d. w. horstkoetter
by the 1971 Synod of Bishops
Read the Document JUSTICIA IN MUNDO
Catholic Social Thought, and more specifically Catholic Social Teaching, is called the best kept secret of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the second post summarizing a document from Catholic Social Teaching. The first one is here (on Octogesima Adveniens). The following is a short summary of Justitia in Mundo gathered from a synod of the bishops in 1971:
Justitia in Mundo (1971) came out of the Synod of Bishops (1971). Like Octogesima Adveniens, JM focused on: the need for justice; the Gospel and the church within the Gospel; action the Church can take; and the hope of salvation. Likewise, the introduction of JM begins similar to OA, as it cites the cry of the oppressed and the challenge that such a cry has had on the Church. This letter is a sanctioned teaching that answers the call for help, noting the mission of the Church within the Christ-life and therefore the need for the Church’s greater involvement in the world.
Despite the surge in recognition for human unity, the outcome of human life around the world is fragmented rather than in solidarity. Nationalism, racism, classism, and industrial and technological advancement towards death (i.e. the arms race) have grown more robust and threaten life. Economic and political injustice is rampant and threatens creation’s existence as it centralizes power and ownership of resources without regard to the flourishing of life. The expansionist hope of the past has only led to more problems and other forms of oppression – the bishops see the right to development as helpful, but fear a new colonialism.
Rhetoric about the common good is not explicit so far within the essay, but it does seem subsumed. After noting the oppression and injustice, the bishops move to specific examples of oppression and for argue for dialogue. The good of all must be served. However, it is not a philosophical treatise on the common good that follows next, but rather, a relational, incarnational theology and a communal, creational theology predicated on divine, Christological love that governs the mission – the drive and the exclamations – of the Church. The mission of the Church then becomes, in its preaching of the Gospel, the fight for salvific justice against oppression. Interestingly, it is after the Christological and ecclesiological theological work that the common good is mentioned explicitly. Thus, it is through Christian distinctiveness that Christians can be within society and work for what is good.
Next the bishops turn a critical eye to the Church, hoping to clean house; the practice of justice must first begin within one’s home. The bishops advocate for: greater care of the lay workers; women should be given a greater role, with the help of a mixed commission on the matter; “freedom of expression and thought”; fairer and faster juridical procedures; and the greater involvement of “the members of the Church” within the entire structure of the Church (Chapter 3). The Church’s witness, in the bishops’ estimation, also touches on temporal possessions for prophetic witness for the poor and consuming lifestyles.
The bishops then characterize the Christian witness to justice as “acting like the leaven of the Gospel in his family, his school, his work, and his social and civic life” (Chapter 3). It is within this holistic rubric for life that propagating justice by education can be understood. However, education is not simply formed in an academic fashion, but rather, education is the renewal of the person: “education demands a renewal of heart, a renewal based on the recognition of sin in its individual and social manifestations” (Chapter 3). This reworking of the person allows them to be more human, look critically at society and manipulative media, and respect other humans. This education is also sacramental – liturgical, chatechetical, baptismal, and Eucharistic. In short, this education is the endeavor to spread the Christological life.
The bishops also call for local church cooperation, as well as ecumenical cooperation. In this increasingly communicative trajectory, the bishops lay out a number of propositions for international action: the call for the affirmation of human rights by all governments; the call to support the UN as mediator and restrainer; the call to support the Second Development Decade initiative; the shifting of structures for the balancing of power; support for the arms of the UN that immediately works with the poor; involve the developing nations in the process when governments make contributions; care for the environment through less consumption of materials; and principles that would help the right to development to be fulfilled.
In light of all that comes previous in the statement by the synod, the bishops end with a Christological hope. In spite of the hurdles to be passed, the reader is reminded that God rules and that all Christian hope is found in the divine liberator. Therefore, the work for the Church is identified: to participate in the divine’s loving liberation.