Sunday, December 8, 2013

Catholic Social Teaching

" Reading the Scriptures makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures of individuals in need, a kind of “charity à la carte," a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world" (Pope Francis: Apostolic Exhortation #180).
The Church in Korea is trying to make amends for what was not made clear to our Catholics; for many, the blame must rest with the Church, and on the way its teaching was passed on to the parishioners. The Pope's message in the exhortation gives us an idea of what is being proclaimed, loud and strong.

Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, is Human Rights Day, and the bishops want each parish to devote a whole week to bringing our Christians to a better understanding of the Social Gospel. An article and the editorial in the Catholic Times recently discussed the Social Gospel and its role in the  life of the Church. The article stressed that because many of our Catholics have a personal appreciation of their call as disciples, forgetting its social dimensions, they are separating their faith life from their daily life.

In order to correct this lack, the Seoul diocese began a school, in 1995, for teaching the Social  Gospel, and yet there are many Catholics, who have never heard of the Social  Gospel. The  head of the justice and peace committee of the diocese mentioned that many have privatized the Gospel message, made it subjective and separated from the world, a part of their leisure time search for emotional and psychological satisfactions.

With this thinking, it is easy to understand why learning about the Social Gospel has no appeal for many Catholics, for it makes one feel uncomfortable. The Second Vatican Council made our social responsibility clear with the teaching on the common good in society, but those who understand  the teaching are few. This has been true from the beginning: the internal renewal of the self and the evangelization of the society. This second mission has not been well understood.

A member of a research institute lists a number of  the reasons  for this failure: fear that comes with  being a minority in  society,  avoiding the call by works of charity, dualism of the holy and the world, and seeing  them in opposition to each other. Responsibility for this is with the Church, he says.
Many dioceses, like the Seoul diocese, have begun schools for teaching the Social Gospel, and, ongoing for some time, educational materials have been distributed, lectures given, and discussions held.  There is, however, a lack of teachers and meeting places to continue the  programs and increase the number of those attending.

The lack of understanding in this  area of the Gospel  becomes  evident when, as happened recently, there is a conflict between priests and the Government on some issues of justice. No matter what one thinks of the wisdom of what was said by a priest or how the problem was handled, it doesn't take away from the mission the Church has in the world.  "If indeed the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics, the Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”(Apostolic Exhortation #183).

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