CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING (CST)
CST uses scripture, the intellectual tradition of the Church, and the lived experience of human beings to express “the principles for reflection, the criteria for judgment and the directives for action which are the starting point for the promotion of an integral and solidary humanism.” There are many ways of organizing and listing the themes of CST, but we officially recognize these 5 as a starting point:
- Human dignity - This is the Foundational principle of CST and rooted in the Biblical idea that all human beings are sacred, “made in the image and likeness of God.” Every person - unconditionally and irrevocably - is worthy of respect and never reduced to a finite value. Simply being human establishes one’s dignity, so human beings are never means, and only ends in themselves. Though individuals have dignity, individualism has no place in Catholic thinking; we are always individuals in community.
- Solidarity - This principle calls us to understand ourselves as always individuals in relationship with others. We are both sacred and social. If dignity precludes individualism, solidarity precludes a crass communalism where the individual is lost in the masses. Each of us is embedded in communities and complex webs of relationships so we share in responsibility for the whole, the common good.
- Participation & Association - Embedded in the principles of human dignity and solidarity is the idea that as social beings, humans have certain rights and responsibilities. By virtue of our humanity we associate in groups (families, clubs, schools, economies, cultures, societies, etc.) and have a natural human right to participate in those groups (converse freely, vote, disagree, buy and sell, organize to exert influence, etc.) and take responsibility for them.
- Subsidiarity - This is the most misunderstood of the principles of CST and guides who should take direct responsibility for responding to social problems or injustices: the lowest or most simple competent authority as possible, but also the highest or most complex necessary, given circumstances. Subsidiarity helps us understand the role of various levels of society from the individual to the Nation State and beyond.
- Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable - Often called simply “the preferential option,” this principle helps us prioritize our limited resources (time, energy, money, etc.). In the Gospels, Jesus displays both a universal love of all human beings and all creation and a preferential love of those human beings who are poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. We should do the same. Love everyone and everything, but do so “opting” first for those who need it most.
THE CRITICAL CONCERNS
The Sisters of Mercy were founded out of a deep concern for persons who are poor. Today, that commitment is focused in five enduring and “critical concerns” that we address through prayer, attention to personal, communal and institutional choices, education, and advocacy. Though there are many social injustices in our world, at Mercy High School, San Francisco, we commit to focusing our efforts both in and out of the classroom directly to these concerns:
- Earth - We believe in the need to work toward the sustainability of life and support movements and legislation that secure the fundamental right to water for everyone, and that address climate change. That leads us to examine our own behaviors and policies and to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.
- Immigration - We reverence the dignity of each person and believe everyone has the right to a decent home, livelihood, education, and healthcare. We look at the root causes of immigration, including policies that contribute to the economic and social conditions that push people to flee their countries, and the global impact of migration.
- Nonviolence - We work for peace through prayer, education, and personal and communal practices of nonviolence. We support nuclear disarmament, reduction of arms, and the use of dialogue instead of armed conflict. We work to prevent domestic violence and abuse of women and children, stop human trafficking and reduce violence in our communities.
- Racism - We believe racism is an evil affecting us all - our nation’s “original sin.” We work to dismantle institutional racism in order to become an anti-racist multicultural community. We advocate for the voting rights of marginalized Americans and for a fair criminal justice system, and point out racism wherever it exists.
- Women - We believe that women’s education, health and spirituality need special attention. Our world needs more women questioning the status quo to tackle the biggest, most pressing challenges of our time. There has never been a better time to support the education, passions, and voices of women and girls.
THE 4 STYLES OF SOCIAL DISCIPLESHIP
As a Catholic, Mercy school, we endeavor to foster disciples. Discipleship is the complex personal and communal “living out” of the choice to respond positively to Jesus’ call to follow him. Biblically, discipleship expresses itself in two fundamental ways: worship (i.e. “right relationship” with God) and justice (i.e. “right relationship” with ourselves, others, all of creation). We welcome those in our community who are not Catholic, as but we call everyone to live justly because we recognize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Not everyone will be drawn to working for justice in the same way due to skill, interest, and circumstance. So we teach and promote 4 cooperative and complementary “styles of social discipleship”:
- Poets - Also knows as the “narrative” style of social discipleship, social injustices and/or needed social changes are illuminated through gathering and telling evocative stories.
- Prophets - Also known as the “prophetic” style of social discipleship, social injustices and/or needed social changes are exposed through making visible, public indictments.
- Ponderers - Also know as the “ethical” style of social discipleship, social injustices and/or needed social changes are deliberated through developing rational principles and and the furthering of intellectual research and discourse.
- Practitioners - Also known as the “policy” style of social discipleship, social injustices and/or needed social changes are addressed through implementing practical steps within existing structures.
The requirements for leading today are different from what they once were and since 1970, the Center for Creative Leadership has engaged in continuous, world-wide, research and refinement of leadership approaches. The result is an understanding of leadership liberated from the myth of the lone charismatic hero. Rather, well-lead organizations possess 3 fundamental characteristics: Direction, Alignment, Commitment (DAC). There isn’t “a” leader making leadership happen. The actions, interactions, reactions, and exchanges of every member of the school produce the DAC.
- Direction - Agreement on what the collective is trying to achieve together
- Alignment - Effective coordination and integration of the different aspects of the work so that it fits together in service of the shared direction
- Commitment - People who are making the success of the collective (not just their individual success) a personal priority
Service is a fundamental practice of every Mercy school and reflects our commitment to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But as Pope Francis Reminds us “True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice” (Audience on 9/10/2013). So we strive as a community to always work for mercy and justice and to fully integrate the practice of service into every aspect of the life of the school. We do so always guided by the notions of simplicity, community, humility, and reflection.