On October 25, 2004, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published the long-awaited "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," which presents, in a systematic manner 1330 pages of text plus a 200 page index), the principles of the Church's social doctrine in diverse areas of public life.
Work on the volume, published in both Italian and English, began at the Council five years ago under the presidency of the late Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who died in September, 2002. The book is dedicated to the Holy Father who, in the 1999 Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America," recommended that "it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine, including a catechism which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization."
This is a very informative book, but unfortunately, some important papal quotes on social justice, like those from Pius XI'S encyclical letter. "Quadragesimo Anno" about those who control money and credit (see article on page 14), are not mentioned. Could it be because one of the members of this Pontifical Council is Michel Camdessus, the former chairman of the International Monetary Fund? In any case, here are some excerpts from this book that give an overview of the social doctrine of the Church (the numbers refer to the paragraphs in the book):
Permeating society with the Gospel
62. With her social teaching, the Church seeks to proclaim and make it present in the complex network of social relations... The Church's social doctrine is an integral part of her evangelizing ministry.(...)
66. 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.
69. With her social doctrine, the Church aims "at helping man on the path of salvation." This is her primary and sole purpose. (...) 70. 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. (...)
71. On the one hand, religion must not be restricted "to the purely private sphere"; on the other, the Christian message must not be relegated to a purely other-worldly salvation incapable of shedding light on our earthly existence. Because of the public relevance of the Gospel and faith, because of the corrupting effects of injustice, that is, of sin, the Church cannot remain indifferent to social matters. "To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls." (Code of Canon Law, canon 747, n. 2.)
Respect for human dignity
132. A just society can become a reality only when it is based on the respect of the transcendent dignity of the human person. The person represents the ultimate end of society, by which it is ordered to the person: "Hence, the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person, since the order of things is to be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around." Respect for human dignity can in no way be separated from obedience to this principle. It is necessary to "consider every neighbour without exception as another self, taking into account first of all his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity." Every political, economic, social, scientific and cultural programme must be inspired by the awareness of the primacy of each human being over society.
155. The teachings of Pope John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Paul VI have given abundant indication of the concept of human rights as articulated by the Magisterium. Pope John Paul II has drawn up a list of them in the encyclical Centesimus Annus: "the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother's womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child's personality; the right to develop one's intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth's material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one's dependents; and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one's sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one's faith and in conformity with one's transcendent dignity as a person."
160. The permanent principles of the Church's social doctrine constitute the very heart of Catholic social teaching. These are the principles of: the dignity of the human person, which is the foundation of all the other principles and content of the Church's social doctrine; the common good; subsidiarity; and solidarity. (...)
Tasks of the political community
168. The responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the State, since the common good is the reason that the political authority exists. The State, in fact, must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression, in order that the common good may be attained with the contribution of every citizen. The individual person, the family or intermediate groups are not able to achieve their full development by themselves for living a truly human life. Hence the necessity of political institutions, the purpose of which is to make available to persons the necessary material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods. The goal of life in society is in fact the historically attainable common good.
170. The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures, and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it. This perspective reaches its fullness by virtue of faith in Jesus' Passover, which sheds clear light on the attainment of humanity's true common good. Our history — the personal and collective effort to elevate the human condition — begins and ends in Jesus: thanks to Him, by means of Him and in light of Him every reality, including human society, can be brought to its Supreme Good, to its fulfilment. A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing.
The universal destination of goods
171. Among the numerous implications of the common good, immediate significance is taken on by the principle of the universal destination of goods: "God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity.". (Gaudium et Spes, 69.) This principle is based on the fact that "the original source of all that is good is the very act of God, who created both the earth and man, and who gave the earth to man so that he might have dominion over it by his work and enjoy its fruits (Gen 1:28-29). God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone. This is the foundation of the universal destination of the earth's goods. The earth, by reason of its fruitfulness and its capacity to satisfy human needs, is God's first gift for the sustenance of human life." The human person cannot do without the material goods that correspond to his primary needs and constitute the basic conditions for his existence; these goods are absolutely indispensable if he is to feed himself, grow, communicate, associate with others, and attain the highest purposes to which he is called.
172. The universal right to use the goods of the earth is based on the principle of the universal destination of goods. Each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for his full development. The right to the common use of goods is the "first principle of the whole ethical and social order" and "the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine." For this reason the Church feels bound in duty to specify the nature and characteristics of this principle. It is first of all, a natural right, inscribed in human nature, and not merely a positive right connected with changing historical circumstances.
Moreover it is an "inherent" right. It is innate in individual persons, in every person, and has priority with regard to any human intervention concerning goods, to any legal system concerning the same, to any economic or social system or method: "All other rights, whatever they are, including property rights and the right of free trade must be subordinated to this norm (the universal destination of goods); they must not hinder it, but must rather expedite its application. It must be considered a serious and urgent social obligation to refer these rights to their original purpose."
176. By means of work and making use of the gift of intelligence, people are able to exercise dominion over the earth and make it a fitting home. "In this way, he makes part of the earth his own, precisely the part which he has acquired through work; this is the origin of individual property." Private property and other forms of private ownership of goods "assure a person a highly necessary sphere for the exercise of his personal and family autonomy, and ought to be considered as an extension of human freedom... stimulating exercise of responsibility, it constitutes one of the conditions for civil liberty." Private property is an essential element of an authentically social and democratic economic policy, and it is the guarantee of a correct social order. The Church's social doctrine requires that ownership of goods be equally accessible to all, so that all may become, at least in some measure, owners, and it excludes recourse to forms of "common and promiscuous dominion."
178. The Church's social teaching moreover calls for recognition of the social function of any form of private ownership that clearly refers to its necessary relation to the common good. Man "should regard the external things that he legitimately possesses not only as his own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only him but also others."
The universal destination of goods entails obligations on how goods are to be used by their legitimate owners. Individual persons may not use their resources without considering the effects that this use will have; rather they must act in a way that benefits not only themselves and their family but also the common good. From this there arises the duty on the part of owners not to let the goods in their possession go idle, and to channel them to productive activity, even entrusting them to others who are desirous and capable of putting them to use in production.
179. The present historical period has placed at the disposal of society new goods that were completely unknown until recent times. This calls for a fresh reading of the principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth and makes it necessary to extend this principle so that it includes the latest developments brought about by economic and technological progress. The ownership of these new goods — the results of knowledge, technology and know-how — becomes ever more decisive, because "the wealth of the industrialized nations is based much more on this kind of ownership than on natural resources."
New technological and scientific knowledge must be placed at the service of mankind's primary needs, gradually increasing humanity's common patrimony. Putting the principle of the universal destination of goods into full effect therefore requires action at the international level and planned programmes on the part of all countries. "It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development."
The principle of subsidiarity
185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church's social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to "the creative subjectivity of the citizen." This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity.
186. The necessity of defending and promoting the original expressions of social life is emphasized by the Church in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, in which the principle of subsidiarity is indicated as a most important principle of "social philosophy". "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the social body, and never destroy and absorb them."
On the basis of this principle, all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes to help ("subsidium") therefore of support, promotion, development — with respect to lower-order societies. In this way, intermediate social entities can properly perform the functions that fall to them without being required to hand them over unjustly to other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and substituted, in the end seeing themselves denied their dignity and essential place.
Subsidiarity, understood in the positive sense as economic, institutional or juridical assistance offered to lesser social entities, entails a corresponding series of negative implications that require the State to refrain from anything that would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society. Their initiative, freedom and responsibility must not be supplanted.
187. The principle of subsidiarity protects people from abuses by higher-level social authority, and calls on these same authorities to help individuals and intermediate groups to fulfill their duties. This principle is imperative because every person, family and intermediate group has something original to offer to the community. Experience shows that the denial of subsidiarity, or its limitation in the name of an alleged democratization or equality of all members of society, limits and sometimes even destroys the spirit of freedom and initiative.
The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization, bureaucratization, and welfare assistance, and to unjustified and excessive presence of the State in public mechanisms. "By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending." (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 48.) An absent or insufficient recognition of private initiative in economic matters also — and the failure to recognize its public function, contribute to the undermining of the principle of subsidiarity, as monopolies do as well.
Importance of the family for society
213. The family, the natural community in which human social nature is experienced, makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. The family unit, in fact, is born from the communion of persons. "'Communion' has to do with the personal relationship between the 'I' and the 'thou'. 'Community' on the other hand transcends this framework and moves towards a 'society', a 'we'. The family, as a community of persons, is thus the first human 'society.'"
A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the centre of attention as an end and never as a means. It is patently clear that the good of persons and the proper functioning of society are closely connected "with the healthy state of conjugal and family life." Without families that are strong in their communion and stable in their commitment, peoples grow weak. In the family, moral values are taught starting from the very first years of life, the spiritual heritage of the religious community and the cultural legacy of the nation are transmitted. In the family one learns social responsibility and solidarity.
214. The priority of the family over society and over the State must be affirmed. The family in fact, at least in its procreative function, is the condition itself for their existence. With regard to other functions that benefit each of its members, it preceeds in importance and value the functions that society and the State are called to perform. The family possesses inviolable rights and finds its legitimization in human nature and not in being recognized by the State. The family, then, does not exist for society nor for the State, but society and the State exist for the family.
Every social model that intends to serve the good of man must not overlook the centrality and social responsibility of the family. in their relationship to the family, society and the State are seriously obligated to observe the principle of subsidiarity. In virtue of this principle, public authorities may not take away from the family tasks which it can accomplish well by itself or in free association with other families; on the other hand, these same authorities have the duty to sustain the family, ensuring that it has all the assistance that it needs to fulfill properly its responsibilities.
241. Parents have the right to found and support educational institutions. Public authorities must see to it that "public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom." The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice. "Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice... The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance."
251. In the relationship between the family and work, particular attention must be given to the issue of the work of women in the family, more generally to the recognition of the so-called work of "housekeeping", which also involves the responsibility of men as husbands and fathers. The work of housekeeping, starting with that of the mother, precisely because it is a service directed and devoted to the quality of life, constitutes a type of activity that is eminently personal and personalizing, and that must be socially recognized and valued, also by means of economic compensation in keeping with that of other types of work. At the same time, care must be taken to eliminate all the obstacles that prevent a husband and wife from making free decisions concerning their procreative responsibilities and, in particular, those that do not allow women to carry out their maternal role fully.
The Compendium contains more chapters about human work, economic life, the political community, the international communtiy, the environment, the promotion of peace, and the commitment of the lay faithful. We will give excerpts from those chapters in future issues of "Michael".