Home' Aurora : Aurora August 2013 Contents 14
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
BY SUZETTE CLARKE RSC
Called to be the Good News
Advocate for justice
Sr Suzette Clarke
RSC explains the
scope of Catholic
Teaching is often
identified as the
term given to the
teachings of the
Church on social
justice issues. Yet it
is so much more.
Catholic social teaching
promotes a vision of
a just society that is
grounded in biblical revelation, the teachings
of the leaders of the early Church, and the
wisdom gathered from experience by the
Christian community as it has responded to
social justice issues through history. It gives
us a way of life, enabling us to reflect on the
world today and to identify the presence of
God and our response.
Catholic Social Teaching today is the result
of an evolution, a process. It begins with
the creation story. As we read through the
Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) we
become aware of who God is and God's
evolving relationship with us. We hear that
human beings are made in the image of God.
God is a triune God, a community of three
persons; Creator, Son and Spirit. We reflect
the image of God as unique individuals, and
in our social nature.
In the Christian Scriptures (the New
Testament) we read that through the
incarnation God becomes a human person:
the Word is made flesh. The incarnation
radically affirms the importance of the human
person. God embraced the human condition
when Mary gave birth to Jesus.
It is the Gospels which speak to us of Jesus
the Christ, the Word of God made flesh.
Jesus proclaimed his mission very clearly in
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
he has anointed me to bring good news to
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to
captives and to bring sight to the blind,
to set the
the year of
This is the mission of all who would follow
Jesus. It is the mission of the Church.
The social message of the Gospel must
not be considered a theory, but above
all else a basis and motivation for action.
Some of that action will be direct service
but it is also about advocacy. It is about
working to change the causes of poverty
and oppression. It means getting involved in
social issues and the debate about different
policy proposals that seek to address them.
It means disengaging from and working
against social structures and institutions
which maintain or promote unjust situations
As a formal body of teachings, the social
doctrine developed markedly in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
With hindsight we can pinpoint the beginning
of the modern expression of the Church's
social thought and teaching as 15 May, 1891,
when Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical
Rerum Novarum. This was the first major
statement from the Vatican that denounced
the degradation and exploitation of workers,
recognised the Church's role in addressing
the needs of the poor and called for the state
to promote the common good and to ensure
social and economic justice.
By the late 1960s the values of social
justice were becoming
politically important in
Australia, with issues
such as poverty,
welfare, equality of
opportunity and the arms race gaining a firm
place on the electoral agenda. The Church
in Australia has developed its own way of
responding to the social problems of the day,
identifying with the working class demands
for justice, but sometimes divided in opinion
about the best way to act.
While authoritative statements and Church
structures have their place, it is personal
service and authentic witness that have
brought justice to the poor, underprivileged
and marginalised people of Australia.
Committed people exercising these gifts
have lived their preferential option for the
poor. They challenge us to replace our self-
consciousness with a social consciousness,
to fill our emptiness with a deep love and
concern for all who share this life and planet
What stands out over the years is the
growing number of people involved in some
form of social change. People want to make
a difference in the world. They see injustice
and are recognising the value of joining with
others to engage in some form of action
which will alleviate injustice.
Social justice is a process engaged in by the
Church community, and in which each of us
has a place. Action is necessary to alleviate
poverty, advocacy to reform the unjust
structures which allow and maintain poverty,
and teaching to provide the foundation for
sound thought and practice.
We are invited to create a space within us
for justice, where truth and reality can exist.
We are called to identify the contribution that
we can make to the social justice process
through the use of our gifts, expertise and
experience. We are challenged to integrate
our service with prayer, to combine action
and contemplation, while trusting in the love
that God has for each of us and which unites
us into a living and caring community called
May we always remember what our God
asks of us:
that we will do justice
that we will love with constancy and
and that we will walk in humble fellowship
with our God. Micah 6:8
Sister Suzette Clarke RSC co-ordinates
the Justice Network for Catholic
Religious Australia and also the Sisters of
Charity Advocacy Network. See details of
her visit to the diocese on page 21.
replace our self-consciousness
with a social consciousness,
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