Social Justice

Social Justice and the Dignity of the Human Person

The concept of Social Justice is central to our Christian faith and has its roots in scripture, particularly in the teachings of Jesus.  For many of us, we think of Social Justice within the context of the social order. If there are problems with discrimination, then we think there ought to be a law against it. If it represents a situation that perpetuates the existence of an underclass in our social order, such as unequal access to education or to employment, then there ought to be a law against that too. But if we are to live in a socially just society, we must examine our attitude about the source from which justice flows.

Justice is a virtue that should first be practiced by people. We cannot abandon personal responsibility for justice in the hope that it will be effectively covered by the law. The real key to social justice lies in our ability as individuals to act justly and our ability to recognize injustice in the structures of social order and work to remedy them.

How do we affect a more socially just society? We can begin by examining the Church’s teaching on Social Justice.

  1. Dignity of the Human Person – All people are sacred; made in the image and likeness of God. People do not lose dignity because of disability, poverty, age, race or lack of success. This teaching emphasizes people over things – being over having.       This is the basis for the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of human life.
  2. Common Good and Community – The human person is both sacred and social. How we participate in our family and community; our daily actions, our policy decisions, our vote at election time - affects the dignity of every person.
  3. Rights and Responsibilities - People have a fundamental right to life, food, shelter, health care, education and employment. All persons have a responsibility to participate in social and political activities and institutions that promote the common good.
  4. Option for the Poor – The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.       The poor have the most urgent claim to the consciousness of the nation. We, as individuals and as a faith community, are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.
  5. Global Security and Development – We are one human family and are called to work globally for justice.       The accumulation of material goods and technical resources is unsatisfactory if there is no respect for the moral, cultural and spiritual dimension of the person.       Love of neighbor on a global scale leads to peace.
  6. Promotion of Peace and Disarmament – Peace is a positive, action-oriented concept. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon the right order among human beings and human institutions.
  7. Stewardship of God’s creation – The goods of the earth are a gift from God and are intended for the benefit of everyone, not just the wealthy few. We must show care for the environment.
  8. Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around. People have a right to productive work, fair wages and a decent workplace.
  9. Role of Government – The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good.
  10. Free Markets, Economic Initiative and Private Property – All people have a right to economic initiative and to private property, but these are not unlimited rights. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.