A View on the World: Catholic Social Teaching through the Lens of the Family

Authored by Justin Anderson in Issue #35.4 of The Sower

I know what they are thinking. Most of the seminarians and lay students that follow my course “Catholic Social Teaching” in our seminary/school of theology begin with the assumption that this is the “social justice” course. Some like this reduction of “Catholic Social Teaching” to “social justice.” Others dread it. Few question it. I savor the guilty pleasure of playing off of this supposition, building it up in crescendo-like fashion, until at last it is obliterated by the logic of the Church’s social documents themselves. I do enjoy this, but I also do this for pedagogical reasons: I want the assumption that Catholic social teaching reduces to social justice so utterly razed in the minds of my students that when it falls it can never rise from the ashes of its ruin. No resurrection here, please.

Social justice is a part of Catholic social teaching, and an important part. However, it is only a part and it cannot be equated with the entirety of Catholic social teaching without doing serious harm to both. Social justice is that form of justice that regulates one’s relationships according to the standards of law. Typically, it is taken to be about society’s larger institutions like business corporations, political structures, and forms of the market. Catholic social teaching, on the other hand, includes social justice and much, much more. Catholic social teaching covers each of our relationships and socializations in general and, most importantly, does so in a manner where the demand of justice (what is due to another) is not the sole focus. This also means the Church’s social teaching can reach to those forms of relationships that in whole or part elude the categories of justice and law, such as the relationship of friendship. The social teaching of the Church is capable of this wide perspective because, first and foremost, it begins not from law, but from God’s Trinitarian love as manifest in Jesus Christ.

And so, this clarification is an important one. Catholic social teaching is not first about the state of one’s nation, and then somehow extended to other realms of life in a secondary, derivative manner. Catholic social teaching is as much about the living room as it about the halls of Congress.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!

This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections: Forming Disciples who Make Disciples
By Dr. James Pauley
Free It was yet another miraculous catch of fish. When Peter saw the fish and heard John say “it is the Lord!” he dove into the water in his zeal to be with the risen Jesus, rather than waiting to bring the boat to shore. After the meal, Jesus took Peter aside and asked, “do you love me more than these?” And then Jesus asked again. And a third time.... Read more
Freeing Up for Mission: Critical Steps for the Path Forward
By Jim Beckman
Free Early Memories I had a somewhat magical season of my life that has left lasting memories for me. I was only eleven or twelve. Up until that time, life had been marked by tragedy. My dad had been injured and left paralyzed, one of my sisters had tragically died, my mom had even suffered a nervous breakdown and was away from us for several months.... Read more
Multiplication: Passing on a Message and a Mission
By André Regnier
There is a growing trend within the Church, rightly so, toward mentorship or coaching of our leaders. The idea is that great programs are not effective without great people leading those programs. Associated with this focus on mentorship is a theory some people call “spiritual multiplication”, which attempts to go one step further in mentoring... Read more


Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now