Context Caritas in Veritate was Pope Benedict XVI’s only encyclical to focus exclusively on social justice matters. Published in 2009, it is the first post Cold War social encyclical. Caritas in Veritate is an anniversary encyclical commemorating Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical on development Populorum Progressio. Benedict XVI delayed publishing Caritas in Veritate so that he could address the Global Financial Crisis that was emerging as he drafted it. Pope John Paul II issued Sollicitudo rei Socialis to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio. This indicates how important Populorum Progressio is in the Catholic Social Teaching tradition. Its major contribution was the concept of integral human development. Major Issues Benedict introduces the ideas of gratuity and gift within the economy. He explores the relationship of rights and duties within development, including our duties towards the environment. Benedict explains the need for the cooperation of the human family, and explores the impact and potential of technology. He calls for the exercise of several layers and levels of subsidiary for the effective governance of globalisation. Methodology Benedict XVI begins by examining the relationship between truth and charity. Next he recalls the message of Populorum Progressio, noting its continuing relevance as well as areas of change. Then he looks at the challenges of human development in our time, and explores the moral dimension of the economy and the call to more fraternal relations within it. He concludes with a call to Christian action. Contribution to Catholic Social Teaching Benedict XVI presents a powerful synthesis of existing teaching on development. He also introduces a new idea – the logic of gift or gratuity within the economy. He says that space must be made for motivations other than profit within markets themselves rather than added post factum to adjust market outcomes. Rather than simply promoting the expansion of the ‘third sector’ he argues that every aspect of the economy at every stage must become ethical. In this encyclical the best part of a chapter is devoted to the environment. Integral human development must also be sustainable development. Right relationships with the rest of creation are part of the framework within which integral human development can be achieved. Our relationship with the rest of creation is no longer a side issue in Catholic Social Teaching but is central to the framing of the key questions. Read the Full Text of Caritas in Veritate Access the full text of the encyclical here Resources on Caritas in Veritate Explore the encyclical with this discussion guide by Sandie Cornish. Globalisation & the Church This collection of reflections on the encyclical is edited by Neil Ormerod and Paul Islington. It gathers the presentations on Caritas in Veritate from a conference held at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney in 2010. The chapter by Sandie Cornish provides a simple introduction to the encyclical for the general reader. Order here.
Will You Pray With Pope Francis? Each month the Pope announces two prayer intentions. One is universal, or general, while the other concerns evangelization more specifically. Pope Francis invites us to join him in praying for these intentions. Here are Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for July 2016. Universal: Respect for Indigenous Peoples That indigenous peoples, whose identity and very existence are threatened, will be shown due respect. Evangelisation: Latin America & the Caribbean That the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, by means of her mission to the continent, may announce the Gospel with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. Indigenous Peoples of Australia Do you know who the indigenous people of your place are? Can you find out about them and pray for and with them this month? The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the indigenous peoples of Australia. Listening to their experiences is one way of showing respect. You can learn more about their experience of culture and faith here. The Catholic Church in Australia celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on the first Sunday in July. There are lots of resources to help you pray for Pope Francis’ intention this month in this kit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2016. This website was built on Aboriginal land. We acknowledge the Guringai people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of this land and pay respect to their elders past and present. Watch the Pope Video
Migrants, Refugees & the Gospel of Mercy The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office has prepared a kit for Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016. It will help individuals, parishes, schools and communities to celebrate the event. The kit shares Pope Francis’ World Day of Migration Message for 2016, and a message from Bishop Vincent Long. Bishop Long is the Australian Bishops’ Delegate for Migrants and Refugees and himself arrived in Australia as a refugee. The Migrant and Refugee Sunday kit also provides liturgy and prayer materials and an article about Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini. She is the universal patron saint of immigrants and we will celebrate the centenary of her death next year. Linking the event to the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Bishop Long said “as Christians, our attitude towards those in need is formed by our own experience of God’s love and mercy.” Thus “we can show them the love and mercy of God precisely because we ourselves are the recipients of the same love and mercy.” He sees “encounter and acceptance of others” as being “intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God himself.” Hence “welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” Bishop Long declared that the Australian Bishops “stand united with Pope Francis who has given us strong leadership on the care of asylum seekers and refugees.” His message welcomes the active assistance given by Catholic organisations and parishes to refugees and asylum seekers. He encouraged all Catholics “to enact the culture of encounter, welcome and acceptance in practical, personal and communal ways.” Get the Kit Download the Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 Kit here.
The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has a tradition of focusing on worker justice issues during the month of May and their Chair usually issues a Pastoral Statement for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. They explain that: “This year, the day usually given to the Memorial of St Joseph the Worker, 1 May, falls on the 6th Sunday of Easter, which takes precedence over the memorial according to the norms of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar. So, while there is no Pastoral Letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, we continue the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s tradition of raising important issues concerning work and economic justice during the month of May.” Three Worker Justice Issues Instead, for 2016, the ACSJC has offered reflections on three issues: 1. The inadequate levels of income support offered to people who are unemployed; 2. The risk that penalty rates will be cut for vulnerable workers; and 3. The increasing intrusion of work demands into family time and weekends. You can read the full text here. These issues have been raised by the ACSJC and other Church and community organisations over many years. The ACSJC continues to call on Australia’s political leaders to address these areas where the dignity of work continues to be devalued or denied to vulnerable members of our society.
A brief introduction to the preferential option for the poor by Sandie Cornish. The Option for the Poor in Scripture God’s Reign is one of justice, love and peace. Throughout the Bible, and especially in the Gospel narratives of the life of Jesus, we see many examples of God’s special concern for the poor and the powerless. For example, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus explains his mission as bringing good news to the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and freedom to the downtrodden (Lk 4: 18 – 19). In the Exodus event, God frees the people from slavery in Egypt, hearing the cry of the poor and oppressed and acting to set them free. The memory of this liberation was to shape the attitude of the Israelites to widows, orphans and strangers, that is, those who were disadvantaged and vulnerable in their own society (Exod 22: 21 – 23). God called the people out of slavery into a covenant relationship, to form a new and more just society. This sense of God as being on the side of the poor as their protector and vindicator is also expressed frequently in the prophetic literature and in the psalms, and underpins the Beatitudes. In the parables of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16: 19 – 31) and of the rich fool (Lk 12: 13 – 21), the materially poor are at an advantage regarding salvation because they are painfully aware of their need for God whereas wealth can provide a false sense of security. In Matthew’s scene of the Great Judgment (25: 31 – 46) there is just one test of whether one is to be saved or not – how one has treated the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and imprisoned. Jesus identifies totally with them – what we do to them, we do to him. A Matter of Priority Making a preferential option for the poor is a way of following the example of Jesus. It is an option in the sense of being a conscious choice to be in solidarity with those who are poor, marginalized or disrespected, and to work for structural change to transform the causes of poverty and marginalization. Our preferential option for the poor is a core commitment – it is not optional! It is preferential because through this option we give preference or priority in our love to those who are poor. God’s love embraces all of us and so our preferential option for the poor does not exclude care for anyone in need. It calls all of us to right relationships, and it does this by placing those in greatest need at the centre. The experience of the poor and powerless is the test of how just our society really is. That’s why, in offering services, or undertaking advocacy, Catholic organisations demonstrate a preference for the needy, excluded, or devalued members of our society. When we make choices, we consider the impact on those who are poor or pushed to the margins. This is why Pope Francis points out that “every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and underprivileged.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, n 93) Origin of the Term The term ‘option for the poor’ arose from liberation theologians’ reading of Scripture in the context of Latin America during the 1960s. The term ‘option for the poor’ began to appear in Church teaching documents in the 1970s. The Medellin Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) made an option for the poor in 1968, but this expression did not appear explicitly in CELAM documents until the Puebla Conference of 1979. The concept of an option for the poor rapidly became influential among Bishops in Asia and Africa, and among religious orders. It was later taken up in the teachings of Bishops in western countries, for example, in the US Bishops’ 1986 Pastoral Letter, Economic Justice for All, (n 25) and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s 1992 Pastoral Statement, Common Wealth for the Common Good (pp 24-25). More recently, the Australian Bishops summed up the option for the poor saying that “any society is judged by how the weakest and poorest of its members are treated. The most vulnerable people are our greatest responsibility” (Vote for the Common Good: Election Statement 2013). Incorporation into Catholic Social Teaching Documents In Octogesima Adveniens Paul VI affirmed that “the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others” but he warned against ideologies that are inconsistent with Christian faith and action (n 23, 26 – 29). It was this document that first introduced into Catholic Social Teaching the qualifier ‘preferential’ to make clear that the option for the poor is not exclusive or a warrant for Marxist class struggle. To give preference in our love to the poorest and most vulnerable is not to reject those who are not poor or marginalized, but rather to invite rich and poor alike to enter into right relationships. Amid concerns that an option for the poor reduced salvation to an economic or political project, Evangelii Nuntiandi presented a holistic vision of salvation embracing both material and transcendent dimensions (n 27, 29). Human liberation and salvation in Jesus Christ are linked but not the same thing: “in order that God’s Kingdom should come it is not enough to establish liberation and to create well-being and development” (EN n 35). In an address to CELAM’s Puebla Conference, John Paul II warned against problematic ways of understanding and practicing an option for the poor, but he also strongly encouraged the Latin American Bishops to actively pursue an authentic Christian approach to the liberation of people from poverty and oppression. He declared an option for the poor to be “a special form of […]
What does Catholic Social Teaching have to say about the rights of Indigenous peoples? In the Catholic human rights tradition, human rights and the duties that go with them are grounded in the dignity of the human person. They apply to all persons and all peoples in every kind of situation or type of activity. The rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights. ACSJC Occasional Paper No 21 Here’s one from the archive! I wrote this paper for the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council in 1994. It presents the Catholic human rights tradition and draws out the main themes and principles in the teachings of Saint John Paul II about the rights of Indigenous peoples. It also examines the teachings of the Australian Bishops on these issues. The theological foundations remain relevant and so do the key principles. The paper is out of print now, but here is the full text: Since then the Australian Bishops have continued to teach on these issues and Pope Francis has stressed the importance of indigenous people’s connections with creation and the wisdom of their sustainable economies. Sandie Cornish
Bishop Terence Brady issued a message for the International Day of People with Disability 2015 on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. He is the Conference’s Delegate for Disability Issues and a member of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life. Bishop Brady noted that “according to the 2011 National Church Life survey figures there are 267,711 Catholics with disability in Australia” and acknowledged that “people with disability face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society, including our parish communities.” Social Inclusion Bishop Brady said that “people with disabilities do not enjoy access to our faith communities on an equal basis with others. It is important that people with hidden disability are included in all aspects of our faith communities. The International Day can be used to draw attention on the situation of persons with invisible disabilities, such as mental health and psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities, as well as hearing impairments.” Bishop Brady declared that “a Parish is not complete or whole unless it includes, nurtures, and rejoices in each of its members” and called on parishes “to be communities that gladly and authentically welcome people with disability and their families to life of the Church.” Full Text & Video The full text of Bishop Brady’s message can be read here. Watch the video Resources Reflections, prayer cards, guidelines and more from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference are available here.