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Monday, March 9, 2015

Social Justice and the Average Catholic

Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.

---from Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions.

Listen to the discussion on the social media platforms today and one would be confused as to exactly what constitutes Catholic Social Teaching today. 

Are we a bunch of socialists?  Are we patriotic right wingers?  Are we a bunch of old white men squashing the 'reproductive rights' of poor downtrodden women? 

As a child growing up in the 1950's and 1960's I was used to seeing men and women clothed in religious garb on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement.  They were hosed down in Selma, beaten in Georgia, harassed and screamed at on the streets of Mobile.  Because they were white they were denigrated with horrible labels meant to ostracize them from the rest of white society.  Because they proudly wore their Roman collars and their habits they were denigrated by those who viewed the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the Pope as the Anti-Christ.

Today, because of the decades old priest pedophile scandal as well as a tendency to view actions taken in the 1940's and 1950's through the secular eyes of the 21st Century, many of our religious are again ostracized by popular society.  Though no longer wearing the white hooded robes of the KKK, the same kind of hatred and vitriol is spewed at them as they bravely walk the streets of places like Berkeley, California or New York City.  Forgetting that, when no one else is willing, these men and women put themselves into the world of the poorest of the poor every day.  They live their lives, cry with them, laugh with them, beg with them and try to provide some comfort - all because they have been commanded to do so by Jesus Christ.

So many people distort our teachings because they are hung up on specifics.  They scream about denying abortion or abortifacients to women without understanding the depth of the ideas the Catholic Church holds dear - that every person, no matter who, what or why they exist are endowed with an inherent human dignity that nothing - even their own depraved and ugly acts - can destroy.  We can cover up our image and likeness but we cannot deny in whose image and likeness we were created.  Unlike classical Protestant teaching - that human beings are depraved and therefore unable to be completely transformed by the power of Grace through the Sacraments - Catholics acknowledge that we are, ultimately, the product of Love.

St Augustine spoke of the how of creation by explaining that the Triune God is a society in an of itself, based on Love and full of Love and that Love 'spilled out' resulting in Creation.  My very existence is due to Love.  While I may act in discord with that foundation I cannot destroy it.  I am a daughter of God.  I matter.

For the average Catholic, the corporal works of mercy are a necessity of our lives.  We must feed and clothe and visit and tend and heal and counsel because our Faith is not separate from our Works.  If you cannot see that there is something different about us then we are not demonstrating what is necessary to be seen as a Christian.

Does this mean we are perfect?  No.  We are fallen humans and we struggle with sin every day.  Does it mean we can count on being 'saved'?  No.  Salvation is not a one time thing - accept Jesus Christ in to your heart, say the sinner's prayer and you are guaranteed a free ride to heaven.  NOPE.  That is a false and dangerous teaching that has lead many weak Catholics away from The Truth. 

Catholic Social Teaching is the embodiment of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Faith, without works, is dead...and the greatest of the virtues is not faith but Love.  Catholics have to embrace the whole thing or else we will stand at the end of time before Him....and not be recognized.

Today I hope to run the race with the kind of dedication the Church requires of Her children.  I know I cannot do it on my own.  I know I cannot earn my salvation...but I also know I must demonstrate it.

For that reason I do what I can to walk the talk, one day at a time.

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