Apr 9, 2021
A Catholic president who prays the rosary and receives Holy Communion, but opposes fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church has sparked a debate and – one hopes – renewed interest in the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
Word on Fire, the ever-expanding ministry of Bishop Robert Barron, has made a significant contribution to the conversation with the publication of its new “Catholic Social Teaching Collection,” an intelligent selection of key texts that provides a true primer for those who want to be initiated in the social doctrine of the Church, and a reference book for those already aware of it.
In explaining the reason for publishing this collection, the editors argue: “Catholic social teaching—when it is not distorted or misrepresented—is famously confounding to the pundits and politicos, both left and right. How can the Catholic Church simultaneously advocate against abortion and assisted suicide but for immigration reform and attention to the poor? How can it stand against the abuse of the environment and for the free market, against the death penalty and for the family?”
The “both/and” dynamic of Catholic Social Teaching may be lost to non-Catholics. But even among Catholics, the main problem is sheer ignorance: is not unusual to find Catholics unaware of the long and rich history of how the Catholic tradition, from the very beginning, has forcefully responded to how we live in this world as Christians.
The volume, in this regard, is extremely useful: the first part provides the texts – some in full, some in excerpts – of 14 documents of the Magisterium, from Rerum Novarum to Laudato Si'. The second part goes back to the texts of both the Old and New Testaments related to our unescapable duties regarding our fellow human beings and creation. This part also provides snapshots of what saints and scholars – from the Church Fathers to St. Oscar Romero – have taught with words and deeds about loving our neighbor and striving for a just order in this earth.