Jesus said: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you’ (Jn 14:27). This is why the Church has never wished to be considered a philanthropic institution that suits the likes and dislikes of humans of every age, regardless of their moral practices and customs.
The peace that the Church gives to the world is the peace of Christ, and out of fidelity to Christian principles Catholics should never fear opposing the opinions of their times. The necessity to contradict worldly convictions leads the Christian to live out what Christ proclaimed: ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword’ (Mt 10:34). Why the Church does not change a single letter of the teachings of Christ is because of her fidelity to him and to his holy laws, not because of the modern concept of human dignity. Otherwise, the Church would have to adapt her positions to the concept of human dignity prevailing in each historic age.
A dramatic example: the world preaches that the importance of a woman’s dignity exceeds that of her child’s life. Regarding this, the Church not only affirms that ‘God is lord and arbiter of life and death’, but also punishes with excommunication the mother who practices abortion. This is because the Church does not base her morality on ‘the common good,’ but rather conforms it to God’s Commandments. And in the abovementioned case, the immorality of the action is not appraised on the basis of the ‘trauma caused to the mother,’ but rather on the commandment ‘You shall not kill.’ And we could avail ourselves of myriad further examples.
The Church’s objective is the salvation of souls and the implantation of Christ’s Kingdom in the world. The more the Church is able to spread this Kingdom on earth, the more true peace is established and man’s dignity is respected. That is, peace and dignity in keeping with Gospel principles, and not those of the secularized world in which we live.
Attaching importance to being recognized by public opinion as a credible institution, trusted for its solidarity and concern for those in greatest need might be appropriate for an NGO, but not for a divine institution.
Once again, Francis seems to seek to disfigure the image of the Immaculate Spouse of Christ, lending her a lay character, diminishing her and stripping her of supernatural essence. Can the intentions of one who weakens the figure of the Church with his words be trusted? Is it possible to believe in a leader who lowers the level of the very institution he claims to guide? Let us, then, recall the supernatural motives behind the Church’s evangelizing efforts.
Teachings of the Magisterium
I – What does the Church intend with its activity in a secularized world? To be recognized as a credible philanthropic institution, or as one fulfilling Christ’s mandate to ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:15)?
Unfortunately, marginal to your activity are the neediest and the most contagious sick, who are the obstinate and rebellious sinners
You endeavour to alleviate the physical sufferings, but, we well know, you do not forget that, unfortunately, marginal to your activity are the neediest and the most contagious sick, who are the obstinate and rebellious sinners. […] The confusion that reigns in some sectors on this point demands the effort of all Christian souls of good sense to be inexorable and resolute in a patient and difficult exercise of true charity, and to not neglect an occasion to enlighten, call upon, correct and lift up. To play with fire is always harmful: et qui amat periculum in illo peribit (Sir 3:26). (John XXIII. Address to the delegates of the ‘Works of Mercy’ in Rome, February 21, 1960)
The Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal
Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed” the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns” (Ubi Arcano, Dec. 23, 1922); however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 41, May 15, 1931)
The urgency of the problems cannot make us lose sight of what is essential: evangelization
The feeling of anguish at the urgency of the problems cannot make us lose sight of what is essential nor forget the reply of Jesus to the Tempter: “It is not on bread alone that man lives, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt4:4; cf. Deut 8:3). Faced with the urgency of sharing bread, some are tempted to put evangelization into parentheses, as it were, and postpone it until tomorrow: first the bread, then the Word of the Lord. It is a fatal error to separate these two and even worse to oppose the one to the other. In fact, the Christian perspective naturally shows they have a great deal to do with one another. To some it even seems that the necessary struggle for human justice and freedom in the economic and political sense constitutes the whole essence of salvation. For them, the Gospel is reduced to a purely earthly gospel. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction about some aspects of the Theology of Liberation, VI, 3–4, August 6, 1984)
The proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to the entire human race
The proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race, called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants of the International Conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Ad gentes, March 11, 2006)
The Church makes present, in the confusion and bewilderment of our times, the light of God’s Word
This is the function in persona Christi of the priest: making present, in the confusion and bewilderment of our times, the light of God’s Word, the light that is Christ himself in this our world. (Benedict XVI. General audience, April 14, 2010)
The Church opens herself to the world not in order to win men for an institution, but for God
The Church opens herself to the world not in order to win men for an institution with its own claims to power, but in order to lead them to themselves by leading them to him of whom each person can say with Saint Augustine: he is closer to me than I am to myself (cf. Confessions, III,6,11). He who is infinitely above me is yet so deeply within me that he is my true interiority. This form of openness to the world on the Church’s part also serves to indicate how the individual Christian can be open to the world in effective and appropriate ways. (Benedict XVI. Address for the meeting with Catholic engaged in the life of the Church and society, September 25, 2011)
The Church does not preach well-being, but the salvation of souls and the divine filiation
The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world a “gradual secularization of salvation” has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension. We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind, and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 11, December 7, 1990)
It is not the Church’s mission to work directly on the economic, technical or political levels but rather to awaken consciences through the Gospel
In the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, I stated that “the Church does not have technical solutions to offer for the problem of underdevelopment as such,” but “offers her first contribution to the solution of the urgent problem of development when she proclaims the truth about Christ, about herself and about man, applying this truth to a concrete situation.” The Conference of Latin American Bishops at Puebla stated that “the best service we can offer to our brother is evangelization, which helps him to live and act as a son of God, sets him free from injustices and assists his overall development.” It is not the Church’s mission to work directly on the economic. technical or political levels, or to contribute materially to development. Rather, her mission consists essentially in offering people an opportunity not to “have more” but to “be more.” by awakening their consciences through the Gospel. ‘Authentic human development must be rooted in an ever deeper evangelization.’ (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 58, December 7, 1990)
The task of the Church is to enlighten minds in order to assist them to discover the right path
In the social sphere, the Church has always wished to assume a double function: first to enlighten minds in order to assist them to discover the truth and to find the right path to follow amid the different teachings that call for their attention; and secondly to take part in action and to spread, with a real care for service and effectiveness, the energies of the Gospel. (Paul VI. Apostolic Letter Octogesima adveniens, no 48, May 14, 1971)
We must make every effort to lead back to Christian principles those brethren who have strayed
Consider the immense need of our time. We must make every effort to lead back to Christian principles those brethren who have strayed through error or been blinded by passions, to enlighten nations with the light of Christian doctrine, to guide them according to Christian norms and to form in them more Christian consciences, and lastly to urge them to struggle for the triumph of truth and justice. (Pius XII. Apostolic exhortation Menti nostrae, September 23, 1950)
II – What are the problems that the Church seeks to resolve in the world? Those concerning peace, harmony, and the environment, the defense of life, human and civil rights? Or those concerning the Kingdom of Christ and the salvation of souls?
The Church is challenged to devise effective ways of proclaiming to contemporary culture the “realism” of her faith in the saving work of Christ
Among these, I would mention in the first place the need for a comprehensive study of the crisis of modernity. European culture in recent centuries has been powerfully conditioned by the notion of modernity. The present crisis, however, has less to do with modernity’s insistence on the centrality of man and his concerns, than with the problems raised by a “humanism” that claims to build a regnum hominis detached from its necessary ontological foundation. A false dichotomy between theism and authentic humanism, taken to the extreme of positing an irreconcilable conflict between divine law and human freedom, has led to a situation in which humanity, for all its economic and technical advances, feels deeply threatened. […] A third issue needing to be investigated concerns the nature of the contribution which Christianity can make to the humanism of the future. The question of man, and thus of modernity, challenges the Church to devise effective ways of proclaiming to contemporary culture the “realism” of her faith in the saving work of Christ. Christianity must not be relegated to the world of myth and emotion, but respected for its claim to shed light on the truth about man, to be able to transform men and women spiritually, and thus to enable them to carry out their vocation in history. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants in the first European meeting of University Lecturers, June 23, 2007)
The education of the moral conscience becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced
“Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming (Gaudium et spes, 15). The education of the moral conscience, which makes every human being capable of judging and of discerning the proper ways to achieve self-realization according to his or her original truth, thus becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced. Modern culture must be led to a more profoundly restored covenant with divine Wisdom. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 8, November 11, 1982)
Apostasy from God is a terrible and deep-rooted malady affecting human society today
Then again, to omit other motives, We were terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is – apostasy from God, than which in truth nothing is more allied with ruin, according to the word of the Prophet: “For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish” (Ps 72:17). We saw therefore that, in virtue of the ministry of the Pontificate, which was to be entrusted to Us, We must hasten to find a remedy for this great evil, considering as addressed to Us that Divine command: “Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant” (Jer 1:10). But, cognizant of Our weakness, We recoiled in terror from a task as urgent as it is arduous. (Pius X. Encyclical E supremi apostolatus, no. 3, October 4, 1903)
The peace sought by the Church is based on the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord
Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quas primas, no. 1, December 11, 1925)
The Church reaffirms the Kingship of Christ to draw attention to the evils which anticlericalism has brought upon society
Moreover, the annual and universal celebration of the feast of the Kingship of Christ will draw attention to the evils which anticlericalism has brought upon society in drawing men away from Christ, and will also do much to remedy them. While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quas primas, no. 25, December 11, 1925)
The evils that injure souls are all the more to be deplored, for souls have an infinitely greater value than any merely material object
It is surprising, then, that we should no longer possess that security of life in which we can place our trust and that there remains only the most terrible uncertainty, and from hour to hour added fears for the future? Instead of regular daily work there is idleness and unemployment. That blessed tranquillity which is the effect of an orderly existence and in which the essence of peace is to be found no longer exists, and, in its place, the restless spirit of revolt reigns. As a consequence, industry suffers, commerce is crippled, the cultivation of literature and the arts becomes more and more difficult, and what is worse than all, Christian civilization itself is irreparably damaged thereby. In the face of our much praised progress, we behold with sorrow society lapsing back slowly but surely into a state of barbarism. We wish to record, in addition to the evils already mentioned, other evils which beset society and which occupy a place of prime importance but whose very existence escapes the ordinary observer, the sensual man – he who, as the Apostle says, does not perceive ‘the things that are of the Spirit of God’ (1Cor 2:14), yet which cannot but be judged the greatest and most destructive scourges of the social order of today. We refer specifically to those evils which transcend the material or natural sphere and lie within the supernatural and religious order properly so-called; in other words, those evils which affect the spiritual life of souls. These evils are all the more to be deplored since they injure souls whose value is infinitely greater than that of any merely material object. (Pius XI. Encyclical Ubi Arcano, nos. 15–16, December 23, 1922)
If we examine all things critically with Christian eyes, what are all these temporal ills compared with the loss of souls?
Minds of all, it is true, are affected almost solely by temporal upheavals, disasters, and calamities. But if we examine things critically with Christian eyes, as we should, what are all these compared with the loss of souls? Yet it is not rash by any means to say that the whole scheme of social and economic life is now such as to put in the way of vast numbers of mankind most serious obstacles which prevent them from caring for the one thing necessary; namely, their eternal salvation. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 41, May 15, 1931)
What is most precious to Holy Mother Church: the integrity of the family, the sanctity of marriage, and Christian education of youth
However, we should recognize with sorrow that, despite your diligent and assiduous care, within these regions also – as happens disgracefully in many others, – a war is occurring, at times silently, at times blatantly, against that which is most precious to Holy Mother Church, with the most grievous damage to souls. The integrity of the family is attacked at its foundations by frequent attempts against the sanctity of marriage; Christian education of the youth, interfered with and at times neglected, there as in other nations, is now seriously compromised by errors against faith and morals and by calumnies against the Church, which is presented as an enemy to progress, liberty and the interests of the people; civil society itself is threatened by a harmful propaganda of subversive theories of all social order, while, on the other hand, the worker is being distanced from Christian practices by the frequent violation of the Lord’s day rest and by the excessive thirst for diversions, which is often an easy vehicle for moral perversion. (Pius XI. Apostolic Letter Con singular complacencia to the Bishops of the Philippines, January 18, 1939)
All social work should tend to promote the greatest of social goods: the Kingdom of Jesus Christ
That is why the members of Catholic Action also, in a certain degree, propagate and protect the supernatural life of souls. It clearly follows from the foregoing that Catholic Action is a movement not in the material order, but in the spiritual; its character is not profane, but sacred; it seeks not political ends, but religious ones. Its special purpose clearly distinguishes it from any movement o association whose purposes are purely temporal and of this World, however noble and praiseworthy they may be. Nevertheless, Catholic Action is also a social work, since it tends to promote the greatest of social goods: the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Further, it does not disregard the great problems which are troubling society and which have their repercussions in the religious and moral order; it studies them and sets them on the road to their true solution, according to the principles of Christian justice and charity. (Pius XI. Apostolic Letter Con singular complacencia to the Bishops of the Philippines, January 18, 1939)
The pre-eminence of feeding souls with the Bread of Life over providing for the material wants of the poor
The Apostles, whose mission it was to preach the Gospel, and feed souls with the Bread of Life, judged well that it was not right for them to hinder this holy work in order to minister to the material wants of the poor, weighty as that work was also. Every calling stands in special need of some special virtue; those required of a prelate, a prince, or a soldier, are quite different; so are those beseeming a wife or a widow, and although all should possess every virtue, yet all are not called upon to exercise them equally, but each should cultivate chiefly those which are important to the manner of life to which he is called. (Saint Frances de Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, ch. 1)
III – When the Church counters the world’s currents of opinion, it does so principally out of fidelity to God and his holy laws, not simply to prevent people from jeopardizing human dignity or the common good
A satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity requires the proclamation of the truth
This dynamic of charity received and given is what gives rise to the Church’s social teaching, which is caritas in veritate in re sociali: the proclamation of the truth of Christ’s love in society. This doctrine is a service to charity, but its locus is truth. Truth preserves and expresses charity’s power to liberate in the ever-changing events of history. It is at the same time the truth of faith and of reason, both in the distinction and also in the convergence of those two cognitive fields. Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth. What they need even more is that this truth should be loved and demonstrated. Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 5, June 29, 2009)
Shepherds of souls are Christ’s voice today, which calls to unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law
In every age, men and women need to hear Christ the Good Shepherd calling them to faith and conversion of life (cf. Mk 1:15), the liberating force of God’s love, and as shepherds of souls, you must be Christ’s voice today, encouraging your people to rediscover “the beauty of truth, the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law, even in the most difficult situations” (Veritatis Splendor, 107). (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of the United States on their ad limina visit, no. 1, June 27, 1998)
Radicalness and perfection in obedience to the truth which is Christ
In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection. (John Paul II. Encyclical Familiaris consortio, no. 33, November 22, 1981)
The greater the opposition to the Gospel, the more necessary is its proclamation
Jesus Christ is the stable principle and fixed centre of the mission that God himself has entrusted to man. We must all share in this mission and concentrate all our forces on it, since it is more necessary than ever for modern mankind. If this mission seems to encounter greater opposition nowadays than ever before, this shows that today it is more necessary than ever and, in spite of the opposition, more awaited than ever. Here we touch indirectly on the mystery of the divine “economy” which linked salvation and grace with the Cross. It was not without reason that Christ said that “the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Mt 11:12) (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor hominis, no. 11, March 4, 1979)
The first means of evangelization is sanctity
It is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal […] Saint Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus […] in short, the witness of sanctity. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 41, December 8, 1975)
The Church rises up like a bright lighthouse pointing out the way of truth to one and all
Amidst all the aberrations of human thought, infatuated by a false emancipation from every law and curb; and amidst the awful corruptions of human malice, the Church rises up like a bright lighthouse warning by the clearness of its beam every deviation to right or left from the way of truth, and pointing out to one and all the right course that they should follow. Woe if ever this beacon should be – We do not say extinguished, for that is impossible owing to the unfailing promises on which it is founded – but if it should be hindered from shedding far and wide its beneficent light! We see already with Our own eyes whither the world has been brought by its arrogant rejection of divine revelation, and its pursuit of false philosophical and moral theories that bear the specious name of “science.” That it has not fallen still lower down the slope of error and vice is due to the guidance of the light of Christian truth that always shines in the world. (Pius XI. Encyclical Ad catholici sacerdotii, no. 24, December 20, 1935)
There is no genuine fraternity outside Christian charity
The same applies to the notion of Fraternity which they found on the love of common interest or, beyond all philosophies and religions, on the mere notion of humanity, thus embracing with an equal love and tolerance all human beings and their miseries, whether these are intellectual, moral, or physical and temporal. But Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being. Catholic doctrine further tells us that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God, Who is Father to all, and goal of the whole human family; and in Jesus Christ whose members we are, to the point that in doing good to others we are doing good to Jesus Christ Himself. Any other kind of love is sheer illusion, sterile and fleeting. […] there is no genuine fraternity outside Christian charity. Through the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ Our Saviour, Christian charity embraces all men, comforts all, and leads all to the same faith and same heavenly happiness. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, no 22–23, August 15, 1910)
The truth is one, and it cannot be halved; it lasts forever, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of the times
You see clearly, Venerable Brethren, how mistaken are those who think they are doing service to the Church, and producing fruit for the salvation of souls, when by a kind of prudence of the flesh […] under the fatal illusion that they are thus able more easily to win over those in error, but really with the continual danger of being themselves lost. The truth is one, and it cannot be halved; it lasts for ever, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of the times. “Jesus Christ, today and yesterday, and the same for ever” (Heb 13:8). (Pius X. Encyclical Iucunda sane, no. 25–26, March 21, 1904)
The primary motive of evangelization is the love of Christ for the eternal salvation of all
The primary motive of evangelization is the love of Christ for the eternal salvation of all. The sole desire of authentic evangelizers is to bestow freely what they themselves have freely received: “From the very origins of the Church, the disciples of Christ strove to convert men to faith in Christ the Lord; not, however, through coercion or tactics unworthy of the Gospel, but above all by the power of the word of God” (Dignitatis humanae, 11). The mission of the Apostles and its continuation in the mission of the early Church remain the foundational model of evangelization for all time: it is a mission that has often been marked by martyrdom, as demonstrated by the history of the twentieth century. It is precisely martyrdom that gives credibility to witnesses, who seek neither power nor advantage, but instead lay down their lives for Christ. Before all the world, they display an unarmed strength brimming with love for all people, which is bestowed on those who follow Christ unto the total gift of their existence. So it is that Christians, from the very dawn of Christianity up until our own time have suffered persecution on account of the Gospel, as Jesus himself foretold: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization, no. 8, December 3, 2007)
The Church’s social doctrine interprets realities based on their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching
The Church’s social doctrine “belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology”. It cannot be defined according to socio-economic parameters. It is not an ideological or pragmatic system intended to define and generate economic, political and social relationships, but is a category unto itself. It is “the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church’s tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behaviour”. (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 72)
Discover another innovation: