Written between May 06, 2007 and March 09, 2009, this series of 18 articles by Fr. Larry Dunphy, OFM, looks at the subject of Social Justice from a uniquely Franciscan perspective. We are very fortunate that this gentle priest left for us a legacy of his deeply considered thoughts on Social Justice. Fr. Larry was in residence at the St. Francis Friary at the time these were written, and was heavilly involved with the Franciscan Action Network (FAN).
Article 1 - Social Justice: The Church’s Best Kept Secret
Twice a month I will be writing some reflections on Social Justice. First I will present some general background with emphasis on a Franciscan perspective, and then I will discuss specific current issues. In doing this, I hope to improve awareness and understanding so that we can make Social Justice a part of our Catholic and Franciscan thinking.
Our call to live a full Christian/Catholic life touches upon all of reality.
There is nothing that is outside the perspective of faith.
All of our human relationships, both individual and communal, are meant to be enlightened by
and examined by the truths of faith. Oftentimes Catholics want to confine faith to things that take place
in Church or that treat of sexual morality.
Our Baptismal commitment to do good and avoid evil has a much broader perspective than
the scope of the Ten Commandments. It includes every aspect of our individual and social lives;
that is why Social Justice is an essential part of a full Catholic life. The Church has said that its
Social Justice teachings are “constitutive” of Church; that is, without such teachings we would not be Church.
It has often been said that the Church’s best kept secret is its teachings on Social Justice. This topic got little if any attention in the religious education programs that most Catholics experienced. It is infrequently referred to in homilies. When it is included, there are often negative reactions and the accusation that the homilist is getting “into politics” which “doesn’t belong in Church.”
However, Social Justice is as much a part of Catholic belief and doctrine as are our teachings on sexual morality, the sacraments, or the Trinity. Part of the problem is that it is often looked upon as a kind of special interest topic. It is viewed as something separate from the rest of our Catholic life. Yet, when understood correctly, it is an essential part of our relationship with God and our neighbor.
What is lacking is a correct formation in Social Justice. .
A reading of the social encyclicals is not the place to start.
Rather, it must start with reflection on our beliefs in God, Creation, Jesus Christ, and
on what it means to be a human being and a co-creature with all others.
Our liturgy also must help to form a spirituality of communion, out of which comes
our understanding of and motivation for social justice work.
When we understand these relationships rightly, then, we will recognize
where these God-given relationships are broken and, therefore, not just.
Wanting God’s plan to be preserved or realized, we will see that something needs to be done
to restore wholeness or correct injustices.
Next time, I will give some reflections about how our basic beliefs call us to a practice of Social Justice.
• Continue reading this series by Fr. Larry Dunphy, OFM.