There is a joke that’s no longer funny
by Bill Scholl
The joke goes that Catholic social teaching is the church’s best kept secret. Most Catholics have not heard of Catholic social teaching, which is the church’s response to the problems of modern life.
The few that have, often regard it as a liberal elective for those social justice Catholics who like singing “Kumbaya.” It is tragic that Catholics, and hence the world, do not seem to know that Christ has instructions for making the world a better place. The secret that shouldn’t be a secret is kept for two reasons: unreported success and bad branding.
In 1891, when Pope Leo XIII wrote the first social encyclical, “Rerum Novarum,” he transformed the papacy into the Earth’s foremost champion of human rights. How many other world leaders can go anywhere and gather millions to hear a speech?
Indeed, popes start global-transforming conversations that world leaders are reluctant to address. Before Leo, hardly anyone was speaking of a living wage or rights of laborers to have time off. If you’re middle class and enjoy having a two-day weekend, you should thank Catholic social teaching. We as church are not very good self-promoters, and so fail to share the positive impact that Catholic social teaching has had on the world.
Secondly, Catholic social teaching has a branding problem. People think of it as only liberal, and both liberal and conservative Catholics are to blame. Liberal Catholics distort it by proof-texting encyclicals to support their ideology while ignoring other crucial moral teachings. Conservative Catholics see that kind of social justice and are rightfully wary. But they do the church a disservice by not participating in the Catholic social teaching conversation, or laying claim to social justice when they do speak.
If you are a pro-life Catholic, you are a social justice Catholic. God has made some of us to have a liberal outlook and some to have a conservative one. That’s because we need to have different perspectives to have discussion and discover the blind spots of each.
God has made his church to have a left and right wing so that together it may fly.
Too many conservatives have been too silent in the social justice conversation. So is it any wonder our social advocacy flies leftward?
Let’s break the silence on this best kept “secret.” Would your parish group like to learn more about Christ’s call to do justice with church guidance?
The office for social justice, with the help of some great deacons and Catholic Charities staff, has developed some fun, minds-on/hands-on learning workshops to help Catholics learn and apply Catholic social teaching.
Call (913) 647-0317 or send an email to me at: social firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work to set one up that works for your parish needs.