to scrutinize the great technological and social changes—good and bad—that have transformed the world. (Names some of these changes—industrialization and mass communication, e.g.—and lists many changes they've effected in turn: greater gaps between rich and poor, overpopulation, rapid growth of city life, questioning of traditional values by the younger generation, etc.)
Explores relationship between Catholic Church and humanity. (While the church isn't bound to any party or social system, its mission "begins in this world"; all people called to improve the world; Jesus is the lord of history; etc.)
Families, the foundation of society, are especially vulnerable to today's new trends; the Catholic Church should use culture more to spread the gospel; with new developments in weaponry, a new evaluation of war is needed.
Before this Pope John XXIII wrote...
Mater et Magistra 1961- Christianity and Social Progress
Main points: Enumerates the economic, scientific, social, and political developments that have taken place since Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno. Says there's not just a disparity between rich and poor classes anymore—there's a disparity between rich and poor nations. Decries arms race and the plight of the world's farmers. Arms spending contributes to poverty; peace would be possible if economic imbalances among nations were righted.
It's the duty of wealthy, industrialized nations to help poor, nonindustrialized nations; but in giving aid, it is every country's duty to respect the latter's culture and to refrain from domination. Since technological advances have made nations interdependent as never before, cooperation and mutual assistance are necessary. Says all Catholics should be reared on Catholic social teaching.
Pacem in Terris (1963) Peace on Earth
The only way to ensure peace is to ensure a foundation that consists of specific social rights and responsibilities. The bulk of the encyclical goes on to list these, detailing rights and responsibilities that ought to exist (1) between people, (2) between people and their public authorities, (3) between states, and (4) among people and nations at the level of the world community. Some specifics: cultural changes demand that women have more rights; justice, right reason, and human dignity demand that the arms race must cease; the United Nations needs to be strengthened.
The Bishops of the Church wrote (1971)
"Justice In The World"
Main points: Dynamics of "oppression" and "liberation" discussed, as the synod remembers that God is a "liberator of the oppressed" and recognizes that structural injustices oppress humanity. Justice is an essential ingredient to the liberation of human beings—not to mention a key expression of Christian love. Injustices catalogued: those against migrants and refugees, also human-rights violations, torture, political prisoners, etc. Since many who suffer injustice are voiceless, the church should speak on their behalf. Church must be a witness for justice—via education, international relations, and especially the way it treats its own members (particularly women and laypeople).
Pope Benedict XVI wrote
Caritas in Veritate -In Charity and Truth : 2009
Main Points: Support for major structural reform of the global economy is stated throughout—the economic sphere "must be structured and governed in ethical manners." As in his first encyclical (Deus Caritas Est), Pope Benedict XVI is our teacher again; there is substantial misinterpretation of the word charity among the faithful and his aim is to teach the correct meaning of the word – hence, the title. True charity is more than giving away from one’s excess. It is living in relationship and solidarity with the marginalized. He quotes from Populorum Progressio often as he challenges "social action [that] ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation." He suggests market structures that would put integral human development as a central objective of economic activity and calls for building relationships of "gratuitousness, mercy, and communion," not just rights and duties. Care for the earth is included in the call to live in relationship.
and Life Issues....
Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago described these issues as a "seamless garment" to be looked at together....he called for a consistent ethic of life (1984)
Abortion: can it ever be justified?
Embryo Research: does it respect human life?
Capital Punishment: can we ever justify taking life?
War: what is a "just war"?
Euthanasia: does it respect life from conception to natural death?
Hunger and Economic Oppression : do these offend against the dignity of life?
These are of great concern to the church today: we pray that the sanctity of life be always respected.