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The meaning and value of religious liberty in the United States is changing dramatically, under the weight of both short-term legal pressures and long-term cultural shifts. Over the last few years, a sharply escalating solicitude for “sexual minorities” has confronted and diminished religious liberty in the law for the millions of Americans who adhere to traditional views about the nature of marriage and the morality of sexual activity. Over the last several decades, Americans have come to understand their own religious convictions through the mediating lenses of subjective experience and individual spirituality, so much so that “religion” has come to be an aspect of personal “identity.” Now it seems that “religious liberty” is one subset among many of an encompassing right of self-definition, which also includes sexual identity. And where these two sides of the “identity” coin come into conflict, “religious liberty” is more often than not the loser. This development is potentially momentous, for what was long described as Americans’ “first freedom” has, in fact, been an axiom of the political culture and a strategic linchpin of the whole of constitutional civil liberties.
Catholic Social Teaching is just Catholic moral teaching with emphasis upon the political and economic realms. This premise is in tension to the way many envisage the Church’s moral teaching, separating – even to the point of opposing – the Church’s commitment to “social justice” and its teachings on matters of life and sex. After a brief elaboration of the nature and purposes of CST and its dominant “principles,” the chapter reflects on why the disassociation between CST and Catholic moral teaching has come about. It argues that as a body of ethical instruction CST would be much more coherent and pastorally effective by explicitly incorporating the exceptionless moral norms taught and defended by the Church. The final section contains suggestions on how this incorporation might take place.
The impulse (cupido) for radical social and political change to which Leo XIII refers in the opening lines of his greatest encyclical had stirred widespread unrest during the pontificate of his predecessor, Pope Pius IX (1846–1878). The abolition of monasteries and convents in France and Spain; Kulturkampfs in Germany and Austria, stripping the Church of its remnants of cultural hegemony; and a half-century of acrimonious conflicts with Italian nationalists, including the assassination of the papal minister in 1848 and the pope’s daring escape from the Roman mob and subsequent two-year exile in central Italy; a pontificate culminating in 1870 with the military occupation of Rome by King Victor Emmanuel, the historical mega-theft of Church property by the newly formed Kingdom of Italy, and the precipitous end to more than a thousand years of papal temporal rule.
This chapter is an analytical summary of Rerum novarum. Its goal is to illuminate the purpose of the encyclical and the main lines of Pope Leo’s reasoning, his key premises and central ethical conclusions, and in this way, to articulate as clearly as possible the teaching that comprises Rerum novarum. Rerum’s influence on Catholic teaching and practice is most manifest in the Church’s “social teaching,” which in various ways identifies the encyclical as its founding statement. This identification is made in the names and citations of some of the most important papal contributions to Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and is pervasive throughout the corpus of CST. And it is revealed in the ways in which the accepted principles of CST are present or anticipated in Rerum novarum. Although the chapter does not undertake the large and formidable task of characterizing CST, it does indicate how these principles figure in Pope Leo’s analysis. It also underlines the extent to which these principles are not the main point of Rerum novarum, but stand in the service of the moral and religious reform urged by Pope Leo.
The Church’s pastors are obliged to teach social doctrine because it is part of their duty to preach the integral gospel, and that substantially includes moral truths which bear upon, and shape, social life and political affairs. Most prominently included in this grave responsibility are the tasks of instructing and supporting the laity in their vocation to redeem the temporal order. This lay apostolate is an important limitation upon bishops’ competence to teach CST authoritatively. Respecting this limit preserves another crucial limitation upon episcopal competence, namely, the proper separation of church and state: pastors preach moral truth, and the laity apply it prudently to contingent practical affairs. The heart of CST is the unicity of morality taught with special clarity by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis splendor: “When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.” This chapter concludes with some concrete proposals about the proper form of authoritative episcopal teaching.
Aquinas did not speak of “social” teaching, but did synthesize the teaching of the prophets, the Lord, the Fathers, and sound philosophy concerning social matters and responsibilities. He would have regarded the principles of CST as part of the Church’s doctrine of faith and morality (de fide et moribus), insofar as morality – the living out of that faith which consists in true beliefs about the Creator – embodies the principles, precepts, and virtue(s) of justice. For among the cardinal virtues, justice is the one bearing on those of our choices that relate to or impact on other persons, especially persons with whom in one way or another we are associated. And Aquinas’s treatment of justice, mainly but not only in his Summa Theologiae, is very extensive and detailed. This chapter offers (1) an overview of his significance for CST, (2) a review of the appeals to his writings in Rerum novarum and some of its antecedents and successors, and (3) his contribution to some leading features of CST since then, including dignity and equality; private property and associations; “subsidiarity” and the service conception of authority and law; and “solidarity” (local and global).
The common good (bonum commune) has, since antiquity, referred to the aim of social and political association, and was particularly prominent in medieval Christian political theology. Since St. John XXIII’s 1961 encyclical letter, Mater et magistra, ecclesiastical statements about social teaching have employed a formulation of the common good, usually in the version that appeared in the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 Pastoral Constitution for the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, as “the sum of those conditions of social life that allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.” This chapter discusses the origins and development of this formulation as well as the ways that it has been used in subsequent Catholic Social Teaching. While it has sometimes been interpreted as an “instrumental” account of the common good, the sources and uses of the notion suggest that it is the particularly modern political component of a fuller notion of the common good continuous with the tradition. In particular, the recent formulation is concerned to limit the power of the modern state and protect the dignity of the human person in the challenging conditions of political modernity.
Catholic social teaching (CST) refers to the corpus of authoritative ecclesiastical teaching, usually in the form of papal encyclicals, on social matters, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891) and running through Pope Francis. CST is not a social science and its texts are not pragmatic primers for social activists. It is a normative exercise of Church teaching, a kind of comprehensive applied - although far from systematic - social moral theology. This volume is a scholarly engagement with this 130-year-old documentary tradition. Its twenty-three essays aim to provide a constructive, historically sophisticated, critical exegesis of all the major (and some of the minor) documents of CST. The volume's appeal is not limited to Catholics, or even just to those who embrace, or who are seriously interested in, Christianity. Its appeal is to any scholar interested in the history or content of modern CST.
The jurisprudence of Robert P. George is twofold, in that he is one of the most important public law, and especially constitutional law, scholars of the late twentieth and so far in the twenty-first centuries, and, at the same time, he is America’s leading legal exponent of natural law. He is a devout Roman Catholic. But the relationship between his religious convictions and his jurisprudence will strike some readers as paradoxical. George writes: “I want to show that Christians and other believers are right to defend their positions on key moral issues as rationally superior to the alternatives proposed by secular liberals and those within the religious denominations who have abandoned traditional moral principles in favor of secularist morality.” “My criticism of secular liberal views is not that they are contrary to faith; it is that they fail the test of reason.” This chapter explains how the “paradox” is merely apparent.