Jason Adkins on Seeing Catholic Social Teaching…

Jason Adkins on Seeing Catholic Social Teaching… November 27, 2013

as a way of encountering Jesus Christ, not political ideology:

Pope Francis has called us to understand the Church’s structures and institutions through “a missionary key.”

He has stated (and tweeted!) that the Church exists for no other reason than to facilitate the encounter between the person and Jesus Christ. All of the Church’s activities — charitable, educational, social — must have the advancement of the Gospel and the kingdom of God as their primary end, because the saving truths of Jesus Christ are life-giving.

This is exactly what Francis was getting at in the America interview. Our social teaching and politics has to be subordinate to the encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, it just a bunch of theory and abstract moral teachings, which any pagan can give you.

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  • Dave G.

    That’s a bold statement, since that is (or at least was) a major criticism of Christian charity. It wasn’t charity for charity’s sake, it was just a means for advocating Christianity. That was quite a debate back in the day. I don’t know if it’s still a criticism outside Christian circles or not. Bold statement in any event.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Did you follow the link and actually read the article? It is not about charity… It is more about how the Church teaching needs to be at the base of any action, particularly political.

  • Raymond

    As long as the charity work does not include sending Bibles, rosaries, and scapulars to areas affected by natural disasters, then the the Pope’s statement is pretty benign. Instead of all the trappings, sending the equivalent dollar amount in food would be better.

    • Michael Ejercito

      We need to promote life eternal along with life temporal,.

      What profit does a man make if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?

      • Raymond

        So who is the better person – one who does things to help others with no expectation of recompense, or the person who does things to help others because he thinks it will do him good after he dies?

        • Bill

          That’s ignaratio elenchi Raymond. People don’t give Rosaries and Bibles because they are Pelagians trying to buy their salvation, but because they genuinely believe in the salvation of other souls

          • Raymond

            That’s nice. But what sort of impact do you think the Christian message has on people who have experienced catastrophic natural disasters? Their immediate needs – food, shelter, clothing, the restoration of infrastructure – must be met before any sort of spiritual message would have any impact. The resources spent on providing Christian/Catholic materials would be better spent on additional supplies or services for meeting those immediate needs. If you encountered a person sinking in quicksand, which would he prefer that you do – preach to him about the salvation of his soul, or throw him a rope?

            • chezami

              You are aware, aren’t you, that the Christian Church is the largest provider of corporal works of mercy on planet earth. Here: You can help: http://www.mercycorps.org

              • Raymond

                Of course I am aware of that. What I am saying is that funds that are spent to provide religious materials would be better spent to provide additional relief supplies and services. I am not accepting the premise that evangelization is appropriate when dire rescue and relief services are needed.

                • chezami

                  Do you have some reason to think that rescue agencies are doing what you claim? I am aware of no evidence that this is so. Also, I’m terribly worried about the valuable time you are wasting on arguing with me here when you could be using it to help disaster victims. Or do you only feign concern when you are busy telling Christians to shut up about what they believe? Have you made your donation to Mercy Corps?

                  • Raymond

                    Here’s some evidence for you, Thomas.
                    I’m afraid I can’t afford 10,000 Bibles and 9,000 Rosaries. I guess they’ll just have to rely on my prayers. Oh, wait. Prayer doesn’t do anything.

                    • chezami

                      A) You don’t know that prayer doesn’t do anything.
                      B) Lots of people are, in fact, very grateful for Bible and rosaries in times of trial.
                      C) What you are ultimately arguing is that Christians should be completely muzzled from ever speaking.
                      D) You are still hypocritically wasting time and energy telling Chrstians to shut up instead of devoting every last second and dime to helping the people you are using as human shields in order to attack Christians. You don’t actually give a shit about them.

                    • Raymond

                      My goodness…have I struck a nerve? I am not arguing at all that Christians should be muzzled. What I *am* arguing is that if you want to present a message to people who have been in a devastating occurrence – meet their physical needs and leave the toys at home.
                      And I did in fact acknowledge the good things that Christian organizations can do. But I also recognize the things that actually do some good and things that are wastes of time and money.
                      Do I get a point because I made you curse?

                    • chezami

                      You absolutely are. What you are saying is that as long as there is a humanitarian crisis anywhere on planet earth, Christians must attend only to physical needs and never to spiritual needs, And you hypocritically do this while yourself wasting tons of time here–trying to impose your personal philosophy on others when you should be devoting all your resources to the humanitarian crises you pretend to give a shit about. You are using victims of natural disasters as human shields you fake concern about in order to attack Christians. Here: get off off your ass: http://www.mercycorps.org

                    • Raymond

                      I’m sure your organization is very nice. I will donate $50 to http://www.redcross.org in your name. I’m not sure why you are trying to play the Hypocrite card on ME when you are the one defending proselytizing to victims of natural disasters – imposing your religious beliefs on vulnerable people in dire need. I’m sure that when the crisis has passed and some semblance of normalcy has returned to the region, the people there would be receptive to whatever message you (or anyone) would want to present. But when the crisis is hottest, resources are better spent on actual relief efforts than on forwarding a religious agenda. What percentage of donated funds does http://www.mercycorps.org spend on religious materials and how much on relief supplies and services?

                    • chezami


                      Seriously. If you want to play the stupid “No Christian should share his faith as long as anybody anywhere is suffering” game, you can. But it’s still stupid.

                    • Raymond

                      Actually, I have not been playing that “game” at all, and I suspect that you know it, but if you want to pretend otherwise, to expend your daily allotment of sarcasm, that is your perogative.
                      I think at one point in another thread I wondered whether you were arguing in bad faith, and I think my suspicions are stronger now.

  • Stu

    If you are in the Norfolk, VA (and a man) come out and see Dale Ahlquist talk on “The Trouble with Catholic Social Teaching”.


    • Elmwood

      Looks like a great talk. I hope Fr. Sirico will be there.

  • It’s more that Catholic Social Teaching helps build a culture under which Christianity can flourish, through subsidarity.
    A lot of people forget that. They think CST is mainly about nation state policies. That’s a part of it, but when you read Leo XIII, Pius XI, JPII (those are the three who covered it most extensively, but Pius X, Pius XII and Benedict did as well) you find a huge emphasis starting with the family, extended, the church, social organizations etc. For those things that can’t be handled, then you have the state.
    The problem with most conservatives is they treat government as a necessary evil and that there’s nothing private orgs can’t handle.

    • Elmwood

      Conservatives i.e. “GOP” pretty much reduce solidarity to that of justifying the status quo of trickle down wealth. They get generally get subsidiarity ok though.

      • Michael Ejercito

        Define “trickle down wealth”

    • IRVCath

      Precisely. Too many on the right have bought the classical liberal package wholesale, focused solely on the individual. This is imbalanced, because a healthy society has collectivities other than the State that are meaningful in daily life. Unfortunately since the 1970s there has been sponsored among out elites to atomize society, so that the only extraparliamentary societies of any consequence today are the churches (especially the Church) and labor unions in some places, though the State power is being harnessed to atomize them, too. Because, let’s face it, the collective bodies often stand in the way of letting the powerful from exploiting people or deforming social bonds on an industrial scale for tge worship of the Almighty Dollar (the HRC’s moving force are industrialists, for example. And what is Planned Parenthood but the industrialization of the exploitation of the most vulnerable ib our society?)

  • Elmwood

    This reminds me of the criticisms leveled at Blessed Theresa of Calcutta by Christopher Hitchens. He basically said that since Mother Theresa didn’t treat the sick to his standards, she was a fraud.

    But he and most miss the point that the Missionaries of Charity are not primarily a charitable organization, but are a religious organization that brings Christ to the most despised and destitute.