The Passionist contribution to Catholic Social Teaching
As a Catholic religious community the social principles and positions that we Passionist affirm are always consistent with the teachings of the Universal Catholic Church. Our Church offers us the basic social principles from its authoritative interpretation of Scripture and tradition. However we also recognize that in analyzing its position on social issues our Church prudently studies these issues with existing experts in the field and well recognized think tanks. The Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace is part of the Roman Curia and its mission is to study the social issues that affect the Church and the global human community with great detail. So we respect the teachings of our Church and the social positions that it has with knowledge that the principles are rooted in faith and the positions are well analyzed to realistically promote the social vision of our faith. The social positions and principles for us Passionist will be consistent with the teachings of our Church.
Based on this one could legitimately ask, “What can the Passionist contribute to the social issues of our time separate from what the universal Church already proclaims?”
The Passionist, like so many other religious communities of the Church, contributes to the social teachings of our Church in two ways. On the one hand we have a specific spiritual perspective that is based on the charism that we have from our founder. This lens can often offer us a deeper perspective on any social issue in that it places the issue within the specific Christian spirituality that is the hallmark of our community. In the case of the Passionist community we reflect on issues from the perspective of Christ’s suffering and Passion. The Passionist Constitutions explain this spiritual perspective in this way:
We are aware that the Passion of Christ continues in this world until He comes in glory; therefore we share in the joys and sorrows of our contemporaries as we journey through life toward our Father. We wish to share in the distress of all, especially those who are poor and neglected; we seek to offer them comfort and to relieve the burden of their sorrow. The power of the Cross, which is the wisdom of God, gives us strength to discern and remove the causes of human suffering.
Our spirituality looks at social issues from the perspective of redemptive suffering. Our devotion to the Passion constantly reminds us that the social Passion that Jesus suffered was not in vain. Coupled with the Resurrection we know that through the power of God the suffering of humanity can be redeemed if we journey with God and place all our suffering within the framework of establishing the Kingdom of God. Through the mystery of incarnation Jesus took on our suffering. Obviously we know that does not mean that suffering has been eliminated. Instead it means that God continues to walk with us in our suffering. This has been recently expressed by Pope Benedict XVI 2007 encyclical titled Spe Salvi:
Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’s Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises.
Our spiritual focus then is to examine all social issues from the vantage point of redemptive suffering. We identify with the very real suffering that is happening. We then reflect on how we can find meaning in the midst of this real experience of suffering. This search for meaning will call us to reevaluate the national and global policies that are affecting the suffering community that we are walking with. We then advocate redeeming society from these negative social or economic policies in a way that can heal the social wounds that they are directly or indirectly causing.
The second way that the Passionist contributes to the Catholic social position is through our direct ministries of service. We are called to be in solidarity with the human community that is suffering. That call to solidarity means that we are expected to have a real ministry of presence and service to the community that is suffering. Since suffering can be experienced in so many different ways, our lay and vowed community can serve this mission through any variety of programs. When we advocate and promote social positions of our Church it is important for us that we do not raise these principles and positions from a theoretical framework. So we raise the real ministry experience of our international community who serves the population whose suffering we are addressing at the moment.
In the next few weeks we will be sharing our spirituality and ministerial experiences over the issue of immigration. Afterwards we will continue addressing other Catholic social issues but always from these two ways. We will share from the spiritual reflection of our charism and from the ministry experience of our communities.