The catechism of the Church is a guide for Christian life

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Friday 06 August 2021

By Jean Hill

Director, Office of Life, Justice and Peace of the Diocese of Salt Lake City

While browsing through a social media thread the other day, I discovered a pretty disturbing thread. Someone posted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly mentions social justice on several occasions as something we strive to achieve, including illustrated proof. What followed this statement from our teaching was a series of comments dissecting it from the point of view of the political left and right and, of course, trying to undermine the other side.

This thread sent me to the Catechism, where I found no mention of Republican or Democratic parties, or even left or right in a political sense. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to politics and government, repeatedly affirming that “it is the role of political communities to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens and intermediary bodies. »(1911).

And then it hit me: the Catholic Church was not made in America. In fact, he immigrated to America and, like most immigrants, was originally unwelcome in this country. Our search for meaning in the Catechism through the biased prism of American politics is sheer folly. Our catechism, like our Church, is universal and focused on an image much larger than a single country. It guides all Catholics, regardless of their political leanings, geographic location, preferred gender or economic status. It is not about the United States, it is about us as human beings seeking to live the gospel and build the kingdom of God on earth.

Take, for example, the catechism’s clear delineation of the holiness of each life, from the innocent (2322) to the unmistakably guilty (2267). Stout Democrats and Republicans won’t agree with either end of this timeline. Likewise, it establishes the right to own private property obtained in a “just manner”, but also the responsibility to use that property in a manner which promotes the “common good” (2403) – two words which regularly raise cries. of socialism in our political field.

As a universal rule should, the Catechism speaks to us as Americans. It establishes standards of good citizenship: “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make the payment of taxes, the exercise of the right to vote and the defense of one’s country morally obligatory” (2240). It welcomes the generalization of access to the vote: “We must pay tribute to nations whose systems allow the greatest possible number of citizens to participate in public life in a climate of true freedom” (1915). It provides guidelines for our international relations: “Instead of abusive if not usurious financial systems, iniquitous trade relations between nations and the arms race, a common effort must be substituted to mobilize resources towards development objectives. moral, cultural and economic. , “Redefine priorities and hierarchies of values” ”(2438).

It also demands more of us. We believe, for example, that “the goods of creation are for all mankind. The right to private property does not abolish the universal destination of goods ”, (2452) yet, as a nation, we use more than our fair share of the world’s resources. We know “the unity and the true dignity of all men: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God” (225), but we continue to foster systemic racism in our political, economic and social structures. And of course, we continue to practice the evils of abortion and the death penalty.

In short, the Catechism is not American made, and it is not designed to advance the arguments of our particular political party – or any other political party. It is a guide for every Catholic, regardless of geographic location, to use as we navigate our respective governments, through our varied economies, through our diverse communities and families, and toward shared eternal life with God who , according to the Bible, will not ask which party we belonged to but simply how we took care of the poor and the vulnerable.

Jean Hill is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Contact her at [email protected]


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