Officially beginning its activities this evening is the Academy of the Social Doctrine of the Church of Staggia Senese organized by the local ‘Amici del Timone’ Cultural Center together with our Observatory. The theme for this first encounter is “The Social Doctrine of the Church as proclamation of Christ in temporal realities”. Nonetheless, before delving into that subject, allow me to say something brief by way of a presentation of the sense and finality of this Academy. The best way to begin is for all of us to be clear about what we plan to do. In fact, I have to say that the structure of this Academy is very particular. Once upon a time it would have been considered normal, but today it may be considered unusual or even out of place.
In order to explain what I mean I’ll try to engage in a question simulation exercise by asking myself what our Catholic religion would be if the Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC) did not exist or if people thought they could do without it. Let’s try to answer this question.
If the SDC were set aside there would be nothing in the middle between the Church and the construction of the world. In fact, Benedict XVI wrote that the SDC is situated where the Church encounters the world. Catholics would live and be active in the world all the same, but, we could say, without an organic “plan”, without a project telling them which ends they are to pursue, which principles to abide by, and which endeavors to undertake or not. They would therefore be acting with faith alone, with the Gospel alone, but without a doctrinal corpus made up of both principles of faith and principles of reason. They would act like Protestants, who have only the faith and neither the teachings of the Church nor the principles of natural moral law, or like the laypersons who have nothing other than their own convictions and subjective interests.
Catholics would act each in their own way in an unobtrusive and anonymous manner according to their own conscience, and hence in a manner subject to being influenced, variable and even inconsistent, with the danger of falling into ideological snares and serving causes other than their own. Their presence would be piecemeal, split into countless individual pieces. Their presence as Christian people would no longer be visible; everyone would go their own way, militating in all possible parties, under all possible banners, and doing so for all possible causes, even lost causes.
How often have we asked ourselves: what are we to do with Catholics who vote in favor of inhuman laws? And who don’t realize that the ultimate aim behind the approval of laws against nature is to launch an attack against Christianity: denying nature makes it impossible to even conceive what falls in the realm of supernatural. What are we to do with Catholics like that? Catholics who never appear to be so?
The Social Doctrine of the Church is the encounter of the Church with the world in order to serve the world by ordering it according to God’s designs. There is no other way to truly serve the world. Now, if the SDC disappears it means the Church has stopped thinking about the duty to construct the world according to the plan of God. The Church thinks it has to serve the world in other ways: treating and healing wounds, tackling emergencies, dialoging, attending to and accompanying forms of frailness. . . .but no longer with the nerve to contribute to lawmaking, institutions, and well-working structures.
If the SDC fades from sight it means the Church feels by now that the claim of commitment with a view to consistent political participation is tantamount to transforming faith into ideology. And yet this is precisely the way to transform faith into ideology at the blink of an eye. Out of respect for both the laicity of politics and the world’s autonomy, people deny the Social Doctrine of the Church, but in so doing they become the blind bedfellows of all the causes in this world and even become quite conversant in that language. Without the SDC the Church runs the risk of becoming world!
Therefore, grave are the dangers stemming from our hypothetical simulation about the SDC either not existing or being disregarded. But is this really a word game? Or is this the way things really stand? If a faithful layperson whishes to engage in personal formation in the Social Doctrine of the Church in a profound and systematic manner, where should he turn? We have to be realists: the SDC is being denied or set aside.
Here we have the reason for this Academy being inaugurated this evening. It is one of the few opportunities people have for information about and organic formation in the Social Doctrine of the Church. For the moment I have nothing else to say. From these few word of mine all of you will certainly have understood the dire seriousness of the moment we are living and the need for commitment on our part.