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Christian Freedom and Liberation

by Catherine Frakas 08 Mar 2004

CHAPTER V The Social Doctrine of the Church for a Christian Practice of Liberation The Christian practice of liberation 71. The salvific dimension of liberation cannot be reduced to the socio-ethical dimension, which is a consequence of it. By restoring man's true freedom, the radical liberation brought about by Christ assigns to him a task: Christian practice, which is the putting into practice of the great commandment of love. The latter is the supreme principle of Christian social morality, founded upon the Gospel and the whole of tradition since apostolic times and the age of the Fathers of the Church up to and including the recent statements of the Magisterium. The considerable challenges of our time constitute an urgent appeal to put into practice this teaching on how to act. I. Nature of the Social Doctrine of the Church The Gospel message and social life 72. The Church's social teaching is born of the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands summarized in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbor in justice[106] with the problem emanating from the life of society. This social teaching has established itself as a doctrine by using the resources of human wisdom and the sciences. It concerns the ethical aspect of this life. It takes into account the technical aspects of problems but always in order to judge them from the moral point of view. Being essentially oriented towards action, this teaching develops in accordance with the changing circumstances of history. This is why, together with principles that are always valid, it also involves contingent judgments. Far from constituting a closed system, it remains constantly open to the new questions which continually arise; it requires the contribution of all charisms, experiences and skills. As an expert in humanity, the Church offers by her social doctrine a set of principles for reflection; and criteria for judgment[107] and also directives for action[108] so that the profound changes demanded by situations of poverty and injustice may be brought about, and this in a way which serves the true good of humanity. Fundamental principles 73. The supreme commandment of love leads to the full recognition of the dignity of each individual, created in God's image. From this dignity flow natural rights and duties. In the light of the image of God, freedom, which is the essential prerogative of the human person, is manifested in all its depth. Persons are the active and responsible subjects of social life.[109] Intimately linked to the foundation, which is man's dignity, are the principle of solidarity and the principle of subsidiarity. By virtue of the first, man with his brothers is obliged to contribute to the common good of society at all its levels.[110] Hence the Church's doctrine is opposed to all forms of social or political individualism. By virtue of the second, neither the state nor any society must ever substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and of intermediate communities at the level on which they can function, nor must they take away the room necessary for their freedom.[111] Hence the Church's social doctrine is opposed to all forms of collectivism. Criteria for judgment 74. These principles are the basis of criteria for making judgments on social situations, structures and systems. Thus the Church does not hesitate to condemn situations of life which are injurious to man's dignity and freedom. These criteria also make it possible to judge the value of structures. These are the sets of institutions and practices which people find already existing or which they create, on the national and international level, and which orientate or organize economic, social and political life. Being necessary in themselves, they often tend to become fixed and fossilized as mechanisms relatively independent of the human will, thereby paralyzing or distorting social development and causing injustice.However, they always depend on the responsibility of man, who can alter them, and not upon an alleged determinism of history. Institutions and laws, when they are in conformity with the natural law and ordered to the common good, are the guarantees of people's freedom and of the promotion of that freedom. One cannot condemn all the constraining aspects of law, nor the stability of a lawful state worthy of the name. One can therefore speak of structures marked by sin, but one cannot condemn structures as such. The criteria for judgment also concerns economic, social and political systems. The social doctrine of the Church does not propose any particular system; but, in the light of other fundamental principles, she makes it possible at once to see to what extent existing systems conform or do not conform to the demands of human dignity. Primacy of persons over structures 75. The Church is of course aware of the complexity of the problems confronting society and of the difficulties in finding adequate solutions to them. Nevertheless she considers that the first thing to be done is to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the individual and to the permanent need for inner conversion, if one is to achieve the economic and social changes that will truly be at the service of man. The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order.[112] On the other hand, the recognized priority of freedom and of conversion of heart in no way eliminates the need for unjust structures to be changed. It is therefore perfectly legitimate that those who suffer oppression on the part of the wealthy or the politically powerful should take action, through morally licit means, in order to secure structures and institutions in which their rights will be truly respected. It remains true however that structures established for people's good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good. The corruption which in certain countries affects the leaders and the state bureaucracy, and which destroys all honest social life, is a proof of this. Moral integrity is a necessary condition for the health of society. It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust systems is, in a true and immediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this sense can one speak of social sin.[113] Moreover, in the process of liberation, one cannot abstract from the historical situation of the nation or attack the cultural identity of the people. Consequently, one cannot passively accept--still less actively support--groups which by force or by the manipulation of public opinion take over the state apparatus and unjustly imposed on the collectivity an imported ideology contrary to the culture of the people.[114] In this respect, mention should be made of the serious moral and political responsibility of intellectuals. Guidelines for action 76. Basic principles and criteria for judgment inspire guidelines for action. Since the common good of human society is at the service of people, the means of action must be in conformity with human dignity and facilitate education for freedom. A safe criterion for judgment and action is this: there can be no true liberation if from the very beginning the rights of freedom are not respected. Systematic recourse to violence put forward as the necessary path to liberation has to be condemned as a destructive illusion and one that opens the way to new forms of servitude. One must condemn with equal vigor violence exercised by the powerful against the poor, arbitrary action by the police, and any form of violence established as a system of government. In these areas one must learn the lessons of tragic experiences which the history of the present century has known and continues to know. Nor can one accept the culpable passivity of the public powers in those democracies where the social situation of a large number of men and women is far from corresponding to the demands of constitutionally guaranteed individual and social rights. A struggle for justice 77. When the Church encourages the creation and activity of associations such as trade unions which fight for the defense of the rights and legitimate interests of the workers and for social justice, she does not thereby admit the theory that sees in the class struggle the structural dynamism of social life. The action which she sanctions is not the struggle of one class against another in order to eliminate the foe. She does not proceed from a mistaken acceptance of an alleged law of history. This action is rather a noble and reasoned struggle for justice and social solidarity.[115] The Christian will always prefer the path of dialogue and joint action. Christ has command us to love our enemies.[116] Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is therefore incompatible with hatred of others, taken individually or collectively, and this includes hatred of one's enemy. The my of revolution 78. Situations of grave injustice require the courage to make far-reaching reforms and to suppress unjustifiable privileges. But those who discredit the path of reform and favor the myth of revolution not only foster the illusion that the abolition of an evil situation is in itself sufficient to create a more human society; they also encourage the setting up of totalitarian regimes.[117] The fight against injustice is meaningless unless it is waged with a view to establishing a new social and political order in conformity with the demands of justice. Just must already mark each stage of the establishment of this new order. There is a morality of means.[118] A last resort 79. These principles must be especially applied in the extreme case where there is recourse to armed struggle, which the Church's Magisterium admits as a last resort to put an end to an obvious and prolonged tyranny which is gravely damaging the fundamental rights of individuals and the common good.[119] Nevertheless, the concrete application of this means cannot be contemplated until there has been a very rigorous analysis of the situation. Indeed, because of the continual development of the technology of violence and the increasingly serious dangers implied in its recourse, that which today is termed passive resistance shows a way more conformable to moral principles and having no less prospects for success. One can never approve-- whether perpetrated by an established power or insurgents--crimes such as reprisals against the general population, torture, or methods of terrorism and deliberate provocation aimed at causing deaths during popular demonstrations. Equally unacceptable are the detestable smear campaigns capable of destroying a person psychologically or morally. The role of the laity 80. It is not for the pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political construction and organization of social life. This task forms part of the vocation of the laity acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens.[120] They must fulfill this task conscious of the fact that the purpose of the Church is to spread the kingdom of Christ so that all men may be saved and that through them the world may be effectively ordered to Christ.[121] The work of salvation is thus seen to be indissolubly linked to the task of improving and raising the conditions of human life in this world. The distinction between the supernatural order of salvation and the temporal order of human life must be seen in the context of God's singular plan to recapitulate all things in Christ. Hence in each of these spheres the lay person, who is at one and the same time a member of the Church and a citizen of his country, just allow himself to be constantly guided by his Christian conscience.[122] Social action, which can involve a number of concrete means, will always be exercised for the common good and in conformity with the Gospel message and the teaching of the Church. It must be ensured that the variety of options does not harm a sense of collaboration, or lead to a paralysis of efforts or produce confusion among the Christian people. The orientation received from the social doctrine of the Church should stimulate an acquisition of the essential technical and scientific skills. The social doctrines of the Church will also stimulate the seeking of moral formation of character and a deepening of the spiritual life. While it offers principles and wise counsels, this doctrine does not dispense from education in the political prudence needed for guiding and running human affairs. II. Evangelical Requirements for an In-depth Transformation Need for a cultural transformation 81. Christians working to bring about that civilization of love which will include the entire ethical and social heritage of the Gospel are today faced with an unprecedented challenge. This task calls for renewed reflection on what constitutes the relationship between the supreme commandment of love and the social order considered in all its complexity. The immediate aim of this in-depth reflection is to work out and set in motion ambitious programs aimed at the socioeconomic liberation of millions of men and women caught in an intolerable situation of economic, social and political oppression. This action must begin with an immense effort at education: education for the civilization of work, education for solidarity, access to culture for all. The Gospel of work 82. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real Gospel of work, offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though he was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor.[123] The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption.[124] Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort. A true civilization of work 83. Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.[125] It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary precondition for a system of political community capable of favoring the integral development of every individual. If the system of labor relations put into effect by those directly involved--the workers and employers--with the essential support of the public powers, succeeds in bringing into existence a civilization of work, then there will take place a profound and peaceful revolution in people's outlooks and in institutional and political structures. National and international common good 84. A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of frank and vigorous dialogue. As a result, the political authorities will become more capable of acting with respect for the legitimate freedoms of individuals, families and subsidiary groups; and they will thus create the conditions necessary for man to be able to achieve his authentic and integral welfare, including his spiritual goal.[126] The value of human work 85. A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will emphasize the subjective dimension of work.[127] The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fact that the one who does it is a person.[128] There we have an ethical criterion whose implications cannot be overlooked. Thus every person has a right to work, and this right must be recognized in a practical way by an effective commitment to resolving the tragic problem of unemployment. The fact that unemployment keeps large sectors of the population and notably the young in a situation of marginalization is intolerable. For this reason the creation of jobs is a primary social task facing individuals and private enterprise, as well as the state. As a general rule, in this as in other matters, the state has a subsidiary function; but often it can be called upon to intervene directly, as in the case of international agreements between different states. Such agreements must respect the rights of immigrants and their families.[129] Promoting participation 86. Wages, which cannot be considered as a mere commodity must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way around. Whatever the type of work, the worker must be able to perform it as an expression of his personality. There follows from this the necessity of a participation which, over and above a sharing in the fruits of work, should involve a truly communitarian dimension at the level of projects, undertakings and responsibilities.[130] Priority of work over capital 87. The priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and, in making investments, to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all.[131] In-depth reforms 88. This teaching must inspire reforms before it is too late. Access for everyone to the goods needed for a human, person and family life worthy of the name is a primary demand of social justice. It requires application in the sphere of industrial work and in a particular way in the area of agricultural work.[132] Indeed, rural peoples, especially in the Third World, make up the vast majority of the poor.[133] III. Promotion of Solidarity A new solidarity 89. Solidarity is a direct requirement of human and supernatural brotherhood. The serious socio-economic problems which occur today cannot be solved unless new fronts of solidarity are created: solidarity of the poor among themselves, solidarity with the poor to which the rich are called, solidarity among the workers and with the workers. Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the state, must share in a general movement of solidarity. When the Church appeals for such solidarity, she is aware that she herself is concerned in a quite special way. Goods are meant for all 90. The principle that goods are meant for all, together with the principle of human and supernatural brotherhood, express the responsibilities of the richer countries towards the poorer ones. These responsibilities include: solidarity in aiding the developing countries, social justice through a revision in correct terms of commercial relationships between North and South, a promotion of a more human world for all--a world in which each individual can give and receive, and in which the progress of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, nor a pretext for their enslavement.[134] Aid for development 91. International solidarity is a necessity of the moral order. It is essential not only in cases of extreme urgency but also for aiding true development. This is a shared task, which requires a concerted and constant effort to find concrete technical solutions and also to create a new mentality among our contemporaries. World peace depends on this to a great extent.[135] P>IV. Cultural and Educational Tasks Right to education and culture 92. The unjust inequalities in the possession and use of material goods are accompanied and aggravated by similarly unjust inequalities in the opportunity for culture. Every human being has a right to culture, which is the specific mode of a truly human existence to which one gains access through the development of one's intellectual capacities, moral virtues, abilities to relate with other human beings, and talents for creating things which are useful and beautiful. From this flows the necessity of promoting and spreading education, to which every individual has an inalienable right. The first condition for this is the elimination of illiteracy.[136] Respect for cultural freedom 93. The right of each person to culture is assured only if cultural freedom is respected. Too often culture is debased by ideology, and education is turned into an instrument at the service of political and economic power. It is not within the competence of the public authorities to determine culture. Their function is to promote and protect the cultural life of everyone, including that of minorities.[137] The educational task of the family 94. The task of educating belongs fundamentally and primarily to the family. The function of the state is subsidiary: its role is to guarantee, protect, promote and supplement. Whenever the state lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. It is parents who have the right to choose the school to which they send their children and the right to set up and support educational centers in accordance with their own beliefs. The state cannot, without injustice, merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance.[138] Freedoms and sharing 95. The education which gives access to culture is also education in the responsible exercise of freedom. That is why there can be authentic development only in a social and political system which respects freedoms and fosters them through the participation of everyone. This participation can take different forms; it is necessary in order to guarantee a proper pluralism in institutions and in social initiatives. It ensures, notably by the real separation between the powers of the state, the exercise of human rights, also protecting them against possible abuses on the part of the public powers. No one can be excluded from this participation in social and political life for reasons of sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion.[139] Keeping people on the margins of cultural, social and political life constitutes in many nations one of the most glaring injustices of our time. When the political authorities regulate the exercise of freedoms, they cannot use the pretext of the demands for public order and security in order to curtail those freedoms systematically. Nor can the alleged principle of national security, or a narrowly economic outlook, or a totalitarian concept of social life, prevail over the value of freedom and its rights.[140] The challenge of inculturation 96. Faith inspires criteria of judgment, determining values, lines of thought and patterns of living which are valid for the whole human community.[141] Hence the Church, sensitive to the anxieties of our age, indicates the lines of a culture in which work would be recognized in its full human dimension and in which all would find opportunities for personal self-fulfillment. The Church does this by virtue of her missionary outreach for the integral salvation of the world, with respect for the identity of each people and nation. The Church, which is a communion that unites diversity and unity through her presence in the whole world, takes from every culture the positive elements which she finds there. But inculturation is not simply an outward adaptation; it is an intimate transformation of authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the planting of Christianity in the different human cultures.[142] Separation between the Gospel and culture is a tragedy of which the problems mentioned are a sad illustration. A generous effort to evangelize cultures is therefore necessary. These cultures will be given fresh life by their encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter presupposes that the Gospel is truly proclaimed.[143] Enlightened by the Second Vatican Council, the Church wishes to devote all her energies to this task, so as to evoke and immense liberating effort.

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