Catholic social doctrine emphasizes the role each individual plays in contributing directly to the common good. Pope Francis also addressed this in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where the Holy Father addressed both institutional as well as individual failings to serve the poor.
Certainly, the question of how to help the poor is not an issue which is being ignored by secular society. It is often contentiously debated, pitting policy makers and commentators against each other. However, through all the debate surrounding the best policies to improve the lives of the poorest among us, it is often easy to forget the calling that Catholics have to advocate for and live according to Catholic social doctrine.
The following question, taken from A Catechism for Business, serves as a reminder that we are all called to support Catholic social doctrine and promote the common good.
Who bears responsibility for fulfilling the principles of Catholic social teaching?
“The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society… is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation ‘in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.’” –Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 29 (quoting John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 42)
“The first act of the Christian business leader, as of all Christians, is to receive; more specifically, to receive what God has done for him or her. This act of receptivity, particularly for business leaders, can be particularly difficult. As a group, business leaders tend to be more active than receptive, especially now in a globalized economy, under the effects of sophisticated communications technologies and the financialization of business. Yet without receptivity in their lives, business leaders can be tempted by the quasi-Nietzschean “superman” complex. The temptation for some is to regard themselves as determining and creating their own principles, not as receiving them. Business leaders may only see themselves as creative, innovative, active, and constructive, but if they neglect the dimension of receiving, they distort their place within the world and overestimate their own achievements and work.” – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vocation of the Business Leader, 66
“It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity ‘to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.’” –Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2442 (586) (quoting John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 47)