In Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, the U.S. Catholic bishops call all of Jesus’ disciples to be instruments of God’s grace and creative power through the decisions and choices we make every day. This is an excerpt from the statement.
Catholicism does not call us to abandon the world, but to help shape it. This does not mean leaving worldly tasks and responsibilities, but transforming them. Catholics are everywhere in this society. We are corporate executives and migrant farm workers, senators and welfare recipients, university presidents and day care workers, tradesmen and farmers, office and factory workers, union leaders and small business owners. Our entire community of faith must help Catholics to be instruments of God's grace and creative power in business and politics, factories and offices, in homes and schools and in all the events of daily life. Social justice and the common good are built up or torn down day by day in the countless decisions and choices we make. This vocation to pursue justice is not simply an individual task -- it is a call to work with others to humanize and shape the institutions that touch so many people. The lay vocation for justice cannot be carried forward alone, but only as members of a community called to be the "leaven" of the Gospel.
Our families are the starting point and the center of a vocation for justice. How we treat our parents, spouses and children is a reflection of our commitment to Christ's love and justice. We demonstrate our commitment to the Gospel by how we spend our time and money, and whether our family life includes an ethic of charity, service and action for justice. The lessons we teach our children through what we do as well as what we say determines whether they care for the "least among us" and are committed to work for justice.1
Workers are called to pursue justice. In the Catholic tradition, work is not a burden, not just how we make a living. Work is a way of supporting our family, realizing our dignity, promoting the common good, and participating in God's creation. This means often doing the ordinary well, making the most of our talents and opportunities, treating others fairly and with dignity, and working with integrity and creativity. Believers should be encouraged to choose their work based on how they can best use the gifts God has given them. Decisions made at work can make important contributions to an ethic of justice. Catholics have the often difficult responsibility of choosing between competing values in the workplace. This is a measure of holiness. Associations that enable workers, owners or managers to pursue justice often make the witness of the individual more effective.2
Owners, managers, and investors face important opportunities to seek justice and pursue peace. Ethical responsibility is not just avoiding evil, but doing right, especially for the weak and vulnerable. Decisions about the use of capital have moral implications: Are they creating and preserving quality jobs at living wages? Are they building up community through the goods and services they provide? Do policies and decisions reflect respect for human life and dignity, promote peace and preserve God's creation? While economic returns are important, they should not take precedence over the rights of workers or protection of the environment. Investors should examine ownership, management, and economic decisions in the light of the Catholic call to protect life, defend those who are poor, and seek the common good. These decisions promote human dignity or undermine it.3
As consumers, believers can promote social justice or injustice. In an affluent culture that suggests that what we have defines who we are, we can live more simply. When we purchase goods and services, we can choose to support companies that defend human life, treat workers fairly, protect creation, and respect other basic moral values at home and abroad. We can also make conscious efforts to consume less.4
All human beings have unique talents, gifts from God that we are called to develop and share. We should celebrate this diversity. People who use their skills and expertise for the common good, the service of others, and the protection of creation, are good stewards of the gifts they have been given. When we labor with honesty, serve those in need, work for justice and contribute to charity, we use our talents to show our love--and God's love--for our brothers and sisters.5
As citizens in the world's leading democracy, Catholics in the United States have special responsibilities to protect human life and dignity and to stand with those who are poor and vulnerable. We are also called to welcome the stranger, to combat discrimination, to pursue peace, and to promote the common good. Catholic social teaching calls us to practice civic virtues and offers us principles to shape participation in public life. We cannot be indifferent to or cynical about the obligations of citizenship. Our political choices should not reflect simply our own interests, partisan preferences or ideological agendas, but should be shaped by the principles of our faith and our commitment to justice, especially to the weak and vulnerable. The voices and votes of lay Catholics are needed to shape a society with greater respect for human life, economic and environmental justice, cultural diversity and global solidarity. Catholic involvement in public life and legislative advocacy are important ways to exercise responsible citizenship. Participation in politics is a worthy vocation and a public trust. Believers who serve in public office have unique responsibilities and opportunities to stand up for human life and dignity, to pursue justice and peace, and to advance the common good by the policies, priorities and program they support or oppose.6
At the end of Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, the bishops urge Catholics to:
Pray regularly for greater justice and peace.
Learn more about Catholic social teaching and its call to protect human life, stand with the poor, and care for creation.
Reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disabling conditions.
Live justly in family life, school, work, the marketplace, and the political arena.
Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing more time and talent.
Give more generously to those in need at home and abroad.
Advocate public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God's creation, and build peace.
Encourage others to work for greater charity, justice, and peace.
1. On the Family, Pope John Paul II
2. On Human Work, Pope John Paul II, No. 5
3. Economic Justice for All, A Catholic Framework for Economic Life, U.S. Catholic Bishops
4. Economic Justice for All, A Catholic Framework for Economic Life, U.S. Catholic Bishops
5. To Be a Christian Steward, U.S. Catholic Bishops
6. Octogesima Adveniens, Pope Paul VI; Political
Excerpts from Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice © 1998 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.