Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 20, 2009
Union with Trinity calls us to be agents of social transformation
There was a time when proponents of Catholic social teaching would justify its central role amidst Catholic doctrine by pointing to a statement of the 1971 world Synod of Bishops. Social teaching, the bishops said, was a "constitutive" part of proclaiming the Gospel.
Probably quoting this citation convinced no one. Those who wanted to confine the life of faith to liturgy, private prayer and personal morality would not be moved by such a command.
In his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) Pope Benedict hammers Catholic social doctrine so firmly to the central pillar of faith that it can never be dislodged. Those who think they can be good Catholics yet unformed by Church social teaching are simply deluding themselves.
Men and women are objects of God's love, the pope writes, and thus become subjects of charity.
"They are called to make themselves instruments of grace, so as to pour forth God's charity and to weave networks of charity" (n. 5).
This is the very thing that gives rise to the Church's social teaching, that is, "the proclamation of the truth of Christ's love in society." Moreover, charity is not mere sentiment or kind works. Social justice "is inseparable from charity and intrinsic to it" (n. 6).
In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict spoke of "the Church's charitable activity as a manifestation of Trinitarian love" (n. 19). The continual self-giving of each person of the Trinity is reflected in the active openness of the Christian believer to serving others.
In the new encyclical, the pope identifies true development with "the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family. . . . This perspective is illuminated in a striking way by the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine substance" (n. 54).
Human solidarity is a reflection of the Trinity. Catholic social teaching is thus a corollary of the most central doctrine of Christian faith - the Blessed Trinity.
Those who see the faith as in any way separate from their involvement in society should not simply pause, but repent. Our life in union with the Trinity calls us to be engaged in the never-ending process of social transformation.
This is the conclusion that secularism wants us most to avoid. It wants faith to be private and the Church to "stay out of politics." But the Body of Christ and all its members can no more stay out of politics - and out of culture, education, health care or any other corner of society - than they can stay out of church itself.
Baptism into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit puts us squarely in the middle of social responsibility. If we dare to walk away from the Church's social teaching, we walk away from Baptism.
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