the Vatican Speaks on Social Justice

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is coming to America to deliver the plenary address of the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, Feb. 13-16.This year’s theme is “Protecting Human Life and Dignity: Promoting a Just Economy.” He has also stated he hopes to settle a question that is surprising to many in the Vatican. It seems that the Holy Father’s statements on social justice has been grossly misunderstood in the United States. It seems that he – and many in the Curia – were alarmed at the usurpation of social justice as being synonymous with ‘collective salvation’, ‘liberation theology’, and other big-government social ‘justice’ issues.

The Citizen has been writing essays on this unfortunate phenomena in the United States for some years now. The Cardinal – being a truly good and Godly man – attributed this situation to a cultural misapprehension among Americans. I am not so trusting. Organizations like Catholics for Obama, Catholics for Choice, and other lay and religious organizations have ignored the magisterium, using these concepts as justification for their attempt to redefine Catholicism in the United States.

Anyone who has read “Caritas in Veritate” knows that the Church insists on charity as a personal obligation not a function of the state. This means that feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, aiding the ill, tending to the needs of the less fortunate are all individual obligations that are the charge of our parish communities and our dioceses. This personal sacrifice in money and effort is part of our Christian obligation. It’s part of the sacrifice we make when the collection basket comes around. It’s part of the sacrifice we make when we contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal or support one of our Catholic ministries directly. When we volunteer to serve our parish and our community, we are sacrificing according to God’s expectations for us.

Most Americans don’t see the poor save in passing on the sidewalk or begging on street corners as they drive by, listening to NPR in their hybrids. They may ‘tk, tsk’ and wonder why the government doesn’t ‘do something about this.’ They listen to the secular and liberal ‘Catholics’ like Pelosi, Biden, Courtney, DeLauro, and a slew of others who spout that government programs to help the poor are eminently Catholic. So many Catholics believe them. They vote for them. They pay their taxes.

And the number of poor grow.

Every year.

Socialism – which is a core component of liberation theology and collective salvation – is inherently contrary to the teachings of the Church. Socialism seeks to supplant individual property with state-run collectives that administers all property, wealth, and resources as a function of the state. This diminishes the role and responsibility of the individual AND supplants the role of the Church as a moral compass with the impersonal agenda of the secular state.

A large part of the value of charity is the giving.  Caritas in Veritate” explains that giving is a means for us to understand the infinite love that God possesses for all His children and providing us an opportunity to emulate that love.

Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity…That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion.

Charity is an opportunity for us to feel the sacrifice, to commit to giving for the express purpose of giving, to accept our personal responsibility to others. Paying taxes or supporting government programs engenders no such commitment. In fact, seeing how about half of Americans don’t even pay income taxes, about half of Americans don’t even make that lukewarm commitment. This is akin to filling out a pledge card with your neighbor’s information – it’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money.

Pope Benedict stated that social justice was “…achieving the common good without sacrificing personal, private interests, aspirations and desires.” The big-government, social justice platforms advocated by the secular and religious Left contradicts this doctrine on every possible level.

The Citizen welcomes the Cardinal to America and prays that his mission is successful.

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