Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Read It Like This: Basic Principles Of The Social Doctrine

The basis of the social doctrine, its very heart, is the dignity of the human person made in the image of God. The basis of that dignity is man's intended end, which is communion with God. So, there are a few concepts within the social doctrine we will need to bear in mind, if we are to understand Laudato Si, since Pope Francis has added it to the social doctrine of the Church. Other theologians remind us that the principles of the social doctrine are not articulated in a vacuum; we must apply them contextually.

Justice: To give to another person what he or she is due.

Common good: The sum of all the conditions necessary for each person to reach their end.

Solidarity: A firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. (Not simply a vague feeling of compassion)

Social Justice: That which tends to the preservation of social groups dedicated to the common good, and to the good of all the members within that/those groups.

Subsidiarity: A firm determination to assist people at lower levels of social organization by those at a higher level, without depriving those people of the right to handle matters within their competence. In  practical terms, we handle problems at the lowest level possible.

If we keep these basic definitions in mind, we won't read Laudato Si through other lenses, and hopefully therefore avoid becoming angry that the pope is supporting a political ideology we dislike. The application of the social doctrine is necessarily political in some secondary sense, because politics concerns the social organization of people. Anything in human life that hinders people from finding communion with God is of potential concern to the Church.

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