Post date: Sep 20, 2013 12:11:17 PM

Catholic Social Teaching – no longer a secret

Bishop Malcolm’s themes for August and September are: Catholic Social Teaching and the Ten Commandments. He starts the question and answer session about the church’s social teaching with that well known phrase: “this is one of the church’s best kept secrets!” We have all heard this said so many times over the past few years that we cannot help asking “Why?”

Why was the Vatican II document: Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope): Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 1965, ever thought of as a secret? It is not that anything new, or radical, was being put forward. Jesus himself gave us the original message. His public ministry in the Gospel of Matthew began with the Sermon on the Mount and we can imagine his words ringing out to a large eager crowd: “Blessed are the poor in spirit ...”(Matt.5:1-12)

Jesus went out of his way to bless the poor, the sick and the marginalised; and he even changed his plans because he felt sorry for the crowd, seeing them as “sheep without a shepherd”(Mark 6:30-44). Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John15:12-13). He told the wonderful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke:30-37) and he taught by example. He ate with sinners, tax-collectors and prostitutes, the kind of people who were shunned by the polite society of his day; and he washed the feet of his disciples; telling them afterwards that they must follow his example (John13:4-15).

Throughout the centuries saints have taken the words of Jesus seriously. They have dedicated their lives to the poor, the sick and the marginalised. They have fought long and hard to obtain justice, freedom and dignity for these people; and they have spoken out against war and violence; some of them have even lost their own lives in the process. So, how did we ever reach the conclusion that the church only did this kind of thing in secret? What went wrong?