First off, thank you so much for the responses to Monday’s post about the new focus. I appreciate the questions you all asked, as well as the suggestions for issues to explore.
I especially wanted to respond to Bonnie’s comment, which I am re-posting here:
“Sarah, I am excited to read what you’ll be writing.
I confess, when I hear “social justice” coming from a Catholic it conjurs up a lot of negative images for me of Catholics who are not orthodox and only embrace the social justice aspect of the faith, while even twisting that out of orthodoxy. I know it is so much more than that and perhaps that can be one of the topics you tackle – how to reclaim the idea of Catholc social justice so more conservative Catholics don’t roll their eyes – so to speak. (I feel like I just ruffled a bunch of feathers.)”
Bonnie, thank you so much for this comment. It allows me to perfectly segue into talking about what I mean when I say “social justice” and “Catholic social teaching”.
The first thing I’d like to do in responding is to point readers to my post from last summer Social Justice: Seeing What the Church Sees. It’s a bit on the academic side, but it sums up nicely the main foundations of what I mean by “social justice”.
In a sense, “social justice” is such an umbrella term for a lot of differing philosophies, which tends to complicate things when examining it. That’s why I refer nearly exclusively to “Catholic social justice” or “Catholic social teachings” to differentiate between what our faith tells us justice is versus what society or other philosophies tell us.
That said, Bonnie, you are absolutely right. All I can tell you is what I’ve said before, to nearly anyone who will listen: Persons who believe that social justice can be attained without respecting the life and dignity of each and every human being on the planet are laboring in vain. Their efforts are sure to fail because for any justice to be authentic, it must recognize the inviolable dignity of the human person. As I stated above, the recognition of that fact must be the basis of all social structures in order for them to be just. That is the teaching of the Church, and it is the Truth.
If someone tells you that they are working for social justice, but they do not uphold the dignity and right to live of every human person from conception until natural death, you should roll your eyes at them, Bonnie. They are working for something, but authentic social justice isn’t it. Obviously I am talking primarily about the type of people Bonnie mentions, those who claim to be working for “Catholic social justice” but who are not orthodox, which I am taking to mean that they reject major tenets of the faith and non-negotiable teachings on morals. In other words:
Unfortunately, there are folks out there who think they can pick and choose which teachings of the Church they’re going to follow. I’ve written about my sadness over them here.
For the purposes of continuing conversation on this page, justice means, broadly defined, “Being in right relationship.” That is the focus for our family and this little site: How can we be in right relationship with the members of our family, our Church, our local communities, and ultimately the world? What does right relationship look like?
For me in a particular way, part of what it means for me to be in right relationship with the Church is to share my witness of being someone who embraces all Catholic social teachings and also embraces an orthodox life of faith. Those two things are inexorably connected. To take one (whichever one you choose) without the other, it just doesn’t work. We are a Church of The Real Presence and the Preferential Option for the Poor. They go together. Don’t long listen to people who tell you otherwise.
I hope that adressed your concern Bonnie, and if others were having similar worries, please rest assured that there ain’t no heresy happening in this house.
What other questions or concerns do you have about social justice as a concept or practice? I will do my best to address them, either in the comments, or if particularly apt, in a post such as this.
Stay tuned for Friday’s quick takes, where I’ll be sharing a little bit about each of the principles of Catholic social teaching!