The Justice of Jesus and the State
By Noel Bentley
The purpose of this article is to make some observations on a number of significant features of Catholic social doctrine which is grounded in the Justice of Jesus, and the application of social justice principles in our nation’s socio-political environment.
The Justice of Jesus is rooted in his unconditional love for all humanity – always expressed through the balance between his Infinite Mercy and his role as Divine Judge.
His Justice is most fully expressed in the Beatitudes: “…Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied…” (Matt:5: 6).
There are of course, numerous examples of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels including His signs to help the poor and disadvantaged … as servant to them.
Key elements of the Church’s social teaching include the following core tenets: that:
(a) humankind is created in the im- age and likeness of God;
(b) the human being is created with free will and is called on to order their life to the common good in accordance with Divine Law;
(c) human beings are social entities created not only for a loving relationship with God but also for a familial relationship with one another;
(d) every human being has an inherent dignity which must be respected if they are to realise their full potential. (See Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Ch 3)
Pope Benedict XVI tells us that the Church has 3 primary functions:- to worship God, to provide care and support for the poor and marginalised, and to evangelise.
Pope Francis also refers to the importance of evangelisation with his message that the poor are not only those who have insufficient for their material needs, but those who have not received any instruction on the Gospel message (‘existential poor’).
It is also important to re- member that the Church’s social justice doctrine emphasises the centrality of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity with the poor (See CSDC, Ch 4), for them to be able to live with dignity, exercising their rights and responsibilities for the common good as respected members of the Australian community.
The State has taken on a significant role in the support of the poor and marginalised as a part of its range of services to the community. But the
Church’s pursuit of social justice for the poor (through its direct service programs and also its lobbying efforts with the State) is much more comprehensive than anything the State can achieve on its own.
The Commission carries out its role with prayer as the source of its inspiration and spiritual energy: similarly with parish social justice groups.
To a significant extent, however, the Commission pursues its mission in a secular political environment where there are limited competing resources being distributed amongst government community service agencies, often determined by political pressures.
It is reasonable to expect then, that Church and State priorities in this area will at times, be out of sync with one another and this can cause some frustration amongst protagonists.
Notwithstanding this, it remains one of the primary goals for all working for social justice within the Church, that Her social doctrine is recognised by the broader community as that inspired by the Gospel message of Jesus.