Monday, February 26, 2007

The Catholic Church is Not a Social Agency

As difficult as it is for some to believe, Pope Benedict XVI exclaimed that "(T)he Church is not an international organization, (the Church) is not an executive body or an organ of power. Nor is she a social agency (although she does undertake social work), but a spiritual body." I know, I know, Dorothy Day and her cult following are all in an uproar but what do you expect from emotional people that let their feelings rule rational thought. To read the article click here.

10 comments:

skeetor said...

As simple as this statement seems, it is actually a very powerful message which many in the popular liberal culture forget/ignore.

Tito,

Note that he was referring to priests, not Dorothy Day, or lay Catholics for that matter. Still, the Church is not a social organization. It is the role of the laity to ensure social order and that is exactly what Dorothy Day did and many other lay Catholics do, including yourself, when you actively protest again abortion.

I have written a post in regards to your comment and the role of the laity in social justice. I think there are some misunderstandings that need to be explained.

Katerina's absolutely correct. The Holy Father was reminding clerics that they are not to involve themselves in politics directly or to understand the hierarchy as some sort of social agency. Rather, the priests are to focus on their roles as sanctifiers and shepherds. This informal conversation (note that it was not a statement or declaration) is not directed to the laity and their roles in sanctifying the secular sphere. Tito has wrenched a quote from its proper literary and situational context in order to gather ammunition for his cheap shots at Dorothy Day and the Catholic Woker Movement--a lay movement! Rest asssured, Tito, the Catholic Worker Movement are at peace.

Tito said...

Both Kat and Michael are absolutely correct. Pope Benedict XVI was addressing clerics only and this was not statement nor a declaration of the Church.

Unfortunately to many clerics lead their parish's into liberal causes while ignoring more important causes that so happens to lean conservative, such as the sanctity of life.

As far as I was 'wrenched'-ing away a quote, the point is being made that we should all sanctify our work and personal lives to Christ, not just pick and choose what we want to believe and espouse.

As far as cheap shots are concerned, I disagree. The following is an excellent example of a cheap shot concerning the Communist, I mean, Catholic Worker Movement. I'm happy they are at peace, the entire insignificant small minority of them that push liberation theology.

Now THAT's a cheap shot.

Stating the Truth is not.

Matt said...

actually, note how Katerina changes the conversation in her response:

Note that he was referring to priests, not Dorothy Day, or lay Catholics for that matter. Still, the Church is not a social organization. It is the role of the laity to ensure social order and that is exactly what Dorothy Day did and many other lay Catholics do, including yourself, when you actively protest again abortion.

He was not referring to priests, he was speaking to priests and referring to the Church, which of course includes the laity.

He was not opposing the Church as a social organization, he was opposing the Church as a social agency.

She further makes a gross error of moral equivalency by equating establishing "social order" with fighting a moral abomination which seeks to destroy innocent human life, and to save the souls of those involved. In fact, establishing "social order" is not the role of the Church or the laity, while restoring justice is necessarily. THe primary role of the Church and the laity in regards to our fellow man, is to save souls, and alleviate suffering--regardless of the cause.

125,000 babies are executed every day by abortion, that is about 30 times the number that die from starvation... think about that.

God Bless,

Matt

Matt,

He was not referring to priests, he was speaking to priests and referring to the Church, which of course includes the laity.

I'd say that this is true. But the change Katerina provides to the course of the conversation was, in fact, a turn in the right direction. The Pope was speaking informally with a group of priests about the Church. But the immediate context of his comments was the question of priests actively participating in politics and/or turning their ministry into social agency. This makes sense because the Holy Father reminds the priests that their proper ministery is sacrmental. Now, this makes no sense if Benedict was intending his remarks for the entire Church. Thus, while we can all agree that the Church is not a social agency, we would be remiss not to admit that Benedict's message was directed specifically to priests regarding their ministry within the Church. Katerina rightly reminds us that the Catholic Worker Movement, which is an essentially lay movement, has nothing to do with the Holy Father's admonition to priests.

She further makes a gross error of moral equivalency by equating establishing "social order" with fighting a moral abomination which seeks to destroy innocent human life, and to save the souls of those involved. In fact, establishing "social order" is not the role of the Church or the laity, while restoring justice is necessarily. THe primary role of the Church and the laity in regards to our fellow man, is to save souls, and alleviate suffering--regardless of the cause.

Herein is contained an unjust and unwarranted accusation.

First, Katerina makes no statement that implies the equivalency of all acts of social justice. Rather, her claim was that protesting the legality of abortion is one of several acts of social justice that the Catholic Worker Movement addresses and promotes. Just as we would say that murder and lying are both sins without any implications that these sins are equal in gravity, we can say that protesting the legality of abortion and campaigning for economic justice are acts of social justice without any implications that these acts are equal. Matt falsely accuses Katerina of a position she never stated or held, which is simply irresponsible reading on his part.

Second, Matt claims that "restoring justice" necessarily is the role of Church. He then goes on to say that "establishing social order" is not the role of the Church. This makes little sense. After all, what else could be the proper context for earthly justice than within the social order? John Paul II makes this perfectly clear in his last book, Memory and Identity. Social order, which is an essential dimension of the communion of human persons on earth, is the proper context of all restoration of justice. And because the social order does not exist apart from, and is logically subsequent to, man, the Church has an essential role in the formation and preservation of a just social order because, as the great Augustine taught us in The City of God, the Church is essentially concerned with every dimension of human existence. Thus, Matt's assertions are marked with a pronounced inconsistancy and plaqued by a false notion of what the Church should and should not do.

125,000 babies are executed every day by abortion, that is about 30 times the number that die from starvation... think about that.

Without directly accusing Matt of something he did not explicitly write, which is precisely what he did to Katerina, Matt seems to suggest here that the gravity of abortion is somehow measured statistically. Is it the quantity of abortions performed that accounts for its greater moral gravity than that of poverty in the world? Of course not. The gravity of abortion remains the same whether or not there are 125,000 abortions a day or 125 a day. As long as abortion is legal, it is a social reality that threatens the social order. Thus, the act of protesting the legality of abortion is an act on behalf of social justice, and by extension, the Church's condemnation and protestation of the legality of abortion is an act of social justice aimed at establishing a more just social order.

There's really not anything else to say here. If there's any doubt about the role of the Church in the social order (which does not thereby imply that the Church is in any way a "social agency"), one need only consult the Syllabus of Errors from the pen of the great Pope Pius IX. There we find a Pope (and a Church) very concerned to affect and transform the social order!

Esther said...

Tito, not to judge here but maybe our Holy Father Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II were concerned about the way the Maryknoll Missioners and other priests and Catholic organziations were heading with regard to social justice in other parts of the world. The Maryknollers began to get involved in politics of those countries. I recall when a priest went to greet JPII when he arrived in one of the Central American countries and JPII reprimanded him publickly. Wish I could remember that priest's name. However, in all fairness, I don't remember if he was a Maryknoll priest.

And as to the Catholic Worker Movement, I draw your attention to the rating by Catholic Culture
http://www.catholicculture.org/sites/site_view.cfm?recnum=2945

"Though in itself this kind of protest does not violate the precepts of the Church, it often leads to an espousal of the radical pacifism that is so rampant in many contemporary social justice organizations."

Under the site's weaknesses the following is said:

"This site has articles which distort the Church's social teaching by promoting a radical pacifism. (Fidelity)
Example(s)
· Many links which undermine the Church's teachings (Fidelity)"

Mike said...

All active Catholic Workers I know, and I would dare say the Catholic Worker Movement in general, are hostile towards social service agencies, and the temptation to become a social service agency. Do you have examples of Catholic Workers who are upset with the pope's statement?

bing said...

It is also laughable that one of the commenters would equate the Catholic Worker movement and liberation theology. There are similarities in that both are concerned with the undeniable thirst for justice that is central to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, but their tactics/approaches are completely different. Many Catholic Workers are, in fact, doctrinally "conservative" and radically carry out the corporal works of mercy which makes mindless critics call them "liberals." Catholic Workers work out of a personalist philosophy (much like JPII) unlike most promoters of liberation theology. But all these nuances are too much for committed right-wing Catholics to realize. It's much easier to rest on the foundation of their real gospel (i.e. the agenda of the Republican party) and simply dismiss all of it as "liberal" rather to actually engage it.

skeetor said...

This is not rocket science guys.

Our only "duty" as christians is to spread the word of God and not, for example, "feed the hungry." But saying that, Jesus let it be known that we cannot be "good" christians unless we do indeed "feed the hungry."

ps. I love ""

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