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Vatican to America: ‘Social Justice’ is About Relationships, Not Socialism

Posted on January 14 2011 11:30 pm
Lisa Graas has covered politics and religion at her blog since 2008. She has served as a crisis pregnancy counselor, youth speaker, mental health advocate and legislative consultant.

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Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has a message for Catholics in America, particularly those involved in social justice ministry, that could put a damper on the political machinations of the Shadow Party.

The message? “Social justice” is about “relationships,” not “socialism.” This clarification may very well be the catalyst to set the Catholic Church in America back on course with authentic Catholic teaching on hot-button issues involving massive government entitlement programs and other forms of overreach. If nothing else, it will almost certainly jump-start the “social justice” debate among Catholics. Cardinal Turkson, you see, is scheduled to deliver the plenary address at the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in February.

Though the news was published on January 13, reporting and commentary from among Catholics in America is, so far, scant. Even conservatives in the Church have been largely silent about the new ‘vocabulary’ Cardinal Turkson says he will be offering to help American Catholics understand that a “gift” is “not quite the same as a handout.” In an interview with Catholic News Agency, the Cardinal explained that the clarification is necessary because Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth“) has been misinterpreted by the Vatican’s American audience.

It would be useful if we just observed our sense of justice as our ability to fulfill the demands of the relationships in which we stand.

This is in contrast to socialism, he explained, which is an ideology in which private property and private interests are totally placed in the service of government policies. What the Pope proposes in ‘Caritas in Veritate,’ said Cardinal Turkson, is ‘achieving the common good without sacrificing personal, private interests, aspirations and desires.’

Cardinal Turkson said the Council was also surprised that the Pope’s concept of the ‘gift,’ was perceived in some circles as encouraging government welfare handouts. In ‘Caritas in Veritate,’ Pope Benedict described the concept of “gift” as a way to understand God’s love for men and women in his gift of life and his gift of Jesus.

Whether he intended to or not, Cardinal Turkson has now echoed what many conservative Catholics in America have been calling for repeatedly — subsidiarity in economic policy. More importantly, the Cardinal observes the heart of the matter in noting that a ‘handout’ and a ‘gift’ are not at all the same, with the latter being more in keeping with the Gospel message.

Next: An Explanation of Subsidiarity, and the Example of Pope John Paul II

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