Catholic Social Teaching Section 2: Creating a Just Society
Part 1: Social Sin • Hunger, poverty, and homelessness are realities that God never intended to exist in our world since, for the most part, they are a result of human sin. • Human sins, over time, such as unjust distribution of goods, become societal structures without people even knowing it. • Christ calls us to alleviate the immediate needs of people, as well as to correct the sinful social structures that cause people suffering and injustice.
Part 1: Social Sin • Sin is any deliberate offense in word, deed, or desire, against the will of God. • Sin injures human nature and human solidarity. • Sin is also an offense against the natural law, or the law that expresses the original moral sense that God gave us which enables us to discern by our intellect and reason what is good and evil.
Part 1: Social Sin • The natural law is rooted in a desire to know God, becoming our participation in His wisdom and goodness because we are made in His image. • When we deliberately choose to act against God’s will, we commit a mortal sin. • A mortal sin is an action contrary to the will of God that results in total separation from God and His grace.
Part 1: Social Sin • When judging an action as sinful or not, three things must be evaluated: • Object, or the action being chosen • Intention, or purpose of the action • Circumstances, or issues surrounding the action • For an act to be morally good, the object and intent must be good; if either the object or intention are bad, the action is morally wrong.
Part 1: Social Sin • The circumstances usually play a secondary role in deciding if an action is right or wrong. • When society begins to perform a morally wrong action together, it becomes a social sin. • Price fixing, for example, is a social sin since it eliminates competition for better prices in a free market economy.
Part 1: Social Sin • If all the movie theaters in an area decide to get together and charged $15.00 a ticket, which allows for high profit margins for the theaters, it hurts consumers since they are paying more and it does not allow for competitive pricing. • Even if the reason is to support one’s family, one cannot steal (object) to support one’s family (intent).
Part 1: Social Sin • Every sin has a personal and social dimension to it. • Sins have personal dimensions since the person exercises free will to deliberate act against God. • Businesses and governments do not commit sins; it is the people who work in such institutions who work together in sinful ways.
Part 1: Social Sin • Every sin, big or small, has some sort of spiritual wound to the person who commits the sin, weakening our relationship with God until the sin is confessed in Penance. • Sin also has the social dimension, i.e. sin affects our relationships with others. • If a person commits adultery in a relationship, they not only hurt themselves, but the person they are in a relationship with, their family, and the person they are committing adultery with as well.
Part 1: Social Sin • Price fixing is a social sin since it affects a wide community of people who buy goods at higher prices than normal if competition between companies was occurring. • Other social sins that we may not recognize as sins are companies paying workers below minimum wage to maximize profits, as well as enacting laws that allow abortion and euthanasia.
Part 1: Social Sin • We cooperate with other people’s sins by doing the following: • Directly or voluntarily participating in them • Ordering, advising, praising, or approving them • Not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so • Protecting evil doers
Part 1: Social Sin • Work for social justice means combatting the social sins of society, assuring the victims that they will receive justice, whoever they may be, and bring change to unjust practices.
Part 1: Social Sin • Structures of Sin are social structures that block justice and fail to protect human life and human rights, resulting from the personal sin of individuals, leading to even more personal sin. • Social Sin is the impact that every personal sin has on others, attacking their freedom, dignity, and rights; it is also the collective effect of many people’s sin over time, which corrupts society by creating structures of sin.
Part 1: Social Sin • There are hundreds of relationships between different people and groups involved in providing everyday items, such as sneakers. • The farmers who grow the cotton and rubber tree, the factories that turn the cotton into fabric, the company that makes the sneakers and its employees, etc., are all examples of relationships involves in creating simple sneakers.
Part 1: Social Sin • These different relationships are called Social Structures, or the complex pattern of relationships that shape any society, which determine how justice is lived out in a society. • Social structures shape a great deal of our world, from who is rich and who is poor, to who goes hungry at night and who has more than enough. • Social structures should promote just, life giving relationships.
Part 1: Social Sin • Social structures promote just, life giving relationships by make sure workers get paid properly for their work, governments regulate safety in the workplace, and consumers are getting safe, well made, decently priced items, just to name a few. • However, social structures can become barriers to the common good and not always promote life giving relationships.
Part 1: Social Sin • When social structures fail to protect human rights and justice, they are called “structures of sin.” • Some identifiers of structures of sin are: • Deep rooted personal sins that evolve and grow over time • The effect of interconnected sinful choices of multiple people • Modern society avoids calling out the sinful actions of such structures • Selfishness is the basis for structures of sin, a selfishness for power and profit
Part 1: Social Sin • Structures of sin can be eliminated by people and change can come about if people who make sinful actions change their ways from selfishness to caring for the life of all people in society.
Part 1: Social Sin • Christ calls us, as disciples, to be aware of people’s sufferings and to respond to them, which means taking action intentionally to alleviate their suffering. • People usually do not interact with the poor in their communities, and if they do, they usually do not know how to properly act in addressing their needs. • In 1971, Pope Paul VI taught how to respond to the poor in his encyclical, A Call to Action.
Part 1: Social Sin • A Call to Action developed the concept called the “circle of social action.” • The Circle of Social Action is summed up by saying: our faith calls us to be aware of social needs and injustices, awareness requires analysis, analysis results in action, and action leads to deeper awareness, restarting the cycle again. • Simply put, the three stages of the Circle of Social Action are awareness, analysis, and action.
Part 1: Social Sin • It is sometimes difficult to be aware of social injustices around us since we do not always see the poor people where we live, go to school, and work. • To truly understand the needs of the poor and what changes need to be made in society, we must volunteer our time to programs that serve people in need to get a first hand account of the true nature of people’s problems.
Part 1: Social Sin • If we do not personally become aware of the injustice to the poor and needy, then we ourselves participate in putting them in that position since we are called to action, yet do nothing to help. • After become aware of social injustice, we must avoid: • Becoming paralyzed into inaction because we are overwhelmed by the problem • Rushing into action without considering the best course of action
Part 1: Social Sin • The way to avoid both those traps is to take time and analyze the situation. • We can ask questions about what cause and support the social injustice we are analyzing, as well as what actions can we take, short and long term, to alleviate the situation. • Analysis allows for personal discernment, or the practice of listening to God’s voice in our lives to figure out good and bad actions.
Part 1: Social Sin • In problems of poverty and homelessness, analysis of the problem can lead to many responsive actions for a person to take, more responses usually than one person can make on their own. • We must decide what course of action is both helpful to the poor and vulnerable we are trying to help, as well as what fits within our own means to act upon, i.e. if we want to give money to help the poor, yet do not have a lot of money ourselves, there may be other options of action to take instead.
Part 1: Social Sin • Action completes the circle of social action after we analyze the situation. • It is not enough to just realize the source of the problem; we must take action to alleviate the problem and bring about change. • Actions speak louder than words; if we do not follow our words with actions, than our words are worth nothing.
Part 1: Social Sin • Action can take on two different forms: • Take direct action to alleviate a person’s needs • Building homes, volunteering at homeless shelters, etc. • Work to change structures of sin that perpetuate social injustice and the suffering they cause • Lobbying for more affordable housing in your community, boycotting companies that exploit workers, etc. • Both forms of responsive action are needed.
Part 1: Social Sin http://news.yahoo.com/atlantic-city-redevelopment-keeps-poor-144244122.html
Part 1: Social Sin • Any actions we decide to take when trying to help others should be morally good choices and beneficial to the person we are trying to help. • Some actions we may come up with might be short term, helping the person directly then and there, and others might be long term, helping that person and others like him or her by eliminating the root cause of the injustice to the person.
Part 1: Social Sin • God created human beings to live in solidarity, helping one another when in need and suffering. • Works of Charity are social actions that bring immediate response to a person or group who is suffering or lacking the necessities of a dignified life. • The primary purpose of works of charity is not to change social structures, but to bring immediate assistance to those suffering.
Part 1: Social Sin • Traditionally, the Church called the direct response form of social action that Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. • Corporal Works of Mercy are charitable actions that respond to people’s physical needs and show respect for human dignity. • Six of the seven corporal works of mercy come from Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgment.
Part 1: Social Sin • The Corporal Works of Mercy are: • Feed the hungry • Give drink to the thirsty • Shelter the homeless • Clothe the naked • Care for the sick • Visit the imprisoned • Bury the dead
Part 1: Social Sin • Spiritual Works of Mercy are charitable actions that respond to people’s spiritual needs and show respect for human dignity. • They are: • Instruct the ignorant • Counsel the doubtful • Comfort those who suffer • Bear wrongs patiently • Forgive those who hurt you • Admonish sinners • Pray for the living and the dead
Part 1: Social Sin • Apart from natural disasters, people suffer homelessness, poverty, and other injustices due to human sin and structures of sin in society. • People continue to suffer when unjust structures of sin go unchanged, hence why people need to fight to bring change to such institutions. • Whether it is fighting a social structure that does not pay its workers enough, or ensuring all people have the ability to access health care, these are examples of fighting structures of sin.
Part 1: Social Sin • Such actions are called Works of Justice, or social actions that seek to convert structures of sin and building structures of greater justice. • There is no guarantee that works of justice will succeed, but they take time and large numbers of people in solidarity to bring about awareness and some form of change.
Part 1: Social Sin • Works of Charity • Direct response • Makes an immediate difference • Symbolized by the corporal and spiritual works of mercy • Works of Justice • Transform social structures • Aims at creating long term solutions • Requires coordinated, long term commitment to education, public witness, and advocacy
Part 1: Social Sin • We need both works of charity and justice in today’s world; both are of equal importance. • We can see a need for works of charity since throughout Jesus’ ministry He fed and healed people, as well as the fact that God has given us enough resources for all people to share. • We can see a need for works of justice when Jesus told the rich to share with the poor, meaning that social structures must be in place to evenly distribute goods and take care of the needy. • God also does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful to His plan, so do not measure your actions by the outcome, but by what drives you to help others in the long term.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • A “good country” to live in is a country in which the individual citizens and social institutions are committed to the common good. • The common good is the responsibility of both individuals and social structures. • Three important institutions that touch most human beings are the state, business institutions, and communications media.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • A State is any organized political authority in a specific area, such as city, county, state, regional, and national governments. • The state is a necessary and positive player in God’s plan for human beings since government organized human communities. • No state is perfect; yet civil, or things related to the state and its citizens, authorities have made great strides for the common good.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • Saint Paul teaches that respect to civil authorities is in turn respecting God, since those authorities that are morally good receive their power from God. • In Pope John XXIII’s encyclical, Peace on Earth, he teaches that the primary existence of the state is to achieve the common good. • “Every civil authority must strive to promote the common good…without favoring any citizen.”
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • Pope John XXIII says the best way to achieve the common good is for authorities to recognize, respect, defend, and promote citizens’ rights and their freedom to pursue those rights. • When administrative, legislative, and judicial functions properly serve citizens, an atmosphere is created that allows citizens to gain the material, cultural, moral, and spiritual goods they need.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • Catholic social teaching recognizes the need for three essential societal services to promote the common good: • Administrative • Assures services like transportation, housing, road building, etc. • Legislative • Provide laws and protect human rights • Judicial • Laws are enforced and citizens have a legal way to correct injustices done to them
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • The Pope also teaches the state’s primary goal of the common good must not be limited to its own borders, but to the common good of all human beings around the world. • There are no differences amongst states from a human dignity standpoint since all humans are equal. • This means that no state should unjustly bully or conquer another state; rather, powerful states have a greater calling to protect lesser states.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • Since the problems of the world are so vast, Pope John XXIII called for an international group to be formed that would promote just relationships among the world’s states. • The United Nations is one example of an international group, in which the Vatican has a permanent observer status.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • Just as the state has a responsibility to the common good of all people, citizens have their own responsibilities to the state and one another. • Saint Paul teaches that citizens have nothing to fear from civil authorities if we act rightly. • Since human beings were created to live in communities with one another, civil authorities are put in place to make sure citizens follow laws and punish those who do not.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • As citizens, we are called to fulfill civil obligations, such as paying taxes, voting, and even resisting civil authority if it is acting immorally. • Citizens have a duty to work with civil authorities to build up society “in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.” • Since God has given us a share of Earth’s goods, we are not simply entitled to these goods, but have responsibilities to fulfill in order to also earn these goods.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • We, as citizens, must not feel we have no voice in the face of injustice either; a part of our responsibility as citizens is to fight injustice, no matter what. • Some citizen responsibilities are: • Contributing materially and spiritually to society in a meaningful way, such as working • Taking part in political life, such as voting • Paying taxes to support the common good, such as by supporting police
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • God created humans to be dependent on one another, meaning we must fulfill our responsibilities to society to achieve the common good of all people. • In pursuing the common good, citizens must sometimes stand up against unjust laws. • Not every law is morally right.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • The basic Christian stance is that we are to obey and respect civil authorities, but we are not required to violate our conscience in doing so. • Conscientious Objection is when we are morally obligated to resist a civil law or authority that goes against human reason and God’s law. • Conscientious objection can take the form of a protest, speaking out, working to change the problem, etc.
Part 2: The Individual Person and Society • If we choose to directly disobey a law as a form of conscientious objection, that is called Civil Disobedience. • Civil disobedience can be seen throughout history, from people protecting Jews during Nazi reign, to soldiers refusing to fight in an unjust war. • Though we live in a democracy where checks and balances exist that protect people from violating their conscience for the most part, the fact remains that no civil authority is perfect.