- SOCIAL DOCTRINE

Created: Tuesday, 18 February 2014 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014

- SOCIAL DOCTRINE


1. For centuries, the Gospel’s social message was going into shadows until it reached its total negation. In the encyclical Quod apostolici muneris (1878), written against the socialism, pope Lion XIII talks about the private property in the following terms: “While the socialists present the right to the property like a human intervention against the men natural equality, and, looking for the commonality of the welfare, they consider that poverty should not be supported with good spirit, and that the fundamentals and the rights of the most powerful can be violated with impunity, the Church, much more wisely and usefully, also acknowledges men lack of equality in the welfare possession, due to naturally diverse physical forces and talent aptitudes, and she believes that the property and ownership right is to be intact and inviolable for everybody, a right that comes out from the nature itself”. The text lacks of any prophetic spirit and responds to the economical liberalism, to the liberal capitalism of that time, and not to the genuine Christian tradition.
2. Nevertheless, during the nineteenth century there was social tendencies (in minority) in the catholic environment. For instance, in France, Jean-Marie of Lamennais and Frederic Ozanam denounce the economical liberalism and they defend the workers association rights, the primacy of the person, the State intervention and the vital salary, that cannot be left to the pure market game.
3. In this context, the Church’s social doctrine emerges with the publication of the Lion XIII  encyclical Rerum Novarum (1981), talking about the new social problem. New themes are the capital (new private property way), the work (reduced to a trade, under the offering and demand law) and the conflict between both (the fight of classes). Lyion XIII enumerates the mistakes that leads to the proletariat  “undeserved misery” and excludes the socialism like a solution to the “workers problem”, because to “have things privately like our own is a right given to men by nature”. The following points are fundamental: the work, the property right, the principle of collaboration opposed to the fight of classes, the right to have professional associations. The State intervention is requested, since “it is a strict duty of the State to duly take care of the workers welfare”. Thus, the “collaboration between classes” is presented like a Christian’s ideal, but not to overcome the large social differences, id est, the ideal of a society without classes.
4. Forty years later, Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo anno (1931) offers an overview of the industrial and production society, stresses the need that the capital as well as the work contribute to the production and the economic organization, establishes the conditions for the restoration of the social order, looks for a new view of the problems to confront the big changes caused by the new development of the economy and the socialism, and supports a corporative organization close to the fascist trade union system.
5. Pius the eleventh in his message by radio the first of June 1941 assesses that “the natural order coming from God, requires the private property and the free reciprocal goods trade with interchanges and donations too, as well as the public power regulating function upon both institutions”. These ethic and social principles oriented to promote the reconstruction behind the destructive effects of the Second World War are basic: the universal destiny and the welfare use, the rights and duties of the workers and the enterprisers, the State function in the economical activities, the need of the international collaboration to carry out a better justice and to ensure the peace, the restoration of the right like the rule for the relations between the classes and between the people, the minimum familiar salary
6. The Rights of Man Universal Declaration (UN, 10 – 12- 1948) is an event, which will be sheltered and valued by the Church’s educational practice (above all, by John XXIII and the Vatican Council II) like a sign of the action of God’s spirit in our time (Mt 16,3). Some of the most important human rights are: the meeting and association, the politic participation, the labour participation, the expression and information freedom, the right to the education, not be submitted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, to a truly human life, to the religious freedom.
7.  In his encyclical Mater et magistra (1961) John XXIII makes a historical and sociological analysis about the modern industrial society and the roll that the prevision and social security systems, the professional capacities and the rights based on the work can have in it; he affirms “the natural character of the property right even in the production goods”, he denounces the existing inequalities not only between the diverse economical sectors but between countries and regions too, as well as the overpopulation and underdevelopment phenomena that, due to the lack of understanding and solidarity between the nations, originates unbearable situations, especially in the Third World.
8. Before the danger of a nuclear war, the encyclical  Pacem in terris (1963) is an urgent call to build the peace based on the respect to the ethic exigencies that must rule the relationship between the men and between the States. In its first part “the men rights” are assumed: to the existence and to a worthy life level, to the moral and cultural values, to the religious freedom, to the own state election, to the free association, to the immigration and emigration freedom, to the political participation.
9. Decolonisation process of many countries of the Third World is consolidating more and more, but the political colonialism in force until then is followed by other one of an economical character. Especially in Latin America, a conscience before the development unbalance and the injustice situations raises and a liberation ferment bursts in several ways.  The world expects a brand new and hopeful message from the Church. The answer to this expectation is the Constitution Gaudium et spes (1965) delivered by the Vatican Council II
10. -    The Council proclaims that “any discrimination form of the personal fundamental rights, social as well as cultural, because of the sex, race, colour, social condition, language or religion, must be overcome and suppressed, like against God’s plan” (GS 29); “ to satisfy the justice and equity exigencies it is necessary to produce all possible efforts in order to, always keeping respect to the personal rights and the characteristics of each one of the peoples, force to disappear as soon as possible the enormous economical differences existing today, and that frequently increase, entailed to individual and social discriminations” (GS 66); the development must be to the man’s service, without any type of domination by the main systems, capitalism and socialism socio-economical implications; it is necessary to promote the good of the whole man, “of the integral man”, taking into account his material and spiritual needs (GS 64-65), overcoming in this way, the traditional contraposition between producer and consumer, and the discrimination offending the human dignity. “Human work developed in the production and in the trade or in the services is superior to the rest of the economic life elements, since the only roll of the later is merely instrumental” (GS 67); “the private property right is not incompatible with the existing diverse ways of public property” (GS 71).
11. With the encyclical Populorum progressio (1967) Paul VI proposes a new development comprehension: Man integral development and a joint humanity development. The development is “the progress of less human life conditions to more human life conditions”, in the purely temporal aspects, as well as in the true values without which a true society development is not possible. Paul VI says, after a reference to the first letter of Saint John (3,17): “It is known the firmness with which the Fathers of the Church have set which must be the attitude of those that have some possessions with respect to those that are in need: It is not a part of your goods – says Saint Ambrosias – what you deliver to the poor; what you give them is a part of their own goods. Because what has been given for everybody use, you have appropriated it. The earth has been given for everybody and not only for the rich people”. The Pope says too: “The private property does not constitute an unconditional or absolute right for anybody. There is no reason to reserve for the exclusive use things or goods that overcome the own needs, when others lack what is needed for them” (PP 23; see GS 69).
12. Eighty years after the Rerum Novarum, Paul VI publishes the Octogesima adveniens (1971). It is necessary a thought for the comprehension of the political dimension of the existence and of the Christian compromise, stimulating at the same time the critical conciousness in relation to the existing ideologies.
13. John Paul II publishes the encyclical Laborem exercens in 1981. The main key of the whole social affair is found in the human work (LE 3). A deep revision of the work sense is required, which includes a more equitable distribution not only of the rents and the welfare, but of the work itself too, in order to get work for everybody. The priority of the work over the capital is affirmed, what has a key importance in any system, capitalist or socialist (LE 15). Marx himself could assert this principle. Nevertheless, when the time of the truth comes, (for instance, talking about the Latin America situation), John Paul II is more conservative than Paul VI.
14. In the encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987), John Paul II updates and deepens the development notion.  He regrets the Third World failed development, and talks about the sense, the conditions and the exigencies of a worthy man development. Between the failed development causes the following are indicated: the persistent, and, very often increased, difference between North and South, the opposition between the eastern and western blocks with the consequent weaponry race, the weapons trade and diverse obstacles of political character that cross with the cooperation and solidarity decisions between the nations. The moral character of the true development is attached to the human rights (also of religious freedom).
15. -    One hundred years after the Rerum Novarum, John Paul II publishes the encyclical Centesimus annus (1991).  He sees in the events that happened in 1989 in central and eastern Europe the historic process culmination started by the Rerum Novarum. The real socialism has incurred in a “fundamental mistake of anthropological character”: the forgetfulness of the human person transcendence (CA 13). Like a positive result, he indicates the legitimating of “an authentic theology of the integral human liberation” (CA 26). The key question is: is it possible to say that after the communism downfall, the capitalism is the winner system?. Obviously, the answer is complex (CA 42). The Church does not have models to propose: “she recognizes the positivism of the trade and the enterprise, but at the same time she indicates that both must be oriented to the common welfare” (CA43), “the social doctrine has, in itself, the value of an evangelisation instrument” (CA 54).
16. It has been commented that the encyclical CA practically ignores what the theology of the liberation has contributed to the Church. Its democracy concept has been discussed: An authentic democracy would only be possible “upon the basis of the right conception of the human person” (CA 46). It has been criticized its blessing without any shame of the polish model (now destroyed), as well as its oblique and partial vision of the fall down of the communist block: “almost everywhere…. through the peaceful fight, that uses only the truth and justice weapons” (CA 43).
17. Christianism cannot deliver a political, syndicalist, economical, ect… model. What it must make easy is the sincere conversion to the social great values. The fundamental Christian values that influence into the social order are the fraternity, the goods sharing (Acts 2,44. 4,32), the love to the neighbour (1 Jn 4,20), the faith with works (James 2,14-26), the compromise with justice (Rom 13,10), the work with social service spirit (Acts 20, 33-35), the greed’s liberation with binding obligation with the solidarity effort to get enough goods for everybody (1 Tim 6, 6-10). The Christianism needs to liberate the great Churches of their historic sin: to proclaim a Gospel, which is good news for the poor, and – nevertheless - to be with the rich.
18. -    It is affirmed in Saint James letter that, according to the Gospel, the humble status is an exaltation and the rich status a humiliation: “Let the poor man boast, because he has been uplifted, and let the rich one boast when he is humbled, because he will pass away like the flower of the field” (James 1, 9-10). Because the poor are the subject of election on the part of God: “Look, brothers, did not God choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith and to inherit the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? (2,5).
19. -    The great Christian principle is neither the fight of classes nor the collaboration between classes. The Christian principle is the love to the neighbour, enemies included, and the pledge for justice, because love doesn’t make injustice: “What is against Christianism is the resistance, on the part of the privileged classes, to the establishment of a society without discriminations, of a society without classes” (J.Mª Diez Alegría)
*       Dialogue over the social doctrine:
•        it is a reaction of philosophical and ethical nature
•        it is a return to the Gospel, good news for the poor
•        it slowly intensifies the critics to the capitalist system
•        it decreases the importance of the private property
•        it increases the priority of the workers rights
•        it lessens the opposition before the socialism
•        it is an evangelisation instrument
•        it is unreal before the capitalist world
•        it denounces the fight of classes
•        it promotes the collaboration between classes
•        it leads to overcome the large social differences
•        it improves the consciousness upon the historic sin of the great Christian Churches: to be with the rich