Bishop Hying

Catholic Social Teaching call us to transform world into civilization of love

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on June 5, 2016   


      One of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church is the richness of her social teaching, the broad and expansive vision of the human person, the justice, peace, mercy, rights and responsibilities which flow from the reality of the Kingdom of God as a properly ordered comm of love and goodness.     The 1971 Bishops’ Synod, dedicated to building justice and peace in the world, declared that the struggle for justice is a “constitutive dimension of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” This social reality of our faith is rightfully a principal theme of our upcoming synod.

      When I did mission work in the Dominican Republic, the president of the country visited our parish once during the election season and attended Mass. He was in my comm line, right behind a poor little boy who was dirty and barefoot. They lived in different worlds but, at that moment, they were radically one, brothers in the Body of Christ, equally loved and important. 

      The fact that one went back to his palace and the other to a hut reveals the injustice and sin of the world, but more importantly, how our experience of the Eucharist is the source of the Catholic vision for the social order. The Lord calls us to transform the world so that our politics, economy, culture and community reflect the justice, peace, mercy and joy that we experience at Mass.

      Catholic social teaching embraces seven basic principles which serve as a foundation for all of our work to transform the world into a civilization of love. The first and most fundamental one is a profound respect for the dignity of the human person.

       Created in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, every single person has an absolute value as a child of the Father. This conviction roots the Church’s passion to protect and lift up the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the disabled, children and all who are marginalized and fragile. No one can ever treat another person as a thing or a means to an end.

     Every person and society has rights and responsibilities, including the right to life, food, education, culture, health care, free speech, participation in society and politics, work and freedom from violence and abuse. We also have the responsibility to work, contribute to the common good, vote, serve others, especially the marginalized and respect the lives of others.  Our individualized American culture often seems more comfortable asserting rights than responsibilities and the common good. The Church holds up both as necessary and pivotal.

      The call to community and active participation in the life of society is an integral part of being fully human. We are not isolated individuals living in a vacuum, but rather brothers and sisters who benefit from and contribute to a richly complex network of social relationships. 

      Marriage and family is the primary human community in which each individual becomes fully human through a comm of love, service, faith and sharing.  In this context of the common good, the dignity of work and the rights of workersis a fundamental component. In our Catholic tradition, work is not simply a necessary evil but rather a sacred action of service which participates in the creative work of God himself.  Economy, production and work all flourish to serve the needs of the human person, not the other way around.

      St. John Paul II, and now Pope Francis, have reflected often on the virtue of solidarity and the preferential option for the poor. As followers of Christ, we are called to sacrificially serve the most vulnerable and needy, giving what we can so that everyone can live their full humanity with dignity and joy. 

      The Catholic Church feeds more hungry people, cares for more sick people, educates more children and serves more persons who are trapped in poverty than any other institution on earth. We do this because we see ourselves as servants of the human person, who was created by God and redeemed by Christ. 

      Another integral part of Catholic social teaching, connected to our love for the poor, is a concentrated care for the environment, the beautiful world of nature that God has entrusted to us as a sacred obligation of stewardship and fruitfulness.

      When I witness the remarkable variety and quantity of good work done in our diocese by our people who generously and perseveringly live out our Catholic social doctrine, I feel amazed, inspired and grateful.  From meal programs and food pantries to prison ministry and care for the sick; from defending life in the womb to life on death row; from building up marriages and families to advocating for the unemployed and the homeless, our parishes, schools, priests, deacons, religious orders, thousands of lay faithful, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, youth, Knights of Columbus and countless others, both inside the Church and alongside her, daily build up the Kingdom of God, create a civilization of love, add to the joy, love, mercy and justice in the world and help to narrow the gap between the life we experience in the Eucharist and the reality of our society. 

      My fervent prayer is that the upcoming synod will inspire us to do even greater and bolder things for the glory of God and his beloved poor.


      + Donald J. Hying


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      For more information on the 2017 diocesan synod and Bishop Hying’s pastoral letter, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” go to

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