The Social Doctrine of the Church and Laudato Si

130th Anniversary of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Social Doctrine
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Dr. Agustin Ortega offers Exaudi’s readers this article entitled “The Social Doctrine of the Church and Laudato Si’.” The Laudato Si’ Year ends in this year 2021; however, being celebrated as well as the 130th anniversary of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which began with Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891.

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At this end of the Laudato Si’ Year, commemorating this significant and important social teaching of Pope Francis, we have also been celebrating the anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Published in 1891, the encyclical opened a series of ecclesial documents that make up what is known as the Social Doctrine (Teaching) of the Church. Laudato Si’ takes up and updates the legacy of Leo XIII’s encyclical, which has as last reference the recent social encyclical Fratelli Tutti, and which the Pope had pointed to in Evangelii Gaudium. Thus the Social Doctrine of the Church has its most recent actualization and deepening in Fratelli Tutti, which complements Laudato Si’, which shows us the human family living in the common home that is planet earth.

In fact, with the complementarity and depth of Fratelli Tutti, Laudato Si’ is a very good synthesis that, in the perspective of an integral ecology, takes up and reflects further on the different themes, keys, principles, and values addressed in the Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC) from its beginning with Rerum Novarum (RN). The SDC and RN arise in face of the social and labor questions and ideologies of economist liberalism; of capitalism with is inequalities and injustices that impoverish workers and peoples, and of collectivist Communism (collectivism) as totalitarian and disastrous answer to capitalism.

In this connection, in face of the totalitarianism and ideologies of capitalism and collectivism, with their present technocracy, LS together with FT actualizes and deepens these questions (topics) of integral human development, because, until the advent of LS, integral human development was like the category and reality that condenses the meaning of the SDC with its constitutive elements. As Vatican II transmitted to us in Gaudium et Spes, Paul VI in Populorum Progressio, Saint John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, and Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate (CV), now highlighted in LS is development with an integral ecology, embracing and including all the dimensions of the reality and of the human being: the personal, social, environmental and spiritual; the inseparable interaction between the human being, others with the society-world, nature (Creation) and God Himself, uniting inseparably the cry of the poor of the earth and the cry of the earth.

Everything is connected and, in Benedict XVI’s line  (Deus Caritas Est), Grace with charity and sin co-relate the personal with the social, historical, and environmental, that civil love, political charity, which promotes justice, the most universal common good and the civilization of love to transform the structural causes of evil, sin, and injustice (LS 230-232). It is social, structural, and ecological sin, the structures of sin that, interacting with personal sin, generate all this inequality and injustice of hunger, poverty, and underdevelopment, all those attacks against the life and dignity of the person, of the poor and of the victims.

In the wake of Saint John Paul II’s legacy (Evangelium Vitae) and Benedict XVI‘s CV, with LS and FT Francis transmits to us a global bioethics for the care of life in all its phases, dimensions, and forms (LS 91, 119-120), the protection of life and the family as key of human and integral ecology. It is the affective-sexual diversity and complementarity of man with woman in faithful, fruitful, and love open to life that make up marriage and family with children at the service of solidarity and the common good (LS 155). In face of the throwaway culture and all those cultural and ideological colonization, just as the Pope complements all of it in Amoris Laetitia and other messages. In the SDC and integral ecology with this global bioethics, which promotes life and family, central are questions of work, business, and economy whose basis is solidary ethics at the service of the needy, the capacities, and the integral development of human beings.

Hence, the principles of all this socio-economic life are the universal destiny of goods, which is above property and whose social dimension (solidary) is inherent to the right of property (LS 93-95), and workover capital as Saint John Paul taught us masterfully in Laborem Exercens. The working person with his dignity and rights, as is that key value of social justice, which is the salary, has priority over the means of production (productivity), profit, and competitiveness (LS 124-129), because, for the worker and his family, a just salary is one of those basic realities to achieve equity in the sharing of goods, destined universally for the whole of humanity. The Church appreciates and encourages workers’ organizations, labor unions, and other labor organizations that always put first life, dignity, universal solidarity, and the role of the person, of peoples, of the poor of the earth before the cooperative and class interests.

In this connection, the socialization of these means of production is another elemental principle for a company, which is a human and ethical community with workers as subjects in the management, property, and destiny of the company. Therefore, the civil society and the State with the ethic of the common good must control, regulate and manage the market and the economy so that they serve integral human development, and for a genuine economic, political and moral democracy, as Saint John Paul II teaches in Centesimus Annus. Finances and banks that want to be ethical must orient their activity and investment towards a real economy, the creation of decent work, and the planet’s ecological sustainability (LS 189-190), in opposition to financial and banking speculation, with that very grave evil (sin) that is usury.  This speculation and usury with its abusive and unjust shares, stocks, loans, credits, and interests, are generators of national and external debts that must be canceled, as they ruin the poor, families, and peoples.

As noted, the SDC has as its master way charity, fraternal and solidary love united inseparably to peace and justice, with the option for the poor and popular movements as subjects of its liberating and integral promotion, in face of any paternalism and welfarism. A just peace against the culture of death, as wars are, the arms race and military industry whose immense resources and goods should be allocated to eradicate hunger and poverty and stimulate development. The SDC with Saint John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris and Vatican II’s GS uphold peace, the moral rejection and illegality of all wars, and global disarmament to invest in the social and sustainable progress of peoples.

The SDC which belongs to Moral Theology with its Christian anthropology and is, therefore, a constitutive element of the mission, has its theological basis in God the Father who, revealed in the poor-crucified Christ and resurrected with His Spirit, gives us the Grace of His saving and liberating love from all sin, evil and injustice; with a holy life and Church, austere, poor and solidary with the poor (LS 222-225) against idols of wealth-be rich, of power and violence. It is the God incarnated in Jesus who assumes in solidarity the whole of reality and Creation, to take it to the truly human, full, transcendent, and eternal life (LS 235-236). The God Trinity is the innermost principle and model of communion and solidarity for the life of the Church, of society, and of the world, for all human, political, economic, and cultural relations (LS 240).

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester