Derived from love, Catholic social teaching serves as guide

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | August 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

Message from Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I consider it a great privilege that for the second year in a row I will present the Leading with Faith Awards to individuals from this archdiocese who have distinguished themselves by reason of their outstanding contributions to our community.

This is the 15th year The Catholic Spirit has honored individuals whose willingness to bring their faith and Gospel values into the workplace has been recognized by their co-workers or colleagues. After reading the stories that are shared in this special section about this year’s recipients, I am eagerly looking forward to meeting them and learning more about their inspiring example.

The Church clearly teaches that there should be a connection between what we believe and how we act in the marketplace or workplace. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council cautioned that a “split between the faith, which many profess, and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age” (“Gaudium et Spes”). All of us are called to conduct our lives in accordance with the social doctrine of the Church, a body of teaching based on the application of ageless moral principles to the concrete circumstances of the modern world.

Those social teachings, building upon the doctrine articulated by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (on capital and labor), and explained in greater detail in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004), directly impact the life of Catholic business leaders.

The foundation of all of Catholic social teaching is the great commandment of love: Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has identified seven themes in our Catholic social doctrine that flow from that great commandment, all of which are demonstrated in this year’s recipients:

Life and dignity of the human person

Central to our Catholic understanding is the belief that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and deserves to be respected and supported from conception through natural death. That core understanding naturally has an impact on the way we treat employees, customers, vendors and competitors. Pope Francis continues to teach us that we need to recognize that people are more important than things.

Call to family, community and participation

As taught at the Second Vatican Council, we were created to be social beings, and unless we relate ourselves to others, we can neither live nor develop our potential (“Gaudium et Spes” 12). For Catholic leaders, it means that what they do has to be evaluated in terms of the impact it has on families and on how it advances the common good.

Rights and responsibilities

Pope Francis has noted that, “What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices.” The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected, and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, the true Catholic leader has to act in a way that recognizes that every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.

Option for the poor and vulnerable

Scripture teaches that God has a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, and Pope Francis teaches that all of us, business and community leaders included, need to imitate that concern.

Dignity of work

“Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, ‘anoints’ with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who always acts.” “We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work.” A Catholic who leads with faith has to uphold  the dignity of work and the basic rights of workers.


St. John Paul II clarified that solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people. . . . On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all (“Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,” on social concern). More recently, Pope Francis has explained that solidarity “presumes the creation of a new mindset, which thinks in terms of community and priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few” (149). We truly are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be, and this needs to shape the way that Catholic leaders work, define their goals and relate to others.

Care for God’s creation

Catholics who lead with faith show respect to the Creator by their use of creation, as we are reminded in Pope Francis’ ground-breaking encyclical, “Laudato Si’.” In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature,” for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. The world that God created has been entrusted to all of us. How we relate to creation reflects our willingness to participate in God’s ongoing creative plan.


Category: Leading With Faith