Welcome to our fourth edition of Salt and Light, the Quarterly Review of St. John Vianney’s Social Service Ministries. In this issue of Salt & Light, we are turning our attention to one of the basic principles of our Church’s social doctrine: The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. To understand this teaching, we must first ask ourselves “who are the poor and vulnerable?” In Jesus’ time, the poor and most vulnerable were often referred to in Scripture as widows, orphans, the disabled such as the blind, the sick such as lepers, and strangers. This can be said to be true today as well. However, we can probably add many more categories of poor and vulnerable people to this list. Most notably, in our society today, our most vulnerable members are often our unborn children who are at risk of losing their lives due to the legalization and proliferation of abortion. Strangers in our land–refugees and immigrants, particularly child immigrants–are also an extremely vulnerable population in our world today. Children who are faced with violence and threats of death and abuse within their own countries of origin are putting themselves in another type of danger by undertaking perilous journeys across land, sea, and national borders, often unaccompanied by adults to protect them, to escape their present living conditions. We could also add to this list: the sick, the dying, mentally ill individuals, and very often, our elderly who are forgotten and neglected. We should also never forget those who may appear to be wealthy or powerful, but who are poor in spirit. As human beings, we are all poor in one respect or another.
To enlighten us further about our Church’s teaching on “The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable,” we asked Fr. Nathaniel Haslam to record his thoughts on this topic in video format. Fr. Nathaniel points out that Jesus is the starting point for the Church’s teaching on the Poor and Vulnerable. Jesus lived his life on earth as a poor man. He embraced a life of poverty to identify himself with the poor and vulnerable. I urge you to view Fr. Nathaniel’s inspiring video (embedded below) addressing this topic. Fr. Nathaniel invites us each to “step out of our comfort zone and go out to meet Jesus.”
Because Catholic Social Teaching about the poor and vulnerable is unfortunately often confused or mistakenly equated with socialism, in this issue of Salt & Light, we have included two articles to clarify this misunderstanding. Fr. Robert Sirico writes about “Not Whether to Help the Poor, But How.” In this article, Fr. Sirico examines the difference between life and justice issues within Catholic moral theology. Fr. Sirico argues that both issues are important, but they require different kinds of moral analysis. For example, abortion and laws that permit abortion are always evil because this involves “the intentional destruction of an innocent human life.” Conversely, it is not necessarily sinful to oppose governmental welfare programs for the poor or resist social programs intended to benefit the poor, but which it may be argued can do more harm than good. Such action would not involve the direct and intentional taking of a human life. However, serving the poor and vulnerable cannot be dismissed as inconsequential to the life of a Catholic. Every Catholic is required to meet his/her obligation to the poor. Fr. Sirico concludes, “A Catholic may not disregard the Church’s teaching to assist the poor and vulnerable; to do so would be to neglect the words and example of Christ Himself. It would be, in effect, to deny the Faith.” As the title of the article implies, there is no question about whether or not we as Catholics are required to serve the poor. It is inherent in Jesus’ teachings that this is required of all of us. The question is, instead, “how does each one of us follow Jesus’ teaching to serve the poor?”
To further illustrate the difference between Catholic Social Teaching and socialism (as well as other political ideologies), we’ve also included a review of Anthony Esolen’s book, “Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching.” Esolen’s book serves as an excellent introduction to Catholic Social Teaching as well as an interesting discussion of how its core principles relate to modern interpretations of liberalism or conservatism in the U.S. today, and ultimately defy categorization. The core principles of Catholic Social Teaching are not primarily concerned with such things as governments, economics, politics, and legislation. Instead, the social doctrine of our Church promotes a respect for human life, human nature, natural human relationships, and an understanding of human good that should inform all our individual actions as well as our politics.
In anticipation of our nation’s Independence Day and to conclude the Fortnight for Freedom, we have included sections in this Salt & Light issue on Faithful Citizenship and Strengthening Catholic Identity. We are pleased to share more reflections from our parishioners in this issue. Parishioner Pat Guzman reflects upon Religious Liberty while parishioner Maria Sotolongo reflects upon Catholic identity and the family. If you like to write and are interested in sharing reflections or reviews related to our Church’s social doctrine or the Works of Mercy, please contact Vivian. We love our parishioner contributors!
We invite you to join us in our Quarterly Reviews as we continue to explore contemporary issues that are relevant to the Catholic Church’s social doctrine and the Corporal Works of Mercy, and to review our Church’s rich history in both words and actions in the arena of social justice. We hope that the various contributions that we share here will be informative, relevant, and useful to each of you as you live out your Catholic faith day by day. Stay tuned for much more to come!
As we approach the end of the Fortnight for Freedom and our July 4th celebrations, please don’t forget to pray for our nation, our leaders, and our religious liberty. Happy 4th of July!
Peace and Blessings,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp-stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” ~ Matthew 5: 13-16
In this issue of Salt and Light Quarterly Review:
- The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The Preferential Option for the Poor by Father Nathaniel Haslam
Not Whether to Help the Poor, But How
Catholic Social Teaching isn’t Socialism
- Faithful Citizenship: Standing Up for ‘The Most Cherished of American Freedoms’
A Reflection on Religious Liberty by Pat Guzman
Book Pick for the Fourth and Fortnight
- Strengthening Catholic Identity Through the Family
Why Fathers Matter
I am My Father’s Daughter by Maria Sotolongo
- Living Faith, Changing Lives, Making a Difference: One Person at a Time
Quarterly Report from the Social Services Ministry
Living Faith, Changing Lives, Making a Difference:
One Person at a Time
Quarterly Report from Social Service Ministries
The mission of the Social Service Ministries at St. John Vianney Catholic Church is to act on Catholic Social Teaching and our commitment to the Corporal Works of Mercy by providing a compassionate response to those parishioners and families in our community in need of assistance.
In addition to providing our regular services, over the past three months we have turned our focus to assisting parishioners and those around Harris County whose properties and/or livelihood were affected by the devastating floods. Read More.