Thursday, 23 April 2009

Catholic social teaching is no secret

The body of Catholic social teaching built up in modern times has become quite a formidable edifice. Naturally successive papal encyclicals on the subject have to reprise their predecessors as well as develop the teaching further. Each repays careful study in its own right, but conveniently the Church has summarized the accumulated tradition so far for us in her Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The soon-to-be-released social encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI will build on this foundation.

In my first posting, I tried to reduce the whole body of principles to four: personality, solidarity, subsidiarity and sustainability. The starting point of the whole teaching is the revelation of the meaning of the human person, created in the image of the Trinitarian God - relational not merely individual. On this depends all our dignity, our rights, and the responsibility to act accordingly. A Dominican friend has pointed out that this theme was developed beautifully in an important but little-known document of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See called Communion and Stewardship (2004). The document discusses the theology of the divine image, including its relevance to gender, community, ecology, evolution, science and technology. Here are some extracts concerning ecology:
Created in the image of God to share in the communion of Trinitarian love, human beings occupy a unique place in the universe according to the divine plan: they enjoy the privilege of sharing in the divine governance of visible creation. This privilege is granted to them by the Creator who allows the creature made in his image to participate in his work, in his project of love and salvation, indeed in his own lordship over the universe. Since man's place as ruler is in fact a participation in the divine governance of creation, we speak of it here as a form of stewardship. [57] ...Human beings exercise this stewardship by gaining scientific understanding of the universe, by caring responsibly for the natural world (including animals and the environment), and by guarding their own biological integrity. [61] ...A misunderstanding of this teaching may have led some to act in reckless disregard of the natural environment, but it is no part of the Christian teaching about creation and the imago Dei to encourage unrestrained development and possible depletion of the earth’s resources. [73]

No comments:

Post a comment