Melissa is a self proclaimed loud and proud Texan who left that great state to attend Notre Dame, where she studied Political Science & European Studies and also where she joined the Church and married the illustrious Patrick Mason. After graduation, she worked with the local homeless population and became interested in issues of poverty. Melissa has taken the last few months to “find herself” and pursue art, selling her first painting earlier this month. She also looks forward to an Irish national championship. She will be joining us for the next few weeks. Welcome!
I’ve been called a bad Catholic before. Quite a few times actually. I’ve also been called a bad Mexican, but I’ll save that for another post.
Having grown up in an almost entirely Hispanic (read: almost entirely Catholic) town on the border, my childhood memories are filled with incense, candlelight posadas, and gory stories of saints burning at the stake. My entire education from day care through college save my years in high school was spent in Catholic schools. Because of this, I’m usually the one people turn to and ask “what do the Catholics think about that?” My usual answer: “Heck if I know.”
Surprisingly, after so many years of religious instruction overseen by a nun with a long ruler and a quick wrist (seriously), I remember very little about my former faith besides the bitter taste it left me. It wasn’t until I got to college that I moved beyond the ritual and spiritual aspects of the religion and delved into the intellectual and social. There I discovered a tradition that would reshape the way I saw the world.
Catholic Social Thought is a tradition shaped and informed by the Scriptures, as well as countless papal and conference documents published by the Catholic Church over the past hundred or so years. Through six principles, Catholics are guided in their approach to the world around them.
“The foundational principle is the common good based on the understanding in Catholic social thought that persons are created as social beings, always in interrelationship and interdependence with others (Principle 1). Catholic social thought also promotes the dignity of every human being, as each is made in the image and likeness of God, but this dignity always needs to be seen in relationship to the promotion of the common good ( Principle 2). Human dignity grounds and is protected by a spectrum of human rights and corresponding duties. This principle of the correlation of rights and duties promotes just living conditions for all as well as the dignity of work and the rights of workers (Principle 3). Many persons, though, are marginalized in our society and all are called to make an option for the poor (Principle 4), keeping those who are economically poor in the forefront of our minds in all decision-making. As stewards of God’s creation, both in terms of people and the earth, (Principle 5) we need to face the environmental concerns of our day, which disproportionately affect the economically poor. In response to how decisions are made to address the challenges in each of the spheres of society, the principle of subsidiarity (Principle 6) calls for action at the lowest level possible.”
Catholic Social Thought holds that the family is central to our identity as social beings and provides the structure to hold together societies and promote the common good. Now I don’t have a copy of the Family Proclamation on my wall like I’ve seen in many Mormon homes, but if I did, I would have a copy of the principles of Catholic Social Thought right next to it. Because while I appreciate that we’ve been given a definitive statement on how we relate to each other as families, it seems we are incomplete until we can understand exactly how we relate to each other as human beings.
What would “Society: A Proclamation to the World” look like? What would it do for us? Would members of the church have fewer Jet Skis and more hours to devote to service? Would we be as concerned for children in Peru as we are for the children in our ward? In short, would we move beyond the norm of focusing on our small communities within the church while leaving the global work to the Humanitarian Center?
So what did I ultimately get out of my Catholic upbringing? Well I got to Catholicism’s educational shining star: Notre Dame… where I became a Mormon. Bet those nuns didn’t see that one coming.