Our Understanding of Justice
During the past twelve years which have brought us into contact with hundreds of the most deprived and excluded people in Ireland we have developed a deeper consciousness of what is involved in working for justice - a “marrow bone” knowledge and experience. The suffering, hardship and injustice experienced by many people and the resistance of others to acknowledge this reality have forced us to personalise and concretise the following ideals, values and concepts.
Why a Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice?
- A response to our belief in the Fatherhood of God.
- A response to the person, life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John. 10.10.
- Acceptance of the core message of Jesus – the Kingdom of God
- A sense of solidarity with people who experience poverty, injustice and exclusion.
At the heart of Vincentian Spirituality are two people – Jesus Christ and Poor Person.
Understanding of Justice:
- A harmony which comes from right relations
- Relations with Self, God, Others and the Environment.
Working for Justice:
- Seeking to change whatever causes poverty and injustice.
- Focusing on social and economic structures.
Vision of a Just Society:
- Concerned with the distribution of goods and services within a community and the relationship among its members.
- A just society is one in which all have
- An adequate income to live with dignity.
- Appropriate accommodation
- Access to education, health, social and legal services.
- Participation in decision making
- Cultures respected
- Environment promoted.
Our vision of a just society is also spelt out in the key principals of Catholic Social Teaching which is founded on the teaching of Jesus Christ.
1. The dignity of human person.
2. The social nature of human person.
3. The common good is inseparable from the good of persons
4. Solidarity of the human family.
5. Participation as a basic human right.
6. Subsidiarity as a rule in social organization.
7. The dignity of work.
8. The universal purpose of material goods.
9. The special claim of people who are poor and vulnerable.
10. Ecological responsibility which flows from the dignity of creation.
Convictions Reinforced by Experience
Our efforts to date and our engagement with people who are socially and economically excluded from enjoying the benefits of our new material wealth have deepened the following convictions about the meaning of discipleship, the importance of understanding the society in which we live and of working for change.
- Much of the activity and thinking of Jesus would remain unintelligible if he had not been deeply moved with compassion for the poor and oppressed. The people to whom Jesus turned his attention are referred to in the gospels by a variety of terms – the poor, the blind, the hungry, those who labour and are over burdened etc. To acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is only meaningful in so far as we try to live as he lived and to order out lives according to his values.
- The beginning of faith in Jesus then is the attempt to read the signs of our times as Jesus read the signs of his times.
- Searching for the signs of the times in the spirit of Jesus then will mean recognising all the forces that are working against humanity as the forces of evil…………… There is a power that can resist the system and prevent it from destroying us. There is a motive that can be stronger than the profit motive. There is an incentive that can mobilise the world, enable the “haves” to lower their standard of living and make us only too willing to redistribute the world’s wealth and population. It is the same drive and incentive that motivated Jesus: compassion and love.
(adapted from “Jesus Before Christianity”, Albert Nolan, Orbis Press 5th Printing 1996.)
- All social systems must be evaluated by what they do to and for the dignity of the person.
- To advance social justice we must have an understanding of the type of social situation within which we live.
- The importance of keeping alive a gospel vision of justice, peace and love.
- The willingness to continue the effort to change the structural causes of poverty and exclusion.
- The need for our personal conversion and for communal conversion. Our personal/communal fears and selfishness are the chief causes of injustice.
- The need to address what Brueggemann (1992) calls “the voices of the night – the power of unreason that pervades and often shapes our common life”.
- The acceptance that it will be the rightness of the effort to work for justice rather than its success which will keep us motivated and committed.