The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice


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The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice

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The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice

  1. 1. Winter A • 2010-2011 The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, Today, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities for they will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). do heroic work around the world where economic or political marginalization creates hardship. Many parishes The Hebrew prophets spoke of the coming of the Just have peace and justice committees with ties to local food One: “I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do banks or interfaith homeless programs. what is right and just in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). Christ comes to establish the reign of God, a turnabout Catholic schools are also raising the consciousness of that will be fair play. In God’s kingdom, the last shall be students with courses in Social Justice. Many teachers first, the outcasts shall be gathered, and the poor shall and students sacrifice spring or summer vacations to visit have their fill. domestic and foreign sites to assist with disaster relief or other needs. Catholics applaud and work cooperatively This way of life begins to take root immediately in the with many global organizations who strive to satisfy our early Christian community where the principal of “the hunger and thirst for justice. common good”—a centerpiece of Catholic social teach- ing—takes precedence over individual gain: The Church as a Channel of Peace “All who believed had all things in common; Blessed are the peacemakers they would sell their possessions and distribute for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). Jesus was not the conquering warrior his disciples expected, but the Lamb of God who would teach peace Catholic Teaching and Action through nonviolence: “But I say to you, love your To evangelize the world with the prophetic spirit of enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew Christ, popes have produced landmark encyclicals 5:44). on social justice, including Rerum Novarum (Of New Things) in 1891, and Laborem Exercens (On Human In response, Catholic leaders have written volumes on Work) in 1981. These documents champion just causes what the U.S. Catholic Bishops called “The Challenge like fair wages and the right of labor to organize. of Peace” in their 1983 pastoral letter. Pope John XXIII wrote his famous encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace In 1986, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Earth) in 1963. The USCCB Website continues (USCCB) released “Economic Justice for All,” a pastoral to inform and promote the gospel imperative of message insisting that “the economy exists for the peacemaking with reflections like the more recent “The person, not the person for the economy.” The USCCB Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace.” maintains a Web page on “Justice, Peace, and Human Development” ( and continues to The Plowshares movement, begun in 1980 by Jesuit issue regular Labor Day statements. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, has long committed itself to prophetic acts of civil disobedience Catholic social activists employ the gospel’s non-violent based on the Isaiah prophecy: “They shall beat their model for change: “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). him also” (Matthew 5:38). Dorothy Day and César Chávez are two giants in the proud legacy of Catholic The Plowshares Website ( social activism. In the tradition of civil rights leaders like brandywine/plow/) chronicles symbolic acts performed Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day founded by members since its inception, like beating on warhead the Catholic Worker Movement and César Chávez nosecones with hammers. In 2002, three Dominican created the first successful farm workers’ union in the nuns engaged in a similar action by pouring their blood United States. around a Colorado missile site. Many other Catholics— like actor Martin Sheen—have been imprisoned for SR-00-WA-10-C-The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice©2010 by Morehouse Education Resources • All rights reserved • • 1-800-242-1918
  2. 2. Winter A • 2010-2011 The Catholic Church as a Prophet of Justice various forms of protests inspired by the gospel and the Middle East as envoys of reconciliation. This is why a words of peacemakers like Father Berrigan: “Because we Catholic priest walked unarmed amidst gang wars to want peace with half a heart, half a life and will, the war stop the violence. This is why Catholics have become making continues.” conscientious objectors during times of war. This is why so many disciples of Christ, even when persecuted, Following Christ the Mediator have refused to meet violence with violence. These are In a world of extreme ideologies that isolate and polarize the peacemakers who are blessed in the kingdom, but God’s people, the Spirit of Jesus calls upon Catholics not always in this world, as they pray in the spirit of St. to be mediators who stand in the midst of conflict as Francis: “Make me a channel of your peace.” peacemakers. This is why popes have traveled to the “Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person, who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment. Only such an awareness can give the courage needed to face the risk and the change involved in every authentic attempt to come to the aid of another. It is not merely a matter of “giving from ones surplus,” but of helping entire peoples which are presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development. ––US Conference of Catholic Bishops The Hundredth Year, #58 p. 108 2©2010 by Morehouse Education Resources • All rights reserved • • 1-800-242-1918
  3. 3. Winter A • 2010-2011 Title©2010 by Morehouse Education Resources • All rights reserved • • 1-800-242-1918