Handbook of Catholic Social Teaching
1. How does Catholic thought view social justice?
"In Catholic thought, social justice is not merely a secular or humanitarian matter. Social justice is a
reflection of God's essential respect and concern for each person and an effort to protect the essential
human freedom necessary for each person to achieve his or her destiny as a child of God." U.S. Bishops.
To Do the Work of Justice (1978) 8.
Reflections on the Catholic view of social justice.
a) What is God's attitude toward you and me?
b) Why is human freedom necessary?
c) Do you agree that human freedom needs protection? Why?
2. What are the three dimensions of basic justice?
"Catholic social teaching, like much philosophical reflection, distinguishes three dimensions of basic
justice: commutative justice, distributive justice, and social justice. Commutative justice calls for
fundamental fairness in all agreements and exchanges between individuals or private social groups
Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated in
light of its effects on persons whose basic material needs are unmet... Social justice implies that persons
have an obligation to be active and productive participants in the life of society and that society has a
duty to enable them to participate in this way." U.S. Bishops. Economic Justice for All (1986) 68-71.
Reflections on the three dimensions of basic justice.
a) Describe each type of justice in your own words.
b) Give an example of each type of justice at work.
c) Give an example of a violation of each type of justice.
3. What principle is at the foundation of human society?
"Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this
principle: that every human being is a person; his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. By
virtue of this, he has rights and duties of his own, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very
nature, which are therefore universal, inviolable, and inalienable. If we look upon the dignity of the
human person in the light of divinely revealed truth, we cannot help but esteem it far more highly; for
men are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, they are by grace the children and friends of God and
heirs of eternal glory." Pope John XXIII, Peace on Earth (1963) 9-10.
Reflections on the foundational principle of human society.
a) Would the following people agree or disagree with the proposition that "every human being is a
- A prison guard who tortures a suspect;
- A Nazi worker who turns on the gas killing a roomful of Jews;
- A slaveowner who beats a slave trying to escape;
- A doctor who routinely performs abortions;
- A member of a death squad in El Salvador.
b) Do you believe that every single member of the human race has intelligence and free will?
c) What does it mean to say that rights and duties are universa1?
d) What does it mean to say that rights and duties are inviolable?
e) What does it mean to say that rights and duties are inalienable?
f) Do Christians believe that everyone, or just some people, are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ?
4. In what does the common welfare of society consist?
"The common welfare of society consists in the entirety of those conditions of social life under which
men enjoy the possibility of achieving their own perfection in a certain fullness of measure and also with
some relative ease. Hence this welfare consists chiefly in the protection of the rights, and in the
performance of the duties, of the human person." Vatican II. Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965 )
Reflections on the common welfare of society.
a) This statement says that society is well provided for when rights are protected and duties are
performed. Do you agree with this description of the common welfare?
b) Why is a society unjust if within it rights are protected but duties are not performed?
c) Why is a society unjust if within it duties are performed but rights are not protected?
d) Do you think American society is more like the one described in "b" or more like the one in "c"?
5. What is at the center of all Catholic social teaching?
"At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human
person. The human person is the clearest reflection of God's presence in the world; all of the Church's
work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person.
For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God's creative work and the meaning of
Christ's redemptive ministry." U. S. Bishops. The Challenge of Peace (1983) 15.
Reflections on the center of Catholic social teaching.
a) The "transcendence of God" refers to God's otherness, his being beyond all human and created reality.
What does that have to do with social justice?
b) Do you agree with the bishops that you reflect God's presence in the world? What does that mean?
c) How is the church protecting and promoting the dignity of every person when it
- seeks to remove racism from society?
- tries to bring the arms race to an end?
- speaks out against the practice of abortion?
- organizes Latin American poor people to work toward improvement of their lot?
- works for the removal of all forms of political oppression?
6. What is the cardinal point of Catholic teaching regarding social life and relationships of men?
"What the Catholic Church teaches and declares regarding the social life and relationships of men is
beyond question for all time valid. The cardinal point of this teaching is that individual men are necessarily the foundation, cause, and end of all social institutions." Pope John XXIII, On Christianity and Social Progress (1961) 218-19.
Reflections on the cardinal point of Catholic social teaching.
a) Do you think that every political, economic, and social system in the world is based on a recognition
of this "cardinal point"?
b ) What does it mean to say that individual people are the foundation of all social institutions?
c) What does it mean to say that individual people are the cause of all social institutions?
d) What does it mean to say that individual people are the end of all social institutions?
7. What is the norm of human activity?
"The norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it should harmonize
with the genuine good of the human race, and allow men as individuals and as members of society to
pursue their total vocation and fulfill it." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World (1965) 35.
Reflections on the norm of human activity.
a) Wouldn't everyone always say that what he is doing is for the genuine good of the human race? Didn't
the Nazis think that when they murdered millions of Jews? Didn't South African white supporters of
apartheid think that what they were doing was in harmony with the genuine good of the human race? Well,
then, what is the problem?
b) What is the "total vocation" of individual men and women?
c) What is the "total vocation" of society?
8. Which must yield to the other: the social order or the good of the person?
"The social order and its development must constantly yield to the good of the person, since the order of
things must be subordinate to the order of persons and not the other way around, as the Lord suggested
when he said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath." Vatican II, Church in the
Modern World (1965) 26.
Reflections on the priority of the good of the person.
a) Can you think of a concrete example showing the necessity for giving priority to the person over the
b) Would you want to live in a society in which this principle is regularly violated? Why?
9. What are some of the most important and universally recognized human rights?
"Permit me to enumerate some of the most important human rights that are universally recognized: the
right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to food, clothing, housing, sufficient health care, rest
and leisure; the right to freedom of expression, education and culture; the right to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion; and the right to manifest one's religion either individually or in community, in
public or in private; the right to choose a state of life, to found a family and to enjoy all conditions
necessary for family life; the right to property and work, to adequate working conditions and a just
wage; the right of assembly and association; the right to freedom of movement, to internal and external
migration; the right to nationality and residence; the right to political participation and the right to
participate in the free choice of the political system of the people to which one belongs." Pope John Paul
II. Address at the United Nations (1979) 13.
Reflections on basic human rights.
a) Which of the above rights are political?
b) Which of the above rights are economic?
c) Which of the above rights are social or cultural?
d) How much are each of these rights respected in American society?
10. How is the right to life violated in our day?
"The right to life... is basic and inalienable. It is grievously violated in our day by abortion and
euthanasia, by widespread torture, by acts of violence against innocent parties, and by the scourge of
war. The arms race is an insanity which burdens the world and creates the conditions for even more
massive destruction of life." Pope Paul VI, Message Issued in Union with the Synod of Bishops (1974).
Reflections on violations of the right to life.
a) Show how each of the following violates the right to life:
- acts of violence against innocent parties
- the arms race.
b) Do you agree with the description of the arms race as an "insanity"? Why?
11. How are individuals and groups to exercise their rights?
"In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have
respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare
of all." Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965 ) 7.
Reflections on exercising individual and group rights.
a) Why is it so important for me to respect the rights of others in the process of exercising my rights?
b) Give some examples of "duties toward others."
12. How must social institutions be ordered?
"Justice demands that social institutions be ordered in a way that guarantees all persons the ability to
participate actively in the economic, political, and cultural life of society." U.S. Bishops, Economic
Justice for All (1986) 78.
Reflections on the ordering of social institutions.
a) Give examples of active participation in economic life.
b) Give examples of active participation in political life.
c) Give examples of active participation in cultural life.
d) Do you agree that active participation in each of these areas of life should be guaranteed all persons?
13. What is required of us besides the acknowledgment of each other's rights and duties?
"A well-ordered human society requires that men recognize and observe their mutual rights and duties. It
also demands that each contribute generously to the establishment of a civic order in which rights and
duties are progressively more sincerely and effectively acknowledged and fulfilled. It is not enough, for
example, to acknowledge and respect every man's right to the means of subsistence. One must also strive
to insure that he actually has enough in the way of food and nourishment." Pope John XXIII, Peace on
Earth (1963) 31-32.
Reflections on going beyond the acknowledgment of rights and duties.
a) Restate in one sentence the answer to question 13.
b) Why is the word "strive" important in the last sentence?
c) Taking care of myself uses up a considerable amount of my time and energy. Explain why justice
requires me to be concerned with the survival situation of others.
14. What causes social disturbances?
"The disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of
economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man's pride and selfishness,
which contaminate even the social sphere." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World (1965) 25.
Reflections on the causes of social disturbances.
a) Give some examples of the "natural tensions" which often disturb the social order.
b) The statement makes a connection between pride and what happens in society. Explain what that
connection is and give a couple of examples (either real or fictitious).
15. How does Jesus' command to love one's neighbor relate to social justice?
"Christians believe that Jesus' commandment to love one's neighbor should extend beyond individual
relationships to infuse and transform all human relationships from the family to the entire human
community. Jesus came to 'bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the
blind and to set the downtrodden free' (Lk 4:18). He called us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care
for the sick and afflicted, and to comfort the victims of injustice (Mt 25). His example and words require
individual acts of charity and concern from each of us. Yet they also require understanding and action
upon the broader dimensions of poverty, hunger, and injustice which necessarily involve the institutions
and structures of economy, society, and politics." U.S. Bishops, Political Responsibility (Feb 1976) 6.
Reflections on social justice and the command to love one's neighbor.
a) When you think of the commandment to love your neighbor, do you usually think only of individual
relationships or do you think of everyone "from the family to the entire human community"? Why?
b ) What are some things we can do to satisfy the requirement of "understanding" mentioned in the
c) What are some things we can do to satisfy the requirement of "action" mentioned in the statement?
d) Give some examples of the "institutions and structures" mentioned in the statement.
16. What two things must we do to help, liberate, and heal the world?
"Because we believe in the dignity of the person, we must embrace every chance to help and to liberate,
to heal the wounded world as Jesus taught us. Our hands must be the strong but gentle hands of Christ,
reaching out in mercy and justice, touching individual persons, but also touching the social conditions
that hinder the wholeness which is God's desire for humanity." U.S. Bishops, Health and Health Care
Reflections on things we must do for the world.
a) Give two examples of reaching out in mercy and justice and touching individual persons.
b) Give two examples of reaching out in mercy and justice and touching social conditions.
c) Do you accept the bishops' assertion that we should be concerned with both individual persons and
social conditions? Why?
17. What is the principle of subsidiarity?
"It is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not
withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own
enterprise and industry .So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of
right order, to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and
provided for by lesser and subordinate bodies. Inasmuch as every social activity should, by its very
nature, prove a help to members of the body social, it should never destroy or absorb them." Pope Pius
XI. On Reconstructing the Social Order (1931) 79.
Reflections on the principle of subsidiarity.
a) Restate the principle of subsidiarity in one sentence.
b) Give an example of this principle in operation.
c) Give an example of a violation of this principle.
18. Why do we have to be concerned with injustices we have not caused?
"The absence of personal fault for an evil does not absolve one of all responsibility. We must seek to
resist and undo injustices we have not caused, lest we become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so
share in guilt for it." U.S. Bishops. To Live in Christ Jesus (1976) 71.
Reflections on concern for injustices we have not caused.
a) Restate the answer to question 18 briefly in your own words.
b) Why does being a bystander make me guilty for the evil?
c) Give an example of how this principle works.
19. Who are the most common victims of social injustice?
"Most often it is the weak and unfortunate, the poor, the aged, the young, minorities and women who are
forced to bear injustice." U.S. Bishops. Community and Crime (1978) 19.
Reflections on victims of social injustice.
a) Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give an example or two supporting your position.
b) Why do you think the people listed here are more subject to injustice that the rest of us?
20. What is the ultimate injustice?
"The ultimate injustice is for a person or group to be actively treated or passively abandoned as if they
were nonmembers of the human race. To treat people this way is effectively to say that they simply do
not count as human beings." U.S. Bishops. Economic Justice for All (1986) 77.
Reflections on the ultimate injustice.
a) How many concrete examples of "the ultimate injustice" can you think of?
b) Is it possible for anyone to be so evil that he/she does not count as a human being?
21. What should be our attitude toward those who discriminate, oppress, or are otherwise unjust?
"We must distinguish between the error (which must always be rejected) and the person in error, who
never loses his dignity as a person even though he flounders amid false or inadequate religious ideas.
God alone is the judge and the searcher of hearts; he forbids us to pass judgment on the inner guilt of
others. The teaching of Christ even demands that we forgive injury, and the precept of love, which is the
commandment of the New Law, includes all our enemies." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World
Reflections on our attitude toward the unjust.
a) Why is it impossible for someone to lose his dignity as a person?
b) Do you find it hard to believe that someone like Hitler, who had millions of Jews, Poles, gypsies, and
others killed, never lost his dignity as a person?
c) Isn't it a bit unrealistic to expect people to forgive someone like Hitler?
d) The Vatican II statement does not say anything about discrimination, oppression, or injustice. Explain
the connection between the question and the statement from Vatican II.
22. How important to Catholics is action on behalf of justice?
"Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a
constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church's mission for the
redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation." Synod of Bishops,
Justice in the World (1971) 6.
"The quest for human freedom is not optional for Catholics, nor is it a small part of the Church's
mission. Participation in the struggle for freedom and justice is a duty for each one of us, as it is a central
element of the Church's mission of redemption and liberation." U.S. Bishops, The Eucharist and the
Hungers of the Human Family (1975) 12.
Reflections on the importance of action on behalf of justice.
a) The synod statement says that working for a just world is part of preaching the Gospel, in other
words, if you want to tell people about Jesus Christ, part of your message has to be your action on behalf
of a just world. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
b) The second statement says that Catholics have no choice but to work for freedom and justice. Do you
agree or disagree? Why?
c) Both statements mention the Church's mission. Describe briefly what you think is the Church's
23. Why can't we be content with a merely individualistic morality?
"Profound and rapid changes make it particularly urgent that no one, ignoring the trend of events or
drugged by laziness, content himself with a merely individualistic morality. It grows increasingly true
that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common
good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and
private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life." Vatican II, Church in the
Modern World (1965) 30.
Reflections on individualistic morality.
a) Describe what you think is meant in this statement by "individualistic morality." Does the statement
say it is bad or inadequate? Why?
b) Give an example of an institution that is "dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life," and tell
how you can promote and assist it.
24. Why do Jesus' followers work for just laws, policies, and social structures?
"As followers of Jesus we are called to express love of neighbor in deeds which help others realize their
human potential. This, too, has consequences for the structures of society. Law and public policy do not
substitute for the personal acts by which we express love of neighbor; but love of neighbor impels us to
work for laws, policies, and social structures which foster human goods in the lives of all persons." U.S.
Bishops, To Live in Christ Jesus (1976) 62.
Reflections on the work for justice as followers of Jesus.
a) The statement mentions "the structures of society" and "social structures." Describe what is meant by
b) What do these structures have to do with being followers of Jesus?
c) Do you agree that our love for neighbor has to be expressed both privately, through personal acts, and
publicly through "work for laws, policies, and social structures"?
25. Will the building of proper social structures suffice to create a just society?
"The Church considers it to be undoubtedly important to build up Structures which are more human,
more just, more respectful of the rights of the person and less oppressive and less enslaving, but she is
conscious that the best structures and the most idealized systems soon become inhuman if the inhuman
inclinations of the human heart are not made wholesome, if those who live in these structures or who
rule them do not undergo a conversion of heart and of outlook." Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the
Modern World (1975) 36.
Reflections on what is needed to create a just society.
a) Give an example of a structure that would be human, just, and respectful of the rights of the person,
and give an example of a structure that would be oppressive and enslaving.
b) Why isn't changing structures good enough? Why do we also have to "undergo a conversion of heart
and of outlook"?
26. What is Christ's role in the Christian search for justice?
"It is in Christ that the Church finds the central cause for its commitment to justice, and to the struggle
for the human rights and dignity of all persons It is Christ's word that is the judgment on this world; it is
Christ's cross that is the measure of our response; and it is Christ's face that is the composite of all
persons, but in a most significant way of today's poor, today's marginal people, today's minorities." U.S.
Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us (1979) 10, 23.
Reflections on Christ's role in the search for justice.
a) Describe in your own words the relationship between Christ and our struggle for justice.
27. Where does the Church's social teaching find its source?
"The church's social teaching finds its source in sacred scripture, beginning with the Book of Genesis
and especially in the Gospel and the writings of the apostles." Pope John Paul II, On Human Work
Reflections on the source of the Church's social teaching.
a) Why is it important to be able to trace the church's social teaching back to the Bible?
28. What is the Church's responsibility in the area of social justice?
"The Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national, and international
level, and to denounce instances of injustice, when the fundamental rights of man and his very salvation
demand it. The Church, indeed, is not alone responsible for justice in the world; however, she has a
proper and specific responsibility which is identified with her mission of giving witness before the world
of the need for love and justice contained in the gospel message, a witness to be carried out in Church
institutions themselves and in the lives of Christians." Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World (1971) 36.
Reflections on the Church's role in pursuing social justice.
a) The bishops claim that the Church has the right to speak out on behalf of justice. Do you agree?
b) The bishops claim that the Church has the right to condemn injustice wherever they find it. Do you
c) What does it mean to say that, as part of its social responsibility, the Church should give witness to
justice in its institutions?
d) What does it mean to say that, as part of its social responsibility, the Church should give witness to
justice in the lives of its members?
29. What is the basis for the Church's influence on the human community?
"Christ, to be sure, gave his Church no proper mission in the political, economic, or social order. The
purpose which He set before her is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself come a
function, a light, and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community
according to the divine law." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World (1965) 42.
Reflections on the basis for the Church's influence.
a) Describe in your own words the "religious" mission of the Church.
b) What does this mission have to do with the struggle for social justice?
30. What two functions does the Church wish to assume in the social sphere?
"In the social sphere, the Church has always wished to assume a double function: first, to enlighten
minds in order to assist them to discover the truth and to find the right path to follow amid the different
teachings that call for their attention; and second, to take part in action and to spread, with a real care for
service and effectiveness, the energies of the Gospel." Pope Paul VI. A Call to Action (1971) 48.
Reflections on the two functions of the Church in the social sphere.
a) Describe in your own words the two functions mentioned in this statement.
b) Do you agree that these are legitimate functions of the Church in society? Why?
31. What is the Church's relationship to particular economic, political, or social systems?
"The church is not bound to any particular economic, political, or social system; it has lived with many
forms of economic and social organization and will continue to do so, evaluating each according to
moral and ethical principles: What is the impact of the system on people? Does it support or threaten
human dignity?" U.S. Bishops. Economic Justice for All (1986) 130.
Reflections on the Church and economic, political, and social systems.
a) Don't we sometimes act as though the Catholic Church is tied to the American political system? What
do you think is the proper relationship between being a Catholic and being an American?
b) Give two examples, one of an economic system that has a positive impact on people and one of an
economic system that has a negative impact on people.
c) Do the same with political systems.
d) Do the same with social systems.
32. What is the Church's responsibility in the area of human rights?
"The Church's responsibility in the area of human rights includes two complementary pastoral actions:
the affirmation and promotion of human rights and the denunciation and condemnation of violations of
these rights. In addition, it is the Church's role to call attention to the moral and religious dimensions of
secular issues, to keep alive the values of the Gospel as a norm for social and political life, and to point
out the demands of the Christian faith for a just transformation of society. Such a ministry on the part of
every Christian and the Church inevitably involves political consequences and touches upon public
affairs." U.S. Bishops, Political Responsibility (Feb 1976) 8.
Reflections on the Church and human rights.
a) Tell whether you think each of the following is a legitimate responsibility of the Church:
- to speak and teach about human rights
- to condemn situations in which human rights are violated
- to study current affairs and point out any moral or religious aspects which should be taken into account
- to teach the values of the Gospel as a guide for life in society
- to help Christians understand how their faith obliges them to work for a just society
b) Show what the Church can do to perform each of these functions.
33. What is the principle of religious freedom?
"This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom
means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of
any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner
contrary to his own beliefs." Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965 ) 2.
Reflections on the principle of religious freedom.
a) Describe what you understand by religious freedom.
b) Why do you suppose there is, and always has been, resistance to religious freedom? Is religion all that
c) Have you ever felt "forced to act in a manner contrary to your own beliefs"? If so, describe your
34. Why should the free exercise of religion be permitted in society?
"The social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of
religion; that he should participate with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in
community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for
human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society when the just requirements of public order
do not so require." Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom (1965) 3.
Reflections on the free exercise of religion.
a) Answer the question briefly in your own words.
b) What kind of "injury" is done to the person who is not allowed the free exercise of religion?
35. What does the Church see in the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed?
"As a leaven in the world, the Church is called to participate in human affairs and to recognize in the
poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed the presence of the Lord summoning the Christian community to
action." U.S. Bishops, Resolution on the Pastoral Concern of the Church for People on the Move
Reflections on the poor, afflicted, and oppressed.
a) Why is the Church compared to a leaven in the world?
b) According to this statement, what does the Church see in the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed?
Can you relate to that, does it have any meaning to you?
36. Why can't the Church neglect such violations of human rights as racism, poverty, and lack of
"In all its activities the Church must seek to preach and act in ways that lead to greater justice for all
people. Its ministry cannot neglect the violations of human rights resulting from racism, poverty , poor
housing, inadequate education and health care, widespread apathy and indifference, and a lack of
freedom. These realities are fundamentally incompatible with our faith, and the Church is required to
oppose them." U.S. Bishops. Statement on American Indians (1977) 10.
Reflections on the Church and violations of human rights.
a) How does each of the following cause a violation of human rights:
- poor housing
- inadequate education
- inadequate health care
- apathy and indifference
- lack of freedom.
b) According to the statement, why can't the Church neglect these realities?
37. Is the hope in another life a threat to our commitment to social justice?
"All too often Christians are faulted with a certain indifference toward earthly projects, as if one could
not fully count on us for radical social reform. The charge may be unfair , but the danger is real enough.
Our hope in another life must not be allowed to seduce believers into neglecting our task in the present
one." U.S. Bishops. Pastoral Letter on Marxist Communism (1980) 42.
Reflections on the Christian commitment to social justice.
a) Describe in your own words the "charge" that is referred to in this statement.
b) We believe in another life, a life of glory. Why is it wrong for us to ignore this world and concentrate
our energies on that other, much better world?
38. Will revolution or social reform suffice to produce social justice?
"Any interpretation that restricts the human predicament to a single, well-circumscribed problem,
soluble through structural changes alone, is bound to be dangerously one-sided. Even to expect the
solution of all human suffering or all social justice from revolution or social reform is to prepare oneself
for bitter disillusionment." U.S. Bishops, Pastoral Letter on Marxist Communism (1980) 32.
Reflections on producing social justice.
a) Why do you think the bishops say that we cannot count on just revolution or social reform if we want
a just world? What else would be needed?
39. What is needed for there to be peace and justice in the world?
"Whatever the progress in technology and economic life, there can be neither justice nor peace in the
world, so long as men fail to realize how great is their dignity; for they have been created by God and
are His children." Pope John XXIII, On Christianity and Social Progress (1961) 215.
Reflections on peace and justice in the world.
a) How does our failure to recognize the greatness of human dignity stand in the way of justice and
b) Does the Pope say that we get our dignity from what we do or from what we are? Do you agree?
40. What is the relationship between love and justice?
"Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for
justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one's neighbor. Justice attains its inner fullness
only in love. Because every man is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a brother of Christ, the
Christian finds in every man God himself and God's absolute demand for justice and love." Synod of
Bishops. Justice in the World (1971) 34.
Reflections on love and justice.
a) What does it mean to say that love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated?
b) Do you agree that they cannot be separated?
41. Why is action on behalf of justice more important than technical advances?
"A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that men do to obtain greater
justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane ordering of social relationships has greater worth than
technical advances. For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves
alone they can never actually bring it about." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World (1965) 35.
Reflections on justice vs. technical progress.
a) The statement says that justice, brotherhood, and social ordering are more important than technical
progress. What reason does Vatican II give for making this statement?
b) Do you agree with the statement? Why?
42. What do Christians believe is the essential key to a more just world?
"We know as Christians that the most effective response to the ills of the world is ours to make, the duty
to seek justice and equality resides with each of us. Here, in the painfully slow changing of our own
lives and in the agony of living out our vocations, lies the essential key to a more decent and more
human world." U.S. Bishops. To Do the Work of Justice (1978) 47.
Reflections on the essential key to a more just world.
a) What do the bishops mean when they say that "the duty to seek justice and equality resides with each
b) How do the bishops suggest we go about performing this duty?
43. Why must the Church be concerned about justice within herself?
"While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak
to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the
modes of acting and of the possessions and lifestyle within the Church herself." Synod of Bishops.
Justice in the World (1971) 40.
Reflections on justice within the Church.
a) Describe in your own words the reason for the necessity for justice within the Church.
b) From what you know about the Church, is internal justice a problem for the Church?