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New Catholic social teaching document

Later this year, the Bishops of England and Wales plan to produce a new social teaching document. Before the document is drafted they are holding an initial consultation.

The Bishops want to produce an accessible document that is directed to an audience beyond – as well as within – the Catholic community. The document will not be exhaustive. It will seek to present clearly the essence of Catholic social teaching and also its application to some – but only some – of the issues facing our society today. It will seek to do so in a way that makes clear that this teaching is an integral dimension of the Gospel message, which is always rooted and founded in a life of prayer. They will therefore be seeking to convey the spiritual core of the Gospel message as the foundation and orientation of everything they say. The consultation document and Archbishop Peter Smith’s cover letter are now available below

Catholic social teaching: Archbishop Peter Smith’s covering letter (pdf)

Catholic social teaching: Consultation document (pdf)

The Bishops have invited those wishing to contribute to read/download the document and feed through any comments/responses to their dedicated email address has been set up for responses:

One practical means of implementation of Catholic Social Teaching is through the replacement of existing taxation systems, which are punitive and reward honesty and hard work, with a tax based on the annual rental value of land.

It may not be appropriate for the Bishops to advocate such a reform since practical matters of this nature are for the laity to address. Perhaps one should not expect the Bishops to be doing so since they are operating at the higher level of morality. However, it seems reasonable for the Bishops to draw attention to

  • the essentially immoral nature of the tax system, which has managed to deceive the majority of people into believing that it is fair, since it is ostensibly, though not in actuality, related to ability to pay. Taken together, the tax and benefits system rewards idleness by rich and poor, is burdensome on the ordinary honest hard-working people in the middle, and cracks down on those at the bottom who attempt to climb out of their condition of dependence. “Wicked” and “immoral” are not excessively strong adjectives to describe what is happening.
  • those parts of Catholic Social Teaching which deal with the God-given nature of the surface of the earth and its riches, emphasise the difference between that which is God-given and that which is man made, and refer to the duty that owners of God-given property (ie land and natural resources) have to the community at large.

If the forthcoming document makes these points strongly, the laity should be able to work from that point and come to their own conclusions.