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This hope, rather than weaken, must instead strengthen concern for the work that is needed in the present reality. The good things — such as human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, all the good fruits of nature and of human enterprise — that in the Lord's Spirit and according to his command have spread throughout the earth, having been purified of every stain, illuminated and transfigured, belong to the Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, of love and of peace that Christ will present to the Father, and it is there that we shall once again find them.
The complete fulfilment of the human person, achieved in Christ through the gift of the Spirit, develops in history and is mediated by personal relationships with other people, relationships that in turn reach perfection thanks to the commitment made to improve the world, in justice and peace. Human activity in history is of itself significant and effective for the definitive establishment of the Kingdom, although this remains a free gift of God, completely transcendent. Such activity, when it respects the objective order of temporal reality and is enlightened by truth and love, becomes an instrument for making justice and peace ever more fully and integrally present, and anticipates in our own day the promised Kingdom.
Conforming himself to Christ the Redeemer, man perceives himself as a creature willed by God and eternally chosen by him, called to grace and glory in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ . Being conformed to Christ and contemplating his face  instil in Christians an irrepressible longing for a foretaste in this world, in the context of human relationships, of what will be a reality in the definitive world to come; thus Christians strive to give food, drink, clothing, shelter, care, a welcome and company to the Lord who knocks at the door cf.
Heir to the hope of the righteous in Israel and first among the disciples of Jesus Christ is Mary, his Mother. Lk , in the name of all humanity, she accepts in history the One sent by the Father, the Saviour of mankind. Is ; The God of the Covenant, whom the Virgin of Nazareth praises in song as her spirit rejoices, is the One who casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty, scatters the proud and shows mercy to those who fear him cf. Lk Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him by the impetus of her faith.
The Church, God's dwelling place with men and women. The Church, sharing in mankind's joys and hopes, in its anxieties and sadness, stands with every man and woman of every place and time, to bring them the good news of the Kingdom of God, which in Jesus Christ has come and continues to be present among them. In the midst of mankind and in the world she is the sacrament of God's love and, therefore, of the most splendid hope, which inspires and sustains every authentic undertaking for and commitment to human liberation and advancement.
Rev , so that man is not alone, lost or frightened in his task of making the world more human; thus men and women find support in the redeeming love of Christ. As minister of salvation, the Church is not in the abstract nor in a merely spiritual dimension, but in the context of the history and of the world in which man lives. Here mankind is met by God's love and by the vocation to cooperate in the divine plan. Unique and unrepeatable in his individuality, every person is a being who is open to relationships with others in society.
Life together in society, in the network of relationships linking individuals, families and intermediate groups by encounter, communication and exchange, ensures a higher quality of living. The common good that people seek and attain in the formation of social communities is the guarantee of their personal, familial and associative good. These are the reasons for which society originates and takes shape, with its array of structures, that is to say its political, economic, juridical and cultural constructs.
As an expert in humanity, she is able to understand man in his vocation and aspirations, in his limits and misgivings, in his rights and duties, and to speak a word of life that reverberates in the historical and social circumstances of human existence. Enriching and permeating society with the Gospel.
With her social teaching the Church seeks to proclaim the Gospel and make it present in the complex network of social relations. It is not simply a matter of reaching out to man in society — man as the recipient of the proclamation of the Gospel — but of enriching and permeating society itself with the Gospel .
For the Church, therefore, tending to the needs of man means that she also involves society in her missionary and salvific work. The way people live together in society often determines the quality of life and therefore the conditions in which every man and woman understand themselves and make decisions concerning themselves and their vocation. For this reason, the Church is not indifferent to what is decided, brought about or experienced in society; she is attentive to the moral quality — that is, the authentically human and humanizing aspects — of social life. Society — and with it, politics, the economy, labour, law, culture — is not simply a secular and worldly reality, and therefore outside or foreign to the message and economy of salvation.
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Society in fact, with all that is accomplished within it, concerns man. By means of her social doctrine, the Church takes on the task of proclaiming what the Lord has entrusted to her. She makes the message of the freedom and redemption wrought by Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, present in human history. As the Gospel reverberates by means of the Church in the today of men and women, this social doctrine is a word that brings freedom. This means that it has the effectiveness of truth and grace that comes from the Spirit of God, who penetrates hearts, predisposing them to thoughts and designs of love, justice, freedom and peace.
Evangelizing the social sector, then, means infusing into the human heart the power of meaning and freedom found in the Gospel, in order to promote a society befitting mankind because it befits Christ: it means building a city of man that is more human because it is in greater conformity with the Kingdom of God.
With her social doctrine not only does the Church not stray from her mission but she is rigorously faithful to it. The redemption wrought by Christ and entrusted to the saving mission of the Church is certainly of the supernatural order. This dimension is not a delimitation of salvation but rather an integral expression of it. The supernatural is not to be understood as an entity or a place that begins where the natural ends, but as the raising of the natural to a higher plane.
In this way nothing of the created or the human order is foreign to or excluded from the supernatural or theological order of faith and grace, rather it is found within it, taken on and elevated by it.
Rom — recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged cf. Redemption begins with the Incarnation, by which the Son of God takes on all that is human, except sin, according to the solidarity established by the wisdom of the Divine Creator, and embraces everything in his gift of redeeming Love. Man is touched by this Love in the fullness of his being: a being that is corporeal and spiritual, that is in a solidary relationship with others.
The whole man — not a detached soul or a being closed within its own individuality, but a person and a society of persons — is involved in the salvific economy of the Gospel. This is especially true in times such as the present, marked by increasing interdependence and globalization of social issues. Social doctrine, evangelization and human promotion. The Church's social doctrine is an integral part of her evangelizing ministry.
Nothing that concerns the community of men and women — situations and problems regarding justice, freedom, development, relations between peoples, peace — is foreign to evangelization, and evangelization would be incomplete if it did not take into account the mutual demands continually made by the Gospel and by the concrete, personal and social life of man. They also include links in the theological order, since one cannot disassociate the plan of creation from the plan of Redemption.
The latter plan touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored. They include links of the eminently evangelical order, which is that of charity: how in fact can one proclaim the new commandment without promoting in justice and in peace the true, authentic advancement of man? Understood in this way, this social doctrine is a distinctive way for the Church to carry out her ministry of the Word and her prophetic role.
This is a ministry that stems not only from proclamation but also from witness. This means that the Church does not intervene in technical questions with her social doctrine, nor does she propose or establish systems or models of social organization. This is not part of the mission entrusted to her by Christ. The Church's competence comes from the Gospel: from the message that sets man free, the message proclaimed and borne witness to by the Son of God made man. This is her primary and sole purpose. There is no intention to usurp or invade the duties of others or to neglect her own; nor is there any thought of pursuing objectives that are foreign to her mission.
This mission serves to give an overall shape to the Church's right and at the same time her duty to develop a social doctrine of her own and to influence society and societal structures with it by means of the responsibility and tasks to which it gives rise. The Church has the right to be a teacher for mankind, a teacher of the truth of faith: the truth not only of dogmas but also of the morals whose source lies in human nature itself and in the Gospel .
The word of the Gospel, in fact, is not only to be heard but is also to be observed and put into practice cf. Mt ; Lk ; Jn ,; Jas Consistency in behaviour shows what one truly believes and is not limited only to things strictly church-related or spiritual but involves men and women in the entirety of their life experience and in the context of all their responsibilities.
However worldly these responsibilities may be, their subject remains man, that is, the human being whom God calls, by means of the Church, to participate in his gift of salvation. Men and women must respond to the gift of salvation not with a partial, abstract or merely verbal acceptance, but with the whole of their lives — in every relationship that defines life — so as not to neglect anything, leaving it in a profane and worldly realm where it is irrelevant or foreign to salvation.
For this reason the Church's social doctrine is not a privilege for her, nor a digression, a convenience or interference: it is her right to proclaim the Gospel in the context of society , to make the liberating word of the Gospel resound in the complex worlds of production, labour, business, finance, trade, politics, law, culture, social communications, where men and women live. The warning that St. Knowledge illuminated by faith. The Church's social doctrine was not initially thought of as an organic system but was formed over the course of time, through the numerous interventions of the Magisterium on social issues.
The fact that it came about in this manner makes it understandable that certain changes may have taken place with regard to its nature, method and epistemological structure. It cannot be defined according to socio-economic parameters. It is not an ideological or pragmatic system intended to define and generate economic, political and social relationships, but is a category unto itself.
In fact, this social doctrine reflects three levels of theological-moral teaching: the foundational level of motivations; the directive level of norms for life in society; the deliberative level of consciences, called to mediate objective and general norms in concrete and particular social situations. These three levels implicitly define also the proper method and specific epistemological structure of the social doctrine of the Church.
The Church's social doctrine finds its essential foundation in biblical revelation and in the tradition of the Church. From this source, which comes from above, it draws inspiration and light to understand, judge and guide human experience and history. Before anything else and above everything else is God's plan for the created world and, in particular, for the life and destiny of men and women, called to Trinitarian communion.
Faith, which receives the divine word and puts it into practice, effectively interacts with reason. The understanding of faith, especially faith leading to practical action, is structured by reason and makes use of every contribution that reason has to offer. Faith and reason represent the two cognitive paths of the Church's social doctrine: Revelation and human nature. This understanding of faith includes reason, by means of which — insofar as possible — it unravels and comprehends revealed truth and integrates it with the truth of human nature, found in the divine plan expressed in creation.
This is the integral truth of the human person as a spiritual and corporeal being, in relationship with God, with other human beings and with other creatures. Being centred on the mystery of Christ, moreover, does not weaken or exclude the role of reason and hence does not deprive the Church's social doctrine of rationality or, therefore, of universal applicability. Since the mystery of Christ illuminates the mystery of man, it gives fullness of meaning to human dignity and to the ethical requirements which defend it. The Church's social doctrine is knowledge enlightened by faith, which, as such, is the expression of a greater capacity for knowledge.
It explains to all people the truths that it affirms and the duties that it demands; it can be accepted and shared by all. In friendly dialogue with all branches of knowledge. The Church's social doctrine avails itself of contributions from all branches of knowledge, whatever their source, and has an important interdisciplinary dimension.
The social doctrine makes use of the significant contributions of philosophy as well as the descriptive contributions of the human sciences. Above all, the contribution of philosophy is essential. This contribution has already been seen in the appeal to human nature as a source and to reason as the cognitive path of faith itself. By means of reason, the Church's social doctrine espouses philosophy in its own internal logic, in other words, in the argumentation that is proper to it.
Affirming that the Church's social doctrine is part of theology rather than philosophy does not imply a disowning or underestimation of the role or contribution of philosophy. In fact, philosophy is a suitable and indispensable instrument for arriving at a correct understanding of the basic concepts of the Church's social doctrine , concepts such as the person, society, freedom, conscience, ethics, law, justice, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, the State. This understanding is such that it inspires harmonious living in society. It is philosophy once more that shows the reasonableness and acceptability of shining the light of the Gospel on society, and that inspires in every mind and conscience openness and assent to the truth.
A significant contribution to the Church's social doctrine comes also from human sciences and the social sciences. In view of that particular part of the truth that it may reveal, no branch of knowledge is excluded. The Church recognizes and receives everything that contributes to the understanding of man in the ever broader, more fluid and more complex net work of his social relationships. She is aware of the fact that a profound understanding of man does not come from theology alone, without the contributions of many branches of knowledge to which theology itself refers. This attentive and constant openness to other branches of knowledge makes the Church's social doctrine reliable, concrete and relevant.
Thanks to the sciences, the Church can gain a more precise understanding of man in society, speak to the men and women of her own day in a more convincing manner and more effectively fulfil her task of incarnating in the conscience and social responsibility of our time, the word of God and the faith from which social doctrine flows. An expression of the Church's ministry of teaching.
The social doctrine belongs to the Church because the Church is the subject that formulates it, disseminates it and teaches it. It is not a prerogative of a certain component of the ecclesial body but of the entire community; it is the expression of the way that the Church understands society and of her position regarding social structures and changes. The whole of the Church community — priests, religious and laity — participates in the formulation of this social doctrine, each according to the different tasks, charisms and ministries found within her.
The Church's social doctrine is not only the thought or work of qualified persons, but is the thought of the Church, insofar as it is the work of the Magisterium, which teaches with the authority that Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors: the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.
In the Church's social doctrine the Magisterium is at work in all its various components and expressions. Of primary importance is the universal Magisterium of the Pope and the Council: this is the Magisterium that determines the direction and gives marks of the development of this social doctrine.
This doctrine in turn is integrated into the Magisterium of the Bishops who, in the concrete and particular situations of the many different local circumstances, give precise definition to this teaching, translating it and putting it into practice. The social teaching of the Bishops offers valid contributions and impetus to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff. In this way, there is a circulating at work that in fact expresses the collegiality of the Church's Pastors united to the Pope in the Church's social teaching. The doctrinal body that emerges includes and integrates in this fashion the universal teaching of the Popes and the particular teaching of the Bishops.
Insofar as it is part of the Church's moral teaching, the Church's social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching. It is authentic Magisterium , which obligates the faithful to adhere to it. The doctrinal weight of the different teachings and the assent required are determined by the nature of the particular teachings, by their level of independence from contingent and variable elements, and by the frequency with which they are invoked.
For a society reconciled in justice and love. The object of the Church's social doctrine is essentially the same that constitutes the reason for its existence: the human person called to salvation, and as such entrusted by Christ to the Church's care and responsibility . By means of her social doctrine, the Church shows her concern for human life in society, aware that the quality of social life — that is, of the relationships of justice and love that form the fabric of society — depends in a decisive manner on the protection and promotion of the human person, for whom every community comes into existence.
In fact, at play in society are the dignity and rights of the person, and peace in the relationships between persons and between communities of persons. These are goods that the social community must pursue and guarantee. In this perspective, the Church's social doctrine has the task of proclamation , but also of denunciation. This is done not only on the level of principles but also in practice. The Church's social doctrine, in fact, offers not only meaning, value and criteria of judgment, but also the norms and directives of action that arise from these.
With her social doctrine the Church does not attempt to structure or organize society, but to appeal to, guide and form consciences. This social doctrine also entails a duty to denounce , when sin is present: the sin of injustice and violence that in different ways moves through society and is embodied in it. By denunciation, the Church's social doctrine becomes judge and defender of unrecognized and violated rights, especially those of the poor, the least and the weak.
The more these rights are ignored or trampled, the greater becomes the extent of violence and injustice, involving entire categories of people and large geographical areas of the world, thus giving rise to social questions , that is, to abuses and imbalances that lead to social upheaval. A large part of the Church's social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer. The intent of the Church's social doctrine is of the religious and moral order . A message for the sons and daughters of the Church and for humanity.
The first recipient of the Church's social doctrine is the Church community in its entire membership, because everyone has social responsibilities that must be fulfilled. The conscience is called by this social teaching to recognize and fulfil the obligations of justice and charity in society. This doctrine is a light of moral truth that inspires appropriate responses according to the vocation and ministry of each Christian.
In the tasks of evangelization, that is to say, of teaching, catechesis and formation that the Church's social doctrine inspires, it is addressed to every Christian, each according to the competence, charisms, office and mission of proclamation that is proper to each one. This social doctrine implies as well responsibilities regarding the building, organization and functioning of society, that is to say, political, economic and administrative obligations — obligations of a secular nature — which belong to the lay faithful, not to priests or religious.
These responsibilities belong to the laity in a distinctive manner, by reason of the secular condition of their state of life, and of the secular nature of their vocation. By fulfilling these responsibilities, the lay faithful put the Church's social teaching into action and thus fulfil the Church's secular mission. Besides being destined primarily and specifically to the sons and daughters of the Church, her social doctrine also has a universal destination.
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The light of the Gospel that the Church's social doctrine shines on society illuminates all men and women, and every conscience and mind is in a position to grasp the human depths of meaning and values expressed in it and the potential of humanity and humanization contained in its norms of action. It is to all people — in the name of mankind, of human dignity which is one and unique, and of humanity's care and promotion of society — to everyone in the name of the one God, Creator and ultimate end of man, that the Church's social doctrine is addressed.
This social doctrine is a teaching explicitly addressed to all people of good will , and in fact is heard by members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, by followers of other religious traditions and by people who belong to no religious group. Guided by the perennial light of the Gospel and ever attentive to evolution of society, the Church's social doctrine is characterized by continuity and renewal . It shows above all the continuity of a teaching that refers to the universal values drawn from Revelation and human nature.
This is the foundational and permanent nucleus of the Church's social doctrine, by which it moves through history without being conditioned by history or running the risk of fading away. On the other hand, in its constant turning to history and in engaging the events taking place, the Church's social doctrine shows a capacity for continuous renewal. Standing firm in its principles does not make it a rigid teaching system, but a Magisterium capable of opening itself to new things , without having its nature altered by them.
Faith does not presume to confine changeable social and political realities within a closed framework. Rather, the contrary is true: faith is the leaven of innovation and creativity. Mother and Teacher, the Church does not close herself off nor retreat within herself but is always open, reaching out to and turned towards man, whose destiny of salvation is her reason for being. She is in the midst of men and women as the living icon of the Good Shepherd, who goes in search of and finds man where he is, in the existential and historical circumstances of his life.
It is there that the Church becomes for man a point of contact with the Gospel, with the message of liberation and reconciliation, of justice and peace. The beginning of a new path. The Church's concern for social matters certainly did not begin with that document, for the Church has never failed to show interest in society.
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Nonetheless, the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum marks the beginning of a new path. Grafting itself onto a tradition hundreds of years old, it signals a new beginning and a singular development of the Church's teaching in the area of social matters. In her continuous attention to men and women living in society, the Church has accumulated a rich doctrinal heritage. This has its roots in Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels and the apostolic writings, and takes on shape and body beginning from the Fathers of the Church and the great Doctors of the Middle Ages, constituting a doctrine in which, even without explicit and direct Magisterial pronouncements, the Church gradually came to recognize her competence.
In the nineteenth century, events of an economic nature produced a dramatic social, political and cultural impact. Events connected with the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed centuries-old societal structures, raising serious problems of justice and posing the first great social question — the labour question — prompted by the conflict between capital and labour.
A new discernment of the situation was needed, a discernment capable of finding appropriate solutions to unfamiliar and unexplored problems. From Rerum Novarum to our own day. This Encyclical examines the condition of salaried workers, which was particularly distressing for industrial labourers who languished in inhumane misery. The labour question is dealt with according to its true dimensions.
It is explored in all its social and political expressions so that a proper evaluation may be made in the light of the doctrinal principles founded on Revelation and on natural law and morality. Rerum Novarum became the document inspiring Christian activity in the social sphere and the point of reference for this activity . The Encyclical's central theme is the just ordering of society, in view of which there is the obligation to identify criteria of judgment that will help to evaluate existing socio-political systems and to suggest lines of action for their appropriate transformation.
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The principles affirmed by Pope Leo XIII would be taken up again and studied more deeply in successive social encyclicals. The whole of the Church's social doctrine can be seen as an updating, a deeper analysis and an expansion of the original nucleus of principles presented in Rerum Novarum. At the beginning of the s, following the grave economic crisis of , Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno , commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum.
The Pope reread the past in the light of the economic and social situation in which the expansion of the influence of financial groups, both nationally and internationally, was added to the effects of industrialization. It was the post-war period, during which totalitarian regimes were being imposed in Europe even as the class struggle was becoming more bitter.
The Encyclical warns about the failure to respect the freedom to form associations and stresses the principles of solidarity and cooperation in order to overcome social contradictions. The relationships between capital and labour must be characterized by cooperation. Quadragesimo Anno confirms the principle that salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker but also to those of the worker's family.
The State, in its relations with the private sector, should apply the principle of subsidiarity , a principle that will become a permanent element of the Church's social doctrine. The Encyclical rejects liberalism, understood as unlimited competition between economic forces, and reconfirms the value of private property, recalling its social function. Pope Pius XI did not fail to raise his voice against the totalitarian regimes that were being imposed in Europe during his pontificate.
Already on 29 June he had protested against the abuse of power by the totalitarian fascist regime in Italy with the Encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno . The text of Mit Brennender Sorge was read from the pulpit of every Catholic Church in Germany, after having been distributed in the greatest of secrecy. The Encyclical came out after years of abuse and violence, and it had been expressly requested from Pope Pius XI by the German Bishops after the Reich had implemented ever more coercive and repressive measures in , particularly with regard to young people, who were required to enrol as members of the Hitler Youth Movement.
The Pope spoke directly to priests, religious and lay faithful, giving them encouragement and calling them to resistance until such time that a true peace between Church and State would be restored. In the Christmas Radio Messages of Pope Pius XII, together with other important interventions in social matters, Magisterial reflection on a new social order guided by morality and law, and focusing on justice and peace, become deeper. His pontificate covered the terrible years of the Second World War and the difficult years of reconstruction.
He published no social encyclicals but in many different contexts he constantly showed his concern for the international order, which had been badly shaken. One of the characteristics of Pope Pius XII's interventions is the importance he gave to the relationship between morality and law. He insisted on the notion of natural law as the soul of the system to be established on both the national and the international levels.
Another important aspect of Pope Pius XII's teaching was his attention to the professional and business classes, called to work together in a special way for the attainment of the common good. The s bring promising prospects: recovery after the devastation of the war, the beginning of decolonization, and the first timid signs of a thaw in the relations between the American and Soviet blocs. The social question is becoming universal and involves all countries : together with the labour question and the Industrial Revolution, there come to the fore problems of agriculture, of developing regions, of increasing populations, and those concerning the need for global economic cooperation.
Inequalities that in the past were experienced within nations are now becoming international and make the dramatic situation of the Third World ever more evident. The key words in the Encyclical are community and socialization : the Church is called in truth, justice and love to cooperate in building with all men and women an authentic communion.
In this way economic growth will not be limited to satisfying men's needs, but it will also promote their dignity. Moreover, Pacem in Terris contains one of the first in-depth reflections on rights on the part of the Church; it is the Encyclical of peace and human dignity. It continues and completes the discussion presented in Mater et Magistra , and, continuing in the direction indicated by Pope Leo XIII, it emphasizes the importance of the cooperation of all men and women. On the tenth anniversary of Pacem in Terris , Cardinal Maurice Roy, the President of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, sent Pope Paul VI a letter together with a document with a series of reflections on the different possibilities afforded by the teaching contained in Pope John XXIII's Encyclical for shedding light on the new problems connected with the promotion of peace.
The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes  of the Second Vatican Council is a significant response of the Church to the expectations of the contemporary world. Gaudium et Spes presents in a systematic manner the themes of culture, of economic and social life, of marriage and the family, of the political community, of peace and the community of peoples, in the light of a Christian anthropological outlook and of the Church's mission.
Another very important document of the Second Vatican Council in the corpus of the Church's social doctrine is the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae , in which the right to religious freedom is clearly proclaimed. The document presents the theme in two chapters. The first, of a general character, affirms that religious freedom is based on the dignity of the human person and that it must be sanctioned as a civil right in the legal order of society. The second chapter deals with the theme in the light of Revelation and clarifies its pastoral implications, pointing out that it is a right that concerns not only people as individuals but also the different communities of people.
This same Pontiff started the tradition of writing annual Messages that deal with the theme chosen for each World Day of Peace. These Messages expand and enrich the corpus of the Church's social doctrine. At the beginning of the s, in a climate of turbulence and strong ideological controversy, Pope Paul VI returns to the social teaching of Pope Leo XIII and updates it, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum , with his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens . The Pope reflects on post-industrial society with all of its complex problems, noting the inadequacy of ideologies in responding to these challenges: urbanization, the condition of young people, the condition of women, unemployment, discrimination, emigration, population growth, the influence of the means of social communications, the ecological problem.
Ninety years after Rerum Novarum , Pope John Paul II devoted the Encyclical Laborem Exercens  to work , the fundamental good of the human person, the primary element of economic activity and the key to the entire social question. Laborem Exercens outlines a spirituality and ethic of work in the context of a profound theological and philosophical reflection.
Work must not be understood only in the objective and material sense, but one must keep in mind its subjective dimension, insofar as it is always an expression of the person. Besides being a decisive paradigm for social life, work has all the dignity of being a context in which the person's natural and supernatural vocation must find fulfilment. On the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum , Pope John Paul II promulgates his third social encyclical, Centesimus Annus , whence emerges the doctrinal continuity of a hundred years of the Church's social Magisterium. Pope John Paul II demonstrates how the Church's social teaching moves along the axis of reciprocity between God and man: recognizing God in every person and every person in God is the condition of authentic human development.
The documents referred to here constitute the milestones of the path travelled by the Church's social doctrine from the time of Pope Leo XIII to our own day. In the formulation and teaching of this social doctrine, the Church has been, and continues to be, prompted not by theoretical motivation but by pastoral concerns. The Church sees in men and women, in every person, the living image of God himself. This image finds, and must always find anew, an ever deeper and fuller unfolding of itself in the mystery of Christ, the Perfect Image of God, the One who reveals God to man and man to himself.
It is to these men and women, who have received an incomparable and inalienable dignity from God himself, that the Church speaks, rendering to them the highest and most singular service, constantly reminding them of their lofty vocation so that they may always be mindful of it and worthy of it. All of social life is an expression of its unmistakable protagonist: the human person. The origin of social life is therefore found in the human person, and society cannot refuse to recognize its active and responsible subject; every expression of society must be directed towards the human person.
Men and women, in the concrete circumstances of history, represent the heart and soul of Catholic social thought . The whole of the Church's social doctrine, in fact, develops from the principle that affirms the inviolable dignity of the human person . In her manifold expressions of this knowledge, the Church has striven above all to defend human dignity in the face of every attempt to redimension or distort its image; moreover she has often denounced the many violations of human dignity. History attests that it is from the fabric of social relationships that there arise some of the best possibilities for ennobling the human person, but it is also there that lie in wait the most loathsome rejections of human dignity.
Creatures in the image of God. The fundamental message of Sacred Scripture proclaims that the human person is a creature of God cf. God places the human creature at the centre and summit of the created order. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. The likeness with God shows that the essence and existence of man are constitutively related to God in the most profound manner. The whole of man's life is a quest and a search for God.
This relationship with God can be ignored or even forgotten or dismissed, but it can never be eliminated. The relationship between God and man is reflected in the relational and social dimension of human nature. In this regard the fact that God created human beings as man and woman cf. Only the appearance of the woman, a being who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones cf.
Gen , and in whom the spirit of God the Creator is also alive, can satisfy the need for interpersonal dialogue, so vital for human existence. In a relationship of mutual communion, man and woman fulfil themselves in a profound way, rediscovering themselves as persons through the sincere gift of themselves. Their covenant of union is presented in Sacred Scripture as an image of the Covenant of God with man cf. Hos ; Is 54; Eph and, at the same time, as a service to life. Man and woman are in relationship with others above all as those to whom the lives of others have been entrusted .
I will require it In this perspective, the relationship with God requires that the life of man be considered sacred and inviolable . Mt ; Mk ; Lk With this specific vocation to life, man and woman find themselves also in the presence of all the other creatures. They can and are obliged to put them at their own service and to enjoy them, but their dominion over the world requires the exercise of responsibility, it is not a freedom of arbitrary and selfish exploitation.
Gen ,10,12,18,21,25 in the sight of God, who is its author. Man must discover and respect its value. But I know that for me, as for every other Christian, the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in me through Christ Jesus, my Lord. It was Paul Harold Orgeron who did this. That essay was published in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre and its devastating details are set against the ones from the suicide bombing at Edgar Allen Poe Elementary on September 15, that left three children, two adults, and the perpetrator dead and nearly 20 injured—including our reader, grievously so.
Orgeron, a three-time convict, showed up to the school that morning with his young son and six sticks of dynamite in a suitcase. From Houstonia :. The bell rang and announcements began. At around 10 a. Johnston had trouble deciphering the chicken-scratch that Orgeron, himself a second-grade dropout, handed her. She became even more alarmed when Orgeron began insisting that she gather all her students around him.
Continued here. And here is a related Notes discussion about theodicy—the question of why a benevolent God would allow for so much suffering in the world. Mine was in It was the height of the Jesus Movement. There were hippies all over the country. Some of them were making music. I was a kid from a western suburb of Chicago from a mixed-ethnicity home.
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Religion in our home reflected that split. I knew God was out there, somewhere, as I grew up. So one night, a preacher told all us teens that the time for decision had come. Many of us, he said, had been fooling around the edges of what we knew had to be a firm commitment to following Jesus Christ with all the passion of our young souls.
I came to this camp feeling somehow above all these scrubbed church kids. Take me if you want me. I felt it. And it was like the lights turned on. Suddenly all that churchy talk made sense.
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The kids who seemed so stupid before were looking smarter. I was a changed person. I had a lot yet to figure out about who I was, what life was all about, what it means to follow God in a mixed-up world. Times, Orange County Register, and broadcast media all over the country. No, my task is bigger.
My first summer camp was very near St. Joseph [about 50 miles from Holland], on the west coast of Michigan on Lake Michigan. That was 65 years ago—I am 72—and I am thankful for those wonderful years. God entered my life and that still small voice has guided me all these years.
And it still does whenever I go there and watch the sunset. This reader, J. When I was young, 12 or 13 or so, the U. Back then, an HIV diagnosis was a virtual death sentence, as there were few ways of treating it. And to complicate the situation, there was a huge stigma that went along with the discovery that one was carrying the virus.
We had a very young child in our family who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, so we were all too aware of the horrible social consequences of this affliction: isolation, harassment, rejection, being forced out of school, and, in extreme cases, assault. I soon discovered that those most vocal and zealous in their condemnation of HIV victims were the very religious.
I found that at best, these misguided religious leaders were blinded by their interpretation of their scripture. They just could not conceive that AIDS was not some sort of divine plague upon the wicked. At worst, I thought many of the more vocal instigators were just playing upon the tragedy to gain more publicity for themselves and their churches. I eventually concluded that the more consumed a person was with their religion, the less connected with reality they were, even in matters that had little to do with the divine.
By the time I graduated high school, I had little patience for church and no desire to participate in it, in any manner whatsoever. Funny thing is, I am not an atheist. I think that there is a place where science ends and God begins, but I have no idea where that is. I think of God as an entity that is just far too complex for the mortal mind to really comprehend. After decades of meditation and contemplation, I have concluded that our purpose here is not to spend the eight or so decades we have on Earth praying and tithing, but rather to embrace the gift of life that we have been given and live it to its fullest, experiencing all that we can and learning all we can possibly learn until our time here expires.
I am not enlightened enough to know to what end this serves, but if I am certain of one thing, it is that no one else does either. My best guess is that we use our knowledge to advance to a higher life form, be it in a trans-humanist conversion to the next step in the evolutionary ladder or the promotion to a higher level of some spiritual plane, but I cannot say for certain.
I have no doubt that if God wanted me to know what my purpose in life was, He would possess the power to make me know it. My life after rejecting conventional religion was truly liberated. My unwillingness to follow the herd allowed me to take novel approaches to my life choices.
If you or someone close to you has HIV and it affected the way you thought about your religious faith, send us a note. The final paragraph in this reader note from Amy is the most powerful, showing how she was able to embrace who she is without rejecting religion altogether:.
I grew up at a Southern Baptist church in Louisiana, where I was homeschooled and then attended a fundamentalist evangelical high school. What 6-year-old would choose that? In middle and high school, I realized that I was a lesbian, but I managed to hide it until college. Although I attended a Southern Baptist university, it was a moderate one with plenty of nonreligious students and even a fairly large Muslim population. Really, the biggest and most difficult decision was to let go of the idea that everything in the Bible was intended to be taken literally.
Such churches tend to be more progressive, such as approving gay marriage and supporting Planned Parenthood. I hope to be a good example of how one can let go of literalism yet still enjoy a deep faith. Being able to let go of the threat of hell, I realized that non-Christians, feminists, and science gifted me a faith that truly feels rooted not in fear, but love.
In this latest note for our religion series , a reader who grew up in the American South during segregation recounts two evil forces in his childhood, one real and one imagined: Satan and institutionalized racism. When I was a child, my mother often referred to the Devil in some form or the other to threaten or keep the children in check, especially if we had been bad or were somewhat hesitant about getting ready for church on Sundays.
So we would merrily go off to church each and every Sunday in an attempt to keep a step or two ahead of that ole wicked and evil Devil. You would not even be able to recognize yourself or your family. He would make you do evil thing to others. I was told that the only power that could protect from the Devil was God. That just blew my mind. I would often ask my mother if she loved her children. Of course she said yes. She said no. He had two long horns that protruded out the top of his head. His body was always aglow in fire. All day and night, the sinner can be heard screaming out and begging and pleading for water to quench the thirst.
While a child, and even sometimes today, I would have nightmares about this Devil. Our true inability to clearly discern what will happen to us after we die leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of unscrupulous people with the sole intent of taking advantage of the weak and confused. Some folks will have you to believe you can buy your way into Heaven. It is said that God made everything and everything he made is good. Yet, I am suppose to hate the Devil. Remember, God made the Devil and he must have known what he created, especially since he made everything. Then again, if God made the Devil and said the Devil was flawed, what does that say about the creator?
I am told that unless we are born again, we will not enter into the kingdom. I just try to treat people the way I would like to be treated. If it works for you, fine.
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But I have come to the conclusion that man has no knowledge of any of the unknown in life. It is all based on guesswork from the folks in control and the masses should just follow them because they are the rich and powerful. Not me. If I go to Hell or wherever, it will be on my own terms. A reader from a very traditionalist Muslim family has a colorful story of personal religious choice:. I was born into a long line of imams of a Sufi order. My father is an imam, all my paternal uncles were imams, and my six brothers and I are supposed to be imams. One of these ways, she would tell us, was that if we whistled, Satan would appear in some guise to convert us and pervert us, be it the form of a cockroach, a goat, a snake, or even—gasp—an attractive woman.
This one would cause me to whistle frequently as a boy, to the point where I am now an expert at various methods of whistling. One evening I found myself walking alone between the gym and the camp, whistling absentmindedly and happily, now that I was away from home. Then I realized my mistake: I was all alone, in the dark, calling Shaitan! I froze in my tracks, stopped my song, and waited for Him to appear—hoping for a cockroach rather than a sexy maiden.
Nothing appeared. Doubt started to creep into me. So I whistled again, this time loudly, while standing in the dark street, daring him to show up. I continued to call Shaitan—not even a cameo. I whistled and continued on my way, but a realization was nagging at my young mind: If Shaitan does not exist, then his counterpart does not either; there can be no Good if there is no Evil.
No Shaitan, no Allah. I am nearing 40 years old now and have never looked back to either God or Satan As a side note, I think my mother invented, or maybe perpetuated that myth of whistling, as a way to have peace and quiet in our small home where she was trying to raise 11 children. She did not want to be the conductor of a symphony of whistling adolescents. Also, if she were to find out that SHE is the cause of one of her sons straying from the righteous path, she would have a heart attack on the spot. I do not want my mother to die yet! Dylan, a young Millennial reader, revives a really interesting subthread on Jewish identity starting here , here , here , then here within our overall discussion on religious choice:.
I grew up in New York and was raised Jewish. For the most part no one questioned my Jewish identity until I was in my teens. My dad was Jewish; my mom was Christian. They met in Nazi Germany and fell in love there. My dad and his siblings and parents escaped to Britain and the U. My parents reunited after the war when he came back as an American soldier and joined his family in the U. By the time I was 13, I had learned what all the whispering among adults had been during my childhood: the Holocaust—who died, who escaped, their lives before and after.
It impacted me very hard. As I got older and started to date, religion took on a new importance. Culturally I was drawn to Jews, and most of the guys I dated were Jewish. The one Christian I dated seriously dumped me the moment he found out my dad was Jewish. I saw it in his eyes immediately. I never dated a Christian again. I went on to marry a Jewish man whose family was as unreligious as my own.
I had grown up in a cultural world that was heavily Jewish but religiously pretty agnostic. Those were my own tendencies and still are. I also am repulsed by the people who believe that there is only one way to be Jewish and that is to be an ultra orthodox Jew. They remind me of those Christians for whom Christianity is limited to the most conservative fundamentalist sects and who want to limit the entire realm of Christianity to their own narrow beliefs. Theirs was a very special union and reminds me that love can conquer—if not everything, an awful lot.
I was born a Protestant and then my father died of polio. My mother re-married to a Jew and so at the age of 2, I became a Jew too. I got a Jewish-sounding last name. I lived in an increasingly Jewish neighbourhood, so the majority of my friends were Jewish and so I just went along as one. My mother went along acting her part, which helped me do the same.
My upbringing always had me question this religious thing, being born into one ideology and then converting to another but never feeling accepted, feeling like an outsider. But I went along and felt I could continue to pull this charade off until one time at Synagogue during Yom Kippur time during yet another Israeli conflict. This is when I took pause to consider this whole religion thing.
My last confirmation that these feelings of conflict and confusion were confirmed to me when the very Jewish high school and graduating class decided to have a reunion. I declined the invitation, and I went back to living a peaceful and fulfilling life in the community of the world around me.
I was astounded yet amazingly relieved that I had escaped that world. My own story involves giving up the Reform Judaism in which I was raised and pursuing an orthodox Jewish conversion. My father is Jewish, not my mother, so only Reform Judaism considers me a Jew. Dramatic though that choice has felt at times, it has come on so gradually that I cannot place a finger on the beginning or any particular turning point.
Maybe you already know about it, or maybe it is of no use to you, and at any rate it is a bit dated now, but I just wanted to note it because a lot of what it talks about is still happening among American millennials. Hey Chris, long-time reader from back in the Dish days. Last month, a lot of leaders in this growing movement held a national convening in New York.
I thought some of your readers might be interested in seeing some of the output from that convening, which was covered in several Jewish media outlets, most thoroughly Jewschool. A tip for readers: just never, ever say that.