Redemptorist says "ghetto" piety sidelining social justice

Fr Bruce Duncan, who coordinates social justice studies at Melbourne's Yarra Theological Union, has said that a renewed stress on older forms of piety is reflecting "a deepening cleavage within the Catholic community over the place of social justice in the ministry of the Church".

CLICK HEREOnline Catholics reports today that despite the Church's long and solid record of commitment to social justice, many Catholics are unaware of the Church's social justice tradition.

Catholic bishops have been releasing statements on issues of social and economic concern since the 1940s, most recently for Social Justice Sunday last weekend.

The Online Catholics report asks whether the problem is a lack of effective education and promotion, or whether there are there more underlying problems.

It quotes Fr Duncan, one of Australia's leading Catholic social teaching scholars: "There is a deepening cleavage within the Catholic community over the place of social justice in the ministry of the Church and the faith of Catholics."

Fr Duncan, who co-ordinates the social justice studies program at Melbourne's Yarra Theological Union explains: "In recent years, more conservative groups have wanted to down-play social justice in the mission of the Church, as if it were a distraction from authentic Christian living, or at least a very secondary aspect.

"Instead we see a very heavy stress on older forms of piety or devotionalism or mass displays of Catholic numbers. This seems to reflect a return to the old ghetto strategy, of circling the wagons in a hostile world, combined with a heavy stress on Church authority.

"This cleavage is reflected at many levels of the Church, and even in Rome. Debate revolves around the interpretation of [the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on] The Church in the Modern World and the social encyclicals, which are generally ignored or down-played by the conservative wings, except for the morals of sexuality and family life," Fr Duncan asserts.

Teaching social justice (Online Catholics 28/9/05)

28 Sep 2005