Where we Stand in This!!!

We strive by an indirect approach to lessen evils, but we know we will not win the war.[1] Our future lies beyond this world.[2] “We work toward a brighter and more humane society… yet [we know] that our daily efforts… either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or historical breakdown” radiate within us.[3]Caritas will always prove necessary; …no State can eliminate the need for a service of love”.[4] These are the mindset behind Catholic Social Doctrine. It is from this leitmotif that we are to understand pope Benedict XVI’s work on catholic social doctrine regarding church and state, and the human person.


Charity is an essential element of the church’s life; pope Benedict holds it to be on the same par as the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word.[5] In fact, he understands that while it is the fundamental norm of the state to create a just social order, it cannot flourish without upholding the principle of subsidiarity, which demands the coordination of society’s activities according to the needs of the community. In this sense, the church must not sit on the sidelines in the effort to build a just society, even if the latter remains the domain of the state.[6] That is where church and state need to cooperate, although they constitute two distinct entities. This perspective can be deemed pope Benedict’s fundamental contribution to catholic social doctrine.[7]

The church reinforces the state’s effort to build a just society. The State must inevitably answer what justice is.[8] If practical reason is to properly answer that question, it must be purified. Faith is that purifying force. Faith liberates reason from its blind spots; …it enables reason to do its work more effectively. To achieve this, faith and reason i.e. church and state must cooperate. So while it is not the church’s task to build a just society, it is her role to form conscience and stimulate greater insight about justice. While the church cannot and don’t intend to replace the state, she cannot remain on the sidelines without offering her position. The state obviously benefits when its citizens’ actions are born of a pure, virtuous, and moral conscience. But the church is right institution that can make that happen.[9]

Why is the church so needed? Here’s why: despite how well a society is organized, there will always be a need for love. So we don’t need a state that hugs all powers. We want a state that guarantees religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions.[10] We want a state that allows the principle of subsidiarity thrives. A State that attempts to absorb everything into itself would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy. The state can never eradicate loneliness, suffering, cry for consolation, and material need.[11] That’s where the church intervenes.

CongressGovernments cannot solve the world’s suffering. Despite the scientific and technological advancement, material and spiritual suffering will always linger (ibid 30a). Through the inescapable sense of solidarity, through their commitment to love, both material and spiritual sufferings are alleviated. Church agencies can especially serve as a reference point and inspiration for civil society on how best to serve the poor. Through this cooperation, it becomes clear how faith enlightens reason in its work all the while remaining above politics. Consequently, Christian charitable activity is free of parties and ideologies.[12] It is not proselytism for love is free, and must never be practiced as a way of achieving other ends.[13] Thus church personnel are guided by the faith working through love.[14]

Another major contribution of Pope Benedict to catholic social doctrine concerns construing the greatness of man to the modern world. They believe that our redemption no longer lies in faith in Christ, but through “the newly discovered link between science and praxis”.[15] Faith, in this newly built kingdom, becomes “a purely private, otherworldly affair, and irrelevant”.[16] Hope, the ‘known unknown’ of eternal life that drives our desires to look beyond this world[17], is envisioned as faith in progress.[18] They presumed that progress toward perfect freedom and the rules of reason could be the dominant force behind the human race and the sole guarantor of a perfect human community.[19] They believed that scientific development is the answer to our problem, but they forgot something.

They forgot who man is. They ignore that economic power does not solve man’s inclination for evil. “Man’s freedom always remains freedom for evil”.[20] They forgot that technical progress dissolved from man’s inner growth is actually regression. They forgot that human freedom and reason need a rule of law in order to fulfill their nature and mission. Again, while reason is great, it needs the saving forces of faith in order to differ between good and evil and look beyond itself.[21] Economic power, freedom of choice, and rational capacity severed from God are man’s greatest threat. Social structures devoid of charity would demean man of his greatness.[22] It is the indirect duty of the church to purify man’s inclination. …[23]

Pope BenedictMan’s greatness is intrinsically bound to God. Man cannot be redeemed by science for he cannot be rebuilt from outside.[24] Man can only be redeemed by unconditional love.[25] Therefore, new generation can engage in the search for the right moral order by drawing upon the moral treasury of the whole of humanity while seeking to build itself anew.[26] New generation needs to be stimulated by new conviction that freedom can be won over for the cause of goodness[27], and that “the moral well-being of the world cannot be guaranteed through structures alone”.[28] That’s what it means to establish a convinced structure of freedom. This innate understanding is what redemption means.

True dignity lies by setting our hope on God, the great hope. He is the only one who can create the right structure that results in good moral order. This new vision should free us to live life in communion with God and neighbor, who free us from attachment to all material goods.[29] It allows us to accept our limitations to solve the problems of the world. It opens us up to believe that God alone can eliminate suffering, to accept our own suffering, and that of others.[30] In fact, the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. It is cruel for a society to refuse to accept and share the suffering of its members.[31] The fundamental elements of humanity are the capacity and willingness to suffer with the other and for others, for truth, justice, and love.[32] That’s what it takes to become a person.

[1] Thomas More, Utopia, book I

[2] Augustine’s City of God, book XIX, Ch. 17

[3] Spe Salvi 35

[4] Deus Caritas Est 28b

[5] DCE 22

[6] ibid 28a

[7] Pope Paul VI’s address at the United Nations on October 4, 1965 about what the church desires in relationship to the state is arguably a wrong turn. Pope benedict can be said to correct that view in his unique understanding of CSD.

[8] DCE 28a

[9] DCE 28a

[10] ibid 28a

[11] ibid 28b

[12] ibid 31b

[13] ibid 31c

[14] Ibid 33

[15] Spe Salvi #17

[16] ibid

[17] ibid 12

[18] ibid 18

[19] ibid 20

[20] ibid 21

[21] ibid 23

[22] DCE 28b

[23] ibid 29

[24] Spe Salvi 25

[25] ibid 26

[26] ibid 24, 25

[27] ibid 24b

[28] ibid 24a

[29] ibid 28

[30] ibid 37

[31] ibid 38

[32] ibid 39