Daily Archives: November 23, 2011

Church’s Social Doctrine: Building a Civilization of Hope

The immediate purpose of the Church’s social doctrine is proposing principles and values that sustain a society worthy of the human person. The principle of subsidiarity includes all of these principles in a certain sense.

Love must permeate and be present in every social relationship, especially in those entrusted with the care of others. The willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others may be called the love of “social charity” or “political charity.” This charity must embrace all of humanity.

Social love, as one might describe this, is the antithesis of egoism and individualism. It involves the interplay between development of the person and social growth.

Selfishness is the great enemy of an ordered society. In order to make society more human and worthy of the human person, love in social life must be given renewed value and given the highest norm for all social activity. Justice is suitable for arbitration and the distribution of goods and services; love and only love is capable of restoring humanity to itself. Love is the highest form of relationship possible between human beings. Only love can transform the human person, and by extension, society.

My own experience working in the mental health field in the context of a large medical center reinforces all of these principles. Those of us entrusted with the care of others, especially the sick and the troubled, must be thoroughly grounded in the respect for the human person, and act out of a selflessness that is demanded not only by our professional codes of ethics, but by the 2000 year history of the Church’s experience in social and human development. To act only with justice (a increasingly stronger and common emphasis in medical care) without an underlying and directive love for the human person in front of you results in an objectification and devaluation of that person. The Catholic witness in the midst of this is sorely needed, and must be bravely embraced at whatever cost may be required. This is not a subtle matter. It is very real and present.

For a more extensive discussion of this topic, refer to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 580-583.