The Social Mission of the U.S. Catholic Church: A Theological Perspective (Moral Traditions series)

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THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST

The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society in economics and politics, in law and policy, directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.

Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment Mt and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences.

Catholic Church and International Relation - Oxford Handbooks

Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict. We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith.

This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored. Source: U. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Esta creencia es el fundamento de todos los principios de nuestra ensenanza social. Las naciones deben proteger el derecho a la vida encontrando maneras eficaces para evitar los conflictos y para resolverlos por medios pacificos. Por lo tanto, toda persona tiene un derecho fundamental a la vida y un derecho a todo lo necesario para vivir con decencia.

Somos los custodios de nuestros hermanos y hermanas dondequiera que se encuentren.


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In the Second World War, the church condemned Nazism, and protected hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust ; its efforts, however, have been criticised as inadequate. After the war, freedom of religion was severely restricted in the Communist countries newly aligned with the Soviet Union , several of which had large Catholic populations. In the s, the Second Vatican Council led to reforms of the church's liturgy and practices, described as "opening the windows" by defenders, but criticised by traditionalist Catholics.

In the face of increased criticism from both within and without, the church has upheld or reaffirmed at various times controversial doctrinal positions regarding sexuality and gender, including limiting clergy to males, and moral exhortations against abortion , contraception , sexual activity outside of marriage, remarriage following divorce without annulment , and against same-sex marriage.

The New Testament , in particular the Gospels , records Jesus' activities and teaching, his appointment of the twelve Apostles and his Great Commission of the Apostles , instructing them to continue his work. In the account of the Confession of Peter found in the Gospel of Matthew , Christ designates Peter as the "rock" upon which Christ's church will be built. Ehrman [] question whether there was a formal link between Peter and the modern papacy.

Raymond E. Brown also says that it is anachronistic to speak of Peter in terms of local bishop of Rome, but that Christians of that period would have looked on Peter as having "roles that would contribute in an essential way to the development of the role of the papacy in the subsequent church". These roles, Brown says, "contributed enormously to seeing the bishop of Rome, the bishop of the city where Peter died, and where Paul witnessed to the truth of Christ, as the successor of Peter in care for the church universal".

Conditions in the Roman Empire facilitated the spread of new ideas. The empire's network of roads and waterways facilitated travel, and the Pax Romana made travelling safe. The empire encouraged the spread of a common culture with Greek roots, which allowed ideas to be more easily expressed and understood. Unlike most religions in the Roman Empire, however, Christianity required its adherents to renounce all other gods, a practice adopted from Judaism see Idolatry.

The Christians' refusal to join pagan celebrations meant they were unable to participate in much of public life, which caused non-Christians—including government authorities—to fear that the Christians were angering the gods and thereby threatening the peace and prosperity of the Empire. The resulting persecutions were a defining feature of Christian self-understanding until Christianity was legalised in the 4th century. In the Edict of Thessalonica made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire , a position that within the diminishing territory of the Byzantine Empire would persist until the empire itself ended in the fall of Constantinople in , while elsewhere the church was independent of the empire, as became particularly clear with the East—West Schism.

During the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils , five primary sees emerged, an arrangement formalised in the mid-6th century by Emperor Justinian I as the pentarchy of Rome, Constantinople , Antioch , Jerusalem and Alexandria. Most of the Germanic tribes who in the following centuries invaded the Roman Empire had adopted Christianity in its Arian form, which the Catholic Church declared heretical. Western Christianity , particularly through its monasteries , was a major factor in preserving classical civilisation , with its art see Illuminated manuscript and literacy.

During this period, monastic Ireland became a centre of learning and early Irish missionaries such as St Columbanus and St Columba spread Christianity and established monasteries across continental Europe. Catholicism portal. The Catholic Church was the dominant influence on Western civilisation from Late Antiquity to the dawn of the modern age. The massive Islamic invasions of the mid-7th century began a long struggle between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean Basin.

The Byzantine Empire soon lost the lands of the eastern patriarchates of Jerusalem , Alexandria and Antioch and was reduced to that of Constantinople , the empire's capital.

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As a result of Islamic domination of the Mediterranean , the Frankish state, centred away from that sea, was able to evolve as the dominant power that shaped the Western Europe of the Middle Ages. Two or three decades later, in , the Byzantine Empire lost to the Lombards the city of Ravenna from which it governed the small fragments of Italy, including Rome, that acknowledged its sovereignty. The fall of Ravenna meant that confirmation by a no longer existent exarch was not asked for during the election in of Pope Stephen II and that the papacy was forced to look elsewhere for a civil power to protect it.

He then gifted the lands of the former exarchate to the pope, thus initiating the Papal States. Rome and the Byzantine East would delve into further conflict during the Photian schism of the s, when Photius criticised the Latin west of adding of the filioque clause after being excommunicated by Nicholas I. Though the schism was reconciled, unresolved issues would lead to further division. In the 11th century, the efforts of Hildebrand of Sovana led to the creation of the College of Cardinals to elect new popes, starting with Pope Alexander II in the papal election of The basic election system of the College of Cardinals which Gregory VII helped establish has continued to function into the 21st century.

Pope Gregory VII further initiated the Gregorian Reforms regarding the independence of the clergy from secular authority. This led to the Investiture Controversy between the church and the Holy Roman Emperors , over which had the authority to appoint bishops and popes. The Fourth Crusade and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach. The studia conventualia and studia generalia of the mendicant orders played a large role in the transformation of Church sponsored cathedral schools and palace schools, such as that of Charlemagne at Aachen , into the prominent universities of Europe.

Aquinas' Summa Theologica was an intellectual milestone in its synthesis of the legacy of Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle with the content of Christian revelation. A growing sense of church-state conflicts marked the 14th century.

2014 Koch Chair for Catholic Thought and Culture Lecture

To escape instability in Rome, Clement V in became the first of seven popes to reside in the fortified city of Avignon in southern France [] during a period known as the Avignon Papacy. The Avignon Papacy ended in when the pope returned to Rome, [] but was followed in by the year-long Western schism , with claimants to the papacy in Rome, Avignon and after Pisa. In , the Council of Florence convened, which featured a strong dialogue focussed on understanding the theological differences between the East and West, with the hope of reuniting the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The Age of Discovery beginning in the 15th century saw the expansion of Western Europe's political and cultural influence worldwide. Because of the prominent role the strongly Catholic nations of Spain and Portugal played in Western Colonialism, Catholicism was spread to the Americas, Asia and Oceania by explorers, conquistadors, and missionaries, as well as by the transformation of societies through the socio-political mechanisms of colonial rule. Pope Alexander VI had awarded colonial rights over most of the newly discovered lands to Spain and Portugal [] and the ensuing patronato system allowed state authorities, not the Vatican, to control all clerical appointments in the new colonies.

In , Jan Hus was burned at the stake for heresy, but his reform efforts encouraged Martin Luther , an Augustinian monk in Germany, who sent his Ninety-five Theses to several bishops in These challenges developed into the Reformation , which gave birth to the great majority of Protestant denominations [] and also crypto-Protestantism within the Catholic Church. When this was denied, he had the Acts of Supremacy passed to make him head of the Church of England , spurring the English Reformation and the eventual development of Anglicanism.

The first nine-year war ended in with the Peace of Augsburg but continued tensions produced a far graver conflict—the Thirty Years' War —which broke out in The Council of Trent — became the driving force behind the Counter-Reformation in response to the Protestant movement. Doctrinally, it reaffirmed central Catholic teachings such as transubstantiation and the requirement for love and hope as well as faith to attain salvation. From the 17th century onward, the Enlightenment questioned the power and influence of the Catholic Church over Western society. One target of their criticism was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by King Louis XIV of France , which ended a century-long policy of religious toleration of Protestant Huguenots.

As the papacy resisted pushes for Gallicanism , the French Revolution of shifted power to the state, caused the destruction of churches, the establishment of a Cult of Reason , [] and the martyrdom of nuns during the Reign of Terror. Napoleon later re-established the Catholic Church in France through the Concordat of In , Pope Pius IX , with the support of the overwhelming majority of Catholic bishops, whom he had consulted from to , proclaimed the Immaculate Conception as a Dogma in the Catholic Church.

Controversy over this and other issues resulted in a breakaway movement called the Old Catholic Church , []. The Italian unification of the s incorporated the Papal States, including Rome itself from , into the Kingdom of Italy , thus ending the papacy's temporal power. To avoid placing himself in visible subjection to the Italian authorities, he remained a " prisoner in the Vatican ". A number of anti-clerical governments emerged in the 20th century.

After violations of the Reichskonkordat between the church and Nazi Germany , Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge , which publicly condemned the Nazis' persecution of the church and their ideology of neo-paganism and racial superiority. During the post-war period, Communist governments in Eastern Europe severely restricted religious freedoms. The church was an important player in the fall of Communism in Europe, particularly in the Polish People's Republic.

Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

In , the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War led to the expulsion of all foreign missionaries. These appointments were initially rejected by Rome, before many of them were accepted. When Chinese churches eventually reopened, they remained under the control of the Patriotic Church.


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  • Many Catholic pastors and priests continued to be sent to prison for refusing to renounce allegiance to Rome. The Second Vatican Council — introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent , four centuries before. Several teachings of the Catholic Church came under increased scrutiny both concurrent with and following the council; among those teachings was the church's teaching regarding the immorality of contraception.

    The recent introduction of hormonal contraception including "the pill" , which were believed by some to be morally different from previous methods, prompted John XXIII to form a committee to advise him of the moral and theological issues with the new method. Paul did not agree with the arguments presented, and eventually issued Humanae vitae , saying that it upheld the constant teaching of the church against contraception.

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    It expressly included hormonal methods as prohibited. John Paul sought to evangelise an increasingly secular world. He instituted World Youth Day as a "worldwide encounter with the pope" for young people; it is now held every two to three years. He also emphasised the dignity of work and natural rights of labourers to have fair wages and safe conditions in Laborem exercens.