DOCAT contents for At-Home Lesson#5

DOCAT# 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36 [1]

DOCAT#28 How are social doctrine and faith connected?

Not everyone who is socially or politically involved is a Christian. But someone can hardly call himself a Christian if he is not socially involved. The Gospel very emphatically leads people to commit themselves to love, justice, freedom, and peace. When Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, he does not just heal and save individual human beings; rather, he starts a new form of community—a kingdom of peace and justice. Now God alone can bring about this kingdom definitively. Christians, however, should work for a better society. They should build a city of man “that is more human because it is in greater conformity with the Kingdom of God” (Compendium of Social Doctrine 63). When Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to yeast that gradually leavens a large measure of dough (Mt 13:33), he shows the way in which Christians should work in society.

DOCAT#29 Can social justice be the final goal of the Church?

No. The Church would not have reached all her desired goals if there were a just society. The salvation that the Church proclaims begins on earth; it saves the individual person, transforms human relations, and heals the wounds of society. Redemption begins as a sign of hope in just social structures here on earth. Nevertheless, the “new city” is not the result of human struggles and efforts. Although we may have done everything in our power, still the “holy city” comes down “out of heaven” (Rev 21:10) into our situation. Real peace is a gift from God.

DOCAT#30 Is the Gospel synonymous with development aid?

Development aid and the proclamation of the faith must go hand in hand. Along with Liturgy and proclamation, there is charity—active love of neighbor, one of the three fundamental activities of the Church. If the Church were only to proclaim the faith while ignoring the miserable living conditions of the people, she would betray Jesus, who accepted and healed men and women, body and soul, in their personal uniqueness and with their social needs. But if the Church were to promote only the social development of people, she would betray the destiny of the individual human being, who is called to eternal communion with God, and she would also fail to do justice to the social destiny of man as a member of Christ’s Body. To separate the social message of the Gospel from its faith message would be to divide the Good News in half.

DOCAT#31 How deeply can the Church become involved in social questions?

It is not the Church’s responsibility to replace the State and politics. That is why she offers no technical solutions for individual social problems. She herself does not make policies but, rather, inspires policies that are in keeping with the Gospel. In their social encyclicals, the popes have developed central themes such as wages, property, and unions, which are supposed to help in building a just society. The only ones who should intervene concretely in politics, however, are Christian laymen who become involved in that field. Moreover, many Christians put their Christian commitment and thinking into practice in unions, groups, and associations that campaign for particular social causes, e.g., aid for refugees or worker protection.

DOCAT#32 Does the Church favor a particular societal and political model?

The Church can approve a wide range of political forms, provided the dignity and rights of every person and the common good are respected and protected. She supports a free, democratic social order to the extent that this offers the best guarantee for the social participation of all and safeguards human rights. On this topic Pope John Paul II writes: “The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus she cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends. Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person” (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus 46).

DOCAT#33 Does the Church not exceed her competence when she speaks out on social questions?

When the Church speaks out on social questions, she is not meddling in “other people’s” business. The individual does not belong to the State, just as the family, being the essential cell of society, does not belong to the State. Inspired by the Gospel, the Church makes herself the advocate of the most primordial rights of human persons and of human communities. The Church does not want to gain power and external influence thereby. It is her right and duty to speak out whenever injustice endangers social life.

DOCAT#34 Is Catholic social doctrine a complete system?

No, the Church’s social doctrine is not a fully articulated branch of theology with which to judge complex societal, economic, and political situations from outside, so to speak. Rather, this social doctrine makes a point of constantly conducting a dialogue with political science, economics, the natural sciences, technology, and sociology. In this way the social doctrine can better understand, reflect on, and interpret man and his connections in social life.

DOCAT#35 Was the Church’s social doctrine intended exclusively for Christians?

The social doctrine of the Church contains nothing that cannot be understood and confirmed by human reason. The popes have always emphasized, however, that the Church’s social doctrine has special significance for Catholics. Since the social doctrine is essentially inspired by faith in a loving, just God, every act of love and justice should be viewed in light of God and his promises. This obliges Christians even more to accomplish good in practice, too. Furthermore, however, all people of goodwill should feel that this social teaching is addressed to them.

DOCAT#36 Will this social doctrine ever be finished?

Life in society has always been and is especially now characterized by a constant development and incredible dynamism on all its levels. Hence the social doctrine of the Church has never regarded itself as being a complete and self-contained teaching. It does stand on the firm foundation of the Gospel, with definite principles and concepts. From that starting point, however, it must always seek anew the answers to the social questions and challenges of the present.

References / Citations

[1] DOCAT: What to do? The Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. San Francisco, Calif: Ignatius Press, 2016.

[2] BibleGateway (online bible).