Caritas in Veritate Summary: Capstone and New Direction (Part 4 of 5)
Catholic Social Action is a Requirement
While Pope Benedict XVI identifies in Caritas in Veritate that implementing Catholic social teaching is a way for the lay faithful to “give flesh to their faith” he makes an even stronger case: implementing CST is a binding ‘requirement’ of lay spirituality – of living out our lives in the world.
Pope Benedict calls on Catholics to give voice and action to those areas which mark our (lay) spirituality: “Every Christian is called to practice this charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the polis”. (CIV, 7)
He stated it was this exact point that led him to making it a major theme: “It was the problem of a positive laicity, practiced and interpreted correctly” that is “a fundamental theme of the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
A CHRISTIAN DUTY
Pope Benedict XVI makes implementing Catholic social teaching more binding on the individual faithful.
As Paul Cardinal Cordes points out, “in reality, social instruction ‘incarnates’ the faithful in society. It places a duty upon Christians to give flesh to his or her faith…The time for the church to be silent about her specific and binding foundation thus lies behind us”. (Not Without the Light of Faith: Catholic Social Doctrine, speech at The Australian Catholic University, November 27, 2009)
Catholic social teaching has become “personal” and is not an option. Pope Benedict XVI makes living our faith contingent on actively implementing the tenets of CST.
Catholics must live out their faith in the Public Square, for the betterment of all.
And this is not a call simply for ‘social action’. We are being called to:
“[A]n exacting and indispensable form of charity” thus grounding us in faith in the risen Christ as the basis of Catholic social teaching. (CIV, 1)
Personal conversion is a requirement of authentic, Catholic social action.
Three Key Principles
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)
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