Catholic Social Teaching: Respecting Human Dignity
“He has risen indeed! This is the reason for our hope!” read the program cover for a “Day on Catholic Social Teaching.” On March 29, Fr. Jack Costello, S.J. (photo at right) spoke at Morrow Park at the invitation of the Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. After greeting the audience of both Sisters and Associates, Sister Anne Lemire introduced Fr. Costello, who urged us to consider Catholic social thinking rather than Catholic social teaching, since teaching is performed by the few while thinking is the domain of us all.
Fr. Costello traced the change in our thinking over the past thirty-five years. He noted the birth of ecumenical coalitions, based on the Canadian tradition of tolerance for diversity, and the outbreak of “feminine energy.” Today we look at the mess around us – the unchanged state of child poverty despite government promises, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, to name but two of our problems – and don’t know what to do about it.
We have suffered three notable losses:
- loss of cultural sensibility
- loss of moral sensitivity
- the undermining of our democratic foundations (in the name of security).
We must stand for human dignity, respect for every person – this in the face of irresponsible capitalism, unbounded globalization and the prevalent neo-conservative outlook. Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Our God is a God of love — we are created in love, for love. Thus the remarkable dignity of every person.
The afternoon session viewed the change in thinking by looking at the post-Vatican II encyclicals. Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris was, amazingly, addressed not to the clergy or the Catholic community, but to all persons of good will. For God, everyone counts: there are no outsiders.
Next came Pope Paul VI who, assuming growth in international relations founded on John XXIII’s writing, wrote of fostering plurality of church as well as social and economic development. If you want peace, do justice. John Paul II addressed the Church’s attitude towards work, work which gives dignity to all. We look forward to Benedict XVI’s forthcoming encyclical, Charity and Truth.
All in all, it was a day of great awakening for all who were there. Has your appetite been whetted? Two books were suggested for further reading: Blessed Unrest, by Hawken, and The Great Turning, by Korten. Happy reading!
With Fr. Jack Costello is the CSJ JPIC group, (l-r) Sisters
Theresa Rodgers, Jean Leahy, Anne Lemire and Janet Fraser.
By Mary Buckley CSJ
Photos by Mary Doreen Smith CSJ