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Social Justice: Recommendations Phil Byrne

Phil Byrne

I. Transformative Change

       We seek a fundamental, all-encompassing change in the Church.

Social justice/Catholic Social Teaching/ the elimination of poverty/ the preferential option for the poor, however it is named or labeled, must become (the single most important) or (a substantial) work of the Church from now on.

We ask that Church leadership put into practice what has been eloquently written and said over the centuries, in many documents and encyclicals.

Each of them in ordained/leadership positions, from the Pontiff on down to each priest, should devote – at the very least – a (majority)(at least half)(substantial amount) of their time as a church leader to social justice. The time for more talk, written work, or proposals, without a major effort at all levels, is long since past. Much has been said, relatively little (in the scale of the extant problems) has been done. It is clear that the Gospels, many Scriptural references, and the Church’s own words require more, much more.

II. Structural Reform

       We seek these reforms.

All leaders of the Church must in the future be chosen on the basis of their proven record of and/or commitment to spending (at least half)(a majority)(all) of their time on the implementation of past and current social justice issue recommendations. The Pontiff should require this as the single most important criterion for selecting cardinals, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests, deacons and subdeacons.

Seminarians and all other candidates for Holy Orders must be required to learn and actually do social justice as the major focus of their training for the priesthood.

All members of the Church, whether leaders or laity, must voluntarily reduce their standard of living in all respects and keep for themselves only what they reasonably need to carry on their work and lives, and to care for their families or those entrusted to them.

All members of the Church must spend a significant amount of time in voluntary activities to do social justice.

III.  Scope of Social Justice Work

We seek a recognition from the Church, all its leaders and its laity, that it is reasonable and appropriate to work for social justice in any area, forum, venue or place where something can be done for the poor.

Clearly, the Church should demand that all of its members do social justice, reduce their life-style, contribute money, do charity, and volunteer in ways that will help the poor.

Just as clearly, the Church should demand that all of its members seek, from profit or not-for-profit organizations or businesses in which they work or associate with, programs and policies that will benefit, or at the very least not worsen, the status of the poor.

It is also fair for the Church to seek the assistance of civil government or civil law in meeting the needs of social justice. Almost all remedies relating to social injustice are clearly justifiable on the basis of purely secular and civil needs and goods, and do not raise the issue of separation of Church and State, or the issue of infringement of the good consciences of others.

If there is a case in which a social justice issue is clearly only a matter of a particular religious practice, or one on which others of good conscience would have a different view, and there is no basis on which to argue that all of society would be better off for the change sought, then in that limited case, seeking the recourse of civil law sanctions would not be appropriate.

It is also fair to note that some past writings on the need to do social justice have limited that work on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity. That is to say, charity and justice should always be done only at the lowest level of human organization. We recommend that this principle be used to prevent works of social justice only in the narrowest of circumstances, if at all.

Finally, we recommend that issues relating to “respect for life” (usually meaning abortion, contraception and stem-cell research) not be treated in isolation. Respect for life applies equally to the malnourished, sick, uneducated and ill-housed child in Africa – not just to embryos kept in fertility clinics. If we as Church members take on respect for life issues, it must be across-the-board with equal and major vigor. We must strive not to be “cafeteria Catholics” in this major area.