The Church as Teacher: a Nuisance or a Gift?

11 Nov

Have you ever wondered, “Hey, what’s the deal, why is the Catholic Church always sticking its nose in other peoples’ business?” It seems like the Church routinely preaches about politics, capital punishment, abortion, sexuality, economics, war, immigration, the environment, heck, even movies too much. On top of that, the positions the Church takes on these topics are not “nice” or “welcoming.” They do not sound anything like the positions that Christ would hold if he were walking down Lake Street mingling with the locals now. In fact one might be shocked by what Mother Church has taught, “She said what?! To whom?!”

The Church groups these teachings, those on economics, politics, family life, labor, etc, teachings that may not appear to be “religious” or theological in nature into its social doctrine. The Church is comprised of people, any baptized Christian, and so the Church lays down base principles to inform her members of behavior that preserves the dignity of “all persons and the whole person,” (as Pope Paul VI taught) baptized or not. However, even with this mission in mind, the Church is careful not to overstep her bounds and exceeding the scope of her authority. While the teaching of the Church is binding in matters of faith and morals, the principles of her social doctrine are not binding. The Church understands that people of goodwill can disagree about particular policy issues that do not violate the human dignity of individuals in society.

A particular example of this is the note delivered by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace regarding the restructuring of the global markets. In this note there is a call to create an international governing body to oversee the economy so as to better serve the common good and ensure an ethically accountable exchange of goods, services, and currency. In the New York Times article that reviewed the note, it immediately raised the implications for American politics and specifically the reaction Catholic politicians would have in response to this document. It is no secret that there is a stark difference in opinions over the best course of action to reinvigorate our economy but the Church submits that the actions taken not only in economics, but for all social institutions and realities, should be for the preservation and flourishing of every person and the whole person.

The Church offers these principles not solely based off the experience of the individuals within the Church: the Pope, the bishops, various councils commissioned for the purpose of investigating these subject matters, or lay people. Above all it is the Holy Spirit who guides and animates the life and teaching of the Church in today’s world.

-Eliot Huss

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