Church, State, and Society

Church, State, and Society: An Introduction to Catholic Social Doctrine

J. Brian Benestad
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Church, State, and Society
    Book Description:

    Church, State, and Society explains the nuanced understanding of human dignity and the common good found in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1923-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Catholic Social Doctrine and Political Philosophy
    (pp. 1-32)

    Do contemporary Catholics know the social teachings of the Church? Otherwise stated, can the typical member of a Catholic parish give an account of Catholic social doctrine (CSD)?¹ In a 1998 statement, the United States Catholic Bishops answer this question in the negative through their episcopal conference.² The bishops say, “Our social heritage is unknown by many Catholics. Sadly our social doctrine is not shared or taught in a consistent and comprehensive way in too many of our schools, seminaries, religious education programs, colleges and universities.”³ The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace sounded the same alarm in its Compendium...

  5. Part One The Human Person, the Political Community, and the Common Good
    • CHAPTER 1 The Dignity of the Human Person, Human Rights, and Natural Law
      (pp. 35-80)

      The practice of courtesy revels that people have an innate sense of the dignity of the human person. Even toward perfect strangers, many people will behave with good manners. We all know that the practice of courtesy makes civil life much more enjoyable.

      C. S. Lewis provides us with an apt introduction to our reflection on the theme of human dignity in the comparison he makes between individuals and civilizations, noting that the former have an eternal destiny of happiness or misery, while the latter will one day perish.

      There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Meaning of the Common Good
      (pp. 81-112)

      Recent Catholic social doctrine still holds that the highest purpose of the political community is to promote the common good.¹ This seems clear enough until one asks what Church documents mean by the term. Echoing John XXIII’s Mater et magistra (On Christianity and Social Progress) and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), and quoting Vatican Council II’s Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the common good as “the sum total of the conditions of social life which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their...

    • CHAPTER 3 Seeking the Common Good through Virtue and Grace
      (pp. 113-142)

      While many things contribute to the attainment of the common good, virtue (including wisdom) and grace deserve special mention. The Catechism sets the proper tone in the section on the human community with the following statement: “It is necessary, then, to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him.”¹ Otherwise stated, conversion leading to love of God and neighbor and the practice of all the virtues is the necessary condition for obtaining social reform. So that there...

    • CHAPTER 4 Seeking the Common Good through Justice and Social Justice
      (pp. 143-167)

      The first part of this chapter relies mainly on Aquinas and Augustine to explain Catholic wisdom on justice. Such terms as justice, distributive justice, and commutative justice will be explained. In the second half of the chapter I discuss the debates about the meaning of social justice among Catholic scholars and make an argument for interpreting social justice in the light of what Aquinas said about legal and universal justice. The practice of justice in all its various forms is crucial for the attainment of the common good.

      Many people speak endlessly of justice, especially social justice, without saying what...

    • CHAPTER 5 Seeking the Common Good through Law and Public Policy: Same-Sex Marriage, the Life Questions, and Biotechnology
      (pp. 168-212)

      Most people readily understand that good public policy on a range of issues is a significant contribution to the common good because it provides structural solutions to problems that every society faces. Examples of such issues are the life questions (abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, cloning, creation and destruction of embryos); the delivery of health care to all the citizens of a nation; the economy (jobs, interest rates, tax policy, economic growth); the environment and sources of energy; civil liberties and anti-terrorism measures; racism, discrimination, and affirmative action; and the protection of the rights of conscience. All the pertinent issues should...

  6. Part Two Civil Society and the Common Good:: Three Mediating Institutions
    • CHAPTER 6 Civil Society and the Church
      (pp. 215-253)

      A healthy civil society makes an enormous contribution to the common good of the nation. It reaches into those areas of life that the law cannot or will not reach. The three most important agents of civil society are the Church, the family, and the university. The next two chapters will, accordingly, discuss these three pillars of society. The first section of this chapter, The Role of the Bishops, will explain how the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has chosen to make its contribution to the political community, and then offer some reflections on its mode of engagement...

    • CHAPTER 7 Civil Society, the Family, and the Principle of Subsidiarity
      (pp. 254-280)

      American liberal democracy has a constant need of citizens with competence and good character. “The American version of the democratic experiment,” says Mary Ann Glendon, “leaves it primarily up to families, local governments, schools and workplace associations, and a host of other voluntary groups to teach and transmit republican virtues and skills from one generation to the next.”¹ Both within and outside the Church many still look to families as “the principal setting for learning ordinary, decent behavior,”² despite the many serious difficulties they are experiencing in most societies. The proper nurture in the family will help individuals acquire the...

    • CHAPTER 8 Civil Society, the Catholic University, and Liberal Education
      (pp. 281-312)

      Catholics need Catholic universities in order to receive a thorough liberal education that includes the serious study of philosophy and theology in addition to the other usual subjects. Without this kind of education it is very hard to understand thoroughly the principles and implications of Catholic social doctrine (CSD). As mentioned in my introduction, CSD uses the disciplines of theology, political philosophy, literature, history, political science, economics, sociology, and natural science. Liberally educated Catholics with a knowledge and love of their faith, including CSD, can make a significant contribution to the promotion of justice in the workplace, the political order,...

  7. Part Three Private Property and the Universal Destination of Goods
    • CHAPTER 9 The Economy, Work, Poverty, and Immigration
      (pp. 315-341)

      The first part of this chapter will present the basics of Catholic teaching on the economy and work. These two subjects belong together because the economic system of a country exists to provide the framework in which work takes place and exercises a great influence on all employers and employees. Pope Leo XIII set the tone for the Catholic approach to this subject with his defense of the right to acquire private property, especially through work, and his forceful reiteration of the long-standing Catholic teaching on the obligation to put one’s talents and resources at the service of others. Without...

    • CHAPTER 10 Safeguarding and Sustaining the Environment
      (pp. 342-374)

      To safeguard and sustain the environment is a work for every locale and nation, and a momentous task for the whole world. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says, “Modern ecological problems are of a planetary nature and can be effectively resolved only through international cooperation capable of guaranteeing greater coordination in the use of the earth’s resources.”¹ This chapter will first explain the basic approach to the environment of the neo-Malthusian movement because of the influential framework of analysis it has provided. Then we will turn to the approach of Catholic social doctrine, which has the...

  8. Part Four The International Community and Justice
    • CHAPTER 11 The International Community
      (pp. 377-402)

      A chapter on the international community is a near-impossible task. There are so many topics and such limited space. In order to facilitate my task I will put off the subject of just war principles until chapter 12. This present chapter will focus on the fundamental principles that should animate the international community. It will begin with a selective summary of Pope John Paul II’s subtle address to the United Nations on October 5, 1995 (already partially treated in chapter 2 to explain the meaning of the common good). The second section will explore what the Compendium of the Social...

    • CHAPTER 12 Just-War Principles
      (pp. 403-426)

      One of the most urgent tasks of Catholic social teaching is to keep the principles of the just-war doctrine before the eyes of government leaders and citizens. This chapter lays out the fundamental tenets of just-war principles and shows the roots of these principles in the thought of Augustine and Aquinas. Familiarity with the thought of Augustine on peace is especially important in order to understand both the necessity for a just-war teaching and the preconditions for a just peace.

      Augustine argues that the practice of justice preserves the peace. He understands justice primarily as order in the soul of...

  9. CONCLUSION: The Tension between Catholic Social Doctrine and the Proponents of Religion as a Private Affair
    (pp. 427-446)

    The most obvious source of tension between Catholic social doctrine and American liberal democracy is the emphasis on autonomy in contemporary culture. Many people just want to create their own values without being bothered with the teachings of natural law or revealed religion. When the Catholic Church calls abortion, euthanasia, premarital sex, gay marriage, and cloning immoral, the relativists bristle. They wonder why anyone or any institution would dare try to “impose values” on their fellow Americans. They may think the Church is irrelevant, but recognize her right to teach faith and morals. Today, however, there is a group of...

  10. APPENDIX: Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in veritate
    (pp. 447-466)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 467-486)
  12. Index
    (pp. 487-500)