What Does the Compendium Say About . . .

13 Oct

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is to the Church’s social teaching what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to Catholic teaching in general. It predictably touches upon topics such as economics, politics, the environment, and peace, but it also reaffirms Church teaching in other areas of social concern that might raise the eyebrows of those who view the Church in politicized (“liberal” vs. “conservative”) terms, with “social justice” reflecting a more “liberal” perspective. Here’s what the Compendium has to say concerning some hot-button issues today:

Human rights “Pope John Paul II has drawn up a list of [human rights] in the encyclical Centesimus Annus: the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality . . . The first right presented in this list is the right to life, from conception to its natural end, which is the condition for the exercise of all other rights and, in particular, implies the illicitness of every form of procured abortion and of euthanasia” (no. 155).

Contraception “Also to be rejected is recourse to contraceptive methods in their different forms: this rejection is based on a correct and integral understanding of the person and human sexuality and represents a moral call to defend the true development of peoples. . . . All programs of economic assistance aimed at financing campaigns of sterilization and contraception, as well as the subordination of economic assistance to such campaigns, are to be morally condemned . . .” (nos. 233-34).

Abortion and Direct Sterilization “Concerning the ‘methods’ for practicing responsible procreation, the first to be rejected as morally illicit are sterilization and abortion. The latter in particular is a horrendous crime and constitutes a particularly serious moral disorder; far from being a right, it is a sad phenomenon that contributes seriously to spreading a mentality against life, representing a dangerous threat to a just and democratic social coexistence” (no. 233).

Same-Sex Marriage “The family, in fact, is born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman. . . . No power can abolish the natural right to marriage or modify its traits and purpose. Marriage in fact is endowed with its own proper, innate, and permanent characteristics. . .” (nos. 211, 216).

Subsidiarity and “Big Government” “Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. . . . The principle of subsidiarity protects people from abuses by higher-level social authority and calls on these same authorities to help individuals and intermediate groups to fulfill their duties. . . . Experience shows that the denial of subsidiarity, or its limitation in the name of an alleged democratization or equality of all members of society, limits and sometimes even destroys the spirit of freedom and initiative (nos. 185, 187).

Social Engineering and the Concept of Justice “Justice is particularly important in the present-day context, where the individual value of the person, his dignity, and his rights–despite proclaimed intentions–are seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to make exclusive use of criteria of utility and ownership. . . . Justice, in fact, is not merely a simple human convention, because what is ‘just’ is not first determined by the law but by the profound identity of the human being (no. 202).

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church may be viewed online, but hard copies are available at most Catholic bookstores.

3 Responses to “What Does the Compendium Say About . . .”

  1. Nicole October 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was promulgated by a Pope?

    It looks to me like it was put together by a Pontifical Council for the Pope, but I don’t see anything saying a Pope promulgated this Compendium…unlike the Catechism.

    That’s not to say that I wouldn’t assent to the teachings shown in the Compendium if they verified back to binding Catholic doctrine, just that in and of itself, the Compendium looks like it’s not binding.

    That being said, I think that what you’ve posted from the Compendium is very poignant and pertinent to the condition of things in the USA right now.

  2. Leon Suprenant October 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    True, they’re not identical in the way they were promulgated. The Compendium was created at the request of the Holy Father (JPII at the time) to give an overview of the Church’s social teaching that is both concise and complete. It was done under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican.

    As an aside,when the project began, the president of that office was Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, one of the most amazing prelates of the 20th century (he served as an effective bishop in Vietnam despite years of imprisonment). In my estimation, subject of course to the Holy Spirit working in and through the Church, he will one day be recognized as a saint.

    Anyway, you’re right–the authority of the document is based on the authority of the underlying teaching/documents. What the Compendium does is synthesize and summarize a lot of material so that the average Catholic can find the teaching in one place.

    • Nicole October 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      I believe that the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a great reference source of the Church’s social doctrines. It’s always nice to be able to pick up one book and have it point you to pretty much all the sources, rather than poking around Papal document after document in the hopes that you’ll find something that may be relative to one’s search.

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