Catering to the Obsessions of the Bourgeois Elite – The Catholic Thing

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I have the privilege and pleasure of teaching Catholic social justice. Please don’t write me to complain.

I regret that some have reduced the wide-ranging, holistic vision of the Church’s social justice tradition to little more than a concern for “systems,” “structures,” and “governmental action.” But it’s not my fault, and it’s certainly not the Church’s doing.  This reductio ad absurdum is a sad corruption of the majestic moral vision developed over the centuries by some of the greatest minds in the Church.

And note: the Church’s reflection on the principles and requirements of “natural justice” didn’t just begin with Pope Leo XIII and Rerum Novarum. Concern for the common good, especially for the needs of the poor, has always been a hallmark of the Church. To claim otherwise is to be ignorant of – and contradict – centuries of Christian political thought.

That said, two other unfortunate misunderstandings often beset talk about Catholic “social justice.”  First, in addition to associating “social justice” solely with “systems” and “structures,” too often, social justice “warriors” seem to forget there can be no “social” justice if we do not form a critical mass of citizens in the virtue of justice and concern for the common good.  The “system” is made up of people. And if the people lack virtue, then there is no way to make the “system” just.

So, for example, the message should go out to all universities that style themselves centers of “social justice” that, if your institution is animated by modernist principles of self-determination and expressive individualism, you are simply not training students to be committed to social justice and the common good. If you imagine otherwise, you’re lying to yourself.


The Catholic Thing

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