Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
As we consider the state of our nation, society, and political realm it is easy to see many emerging things that are disturbing. I can’t help but to have been thinking and reflecting on Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclical, Rerum Novarum.
Pope Leo states: “The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.”
While he was obviously discussing the unjust economic structures that existed at the end of the nineteenth century, I don’t believe his words still do not apply today in our own current climate. Injustice continues to abound, and there are forces in society and the world that continue to inflame division between not just social classes, but also now races, ethnicities, and the sexes. Karl Marx was one such person who sought to highlight these conflicts in order to impose his own philosophical system on mankind. Yet, for as much as he railed against Capitalism, Marxism is just as materialistic as it places the value of man on his material worth and possessions.
For the Catholic, in true Catholic social teaching, the value of each individual is never in one’s class, race, possessions, reputation but rather in and only in God. While the Fall and original sin have introduced an inequality in the world that we will never conquer, at the core of who we are we are equal in dignity and worth because we have each been created by God and in His image and likeness. There is a symmetry and complimentary found throughout creation that must cooperate for the good of society.
While recognizing that we will never overcome every injustice, we ought to still work for, pray for, suffer for, sacrifice for a more just society. Not so people can have more material possessions, not in subjugating one race to another, not to justify and legalize sin, but because each person does have dignity. The Church does this, because when there is greater harmony, when people are taken care of, they are more open to the message of the Gospel because they actually have experienced the Gospel in our charitable work for them.
One of the gravest injustices in the world is when someone has never been told, or has had the opportunity to know Jesus Christ. Because each person has dignity by having been created, and also redeemed, they have the right to know Christ so that they have everything they need to gain eternal life.
As we struggle for greater harmony in the world, as we refute the idea that people are naturally opposed, may we remember the responsibility that each of us has in bringing the faith to all people. Because it is only in Christ, and in the Faith, that we find an equality that society will never be able to reproduce.