Spanish priest warns against ignorance of Church social teaching

Madrid, Spain, Sep 12, 2013 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church’s social doctrine is central for the life of the faithful, said a Spanish priest, and widespread ignorance of that doctrine is affecting the performance of the laity in public life.

“The Social Doctrine of the Church is one of the great unknowns for Catholics,” said Father Fernando Fuentes, who works for the Spanish bishops' Committee on Social Ministry.

In statements to the SIC news agency, Fr. Fuentes spoke about the master’s degree in Catholic Social Doctrine offered by the Pontifical University of Salamanca in collaboration with the Bishop's Committee on Social Ministry and the Paul VI Foundation. The online degree program aims to deepen knowledge of an area of Church teaching that is unknown to many Catholics.

The master’s program has been offered for 20 years in Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina and Panama, but it is now being offered for the first time in Spain. Courses will be offered online by professors from the Pontifical University of Salamanca at its Madrid campus.

The lack of formation in this area among the clergy and among the laity is leading to a weakening of the presence of the laity in public life and to social work that is not always rooted in Church doctrine, Fr. Fuentes explained.

The Social Doctrine of the Church is essential, he continued, “and when it is presented to those enrolled in the program they are surprised at the newness of the Church's social thought.”

Fr. Fuentes noted that in order to discern social issues based on the Christian experience and moral principles, certain resources that many people are not familiar with are necessary. The students who have completed the program throughout its 20 year history learn to apply these resources and become teachers of the Church's Social Doctrine and leaders in social ministries.

The current social and economic crisis poses very specific challenges for Christians, Father Fuentes said, recalling what Benedict XVI warned about in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “The Church has the duty to offer, through the purification of reason and ethical formation, her specific contribution so that the demands of justice are understandable and politically attainable.”  This is a task that requires good educational programs and the witness of solidarity, “which is taking place in many Christian communities.”

The commitment of Christians to public life is something that John XXIII already spoke about in his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” which Fr. Fuentes called “'the constitution' for leaders and for commitment in public life that had decisive influence in the 1970s and 80s.

“It was the magna carta of human rights and a lesson to the Church and to society on how to achieve peaceful coexistence,” he said.

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