The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church", according to Cardinal Martino
Presentation by the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of the SDC compendium; it gives a special emphasis to the ethical and pastoral challenge of the laicman.

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We publish the presentation made by Cardinal Renato R. Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of the recently published "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church". The volume of 525 pages is currently in the process of translating into Spanish. At the moment it has been published in English and Italian. 


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This work began five years ago, under the chairmanship of my revered predecessor Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân. The illness and, later, the death of Cardinal Van Thuân, as well as the subsequent change of presidency in the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace, produced an inevitable delaic in the work. 


The elaboration of the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” was not an easy task. The most complex problems faced were fundamentally four: the fact that it was a question of elaborating an unprecedented text in the history of the Church; the formulation of some complex epistemological issues inherent in the nature of the social doctrine of the Church; and the desire to offer a teaching that would withstand the passage of time, in a historical phase characterized by very rapid and radical social, economic and political changes. 


The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" provides a complete picture of the fundamental lines of the doctrinal "corpus" of Catholic social teaching. The document, faithful to the authoritative indications that the Holy Father John Paul II gave in the number 54 of the Apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America", presents «In a complete and systematic way, albeit in a synthetic way, the social doctrine, which is the fruit of the wise reflection of the Magisterium and expression of the constant commitment of the Church, in fidelity to the grace of the Salvation of Christ and in loving solicitude for the destiny of Humanity» ("Compendium", N. 8). 


The «Compendium» has a simple and clear structure. After an «introduction», three parts follow:


The first, which consists of four chapters, deals with the fundamental budgets of social doctrine: the loving design of God with respect to man and society, the mission of the Church and the nature of social doctrine, the human person and their rights , and the principles and values of social doctrine. 


The second, consisting of seven chapters, deals with the content and classical themes of social doctrine: family, human work, economic life, the political community, the international community, the environment and peace. 


The third, very brief — consisting of a single chapter — contains a series of indications for the use of social doctrine in the pastoral praxis of the Church and in the life of Christians, especially of the laic faithful. 


The "conclusion", titled "For a Civilization of Love", summarizes the background idea of the whole document. 


The work is completed with ample indices, useful and easy to consult. 


The Compendium has a precise purpose and is characterized by some clearly stated objectives in the introduction, which reads as follows: "It is presented as an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that characterize our time as a guide to inspire, in the individual and in the collective sphere, behaviors and options that allow to look to the future with confidence and hope; as a subsidy for the faithful in the teaching of social morality "(N. 10). 


It is also an instrument developed with the objective of promoting "a new commitment capable of responding to the demands of our time and appropriate to the needs and resources of man, and especially to the desire to value, with new forms, the vocation own of the diverse ecclesial charismas with a view to the evangelization of the social field, because "all the members of the Church participate of its secular dimension" (Christifideles Laici, 15) "(ib.). 


A fact that should be highlighted, as it is present in several parts of the document, is the following: the text is presented as an instrument to nurture the ecumenical and interfaith dialogue of Catholics with all those who sincerely seek the good of man. In fact, in number 12 it is stated: "This document is also proposed to the brethren of the other churches and ecclesial communities, to the followers of the other religions, as well as to the men and women of goodwill who are interested in the common good." 


In fact, the social doctrine, in addition to addressing in a primary and specific way to the children of the Church, has a universal destiny. The light of the Gospel, which social doctrine reflects on society, illuminates all men: all consciences and intelligences are able to grasp the human depth of the meanings and values expressed in this doctrine, as well as the burden of humanity and humanization of its rules of action. 


Of course, the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" primarily concerns Catholics, because "the first recipient of social teaching is the ecclesial community in all its members, since everyone has to assume social responsibility. (...) In the tasks of evangelization, that is, teaching, catechesis and training, which raises the social doctrine of the Church, is destined to every Christian, according to the competencies, charisms, trades and the mission of each one's own ad» (n. 83). 


Social doctrine also implies responsibilities relating to the construction, organization and functioning of society: political, economic, administrative, i.e. secular, obligations that correspond to the laic faithful so peculiar, by virtue of the secular condition of his state of life and the secular nature of his vocation; through these responsibilities the laity implement the social doctrine and fulfill the secular mission of the Church.


The question of the situation of the social doctrine of the Church in today's world was constantly raised in the elaboration of the “Compendium”. In formulating the response, it was felt that it was not appropriate to follow the path of a simple sociological analysis or an enumeration of social priorities or emerging problems. Rather, it was thought appropriate that the "Compendium" would constitute a serious and rigorous instrument suitable for discernment — an ecclesial and communitarian cognitive act — so indispensable today. The Christian discernment is based on the reading of the signs of the times, realized in the light of the Word of God and the "corpus" of truths that the Magisterium has constituted as social doctrine of the Church, with the purpose of guiding the praxis and personal community. This is the way to the very center of the social doctrine of the Church, to its intimate nature of "encounter of the evangelical message and its demands (...) with the problems that derive from the life of society" (Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, instruction «Libertatis conscientia», 72). The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" presents the social doctrine of the Church as a teaching that is born of discernment, which itself is discernment and is oriented to discernment. 


From this background perspective, the "Compendium" aims to promote discernment capable of addressing some decisive and important challenges. 


The cultural challenge 

The first challenge is that of the cultural sphere, which the social doctrine confronts taking advantage of its constitutive interdisciplinary dimension. Through its social doctrine, the Church "proclaims the truth about Christ, about himself and about man, applying to a specific situation" ("Sollicitudo rei socialis", 41). Thus, it is clear that, above all, with a view to the future, social doctrine should increasingly develop its interdisciplinary dimension ("Social doctrine [...] It has an important interdisciplinary dimension. In order to incarnate increasingly, in different and constantly changing social economic and political contexts, the only truth about man, this doctrine enters into dialogue with the various disciplines that deal with man, incorporates his contributions and it helps to open up to wider horizons in the service of each person, known and loved in the fullness of his vocation»: «Centesimus annus», 59). 


The interdisciplinary dimension is not an addition, but an intrinsic dimension of the social doctrine of the Church, because it is intimately linked to the purpose of embodying the eternal truth of the Gospel in the historical problems that humanity must face. The truth of the Gospel must be found with the knowledge elaborated by man, because faith is not alien to reason; the historical fruits of justice and peace ripen when the evangelical light seeps into cultures, respecting reciprocal autonomy, but also the analogue connections between faith and knowledge. When dialogue with the various disciplines of knowledge becomes intimate and fruitful, the social doctrine of the Church accomplishes its mission of stimulating new social, economic and political projects that have the center of the human person, in all its dimensions. 


It should be noted that the interdisciplinary dimension, theologically oriented, can respond to two demands strongly felt by today's culture. Today's culture rejects any 'closed' system, but at the same time looks for reasons. The social doctrine of the Church is not "a closed system" ("Libertatis conscientia", 72), and it is not for two reasons: because it is historical, i.e. "It is developed according to the changing circumstances of history" (ib.), and because it has its origin in the Evangelical message (cf. ib.), which is transcendent and, precisely for this reason, is the main "source of renewal" (Paul VI, "Octogesima adveniens", 42) of history. The interdisciplinary dimension allows the social doctrine to orient without being a system, and not to be a system without disorienting. 


The challenge of ethical and religious indifference

Is the second challenge that comes from the situation of ethical and religious indifference, and the need for renewed interreligious collaboration. In the social sphere, the most important aspects of the widespread indifference are the separation between ethics and politics, and the conviction that ethical questions cannot aspire to a public statute, they cannot constitute the object of a rational and political debate, because they would be expressions of individual options, even private. The separation between ethics and politics, by extension, tends to apply also to the relations between politics and religion, relegated to private matter.


In this field, the social doctrine of the Church has today and in the near future an arduous task to perform, a task that can be fulfilled better if it is done in dialogue with Christian confessions and also with non-Christians. Interreligious collaboration will be one of the itineraries of strategic value for the good of humanity, decisive in the future of social doctrine. Contemplating with the gaze of Christian wisdom the events of the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the millennium that has just begun, it can be discovered, guided by the Holy Father, at least a historical area of priority importance for the dialogue Interreligious on social issues. It is about the issue of peace and human rights. 


Of all are known the Pope's many and pressing interventions on this subject. It is enough to review the speeches that John Paul II has directed in these twenty-six years of pontificate to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See to realize how frequent and insistent are his calls for collaboration between the world religions in favour of peace, with the 'Spirit of Assisi'. I am here to quote a text from the 'message for World Peace Day of 2002'. The Holy Father writes: "The Christian confessions and the great religions of humanity must collaborate with each other to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism, teaching the greatness and dignity of the person and spreading a greater awareness of the unit of the human race. This is a specific field of dialogue and ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, so that religions can provide an urgent service to peace among Peoples” (N. 12: «L´Osservatore Romano», Spanish Edition, 14 December 2001, p. 8). 


The field of human rights, peace, social and economic justice, development, in the near future, will increasingly occupy the centre of interreligious dialogue, in which Catholics must participate with their social doctrine, understood as "corpus doctrinal” which stimulates but also feeds on “the fruitful activity of millions and millions of men, who (...) They have striven to be inspired by it with a view to their own commitment in the World” (« Centesimus annus », 3). 


The pastoral challenge 

The third challenge is specifically pastoral. The future of the Church's social teaching in today's world will depend on the better understanding that this doctrine is rooted in the Church's own mission; born from the Word of God and the living faith of the Church; and that is an expression of the service that the Church lends to the world, in which the salvation of Christ is to be announced with words and works. In other words, it should be understood that this doctrine is related to all aspects of the life and action of the Church: sacraments, liturgy, catechesis and pastoral. The social doctrine of the Church, which "is an essential part of the Christian message" (ib. 5), must be known, disseminated and witnessed. When, in any case, the living conscience of this "belonging" to the social doctrine is lost to the mission of the Church, that social doctrine is instrumentalized in terms of various forms of ambiguity or bias. 


I want to remember here the famous expression: "Christian social doctrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life", with which blessed Pope John XXIII, in the encyclical "Mater et magista" (n. 206), opened the way, many years ago, to successive , important and profound precisions of John Paul II: "The teaching and dissemination of this social doctrine is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church" ("Sollicitudo rei socialis", 41); The social doctrine, "instrument of evangelization" ("Centesimus annus", 54), "Announces to God and his mystery of salvation in Christ to every Man" (ib.). 


This doctrine will be able to fulfil so much better its service to the man within the framework of the society and the economy the less it is reduced to a sociological or political discourse, with moralistic exhortation, to "science of living well" ("Redemptoris missio", 11), or with simple «ethics for difficult situations» and, on the contrary, the more he is known, taught, lived and incarnated, in all the fullness of his "vital union with the Gospel of the Lord" ("Sollicitudo rei socialis", 3). 


To conclude the presentation of the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" with these reflections on the role of the social doctrine of the Church in today's world before the new demands of evangelization, I would like to highlight a double dimension of the the presence of Christians in society, a double inspiration that comes from the social doctrine itself and that in the future will require that we live more and more in complementary synthesis.


I am referring, on the one hand, to the demand for personal testimony and, on the other, to the demand for a new project for a genuine humanism involving social structures. Never have to separate dimensions, the staff and the social. I have the great hope that the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" will mature authentic believing personalities and urge them to be credible witnesses, able to modify the mechanisms of today's society with thought and action. 


There is always a need for witnesses, martyrs and saints, also in the social sphere. The High Pontiffs have often referred to the people who have lived their presence in society as "testimony of Christ the Savior" ("Centesimus annus", 5). These are all those that the "Rerum novarum" considered "very worthy of praise" (N. 41) for having committed themselves to improving, at that time, the condition of the workers; of them the "Centesimus annus" says that "they have been able to find, over and over again, effective ways to testify to the truth" (N. 23). "At the instigation of the social Magisterium, they have striven to inspire themselves in it with a view to their own commitment in the world. Acting individually or well coordinated in groups, associations and organizations; they have constituted a great movement for the defense of the human person and for the protection of their dignity” (ib. 3). 


They are the innumerable Christians, mostly laic people, who "have been sanctified in the most ordinary circumstances of life" ("Novo millennio ineunte", 31). The personal testimony, the result of an "adult" Christian life, deep and mature, can only contribute to the construction of a new civilization, in dialogue with the disciplines of human knowledge, in dialogue with other religions and with all the men of goodwill, for the realization of an integral and solidarity humanism. 



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