Why Catholics shouldn’t sneer at social justice

In recent months it has become common among conservatives to sneer at the concept of social justice. For instance:

It isn’t just Beck, though. All too often, conservative Catholic bloggers complain about “social justice Catholics,” as if being one was tantamount to heresy or apostasy. Fortunately, blogging doesn’t give one magisterial authority.

That leaves us with a question: What does the real magisterium say about social justice?

Social justice is a Catholic idea

I don’t just mean that Catholics support social justice. I mean that the very idea of social justice is derived from Catholic social teaching.

The term was first coined by Jesuit theologian Luigi Taparelli as a Thomistic response to modern industrial society, and was eventually adopted to describe the Magisterial teaching of the Church about just relations in modern society. From Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum to Benedict XVI’s Caritatis in Veritate, the Church has continually called for justice for the poor and marginalized.

While most educated Catholics are probably aware of the Catechism, very few seem to be aware of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Like the Catechism this isn’t a “liberal” document, but neither is it a “conservative” one.

So, if you’re a conservative who is having a problem with liberal policies, check the Compendium, and if the position isn’t consistent with Church teaching, complain about their misuse of the term, not social justice itself. And if the position is consistent with the Compendium, don’t complain so much, okay? 🙂


About Joshua Michael

Writer. Catholic. Fan of John Henry Newman and the Inklings.
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2 Responses to Why Catholics shouldn’t sneer at social justice

  1. That’s so right, many Catholics shy away from social justice because it seems to be the bastion of dissenters. However, it is the teaching of the Church. The difference with the liberal brand of social justice is it takes on a kind of worldly character. It seems concerned with justice for the poor and marginalized as an end in itself. But really, working for justice is making sure basic human needs are met so the poor can come to know God. The liberals kind of leave God out of the mix. They say God doesn’t people to suffer physically but spiritually they deny the things that keep people in spiritual poverty, the life giving teachings of the Church.

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