I love being a teacher. I have taught a variety of things throughout my time but by far my favorite thing to teach is Catholic Social Teaching. I love this subject for many reasons. I love it because it is so relevant. It gives me the opportunity to talk about and apply Church principles to many of our modern day problems. I love it because it is controversial and it ticks people off when they hear the truth that it proclaims. I love it because it fires me up. I love it because it is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted teachings of the Church. I love it because so many people take it out of context and use it to justify their liberal and immoral agenda. It sounds strange that I would love it for that reason but I do. It allows me to really enter into dialogue and conversation with someone about the faith as it applies to modern day problems.
First of all, I find it a little odd that we have a completely separate section of Theology called Catholic Social Teaching. In some ways I get it, it is a practical way of catechizing people in our modern world. But when it boils down to it Catholic Social Teaching is simply the application of the gospel message to society. If we know Jesus and what the Church teaches then Catholic Social Teaching should come as no surprise to us. Every principle that is laid out is rooted in the teachings of Christ and the Old Testament Prophets. It seems that often times groups within the Church that are more "liberal" use the fact that we have a separate section called Catholic Social Teaching to justify actions that go in contradiction to the teachings of Christ by taking those teachings out of context. The more "conservatives" use it as an excuse to not learn about Social Teaching because in their minds it is a "liberal" thing and therefore good Catholics don't really have to know about it. For example, have you ever heard someone say, "Oh that group is only about social justice”? Well actually all Catholics are about Social Justice. It is the "only" part that we have to be concerned about. Actually there is no way to "only" be concerned with social justice. If you are not a disciple of Christ it is not possible to live the social teaching of the Church.
Secondly, as a Church WE ARE NOT social workers. Mother Teresa was NOT a social worker. We are first and foremost followers of Jesus. If Jesus is not a real person that we engage in conversation and relationship with every day then we cannot live social teaching effectively. There is a reason Mother Teresa and the missionaries of charity sit in front of the blessed Sacrament every single day for at least an hour and went to mass along with that before they even set foot on the streets of Calcutta to help the poor. This may sound crazy but unlike the rest of the secular world the reason we are called to help the poor and those that are needy and marginalized in our world is not simply because we feel sorry for them or to make ourselves feel better. The reasons we are called to help the less fortunate is simply because Jesus asks us to. Well why does Jesus ask us to? So that we can draw their attention away from their earthly needs so that they can pay attention to their spiritual needs. When a person has their physical needs taken care of they can then be more free to pay attention to their spiritual needs. We are called to live by the Eschatological Principle. This means that we live in this world for the sake of the next! Our goal is Heaven!
Therefore ultimately the social teaching of the Church is about recognizing the dignity of every single human person and drawing them into communion with Christ so that we can all journey to Heaven together. That means that above all the most important thing we have to fight for is the right to life. If we do not have the right to life we don't have anything. If life is not protected at its earliest stages then it is a hypocrisy to be concerned with the poor on the streets. Do you want an answer to the economic crisis in this country? Start having children! Reach out to women who are in crisis pregnancy situations! Defend the Family! Educate people in chastity and natural family planning! Fight against the contraceptive mentality in our culture! That is social justice! Think about it. If we secure the family and make more babies then we have more people in our country who will spend more money and stimulate the economy. The effects of abortion in our country and in the world are coming to fruition. There are more elderly in the world than young people. Our population is depleting. There IS NOT an overpopulation problem. That is a LIE!
According to John XXIII the individual person is the foundation, cause and end of all social institutions; therefore all societies and institutions must be at the service of the person. This is not the case in our society. Financial figures, technology, and economic progress are primary. Wake up people, all those things our world is worried about will improve if we prioritize and start caring about Human life! For some the Environmental crisis is the issue they want to see addressed. Well read Caritas in Veritatae by Benedict XVI. In that encyclical he clearly states that of course there is an environmental crisis, how could there not be when we don't care about Human Life. How are people going to be concerned with taking care of trees and the environment when they aren't concerned with defending human life in all its stages?
In the end Catholic Social Teaching is not simply about serving at a soup kitchen or protesting outside an abortion clinic. It is about defending and loving Human life in all its stages and the only way to truly understand what that means is by entering into relationship with Christ. He can reveal to us how loved we are and how loved every single soul ever created is! If we want to understand catholic social teaching we must begin by entering into relationship with Christ. Then we should enter into the dialogue by actually reading what the Church has to say in its entirety. We cannot make our own assumptions. We must not take things out of context. We have to be open to where Christ is leading us. We may find ourselves taking some more "conservative" positions on things if we have labeled ourselves as liberal or we may find ourselves taking some more "liberal" positions on things if we have labeled ourselves as conservative. This might be difficult to swallow but remember our job is to be CATHOLIC and the Church is neither democrat nor republican! Sometimes we make the mistake of being more democrat or more republican than Catholic. If we want to start changing this world for the better we as Catholics have to take the lead on this and stop associating ourselves with parties and start preaching the truth regardless of which party line the truth falls under. When the reign of the truth is brought about through charity only then will justice prevail!