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Church’s Social Mission

The affairs of the world, including economic ones, cannot be separated from the spiritual hunger of the human heart.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986 #327.

In His solemn prayer for the Church’s unity, Christ Our Lord did not ask His Father to remove His disciples from the world: “I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.” Let no man therefore imagine that a life of activity in the world is incompatible with spiritual perfection. The two can very well be harmonized.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961 #255.


 

The Church today is faced with an immense task: to humanize and to Christianize this modern civilization of ours. The continued development of this civilization, indeed its very survival, demand and insist that the Church do her part in the world. That is why she claims the co-operation of her laity. In conducting their human affairs to the best of their ability, they must recognize that they are doing a service to humanity, in intimate union with God through Christ, and to God’s greater glory. And St. Paul insisted: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961 #256.


 

In every age, the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #4.


 

All must consider it their sacred duty to count social obligations among their chief duties today and observe them as such. For the more closely the world comes together, the more widely do people’s obligations transcend particular groups and extend to the whole world. This will be realized only if individuals and groups practice moral and social virtues and foster them in social living. Then, under the necessary help of divine grace, there will arise a generation of new women and men, the molders of a new humanity.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #30.


 

The more the power of men and women increases the greater is their responsibility as individuals and as members of the community. There is no question, then, of the Christian message inhibiting them from building up the world or making them disinterested in the good of others: on the contrary it makes it a matter of stricter obligation.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #34.


 

Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectation of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress dearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #39.


 

In pursuing its own salvific purpose not only does the church communicate divine life to humanity but in a certain sense it casts the reflected light of that divine life over all the earth, notably in the way it heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way it consolidates society, and endows people’s daily activity with a deeper sense and meaning.
The church, then, believes that through each of its members and its community as a whole it can help to make the human family and its history still more human.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #40.


 

It is no less mistaken to think that we may immerse ourselves in earthly activities as if these latter were utterly foreign to religion, and religion were nothing more than the fulfillment of acts of worship and the observance of a few moral obligations. One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and their day-to-day conduct. As far back as the Old Testament the prophets vehemently denounced this scandal, and in the New Testament Christ himself even more forcibly threatened it with severe punishment. Let there, then, be no such pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and religious life on the other. Christians who shirk their temporal duties shirk their duties towards his neighbor, neglect God himself, and endanger their eternal salvation.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #43.


 

By their words and example and in union with religious and with the faithful, let them [the laity] show that the church with all its gifts is, by its presence alone, an inexhaustible source of all those virtues of which the modern world stands most in need. Let them prepare themselves by careful study to meet to enter into dialogue with the world and with people of all shades of opinion.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #43.


 

Mindful of the words of the Lord: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(Jn. 13:35), Christians can yearn for nothing more ardently than to serve the people of this age successfully with increasing generosity. Holding loyally to the Gospel, enriched by its resources, and joining forces with all who love and practice justice, they have shouldered a weighty task here on earth and they must render an account of it to him who will judge all people on the last day.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965 #93.


 

Listening to the cry of those who suffer violence and are oppressed by unjust systems and structures, and hearing the appeal of a world that by its perversity contradicts the plan of its Creator, we have shared our awareness of the Church’s vocation to be present in the heart of the world by proclaiming the Good News to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, and joy to the afflicted. The hopes and forces which are moving the world in its very foundations are not foreign to the dynamism of the Gospel, which through the power of the Holy Spirit frees people from personal sin and from its consequences in social life.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #5.


 

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.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #6.


 

For unless the Christian message of love and justice shows its effectiveness through action in the cause of justice in the world, it will only with difficulty gain credibility with the people of our times.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #35.


 

The Church has received from Christ the mission of preaching the Gospel message, which contains a call to people to turn away from sin to the love of the Father, universal kinship and a consequent demand for justice in the world. This is the reason why 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 people and their very salvation demand it.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #36.


 

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.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #36.


 

The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971 #38.


 

The Church directs her attention to those new “poor” — the handicapped and the maladjusted, the old, different groups of those on the fringe of society, and so on — in order to recognize them, help them; defend their place and dignity in a society hardened by competition and the attraction of success.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971 #15.


 

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 secondly to take part in action and to spread, with a real care for service and effectiveness, the energies of the Gospel.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971 #48.


 

The Church invites all Christians to take up a double task of inspiring and of innovating, in order to make structures evolve, so as to adapt them to the real needs of today.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971 #50.


 

The distinctive contribution of the Church flows from her religious nature and ministry. The Church is called to be, in a unique way, the instrument of the kingdom of God in history. Since peace is one of the signs of that kingdom present in the world, the Church fulfills part of her essential mission by making the peace of the kingdom more visible in our time.

The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1983 #22.


 

As Catholics, we are heirs of a long tradition of thought and action on the moral dimensions of economic activity. The life and words of Jesus and the teaching of his Church call us to serve those in need and to work actively for social and economic justice. As a community of believers, we know that our faith is tested by the quality of justice among us, that we can best measure our life together by how the poor and the vulnerable are treated.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986 #8.


 

Our faith is not just a weekend obligation, a mystery to be celebrated around the altar on Sunday. It is a pervasive reality to be practiced every day in homes, offices, factories, schools, and businesses across our land. We cannot separate what we believe from how we act in the marketplace and the broader community, for this is where we make our primary contribution to the pursuit of economic justice.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986 #25.


 

The affairs of the world, including economic ones, cannot be separated from the spiritual hunger of the human heart.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986 #327.


 

The church has no technical solutions to offer, but being an “expert in humanity” the church has something to say about the nature, conditions, requirements, and aims of authentic development and the obstacles that stand in its way.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”, Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987 #41.


 

The Church well knows that no temporal achievement is to be identified with the Kingdom of God, but that all such achievements simply reflect and in a sense anticipate the glory of the Kingdom, the Kingdom which we await at the end of history, when the Lord will come again. But that expectation can never be an excuse for lack of concern for people in their concrete personal situations and in their social, national and international life, since the former is conditioned by the latter, especially today.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”, Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987 #48.


 

The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters, “when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it.” In the moral order she bears a mission distinct from that of political authorities: the Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good because they are ordered to the sovereign Good, our ultimate end. She strives to inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic relationships.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Vatican, 1992 Church’s Social Mission #2420.


 

The Church’s social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Vatican, 1992 Charity and Justice #2422.


 

Jesus, as “the physician of the body and of the spirit”, was sent by the Father to proclaim the good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted (cf. Lk 4:18; Is 61:1). Later, when he sends his disciples into the world, he gives them a mission, a mission in which healing the sick goes hand in hand with the proclamation of the Gospel: “And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (Mt 10:7-8; cf. Mk 6:13; 16:18).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), Pope John Paul II, 1995 #47.


 

Central to our identity as Catholics is that we are called to be leaven for transforming the world, agents for bringing about a kingdom of love and justice.

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998.


 

The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. It offers moral principles and coherent values that are badly needed in our time. In this time of widespread violence and diminished respect for human life and dignity in our country and around the world, the Gospel of life and the biblical call to justice need to be proclaimed and shared with new clarity, urgency, and energy.

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998.


 

Every believer is called to serve “the least of these,” to “hunger and thirst for justice,” to be a “peacemaker.” Catholics are called by God to protect human life, to promote human dignity, to defend the poor and to seek the common good. This social mission of the Church belongs to all of us. It is an essential part of what it is to be a believer.

Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998.


 

When we gather as Catholics to worship, we gather around a table to celebrate the Eucharist. It is at this altar of sacrifice that we hear the saving word of Christ and receive his Body and Blood. It is Christ’s sacrificial meal that nourishes us so that we can go forth to live the Gospel as his disciples. Too often, the call of the Gospel and the social implications of the Eucharist are ignored or neglected in our daily lives.

A Place at the Table: A Catholic Recommitment to Overcome Poverty and Respect the Dignity of All God’s Children, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2002 #I.


 

For believers, this mission is not simply a matter of economics or politics but of discipleship. We may sometimes differ about the specifics of how best to serve those in need, overcome poverty, and advance human dignity, but it is impossible for a Christian to say, “This is not my task.” This mission is an essential part of what makes us disciples of Christ.

A Place at the Table: A Catholic Recommitment to Overcome Poverty and Respect the Dignity of All God’s Children, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2002 #VII.


 

This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005 #28.


 

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005 #28.


 

One does not make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now. We contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the opportunity, independently of partisan strategies and programmes. The Christian’s programme —the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus—is “a heart which sees”. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005 #31.


 

When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 #7.


 

[T]he Church, being at God’s service, is at the service of the world in terms of love and truth…She has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities: all the energy she brings to the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity is manifested when she is able to operate in a climate of freedom.

 

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 #11.


 

Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time…Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good.

Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”), Pope Francis, 2013 #51.


 

An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others…An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #24.


 

But to whom should [the Church] go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #48.


 

Here and now, especially where we are a “little flock” (Lk 12:32), the Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community which is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-16). We are called to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #92.


 

Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? They themselves would have found this unacceptable. An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #183.


 

There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #188.

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