Friday, May 29, 2009

Social Justice and Human Dignity… (Part one)

What exactly is social justice? Why as a Catholic should I be concerned with social justice? Is social justice the same as the social teachings of the Catholic Church? These are just a few of the questions that have been puzzling me over the last several days. I am no expert in any field which would allow me to speak authoritatively on any aspect of the issues involved in the social justice or social teachings of the Church. Instead please allow me to present my thoughts, ideas and opinions as just that, knowing that this is an attempt to learn and clarify these issues in my own mind. Your comments and thoughts will be great appreciated as this is meant to be a dialogue not a dissertation.

The issue concerning social justice first came up when I heard the USCCB (Unites States Council Catholic Bishops) talk about the illegal immigration challenges. They spoke in terms of social justice and their tone seemed to suggest support for those breaking the just laws of our sovereign nation. At least this is how I, and others I talked to, perceived the message from the USCCB. As a convert to Catholicism and one who has great love and affection for the Magisterium of the Church, I was trouble by what I saw as the bishops taking a position I could not support.

In an attempt to not jump to any conclusions until I had all my facts straight I have set out to get a better understanding of this often used and rarely defined term of social justice.

In an effort of full disclosure let me insert here a brief description of my starting point. I am now and have always been a deeply patriotic person. I love this country and the founding fathers. I believe that the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are the two greatest political documents ever penned by human hands and are second only to the Bible in their impact on humanity. I believe in State's rights and a constitutional republic form of government. I am a fan of Austrian economic philosophy and have been an ardent free market capitalist (I am however very interested in the distributionalist ideas of those like G.K. Chesterton and Hillarie Belloc). I believe in the maxim that a government governs best that governs least.

Social justice seems to be a hard term to pin down. Since it is basically a concept, it means different things to different people. Trying to find a good definition has proven difficult as most are too vague to be of any use.

Wikipedia defines it as, "Social justice, sometimes called civil justice, refers to the concept of a society in which "justice" is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law." offers the following definition, "Fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. "

These two definitions in essence contradict one another. This is the inherent problem with the term. What does it mean when someone speaks of "social justice?" The most left wing socialist uses the term to mean many things. Hence we arrive at the heart of the controversy.

In almost all of the reading and studying I have done on the subject, in the realm of politics and government policies the term social justice is usually used to either mask or a hide a particular socialist program, or is used to simply justify or deem as necessary for the cause of social justice, a particular socialist solution to a problem.

I am of the firm belief that socialism is the most evil form of government that can be perpetrated upon mankind. It is the most dehumanizing of all known forms of government. It always leads to the most murderous, oppressive kind of dictatorship. It lifts nobody up and brings down all but the very elite. I understand no form of government instituted by man will be perfect, but it is obvious that some forms of government are better than others.

Is social justice then just a left wing code word for socialism? Why do the Church and her bishops use this term to describe their social teachings? What is the effect of social justice concerns on society? I will discuss these in more detail in the next post….too be continued.

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