Moral Priorities #3──Applying the Themes of Catholic
by Sr. Joan Hart, SSND
Sr. Joan Hart,
SSND, has been involved in justice and peace education for the past 30
years and served on the NCCB/USCC Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching
and Catholic Education from 1996-98.
For the past several months, readers of this web page have been
considering the seven central themes of Catholic social teaching.
Now comes the task of translating the theory into action on issues
of the day. The U.S. Catholic bishops have given us some direction
in their recent statement on Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic
Call to Political Responsibility. As voting citizens, we are
called to examine a whole gamut of issues in their relationship to
our faith. No single issue should determine how we vote. No single
candidate agrees with us on all the issues.
Moral Priorities #3 - Pursuing Social Justice
"Action on behalf of
justice and participation in the transformation of
the world fully appear to us as a constitutive
dimension of the preaching of the gospelů" From
Justice in the World, Roman Synod of Bishops, 1971
Thus did the bishops of the world make explicit 35
years ago the understanding that action for justice is
an essential part of the preaching of the gospel. The
United States bishops include in their document of
2003 on Faithful Citizenship a lengthy section on
"Pursuing Social Justice."
They begin by stating that "Economic decisions and
institutions should be assessed on whether they
protect or undermine the dignity of the human person."
They support "policies that create jobs for all who
can work with decent working conditions and adequate
pay that reflects a living wage." They also
support "efforts to overcome barriers to equal pay and
employment for women and those facing unjust
discrimination." They reaffirm the Church's
traditional support of the "right of workers to
choose to organize, join a union, bargain
collectively, and exercise these rights without
The bishops seek in welfare reform measures the
reduction of poverty and dependency. They support
increasing child tax credits and making them fully
They oppose efforts to undermine faith-based
institutions and their freedom to serve those in
need. They insist that any proposal to change
social security must provide a decent and reliable
income for retired or disabled workers. They consider
affordable and accessible health care "an
essential safeguard of human life, a fundamental human
right and an urgent national priority."
They term the lack of safe, affordable housing
"a national crisis." They call food security
for all "the first priority for agriculture policy."
They advocate especially for the needs of farm
workers "whose pay is generally inadequate, whose
housing and working conditions are generally
deplorable, and who are particularly vulnerable to
exploitation." They seek basic protection for
immigrants, "including due process rights, access
to basic public benefits, and fair naturalization and
The bishops defend the inalienable right of all
persons to receive "a quality education."
They call us to address the growing "culture
of violence" in our society. They oppose the
use of the death penalty, and believe that "a
Catholic ethic of responsibility, rehabilitation and
restoration can become the foundation for the
necessary reform of our criminal justice system."
They urge our society to continue to combat
discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity,
disabling condition, or age. They support "judiciously
administered" affirmative action programs as
tools to overcome discrimination.
Finally, they support policies that protect the land,
water, and air we share, in keeping with our call to
care for the earth.
These are the social justice issues the bishops call
us to examine in the course of election campaigns.
Which of these issues are
priorities for you?
What steps will you
take to become better informed about elected
officials' and candidates' positions on these social
How will these issues
influence the way you consider candidates?
Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political
Responsibility (C) October 10, 2003 by the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Copyright (C) 2006
William H. Sadlier, Inc.
All rights reserved.