What is the Catholic Church?Many people are puzzled by the idea of the Church. They may believe in God, and have faith in Jesus, and study the bible, and pray, and try to lead good lives. But they don’t understand why we need a Church. It seems unnecessary. It seems like something that gets in the way of our relationship with God. And the Catholic Church, above all, can be a source of confusion or even of scandal. It is a large institution with a complicated history that insists on making great claims for itself. To many people these claims seem absurd. They ask themselves: “What has the Catholic Church got to do with Jesus Christ? What has this Church got to do with me and with my personal faith?”
The Church is a gift from God, founded by Jesus Christ himself; that Jesus continues to teach us through his Church; that Jesus is present with us through his Church, especially in the Sacraments, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist; and the Catholic Church has a special place in history because it contains the fullness of all the gifts that Christ wants to give to the world.
What Do Catholics believeAll the gifts that belong to the Catholic Church are really only the expression of one simple thing – Jesus Christ.
Nothing matters more than our union with him, our union with each other in him, and our being caught up in his life with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is what holiness is; this is what life is about. The whole life of the Catholic Church is concerned with Christ, with bringing God’s love and salvation to us. The Catholic Church is one because Christ is one, and he has given us this means of being united with him, of becoming a part of his body.
The Catholic Church gives us the sacraments and celebrates the Mass because in this way Christ’s life and sacrifice are made real for us, right here, right now. Every Catholic belief, however marginal, is simply another way of knowing Christ and what he means to us; every Catholic devotion, however obscure, is just another human way of loving Christ.
Christ loves us through the Church. He loves us, he teaches us, he forgives us, and he makes us holy. We can’t save ourselves; we can’t defeat the terrible evil that exists in the world by ourselves. We need the Church because we need Jesus Christ, truly God and truly human. The Church is simply the way that he has chosen to be present in the world most clearly and surely. By being drawn more and more into the life of the Catholic Church we fix our gaze more fully upon Christ, not less. This is the life of the angels and the saints
Why do we need the Church?We can’t talk about the Church without talking about God, and about his plans for us. Two thousand years ago God sent his only Son to us so that we could find peace with him and with each other, and share in his divine life.
Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, came into the world that had been created through him. He lived among us, he taught and healed and forgave, he suffered and died and was raised to life again. Jesus Christ is the way of God; he is the truth about God and about ourselves; he is God’s own life lived among us. He is the beginning and end of all our deepest longings and hopes, and of all the other things that we never dared to hope for. This is the mystery of Incarnation: Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human; he is God with us.
Many people wonder what it would have been like to know Jesus two thousand years ago, to walk with him, follow him, listen to him, touch him. What is incredible is that we can be this close to him, as close as his first followers were. He did not leave us alone. Through the Church all the good things that he revealed to those who knew him are still given to us today. Through the Church, Jesus Christ is still present in the world right now, God truly with us, just as surely and completely as he was two thousand years ago.
God uses human beings to be the sign of his presence in the world, the means by which we can be united with him and with each other. Jesus did not leave an idea or a plan or a book or a letter about himself. He left a group of people, his Church, who would be his life and his body. This Church was united, visibly united – it was not just a hidden unity of feeling or hope. This Church was catholic, that is, universal – it was the means by which all people would come to know him.
He chose twelve apostles to make disciples of all nations. He told them to hand on all that they had received from him, to hand on his revelation. He promised that he would give his Holy Spirit to the apostles – the Spirit of God; God’s power and truth, God himself. He sent them out with this Spirit to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom – to baptise and to teach, to forgive sins and to unite all people. This Spirit would guide them and lead them into all truth.
The apostles and their successors would be continuing witnesses to Christ. They could speak in his name; whoever listened to them would be listening to Christ, whoever rejected them would be rejecting Christ. In this way the whole Church, led by the apostles, would be the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
Read More: The Catholic Church in England & Wales – http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 200 – 231
What About Changes in the Church is it Still the Same?There is a danger of idealising the early Church, of pretending that there were trouble-free apostolic days when the Church didn’t have any problems or disagreements. But the Church has always had problems. Its members have always fought and argued. Right from the start there have been times when the disagreements have become so bad that some people have left the Church and set themselves against it. The staggering fact is that these arguments and splits have never stopped the Church being the one Church that Christ founded. He didn’t form the Church and make promises to it only to see it destroyed or broken apart.
Even though different people have left it, it has always remained visible and united: the Church that Jesus Christ founded, the Church that he guides. The life of this Church can be traced continuously through the last two thousand years of history right down to the Roman Catholic Church today. The same fullness of life and truth that was given to the apostles is still given to the Catholic Church today.
The Catholic Church has obviously changed much over the centuries, and many people find it difficult to see how this can be the same Church that Jesus founded. Are Catholics being a bit naïve? Why don’t they just admit that this is a different faith and a different Church? Of course the Catholic Church has changed in many superficial ways, of course it looks different. Two thousand years is a long time in which things can happen, some of them stranger than others. Some of these changes are superficial, some are very deep. The deeper changes are less distracting, but more important. The faith of the Church has never changed, yet it speaks about its faith in new ways; its beliefs have developed. These developments are the result of the Church having a deeper understanding of its one unchanging faith, and expressing it in new ways.
The important developments that have taken place are not signs of failure or faithlessness (even though Catholics have failed and been faithless). These developments are the inevitable results of keeping faith in difficult, challenging and changing situations. They are not embarrassing compromises, but vital signs of the renewing power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. At each moment the Church has to work out how to live and communicate its one, unchanging love – Jesus Christ. At this level, the deepest level of what the Church is and what it is doing, it has not changed one bit. Nothing can be added to the revelation that Jesus gave to his apostles, nothing can be taken away. Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be forever. Christian lives of prayer and love and sacrifice, lived in the faith of the Church, are at heart the same now as they always have been.
How does the Church Cope with the problem of sin?Many people are sympathetic to the theory of the Catholic Church, but they are put off by the people who actually belong to it. They know from experience or from history that the Catholic Church is full of sinners; and they are shocked and sometimes scandalised that bad people come to church and pray and call themselves Catholics. Isn’t this hypocritical? Does it not prove that the Catholic Church is not all it claims to be?
Catholics do not believe that the Church is faultless. In every generation, including our own, individual Catholics have done terrible wrongs, by themselves and in the name of the Church. This fact should sadden us, as all sin should sadden us, but it shouldn’t surprise us. God could have formed a pure Church; he could have miraculously ensured that all Catholics acted perfectly, or excluded all sinners from his Church. But he didn’t. He chose to build his holy Church out of sinful human beings, out of men and women who had betrayed and disowned him, out of people he knew would fail to believe and love him.
This is yet another consequence of the Incarnation. God is not a magician; he hasn’t pulled a beautiful Church out of a hat and forgotten about human beings. He uses them, despite their faults, and transforms them in the process. He sent his Son into the heart of the world, and he uses the broken hearts of men and women to be his Church.
Bad Catholics are not being hypocritical by staying in the Church. Catholics realise that they can be sinful and this is why they stay in the Church – they need the grace and forgiveness given through the Church to help them change. This doesn’t excuse the turning away from God and from each other that we call sin. Sin is always wrong, and God always wants us to turn from sin and turn to him. But it does mean that sin has no power over God’s plans.
Despite the cruelty, unfaithfulness and hypocrisy of individuals in every generation, the Catholic Church has always remained faithful to Christ, because Christ has always remained faithful to it. The Church always needs to be purified and renewed, but it is still always holy because of the holiness of Christ. This is the wonder of the Church, that God chose to show the glory of Jesus Christ through sinful human beings, so that his power and strength could be seen working through human weakness.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1846 – 1876
What are the Saints?After spending so much time thinking about sin, it’s important to think about holiness. The Catholic Church is a Church of sinners because it is a Church for sinners, a Church to make us saints. Christ wants us to share his own life, to love perfectly in union with him, and to be his witnesses in the world – he wants us to be holy.
The beginning of holiness is our present life of faith: trying to persevere in doing God’s will, trying to hope, to love and to start again when we fail. The end of holiness is to see God face to face in heaven, to be wrapped up in his joy and happiness forever in the company of all the angels and saints.
The Church has many beginners; it also has many saints. The saints are not those people who have arrived at the end, but those who have seen what the beginning is really about. They are not a strange group of people different from ourselves; they are who we could be, who we should be. The saints are those people who have realised what this means, not just in their minds but in their hearts and their whole lives. They help us to see the essential holiness of the Church – the life of Christ in the Church – the source of their own holiness.
No two saints are alike, because each one reflects a different aspect of Christ’s love in his or her own particular way. But they all have something in common: they love God with all their strength; they care for others more than for themselves; they forgive when they are wronged; they give all that they have to give; they fight against evil and injustice; they patiently accept the sufferings that God sends them happy to share in the suffering of Christ; they try never to do anything that they know to be wrong; they believe what the Church teaches; they pray unceasingly, because they know that prayer is the life of God in them; they offer all that they have to God for his praise and glory. Everything is done in union with Christ and with the whole Church.
The saints long to be in heaven, because they know that heaven is, ultimately, what life is about. They know that God has promised us so much more than happiness in this life. But they also long to start living heaven on earth, to bring Christ’s love and truth to the world. The saints, those who care most about heaven, are also those who care most about this world, because they can get on with God’s work without worrying about themselves.
The saints continue to do God’s work after death – he uses them in heaven as he used them on earth. We pray to the saints and to the holy angels, we ask them to pray for us, because death is not a barrier but a bridge for those who love one another in Christ. This is the whole Church, the body of those who are united with Jesus Christ.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 946
How does Christ Teach us Through the Church today?The Church gives us Christ’s life in many ways. One way is by teaching. When we think of the teaching of Jesus, the first thing we usually think of is the Bible, and especially the New Testament. We look to the New Testament to discover what Jesus said and did; we look to it for Christian truth and moral guidance. But it’s important to understand where the New Testament comes from, and why we need the Church if we are going to trust the Bible.
The first Christians, gathered around the apostles and their disciples, learnt and lived their faith in the Church. These Christians did not have a New Testament. The only Holy Scriptures they had, were those that we call the Old Testament which they inherited from the Jews. The Church’s knowledge of Jesus Christ was not written down but was handed on in its traditions and teaching and worship.
As time passed the many spoken accounts of the life and teaching of Christ were written down – sometimes in short records, sometimes in letters, eventually in longer accounts called gospels. Some of the writings that were written by about the end of the first century soon came to be regarded as scripture, and were read throughout the Church together with the Old Testament. This happened because the Church, under the authority of the apostles and their successors, accepted them and recognised that they were inspired by God.
There were doubts, however, about which writings should be included in this collection. These doubts went on for many generations. Eventually, throughout the fourth century, various Councils of bishops of the Church decided which Christian writings were inspired and authoritative. The ‘books’ included in this list form what we now call the New Testament, which together with the Jewish scriptures makes up the whole Bible. The Catholic Church has kept to this list since the end of the fourth century, even though some Christian groups have rejected certain books at different stages since then.
The vital questions are not ‘Do we trust the Bible? Is it true?’ but ‘Do we trust this Church? Is it Christ’s Church?’ The New Testament is only as important as the Church that it describes, as the Church that lived and wrote and collected it, as the Church that today still reads and interprets it. The New Testament is the book of the Church, written by the apostles of the Church and their companions under the inspiration of God’s Spirit. We will only love and trust the New Testament fully if we love and trust the Church. We will only really trust that Christ guides this Church of the past if we trust the Church in that past and in every age, including our own.
Many other books speak about God. Many other books, some as old as the writings of the New Testament, speak about Jesus. For many centuries Christians have believed that the Bible was inspired by God because the Catholic Church taught this, because it was the book of the Church.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 105-131
Why do we need the Sacraments?The sacraments are sacred signs through which Christ gives his divine life to us. Through them we worship God, he shows his love to us, and his work of making us holy is carried out. We need these visible signs. We are not airy, ethereal beings: we are physical and spiritual beings with thoughts and feelings, with bodies, minds and hearts. God has shown his divine love to the world through the humanity of Jesus Christ, through his body, his mind and his heart.
Who could have imagined, if they had not known Christ, that Almighty God loves us with such intimacy and tenderness, or with such ferocity and passion, or with such humility and sacrifice? The eternal Son of God, God himself, did not remain distant and hidden, he became human – someone whom we could hear, whom we could see with our own eyes, whom we could touch with our own hands. Two thousand years later we are not just left with memories or feelings or ideas about Christ – we can see him and hear him and touch him because of his presence in the sacraments.
In baptism, through water and the baptismal words, Christ himself cleanses our sinfulness and makes us members of his body, the Church.In confirmation, the bishop anoints us with holy oil, and Christ himself strengthens us and gives us the gifts of his Holy Spirit. At confession, (the sacrament of penance, of reconciliation), through the words of absolution spoken by the priest, Christ himself forgives our sins. In marriage, through their public promises of love, Christ binds together husband and wife in a lifelong union. In the sacrament of orders, through the bishop, Christ ordains particular members of the Church to share in a special way in his priesthood. In the sacrament of the sick, through anointing with holy oil, Christ gives new strength and hope to the sick and dying. In the greatest sacrament, the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass, Christ does not just give us his gifts, he gives us himself.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1113 – 1134
What Do We Mean By Christ’s Real Presence in the Mass?Catholics go to church at least every Sunday to celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass. They gather together as God’s holy people, to pray together, to be nourished by God’s Word as it is read from the Holy Scriptures and explained in the homily, and to unite themselves in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice that is offered by the priest. Jesus told his disciples that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood they would not have life in them. He promised that whoever ate his flesh and drank his blood would be united with him, and would be raised up by him on the last day. At the Last Supper Jesus gave his followers his body to eat and his blood to drink under the appearances of bread and wine. He told them to repeat what he was doing.
These are shocking and baffling promises. Jesus’ followers were shocked by what he said, and some were so shocked that they left him. This teaching about his flesh and blood became the line which divided his true followers from his false ones. His twelve disciples stayed with him – not because they understood, or because they were less shocked, but because they believed what he said and they knew that there was no-one else worth believing in. Catholics believe what Jesus said, and they also believe that these promises that he made are kept even in our own time. Like his one Church, and his teaching, the gifts of his body and blood are not confined to the past; they are not dead memories.
In the Mass, the memorial of the Last Supper, Christ changes bread and wine into his body and blood. Jesus Christ, God himself, truly human, becomes present in the world in front of our eyes. Under the appearances of bread and wine he is as truly present as he was two thousand years ago. By eating his body and drinking his blood we are perfectly united with him and with each other; we are made one with him and with each other in our bodies, our minds and our hearts. This is a foretaste of heaven, because it is the same Christ who now lives in heaven who is united with us in this Holy Communion.
Catholics have not invented strange beliefs about Christ’s real presence; they simply do and believe what he told them to do and believe. Every single gift and grace that Christ gave to those who knew him he gives to us now through the Church. He loves us so much that he cannot bear to give us anything less than what he gave to his first followers.
There is even more: he stays with us in this way. Christ’s body and blood are reserved after Mass, so that the sick and the dying may be strengthened by receiving communion at any time. He is really present in this ‘blessed sacrament’ in the tabernacles of Catholic Churches throughout the world.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1373 – 1381
Encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II – Ecclesia de Eucharistia
How does the Catholic Church Relate to Other Christian communities?There are many different Christian denominations in Britain today – Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed, Quaker, Pentecostal, house communities, and many others. These denominations – as well as the Orthodox churches, have many different origins, beliefs and traditions.
It is sometimes assumed that because Catholics believe in the importance and uniqueness of the Catholic Church, they dismiss these other Christian communities. This is not at all true. The Catholic Church has always known that the beliefs and practices of non-Catholic communities can have enormous value. They share many gifts with the Catholic Church: they trust in the Bible as a guide to faith and life; they foster Christian lives of faith and hope, of love and devotion, and of prayer and sacrifice; they search for peace and justice; they have various Christian ministries; many celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection by remembering the Last Supper; many celebrate the sacrament of baptism through which their members share in Christ’s divine life.
Christ unites these communities with each other and with the Catholic Church in different ways. We see their goodness in many ways, not least in the holy lives that so many of their members lead. Through their faith many people have come to know Christ, to be united with him, and to share in the salvation that he brings. Through their love Christ is actively present in the world.
When something good or true is lived outside the Catholic Church it becomes separated in some way from the whole, and in the process it risks being misunderstood. These separations from the Catholic Church, such as those that happened at the Reformation, were caused by the sin and faithlessness of a good many people, including Catholics. Different people, shocked by the corruption of certain Catholics, or by what seemed to them to be the Church’s lack of faith, chose to live their Christian faith outside the unity of the Catholic Church – even though they kept many of its beliefs and practices.
Other Christian groups have newly formed and started with beliefs and practices which, unknown to them, already existed in the Catholic Church. For many different reasons these separated Christian communities, perhaps without realising it, have accepted parts of a very large gift. For example: nearly all Christians believe in the Bible as God’s inspired and holy word – but not all accept the authority of the Church which has constantly recognised and guarded the authority of this Bible. Many communities accept the sacrament of baptism which Jesus gave to the Church for the forgiveness of sins – but they do not always appreciate the sacrament of reconciliation which he also gave to the Church to renew this forgiveness.
Some communities celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection by remembering the Last Supper – but do not necessarily believe in his real presence and sacrifice at this Supper. Many Christians accept some of their beliefs or creeds on the teaching authority of Catholic bishops in the past – but do not accept the authority of Catholic bishops in the present.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1201 – 1398
Why Can’t Other Christians Receive Communion at Mass?The Mass is the sacrament of Christ’s presence because it is the celebration of the Church’s unity in him. Our unity with Christ and with each other in Holy Communion strengthens and fulfils the same unity that we already have with him and with each other in the faith of the Church. There is only one Christ, only one unity. We express this unity with him through lives of faith, hope and love. This is why if we are refusing to love someone or to love God, through serious sin, we cannot receive Holy Communion – we cannot pretend that we truly love Christ or the Church. We must first ask for forgiveness and promise to love again by going to the sacrament of confession.
Most Christians in Britain who are not Catholic cannot normally receive Holy Communion if they go to Mass (Orthodox Christians are an exception because of their special bonds with the Catholic Church).
This can seem unwelcoming and unkind. It’s certainly painful and difficult to live with – but it comes from the fact that the Catholic Church will not allow itself to offer a dishonest welcome or a misleading kindness. Union with Christ in Holy Communion at the Eucharist cannot usually be separated from union with him in the faith of the Catholic Church also. The gift of the Eucharist and the gift of the Church are two aspects of the same thing. However close other Christians are to Christ and to the Catholic Church (and they can be very close indeed), they are still cut off in some way from the full unity of the Catholic Church, and therefore they are normally cut off from Communion in its celebration of the Eucharist. To share in Holy Communion would not be an honest reflection of our Christian faith, which at present is not fully shared.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1201 – 1398
How does God Guide the Catholic Church?The Pope and the Bishops
One clear way that we hear God’s voice throughout the whole Church today – teaching, challenging, correcting, encouraging – is through the Catholic bishops who are united with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Christ chose twelve apostles and sent them out with authority to baptize, teach, forgive and unite all people. This great plan for the world did not die when these first apostles died. Their successors have the same authority as themselves; they continue to be Christ’s apostles.
The Catholic bishops united with the Pope are the apostles’ successors. They are responsible for preaching and teaching, celebrating the sacraments, and uniting and governing the Church. Despite their different traditions, they all believe and teach the same Catholic faith. The bishops are not just messengers or symbols of Christ – they are one way of his being present in the midst of the Church and the world, in such a way that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ. He is present in many ways in the world today. He is not limited by his Church. But it is above all through the bishops that he guides the Church and keeps it faithful to his teaching.
Peter was to be the rock on which his Church was built. Peter was to have the particular job of guiding and teaching and feeding all Christ’s followers, of confirming and strengthening their faith. Peter was to be the visible head around which the Church would be united, the foundation of visible unity. Peter’s role was not to last only a few years, and then come to an end; his role has been an essential part of the Church in every generation.
The Church in every age, including our own, needs to be united through a visible head of unity, otherwise Christ would have no visible Church, but only thousands of separated communities. Just as Christ united and guided the early Church through Peter, he continues to guide and unite his Catholic Church through Peter’s successor, the Pope, who has the same unique role that Peter had. Without Peter, Christ’s promise of truth and unity would be weak and vague. With Peter, Christ’s promises are clear and visible and impossible to ignore.
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 880 – 883
What is Papal Infallibility?
The Pope is the centre of unity of the Catholic bishops. Because of him we can see and understand the unity of the whole Church. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church; the Church is one body because it is united in him. Christ gave the Church a way of seeing and preserving that unity which he valued so much. He sent out all his apostles with authority and power, but he gave Peter a special role.
Infallibility does not mean that the Pope is perfect or never makes mistakes. What it does mean is that when he teaches on matters of faith and morals in his official capacity as chief shepherd of the Catholic Church those teachings are free from error by virtue of the Holy Spirit who ” will lead you into all truth” (John 16:13; see also John 14:16-17, 26 and Luke 10:16). The Pope speaks infallibly when the following conditions are met:
- As the visible head of the universal Church
- To all Catholics
- On a matter of faith or morals
- Intending to use his full authority in an un-changeable decision
The Pope speaking infallibly is not a common occurrence and differs from a regular Papal address or homily. The Pope’s intent to use his full authority in an un-changeable decision is always clearly stated and known. Infallibility means that the Church that Christ founded is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive teachings regarding matters of faith and morals.
“The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council.”
Read More: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 888 – 891
Why Do We Give Honour to Mary?Mary, Jesus’ mother, the mother of God, is the greatest of the saints. In her we see most clearly what the love of Christ has done for someone, and so we learn something about the Church. Her whole life was one big ‘Yes’ to the work of God’s Spirit in her, her whole purpose was to love and to be loved by Christ.
She brought him into the world, she cared for him and loved him unceasingly, she helped others to know and love him. Mary stood by him in his deepest and darkest moments, she offered her life in union with his on the cross, she took his closest disciple to be her son, she witnessed his resurrection from death, and with the apostles she received his Holy Spirit.
Without Mary’s constant faithfulness, her passionate love, her unwavering hope, Christ would not have been given to the world. This is the role of the Catholic Church – not to exist for itself, but to bring Jesus Christ to the world, to be the sure and lasting presence of his truth, his sacrifice, his beauty, and his overwhelming love.
The very earliest Fathers of the Church, such as St. Justin Martyr (c.145-150), we find the New Eve doctrine, i.e., that just as the first Eve really contributed to the damage of original sin, so Mary, the New Eve, really contributed to removing it. They had in mind her obedient acceptance, in faith, to be the Mother of the Messiah.
But today the Church has considerably developed that early teaching, for example a very official text, the Constitution on the Church of Vatican II, declares: “… in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Saviour, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls.” This same doctrine is found by every Pope from Leo XIII up to and including John Paul II.
Read More – Pope John Paul II – On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church
What is Catholic Social Teaching?As Catholics, we are called to pay special attention to the needs of the poor. We can follow Jesus’ example by making a specific effort to defend and promote the dignity of the poor and vulnerable and meet their immediate material needs.
The Church has developed great wisdom to help society address the most pressing situations facing an increasingly shrinking—and often turbulent—global community in years to come. Because we as Catholics are a worldwide community of faith, the more we can embrace and internalize this growing wisdom and enact it in our own lives, the more we will serve the Kingdom of God and help bring it into fullness.
These are the basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic belief in the life and dignity of the human person is the foundation of our moral vision. All life is sacred, and all people must be treated with dignity.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Participation in family and community is central to our faith and to a healthy society. From this foundation people participate in society, fostering a community spirit and promoting the well-being of all, especially those who are poor or vulnerable.
Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a right to life as well as a right to those things required for human decency. As Catholics, we are responsible for protecting these fundamental human rights in order to achieve a healthy society.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
As Catholics, we are called to pay special attention to the needs of poor people. We can follow Jesus’ example by making a specific effort to defend and promote the dignity of those who are poor or vulnerable and to meet their immediate material needs.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The Catholic Church teaches that the basic rights of workers must be respected: the right to productive work, to fair wages, and to private property, and the right to organize and join unions and to pursue economic opportunity. Moreover, Catholics believe that the economy is meant to serve people, not the other way around.
Because God is our Father, we are all brothers and sisters with the responsibility to care for one another. This spirit of solidarity unites all people whether they are rich or poor, weak or strong. It also helps to create a society that recognizes that we live in an interdependent world.
Care for God’s Creation
God is the creator of all people and all things, and he wants us to enjoy his creation. We are called to make the moral and ethical choices that protect the ecological balance of creation both locally and worldwide.
What Catholic Social Teaching is Not:A ‘third way’ between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism. It constitutes a category of its own.
It is not an ideology, but rather the result of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and the Church’s tradition…. It therefore belongs to the field of moral theology and not of ideology.
It is not a model: the Church has no models to present; models that are real and effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in their social, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with each other.
Read More: Encyclical of Pope Francis – Lumen Fidei
What is the Catholic Church, Catholic Truth Society, London. Adapted with permission of the author, Fr Stephen Wang.
Catholic Social Teaching, Faith in a Better World http://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/
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