Social Action & Justice
What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
Three major themes run through scripture and Catholic social teaching. A core theme is that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God and has an inalienable human dignity and worth. Derived from this core theme are two further themes. These are the rights and duties that are proper to human persons and the freedom and responsibility that underpin these rights and duties. In more recent times there is growing awareness of the application of these three themes to both human persons and the whole of God’s creation.
Themes of Catholic social teaching
Ten themes of Social Justice give expression to the human worth and dignity of each individual made in the image and likeness of God. These are:
- Respect for the human person;
- Preferential option for the poor;
- Political and economic rights;
- Promotion of the common good;
- Political participation;
- Economic justice;
- Global solidarity;
- Promotion of peace.
Dimensions of Justice
A Catholic Christian understanding of justice has emerged from the Biblical tradition. This rich Biblical understanding portrays a just society as one marked by the fullness of love, compassion and peace. Catholic social teaching makes a distinction between three dimensions of basic justice: commutative justice, distributive justice and social justice. Commutative justice calls for fundamental fairness in people’s dealings with one another. Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth and power in society be evaluated in light of its effects on those whose basic material needs are unmet. Social justice obliges people to be active and productive participants in the life of society and insists that society has a duty to enable them to participate in this way (Economic Justice for All, 1986, n.68-71).
An additional, essential element of justice in a Catholic or ecumenical school is the application of the principles and processes of restorative justice. These are evident when school communities search for solutions that promote, reconcile and rebuild right relationships with God and with one another.
Social action is the striving to bring authentic moral values to the organisation of society and to the social institutions - educational, economic, political - by which society functions (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, nn.2426-2436).
Social action brings into sharp focus Jesus’ vision for the coming of the Kingdom of God where sinfulness, brokenness and injustice are transformed and peace and harmony are restored. For Catholics, social action finds its foundation in the scriptures, particularly the Gospels and in the Church’s Social Teaching.
Applying social action and justice requires two important dispositions: empathy (the capacity to stand in the shoes of another) and solidarity (the capacity to walk with another). Catholic and ecumenical schools work to build these dispositions in students through programs for service learning, social justice programs and outreach experiences. Social action and justice in schools have a particular connection with knowledge and skills from the social sciences. Foundational to the social sciences are: notions of continuity and change; democratic process; participation; stewardship; sustainability; peace; justice; cultural diversity; inclusion; power; resources and social systems. Schools plan, implement and reflect upon experiences of social action and justice, drawing on the social sciences, scripture and Catholic social teaching.
The Religious Life of the School P-12 identifies three elements of social action and justice; justice in the school community; action for justice; and reflection on action for justice.