WASHINGTON (October 25, 2004) –- The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a first of its kind document that "had no precedent in the Church's history," according to Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The long-awaited document is "an instrument for fostering ecumenical and interreligious dialogue on the part of Catholics with all who sincerely seek the good of mankind," the Cardinal said.
Speaking at the Holy See Press Office where the Compendium was released today, the Cardinal said the Church's social doctrine must be "known, lived, and propagated." Work on the document, published in both Italian and English, began at the Pontifical Council five years ago under the presidency of the late Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
Cardinal Martino said the Compendium is dedicated to Pope John Paul II who, in the 1999 Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America," recommended that "it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine…which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization."
Over 500 pages in length, the volume opens with a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State.
Cardinal Martino said the drafting of the Compendium was not a simple undertaking. Besides the lack of historical precedent, he explained, other complex problems had to be dealt with, including the need to give the document a unified and universal dimension, notwithstanding an unlimited variety of social realities in the world, and "the desire to offer a teaching that loses nothing of its luster over time, in an historical period marked by very rapid and radical social, economic and political changes."
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has an introduction followed by three parts. The first part deals with the fundamental presuppositions of social doctrine—God's plan of love for humanity and society, the Church's mission and the nature of social doctrine, the human person and human rights, and the principles and values of social doctrine. The second part deals with the contents and classical themes of social doctrine—the family, human work, economic life, the political community, the international community, the environment and peace. The third part contains a series of recommendations for the use of social doctrine in the pastoral activity of the Church and in the life of Christians, above all, the laity. The Conclusion, entitled For a Civilization of Love, expresses the underlying purpose of the entire document.
Cardinal Martino stressed that the Compendium "is made available to all—Catholics, other Christians, people of good will." It is "an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time, a guide to inspire,…and an aid to the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality." It is also, he said, "an instrument for fostering ecumenical and interreligious dialogue on the part of Catholics with all who sincerely seek the good of mankind."
The Cardinal cited "certain decisive challenges of great relevance and importance" to which it is hoped the Compendium will respond: "First is the cultural challenge, which social doctrine deals with by keeping in mind its constitutive interdisciplinary dimension…The second challenge arises from ethical and religious indifference and the need for renewed interreligious cooperation…The third challenge is a properly pastoral challenge. The future of the Church's social doctrine in the modern world will depend on the continually renewed understanding of this social doctrine as being rooted in the mission proper to the Church…It depends on the renewed understanding, therefore, of how this doctrine is connected with all aspects of the Church's life and action."
The Compendium of the Church's Social Doctrine is expected to be published in this country by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).