Monday, January 20, 2014
Life in Christ: Social Justice
LIFE IN CHRIST
MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
THE HUMAN COMMUNION
1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or
individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is
linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person
represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been
entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history
are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a
creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral
legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation,
a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on
force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good
will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should
look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and
the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears,
prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal
societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a
1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more
urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the
least of these my brethren, you did it to me."38
1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes
so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of
the New Law, to all enemies.39 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of
one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.
II. EQUALITY AND DIFFERENCES AMONG MEN
1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the
same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in
the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.
1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:
Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of
sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as
incompatible with God's design.40
1936 On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his
bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual
or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth.41 The
"talents" are not distributed equally.42
1937 These differences belong to God's plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others,
and that those endowed with particular "talents" share the benefits with those who need them. These
differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods;
they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures:
I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to
one, some to others. . . . I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this
one, a living faith to that one. . . . And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and
temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you
may be constrained to practice charity towards one another. . . . I have willed that one should
need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have
received from me.43
1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open
contradiction of the Gospel:
Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions.
Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human
race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as
social and international peace.44
III. HUMAN SOLIDARITY
1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct
demand of human and Christian brotherhood.45
An error, "today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and
charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature
of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption
offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful
1940 Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work.
It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced
and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.
1941 Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity:
solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves,
between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International
solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.
1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith,
the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as
well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord's saying been verified: "Seek first his kingdom and
his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well":47
For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church,
impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves,
healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all
peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a
life worthy of man and of a Christian.48
1943 Society ensures social justice by providing the conditions that allow associations and individuals
to obtain their due.
1944 Respect for the human person considers the other "another self." It presupposes respect for the
fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person.
1945 The equality of men concerns their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it.
1946 The differences among persons belong to God's plan, who wills that we should need one another.
These differences should encourage charity.
1947 The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic
inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities.
1948 Solidarity is an eminently Christian virtue. It practices the sharing of spiritual goods even more
than material ones.
35 John Paul II, SRS 47.
36 Cf. John XXIII, PT 65.
37 GS 27 § 1.
38 Mt 25:40.
39 Cf. Mt 5:43-44.
40 GS 29 § 2.
41 Cf. GS 29 § 2.
42 Cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:27.
43 St. Catherine of Siena, Dial. I,7.
44 CS 29 § 3.
45 Cf. John Paul II, SRS 38-40; CA 10.
46 Pius XII, Summi pontificatus, October 20, 1939; AAS 31 (1939) 423 ff.
47 Mt 6:33.
48 Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941.