Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Social Justice, Politics, Popes and the Church

  There has been  a lot of talk lately about Pope Francis' statements on the world economy and on the environment.  A lot of it has been positive, but a good deal of it has been critical. I have no problem with the criticism.  Even the Pope himself is taking a look at some of the criticisms before he speaks to the US Congress in September and has repeatedly said that he is open to dialogue on these issues. g the What I don't accept is people saying that he is overstepping his bounds, that he should stick to religion.  I'm sorry but caring for creation and helping the poor are moral obligations rooted in our faith. Also, every Pope since Leo XIII in the 1890's as either issued an encyclical or made an important statement on matters of social justice, speaking out on things like worker's rights, war and peace, the arms race and the care for creation.  In fact Pope Francis recent encyclical, Laudato Si, mirrors thoughts put forth by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has simply made these matters more of a predominant theme of his papacy.

   Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical  Redemptor Hominis expounded at length on the meaning of the redemption that Christ came to bring. All Christians agree that on the cross He won victory over sin and death.  We agree also that He gives us the grace to combat sin in our own lives and in the world.This is where working for social justice becomes a part of our Christian responsibility.  It is not enough just to ask the Lord to help me overcome my personal sins, we must also work to combat all of the terrible evils in the world and to point out those political and economic system that contribute to poverty, injustice and other evils.

   Here in the US people will claim separation of Church and  state.  Clearly the Church has no authority to control government policy, nor does the government have the authority to dictate to the Church. Likewise churches must stay away from endorsing any party or candidate. The churches, however, do have the right to speak up when we believe that something is wrong., whether it is on abortion, poverty, slavery, war and peace, etc.  Several of our forefathers said that the churches must be the conscience of society.  It was the churches that led the charge against slavery.  May we continue to speak a prophetic message to our world.

   Popes and other Church leaders are often criticized for not offering practical solutions That criticism is understandable, but it is also exactly where the dividing line is.  As a general rule religious leaders denounce the evils.  They say in effect, "There's a problem here. It needs to be fixed. This is not what God wants" The appropriate experts then hopefully take action. Pope Francis is saying that the current worldwide economic system needs to be fixed. There is too much greed, too much poverty and inequality.

   The Church does not expect some sort of utopia.   The world will always be imperfect until Christ comes again.  Our task, in the meantime, is to work for a better, a more just, a more peaceful, a more equitable world.  Can we all agree that we can do better?

   Lastly, people often tell me that I am too idealistic, that there will always be war, poverty, etc.  My answer to that is to say yes, that is true, but we must keep the ideal before others so that we don't lapse into cynicism and despair.

1 comment:

  1. Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer