What do the buzz words “social justice” mean?

Here is a note from Jonah Goldberg.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. donadrian says:

    One suspects that this chap might have a little difficulty with Rerum Novarum.

  2. Andrew D says:

    Thank you Father Z for posting this very important video that I hope everyone will view and share. It pains me to see on the websites of various Catholic Churches, “social justice” written into their “mission statements.” It also baffles me that the Church in America hasn’t cut off the “Catholic Campaign for Human Development” collection in November which is responsible for such “social justice” as aiding the abortion industry, gay marriage crowd and getting Obama elected to impose his version of “social justice” on our country, at the detriment of our Church. When Our Lady of Fatima warned about Russia spreading her errors, she was talking about government-imposed atheism (aka. communism). Socialism is the precursor to communism and if “social justice” isn’t a precursor to socialism, I don’t know what is.

  3. Bob B. says:

    “Social justice” is a term that pervades Jesuit high schools, too. To go along with the video, I would ask students and teachers what it meant and what were the underpinnings of Catholicism to support it. The blank stares said a lot.

  4. Gerard Plourde says:

    It’s unfortunate that Mr. Goldberg didn’t seek to ask how an authoritative source, the Catholic Church, our Mother and Teacher, defines social justice. Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by St. John Paul II has to say:

    SOCIAL JUSTICE [I am not a fan of looooong cut-paste posts.]

  5. JBS says:

    I was taught in a Catholic graduate school (for what that’s worth) that the term “social justice” is of 19th century Catholic origin, and that the concept was intended to counter Marxist trends. Perhaps it has since been co-opted, and needs to be recovered.

  6. Gil Garza says:

    Mr. Goldberg points out (at 3:20 mins) that according to a UN report on social justice those of us that believe in “absolute truth identified with virtue and justice are neither willing nor desirable companions for the defenders of social justice.” Therefore, according to leftists, it doesn’t matter what the Catholic Church teaches about social justice. If Catholics get on the leftist bus of social justice because we think we’ve found allies in our campaign to raise awareness of the dignity of humanity and the necessity for human solidarity, we’re DUPES and RUBES because the left doesn’t want our help and will kick us off their social justice bus at their earliest opportunity because although we use similar lingo, our aims are far from similar.

    This was demonstrated in perfect form as some Catholic religious and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops got on the President’s social justice bus in the campaign for universal health care. As soon as their usefulness proved to be concluded, they were dumped off by the side of the road, hats in hand (or zucchetto). The left is not an ally in Catholic social justice. They use our lingo but have vastly different aims. Those Catholics that choose to ally themselves with the left are simply dupes.

  7. StephenGolay says:

    Regarding format: Does Jonah watch Voris – minus the hairdo thing!

  8. jeffreyquick says:

    So, Father, What Does Luigi Taparelli’s Term Really Say?

    I have a problem with the term Social Justice (note: not with Church teaching). Justice is a moral act, which requires a moral actor (and arguable, a moral recipient). “Society” as a collective can’t be a moral agent. Nor is it really the recipient of our moral acts. (“What you do unto Society you do unto Me” – #thingsjesusneversaid) Is this term equally “word salad” in Italian or Latin?

  9. danidunn says:

    If you were to ask ten people at a party what freedom or many other words mean, you would get ten different answers. There is a reason that many politicians are lawyers and that is because lawyers are trained to exploit the vagaries in definitions so that the listener hears what he thinks he wants to hear. The most popular example of this phenomena is President Clinton saying it depends on what the definition of is is.

    Profoundly, and it pains me to admit it, but President Clinton was correct. Words have meanings and we must protect against people using words or phrases like “social justice” because to a Catholic that phrase means one thing and to a Marxist that phrase means something different. We must pinpoint politicians down on what they mean when they use a phrase that we think we understand.

    Another politician, often today not held as a paragon of freedom said, What we have to fight for is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the creator. That politician, of course, was Adolf Hitler and in his mind he was not only a freedom fighter but also doing the Lord’s work!

    So, according to the Catholic Catechism, a working man is entitled to a just wage. And, Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages. Freedom is not an absolute. It can, according to the Catechism, be tempered by other concerns. A Catholic can not, morally at least, say that because a worker agreed to a wage that it OK for him to be paid that wage.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Seems the standard work on that is still Fr. Messner’s Social Ethics, original title: “Natural Law” (imprimatur, etc.). I think I remember he had some (limited) positive use for the term.

    That said, while the term “social justice” does certainly not figure importantly in moral theology, still moral theology does say that poor are to be helped for reasons of both justice (yes!) and charity (and a sort of intermediate, gratitude).

  11. AnnTherese says:

    There are a variety of aspects of social justice, as presented in our Church’s library of Catholic Social Teaching. I hold this in my heart about social justice, from the young Christian community in Acts: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” (2:44-45)

  12. bookworm says:

    “All who believed were together and had all things in common”

    Those who use this passage from Acts to defend or justify socialistic government/economic policy are forgetting that the early Christians VOLUNTARILY chose to live in this manner; the government did not force them to by law. The same goes for religious orders who live under vows of poverty and hold all property in common — while that may be a “communist” system, it is one they embrace of their own free will and after plenty of time to discern whether they are suited for that life. The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience all involve voluntary renunciation of things that people have (within reason) a natural right to enjoy: ownership of property, marriage, and freedom to decide where/how one wishes to live and support oneself. The communal lifestyle of the early Christians has as much in common with modern socialism/communism as a loving and holy marriage has with sexual slavery.

  13. I just started reading Ferrara’s Liberty where he tears into the Protestant philosophies of Hobbes and Locke and I happened to see your tag “liberals” on this piece. It would be more accurate to replace it with the tag “progressives” as the liberal moniker isn’t that accurate. Sure in America we call lefties liberals, but that’s only a recent usage of the word. Technically the Acton Institute is about liberal ideas. With “progressive” its more obvious what you’re talking about.

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