Earlier this month, Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez announced that Social Justice Commission of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa would publish articles that share Catholic social teachings on several issues that are of interest and concern to voters and candidates alike as the November 2018 elections approach. These articles are not meant to direct voters to vote for any particular candidate or platform. Rather, as Bishop Ryan wrote, these articles are intended to help the faithful “carefully discern the issues affecting our community and to use your conscience in examining these issues”. What follows is the first of such articles.
by the Social Justice Commission, Diocese of Chalan Kanoa and Mount Carmel School’s Introduction to Media Communications students
Catholic social teaching on economic justice is rooted in the Church’s affirmation of the life and the dignity of the human person. As scripture proclaims, “Let us love one another because love is from God” (1 John 4: 7—12).
The Catholic Church thus proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. As Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate, “The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized'” (no. 15).
When affirming the dignity of the life and the dignity of the human person, there are several implications for economic justice, which were articulated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in their Pastoral Letter Economic Justice for All. As the USCCB writes, “All human beings, therefore, are ends to be served by the institutions that make up the economy, not means to be exploited for more narrowly defined goals. Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the presence of something holy and sacred” (No. 28).
In concrete terms, this means that we are called to build a just economy that works for all, encompassing a wide range of issues, including food security and hunger, work and joblessness, homelessness and affordable housing, and tax credits for low-income families, as well as protecting programs that serve poor and vulnerable people throughout the government budgets.
When discerning the issue of economic justice and informing one’s conscience, in Economic Justice for All, the USSCB provides ten elements that make up a Catholic Framework for Economic Life:
- The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
- All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.
- A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.
- All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, economic security.)
- All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.
- All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.
- In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.
- Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.
- Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.
- The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.
In the end, we are all called to create a more just society that recognizes and actively ensures the value of each and every member of our society. In this regard, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, offers this advice:
“We have forgotten and are still forgetting that over and above business, logic and the parameters of the market is the human being; and that something is men and women in as much as they are human beings by virtue of their profound dignity: to offer them the possibility of living a dignified life and of actively participating in the common good. Benedict XVI reminded us that precisely because it is human, all human activity, including economic activity, must be ethically structured and governed (cf. Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, n. 36). We must return to the centrality of the human being, to a more ethical visi of activities and of human relationships without the fear of losing something.”
Address to the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation