Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Fall 2012 Idaho Dominican Colloquium: Social Doctrine of the Church.

On May 27, 1537, Pope Paul III issued his encyclical entitled Sublimus Dei that addressed the Church’s social doctrine with regard to the Indians in the New World. Indeed, the Americas were a new country with peoples not yet seen or experienced by the Christian realm. They were called “Indians.” The Pope concisely and unambiguously stated the Church’s position on the new peoples in the New World. He made three points: (1) “that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but . . . they desire exceedingly to receive it[;]: (2) that even though the Indians live “outside the faith of Jesus Christ; [ ] that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property[;]” (3) that the Indians should not be “any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect[;]” and, (4) that the “Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”

This early expression of the Holy Gospel and the Church’s social doctrine finds that the Christians should respect and permit the Indians to enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property and that any enslavement would be nullified. He urged Christians to convert the Indians by their holy example.

The history books are brimming with examples of sorrowful stories and events where the American Indian was not treated rightly per the papal instructions--before and after they were conquered. The one thing that impresses me is the papal admonition warned Christians to respect the Indians as fellow human beings and their respective and equal rights to liberty and to property. They were not to be enslaved. As human beings, the rights to liberty and to property were necessary to the independence and honor of the Indians and to the economic freedom to provide for themselves and their families.

The focus here is on social justice, the ability of men and women to be free, to own property, and to enjoy the fruits of labor, and to provide in charity for the less fortunate in their respective communities. These principles are no different today in the modern world of the 21st Century. Human dignity demands that life be respected, that law regard no difference between humans regardless, among other things, of their ethnic, racial, or economic background, and that liberty is key to that human dignity; and laws that are grounded in liberty and the natural law and that no man is above the law.

The concept of “Social Justice” is a big subject but the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is based on the wise counsel of Jesus Christ and His Church and not on the ideologies and political platforms of this World. It is toward the end of justice, adhering to what is good and right, and with the goal of ordered liberty, and freedom under law, that the Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic, dedicates its coming Idaho Dominican Colloquium on the Social Doctrine of the Church in the Fall of 2012. The exact date and place will be announced at a later date.

What is a Colloquium? The term “colloquium” is a conference or seminar in which a particular subject or topic is discussed. Unlike many a conference or seminar in which people simply listen to guest speakers, a colloquium invites dialog and discussion among many people. This Colloquium will focus on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and its effect upon Idaho and the modern world.

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