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.
Why is the ancient practice of pilgrimage enjoying new popularity? Recently I was invited to speak at a colloquium breaking open the Lineamenta for the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. I was given the topic Bringing Forth Treasures Both Old and New which prompted me to reflect on the ‘old treasure’ of pilgrimage. Why does this practice appeal to people in a post modern, secular society like my country of Australia? Maybe it is because it is such a tangible, material and experiential thing. The pilgrim goes on a physical and spiritual journey. It is a quest that engages all of our senses and invites us into the Christian story through the people, places and events of history. It is not just a cognitive exercise. It reminds us that spirituality is not primarily a thing to be understood but rather something to be experienced. Faith is not just a matter of accepting teachings but having a relationship with Jesus. Pilgrimage is a time honoured metaphor for our journey towards right relationship with ourselves, others, and God. Like a physical journey, our path can meander, we can be distracted and take wrong turns, and we can give up and turn back. Or we can meet fellow travellers who become companions with us on the journey, encouraging and supporting us, sharing the ups and downs. A pilgrimage is never entirely an individual thing. Even when we are walking alone, we are part of a great community stretching both backwards and forwards in time. Others have trod this path before, and others will come after us. In fact, we are never really alone in the present. We live our response to God in our relationships with others, in the way in which we relate to the rest of creation, and in how we work for justice in relationships between different groups in society – or not. Saint Ignatius of Loyola was fond of the metaphor of pilgrimage for our journey of faith, referring to himself only as ‘The Pilgrim’ in the account of his life which he rather reluctantly dictated to his companion Goncalves da Camera. The sites that one visits on pilgrimage are not always linked to happy events. At the cave in Manresa we remember Ignatius’ struggles with scruples and the entertainment of false consolations as much as we recall his mystical experience of the Trinity nearby on the bank of the Cardoner. In the lead up to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 I recall being very struck by an instruction on The Pilgrimage in the Great Jubilee. It encouraged pilgrimage to ‘places desecrated by sin’ (n 31) such as Auswitch and Hiroshima. Pilgrimage to these difficult places can be a way of healing memory. Visiting and praying at such sites of evil, may help communities to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and re-member them more constructively for the future. If we acknowledge what happened, and the role our community played in allowing or actively committing such acts, we can put our history together again in a new and more positive way. Evil and wrongdoing need not have the last word in our shared story. We can write another chapter together and reposition suffering in a transformative context. It is my hope that in time to come pilgrimages to sites where Aboriginal people were massacred, and to the institutions where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were held after being removed from their families to be ‘integrated’ into white society, will receive as many visits from pilgrims as the sites associated with Australia’s first Saint, Mary of the Cross MacKillop. I dream of a national pilgrimage which starts at the Reconciliation Church at La Perouse, the point of first contact between the British colonisers and the Aboriginal people. Where such a pilgrimage would end I am not yet sure. For Reflection Imagine that you are planning a pilgrimage for young social justice activists in your country. Which places would you visit, and why? Sandie Cornish