If you haven’t heard of Catholic Social Teaching, or you’re not really sure what it means, you are not alone! We know the Church teaches on the Sacraments and we know about the Ten Commandments, but what does the Church teach about social affairs?
In my last article, I explained that ‘caritas’ is a Latin word meaning ‘charity’ and it’s this charity – this ‘love in action’ – or how to put our faith into action – that Catholic Social Teaching is all about.
Jesus said, “you must love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:39). But what does ‘love your neighbour’ mean? Well, Jesus answered that perfectly in his parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel (chapter 10). Simply, it is to put the needs of all others before ourselves. We may give what we feel we can from our surplus, but Jesus goes further than that. He teaches us to walk alongside the poor and the marginalised and to put them at the centre of everything we do. To give food to the hungry is good. However, Jesus demands that we go further. At every turn, Jesus places the poor and the marginalised at the centre of His ministry: the widow, the leper, the Samaritan, the tax collector, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, come immediately to mind. All of these were rejected by the people of Jesus’ time and yet they became central to His message. Furthermore, He tells us at the end of the story of the Good Samaritan, that we must ‘go, and do the same yourself’. This is tough, challenging teaching, to say the least! I invite you to consider for a moment what type of person you might reject. Where would Jesus place that person?
With this in mind, popes and others have been inspired to write about how we can put this command of Jesus into action. From Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum (written in 1891), through to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ – these are the documents which show us the way. It is these and many other papal encyclicals which are the core of the teaching of the Catholic Church on social responsibilities and social care – otherwise known as Catholic Social Teaching.
There are six Principles of Catholic Social Teaching: Human Dignity; Community & Participation; Option for the Poor; Dignity of Workers; Solidarity & Peace; Care of Creation.
Over the next few months I will explore in a little more depth, each of these Principles in turn. I hope you will find this journey of discovery interesting and that it stimulates a desire within you to ‘love your neighbour’ in a new way.
Are you already involved in some kind of social outreach work? If you are, Caritas East Anglia would like to hear from you! We’re planning to create a map of the diocese covering social outreach work that parishioners can get involved in. Information about your project would be really helpful. There is a very short questionnaire which has a list of projects we’re interested in, so if you’re not sure if your project is relevant, have a look at the list and tick the ones you’re involved in. Go to: www.rcdea.org.uk/caritas-questionnaire
Pictured above is outreach worker Jo, left, with client Nicola, from Reach Community Projects which received a £10,000 grant from Alive in Faith. Read more here.