by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. • ChurchMilitant • March 30, 2017
Why we can disagree on social justice issues but not on moral issues
What’s meant by “political left”? Does the so-called “political right” represent Catholic teaching, and if so, what teaching?
Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of England once observed, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” She was referring to parental government’s large-scale taxation of the rich to fund government handouts to the poor — what some call forced charity.
Bishops are on board with the government giving taxpayer money to the poor for social programs, which include immigration, healthcare and poverty and are collectively called social justice issues. Reasonable Catholics can disagree on how best to solve these issues. The bishops, however, are quick to criticize President Donald Trump if he doesn’t fully support the nanny state generated by such programs. What’s more, bishops speak as if there can be no disagreement on how to handle such issues. Open borders and more taxpayer money are their default solutions for current social justice issues.
Social justice issues are distinct from moral issues, which include: abortion, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, contraception and assisted suicide. The Catholic Church teaches these issues are what’s called “intrinsic evils,” actions that are evil in and of themselves that are everywhere and always wrong.
Catholics can’t prudentially disagree on how best to solve these moral issues. The Catholic solution of always stopping these evils completely is the only moral solution. Yet the bishops say little when government leaders, many who are Catholic, promote these same intrinsic evils in laws.
Social justice teaching used to be rooted in papal encyclicals like Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII and the many encyclicals that condemned socialism from Pope Pius IX to Pope Pius XI.