“In the final analysis, man without God becomes inhuman. Without God we cannot construct a society worthy of man, as the atheistic regimes of the XX century so sorely experienced” (pg. 8). Thus does Professor Martin Schlag – professor of Social Doctrine at the Pontifical University of the Sacred Heart (PUSC) – explain in the preface to this catechism-form synthesis of the Compendium SDC the sense of this work intended for the general public at large. In twelve, brief, question-and-answer chapters it recaps the social teaching of the Church also in light of the more recent documents of the Magisterium regarding themes not present in the Compendium of 2004 (e.g. Caritas in Veritate ed Evangelii Gaudium). After having clarified that in social doctrine it is charity, and therefore the supreme divine commandment of love, that drives the preaching and the mission of the Church, this book sheds light on what are still the more controversial aspects of social evangelization, such as, for example, the relationship between nature and super-nature. “the supernatural is not to be understood as an entity or a space that begins were the natural ends, but as the elevation of the latter, such that nothing of the order of creation and humanness is extraneous to and excluded from the supernatural and theological order of the faith and grace, but rather is recognized, assumed and elevated” (pg. 24). Precisely on this level, however, it is well known that certain currents of weak thought – which entered into theology as well – mixed up the ambits to no little degree, even reaching the point of publically defending laicism and therefore the process of dechristianization on the basis of premises grained with religious integralism (staying in Italy, just think about the recent parable of Dossetism). Another particularly timely consideration is suggested by Gregorio Guitiàn in the fourth chapter devoted to the principles of the social doctrine, when he remarks that one of the most urgent problems in public life today, especially in the west, is the progressive waning of a correct understanding of justice, which is the outcome of a “contractual consideration of justice, looking on it as nothing more than a human convention: just would be what is determined by law, the outcome of agreement of all concerned. Nonetheless, “what is just is not originally determined by law, but by the profound identity of the human person” (pg. 59), quoting as well the words of Pope John Paul II in the encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis of 1987.
Likewise interesting is the following chapter dedicated to the theme of the family (“Life and love: the Gospel of the family”), which over the last few decades has been at the center of an unprecedented cultural and juridical crisis as regards the policies, decisions and behavior of our top brass. After having recalled that the family insofar as a natural society is “the first and vital cell of society” (pg. 61), and that it is therefore naturally at the center of social life as well, underscored is what is now lacking in so many and all too many European civil and political institutions, even though enshrined in national Constitutions, and this is the fact that “both the State and civil society are called on to acknowledge this priority of the family from a cultural and a political point of view, as opposed to the mentality of individualism” (pg. 61). Regarding the institute of matrimony and the exclusive specificity proper to it, and evoking the numerous references to it in the Compendium, clearly summarized in the following terms is the Christian vision of human love: “Civil or state law should be consistent with natural law: the latter recognizes that only a man and a woman, by virtue of an exclusive and indissoluble relationship, are able to form a family and hence unite in matrimony. Since the family is the first and vital cell of society, pertaining to society is the task to protect it and promote it, both for the good of the spouses and their offspring, and for the stability of society, which links the concrete possibility of its selfsame existence, at least in terms of procreation, to the family itself. This is the reason why divorce and common law unions constitute a grave threat for the human person and for the foundations of society. Society may therefore regulate the civil effects of matrimony, but may not abolish the right to matrimony or modify its characteristics” (pg. 62).
Following this are various chapters on the issues of labor, development, peace and international dialogue, human rights and the conservation of creation, each of which presented in an orderly fashion in equally basic and timely terms, while ever remaining in the perspective of being as reader-friendly as possible. Commendable as well are the closing pages of this book with sundry digressions into the most recent issues of global attention: from warfare to disarmament and the challenges of terrorism, just to mention a few, while without forgetting – focusing on that authentic, necessary and non negotiable compass of the Social Doctrine that is the promotion of human dignity on the universal level – that, more than ever before, this “implies first and foremost the affirmation of the inviolable right to life, from conception to natural death, the first among all rightsnand the condition for all the other rights of the person (CSDC 553). Moreover, respect for the dignity of the person demands recognition of the religious dimension of man, which is factual recognition of the freedom of conscience and the religious freedom of individuals and institutions. In the current cultural context, singularly urgent is the commitment to defend the indissoluble matrimony between a man and a woman, and the family”.
M. SCHLAG (editor), Economia e società: le sfide della responsabilità cristiana. Domande e risposte sul Compendio della Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa (Economics and society: the challenges of Christian responsibility. Questions and answers about the Social Doctrine of the Church), Edusc, Roma 2015, Pp. 124, Euro 13,00.