The social doctrine of the Church

The social doctrine of the Church

In 1983, a conflict broke out between the CCCB and the federal government of the time.  It wasn’t about sexual or reproductive issues, but rather an economic question.  The government had decided that inflation was seriously threatening the Canadian economy, and had thus launched a merciless fight against it.  This policy did not seem to take into account the impact of a high rate of unemployment that was also contributing to the crisis.  In an historic letter, the CCCB’s Committee on Social Affairs had publicly criticized the government policy, calling it a moral crisis.  The Prime Minister replied that the bishops should stick to theology.

The question needs to be asked: on what grounds can bishops get involved with an issue that some would consider foreign to the faith?  The answer is quite simple: for over a century now, the Catholic tradition has not considered this kind of questioning as being foreign to the Gospel.

Pope Leo XIII was the first to publish an encyclical on social issues, condemning the horrible conditions certain employers were imposing on their workers.  In the name of the Gospel, he invited governments to implement labour laws and safeguards that would encompass fairer and more equitable work practices.  This encyclical, called Rerum Novarum (New things), marked the beginning of what, in the Church, we would today call his ‘social doctrine’.  That was in 1891.

Since then, many popes have, in turn, discussed social problems by applying Gospel principles to them.  Among these principles, we can include: the common good, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, and certain values such as freedom, justice and truth, and (of course) charity.

Based on these principles, recalling the fundamental dignity of the human being created in the image of God, the social doctrine of the Church considers questions such as human rights, labour, family, the economy, politics, the international community, the promotion of peace and the protection of the environment.

The history of the Diocese of Gatineau is linked, from its origins, with the commitment of numerous lay people, priests and nuns towards social issues.  Many of today's active community organizations found their source in parish initiatives or Catholic movements.  The diocese continues to maintain a dynamic relationship with the network of community organizations who work for human rights and the common good, here and elsewhere.  The motivation for such commitment is not to be found hither or thither, but simply in the words of Christ: «Whatever you do to the lowliest of my own, you do to me».

  • Consult the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine, a reference text that presents, in a systematic way, the opinions of the popes on the subject since 1891.
  • Read the encyclical by Pope Francis on ecology, Laudato Si.
  • Read the text from the Quebec bishops on the occasion of May 1st, (May Day),  Technological Upheavals and Work.
  • Visit the page of our diocesan table on social ministry, where you will find volunteer opportunities and additional resources.
  • Pray for Archbishop Durocher’s monthly intentions.

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