justice, roman catholic

“Unofficial” Catholic Social Teaching on Justice

A major implication of the wider semantic field of biblical understanding of justice is that “biblical justice” is not as clearly distinguished from “charity” or caritative activity as in contemporary social ethics. Actions such as confronting the oppressive power of the wealthy and alleviating the sufferings of the poor are ultimately ways of “doing right” and seeking right relationships between God and humanity, and among humans themselves. On the other hand, today the traditional works of mercy (e.g., feeding the hungry, caring for the imprisoned, welcoming strangers) are equated with “social justice ministry,” often at both the parish and national levels. While such actions are certainly a hallmark of church life, a biblical concern for justice has three elements that supplement such actions: (1) biblical justice is embedded in those very narratives that form a people’s self-identity; (2) actions that manifest concern for the weak and vulnerable become mandated in law and are not, as often thought today, supererogatory; and (3) biblical justice always has a “prophetic dimension,” by virtue of entering into conflict with oppressive structures of injustice.

Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations, pg. 15.


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