This insightful essay by Evan Ellis reflects on the nature of listening and contemplation. Many of you may be familiar with Benedictine spirituality and its tradition of contemplation, but how about the concept of dadirri in the spirituality of the Aboriginal people of Daly River in Australia? Let us reclaim silence, listening, and contemplation in an increasingly busy world.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart commended the Australian Government’s decision to increase its humanitarian program but is critical of other aspects of its migration policy. His talk for the Second Annual Bishop Joseph Grech Colloquium on Ethics and Migration is here.
In a show of solidarity with Indigenous Australians, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have issued a joint statement criticising legislation that would continue to undermine the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s Northern Territory. Their call for deeper consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about laws and policies which affect them is grounded in the principle of subsidiarity. Read the joint statement Stronger Futures or Stolen Futures? here.
Are you celebrating Fair Trade Fortnight in your country? For information about events in Australia and New Zealand, visit www.fta.org.au What’s happening near you?
I was a bit surprised when my companion showed interest in the Valentine’s Day trinkets on sale at the shopping mall – after all, he was a Catholic Bishop! In my country Valentine’s Day is a highly commercialized celebration of romantic love but in my shopping companion’s country, the Philippines, it is a time when people express their love and appreciation to family and friends as well as romantic partners. We need a bigger vision of love – a love that is expressed not only in domestic life but also in the social, cultural, political and economic dimensions of life. The Australian Bishops have released a St Valentine’s Day Kit which reclaims the Saint in St Valentine’s Day and focuses on supporting marriage. It is a worthy effort. St Valentine didn’t help young lovers to buy each other roses and chocolates – he helped them to marry! Marriage is not a purely private matter. It is a public commitment and one which is impacted by public policy. When St Valentine helped couples to marry in defiance of an imperial ban on marriages, which was aimed at ensuring the availability of young men for the armies of empire, it was an act of civil disobedience. Valentine held up love and life over and above the demands of the state and the making of war. In Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI describes the whole of Catholic Social Teaching as the proclamation of the truth of God’s love in society (n 5). Love goes beyond simply giving others their due. When we love someone we do more than simply recognising and respecting their legitimate rights. Love goes beyond justice. It gives and forgives, it seeks the good for the other. It is marked by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion (n 6). Benedict XVI calls us to a bigger love – one that seeks the good of all of us, the common good. When we build up the common good through the structures, institutions and processes of our societies, we are expressing love in an institutional or political way (n 7). Benedict even calls for an economy animated by love and the logic of gift or gratuity. This bigger concept of love, which our world so desperately needs, is not all roses and chocolates – it requires a steadfast committment. Are our hearts big enough to move beyond romance and embrace everyone and everything that God has created?
Globalisation & the Church: Reflections on Caritas in Veritate This book edited by Neil Ormerod and Paul Oslington collects the presentations on Caritas in Veritate from a seminar held at the Australian Catholic University in 2009. The chapter by Sandie Cornish provides a simple introduction to the encyclical for the general reader. Order here.
What are the Sources of Catholic Social Teaching? In one sense we can say that Catholic Social Teaching comes from popes and bishops – they are the source of the formal teaching documents. Catholic Social Teaching sources may be papal, conciliar or episcopal. For example, Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, Gaudium et Spes is a document of the Second Vatican Council, and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference wrote Common Wealth for the Common Good. The deeper question about Catholic Social Teaching sources is ‘what do the popes and bishops draw on when they teach about social justice?’ Four Catholic Social Teaching Sources Catholic ethics commonly draws on four major sources. They are Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. When popes and bishops teach on social justice issues they will typically draw on some, or all of these sources. Scripture and Catholic tradition are faith sources while reason and experience are sources that others also use in their ethics. They are all important in the development of the Catholic Social Teaching tradition. Scripture Scripture plays an important role in any Christian effort to discern what is right and good, and how to live justly together in society. Catholics draw on Scripture in a more literary than literal way. We don’t look to the Bible for a detailed set of rules to guide just behaviour in contemporary societies. There are however, lots of parts of the Bible that teach us about living justly. The presentation below provides some stimulus material on social justice in the Bible. It is not a comprehensive treatment of the call to justice in Scripture. Scripture has played a stronger role in Catholic Social Teaching since the Second Vatican Council. Tradition Tradition doesn’t mean simply doing what was done in the past. It is about drawing on the previous reflection and teaching of the Church. Tradition is often passed on through formal teaching documents. Sometimes people mistake the documents for the tradition that they communicate! Catholic Social Teaching is not just a series of Papal documents. Tradition also includes the lived witness and writings of the saints, doctors of the Church and the leaders of the early church. The wisdom that comes from the experience of ordinary Christian communities trying to live the Gospel in different times and places is part of tradition too. Reason Natural law has played a strong role in Catholic social ethics. It argues that we can understand God’s will by using our reason to examine the world. The use of human reason and rational analysis helps Catholic Social Teaching to enter ethical conversation with people of different beliefs. The formal philosophical language linked with natural law is less common in post Vatican II teachings. Experience Catholic Social Teaching draws on experience because we believe that God continues to communicate with us through the people, places and events of human history. The social sciences and other sources of human wisdom can help us to understand and make use of experience to guide action. For a general introduction to Catholic Social Teaching visit this page.