Catholic Social Teaching Corner: Conference in Hanover

March 14, 2014

As Promoter of Social Justice for the Province of St. Joseph, I would like to present a summary of a Catholic Social Teaching Conference in Hanover, sponsored in part by the Dominican Laity. Thanks to attendee Rosemary Lunardini, a journalist and author, for the account: “Can Politics and Holiness Go Together” was the subject of the St. Martin de Porres Conference on Catholic Social Thought on November 3, 2013, at Aquinas House in Hanover, New Hampshire. The event was co-sponsored by the Office of the Promoter of Social Justice of the Province of St. Joseph and the St. Martin de Porres Dominican Lay Group. John Carr spoke from three decades of experience in the field of social justice, mostly working for the U.S. bishops on Catholic social justice efforts. He said this Catholic mission can be found in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Carr described the Catholic Church as “a very divided Church.”¬† The economy, a dangerous world, a culture of violence, and demoralized politics contribute to the situation. The bishops call for a renewed politics, based on moral principles, he said; politics and holiness can and ought to go together. He referred the conferees to a long list of Church documents that support this position. The speaker identified two approaches within the Church: one is to preserve and protect what we have, and the other is to engage and persuade society. The latter is the way of Pope Francis, by his example. This way involves more integration with society, anchoring ourselves in prayer, sharing our faith, serving the least, and being faithful citizens. He encouraged Catholics to be involved in public life, to be a hope to the young and an aid to the old, and to keep religious values. Next, Robert Dunn spoke on social justice and the liturgy. An attorney who specializes in legislative and governmental affairs, he lobbies for the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. He cited Georgetown research which shows that only 9% of Catholics link their politics and faith. Dunn based his talk largely on Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, which called the liturgy “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed” and “the font from which all her power flows.” Out of the liturgy, theological thought and action flow. This is the foundation for faith-based action. It is necessary for people to have full and active participation in the liturgy, which Sacrosanctum Concilium called a right and a duty of their baptismal priesthood. “If people do not have their full rights in the liturgy, how are they expected to participate outside the liturgy?” Dunn asked. Moreover, he contended that the liturgy should not be “a lifeboat” for the assembly. It should have an outward focus that engages politics, which he called “the highest good because it is for the common good.” Liturgy is also where the Kingdom of God is announced and comes into being. “This is our duty. We have been deputized to bring the Kingdom of God on earth.” In his experience, however, “religion is the only thing not considered in [political] decision-making. It comes down to who has the most votes.” In closing, he said: “We do not advance principles because they are Catholic but because Catholics can offer truths for all that are not unique to the Church.” Lastly, Francis Belanger, O.P., presented a varied list of Dominican religious and lay people who have historically contributed to the Church’s engagement with society. First on his list was St. Martin de Porres, whom Fr. Francis dubbed “our ‘social justice’ guy” for his daily service to the poor. St. Dominic himself is an example of social justice, selling all his belongings for the benefit of the poor. Many holy Dominicans followed his example: Bartolom√© de las Casas, who supported the rights of the Indians in Mexico in the 1500s; Georges Pire, O.P., who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1958 for his work on behalf of refugees; Louis Lebret, O.P., the “voice of the fishermen” in France; Bl. Pier Georgio Frassati, who served the poor in Turin in the 1920s; Georgio LaPira, mayor of Florence after World War II, who sought for cities to be spared destruction in war; and Servant of God Mother Mary Alphonsa (Rose Hawthorne), O.P., an American who founded a hospice care home for cancer patients.

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