8 June 2005
One simple definition describes social justice as "right relationships between people".
Over the last century there has been a growing understanding of the need to see these "right relationships between people" in global terms rather than just in our local area or within our own nation.
According to Catholic Social teaching the struggle to build a world based on "right relationships" is based on a number of principles that have been developed over time. The following summary of those principles is taken from the website of the Social Action Office of the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in Queensland.
1. The Dignity of the Human Person
Human beings are created in the image of God and, therefore, are endowed with dignity. This inherent dignity carries with it certain basic rights and responsibilities which are exercised within a social framework.
2. The Common Good
While the dignity of the human person is affirmed, individuals live in common with others and the rights of individuals must be balanced with the wider common good of all. The rights and needs of others must be always respected.
Human beings are social by nature and do not exist merely as individuals. When considering the human community it must be remembered that it consists of individual and social elements.
This principle recognises that society is based on organisations or communities of people ranging from small groups or families right through to national and international institutions. As a rule of social organisation, subsidiarity affirms the right of individuals and social groups to make their own decisions and accomplish what they can by their own initiative and industry. A higher level community should not interfere in the life of a community at a lower level of social organisation unless it is to support and enable.
5. The Purpose of the Social Order
The social order must uphold the dignity of the human person.
6. The Purpose of Government
The purpose of government is the promotion of the common good. Governments are required to actively participate in society to promote and ensure social justice and equity.
Individuals and groups must be enabled to participate in society.
8. The Universal Purpose of Goods
The world's goods are meant for all. Although the Church upholds the right to private property this is subordinate to the right to common use and the overall common good. There is a social mortgage on private property.
9. The Option for the Poor
This refers to seeing the world through the eyes of the poor and standing with the poor in solidarity. This should lead to action for justice with and on behalf of those who are poor and marginalised.
10. The Care of Creation
The Earth is God's gift and all species have a rightful place in it. Humans share this habitat with other kind and have a special duty to be stewards and trustees of the Earth.