Social Reality and Social Commitment of the Church

Prof. Fr. X. D. Selvaraj 


I was asked to speak on ‘Social Reality and Social Teachings of the Church’ but after reading the works of Cardinal Cardijn, I felt that his speech made way back in 1951 is prophetic and fits the contemporary reality. Therefore, I asked the organisers to change the topic as ‘Social Reality and Social Commitment of the Church’. 


When we talk of reality today, it is highly complicated. Therefore, the response also should be multi-pronged. We have to address the reality from a different angle. Reality behind American model of imperialism has proved to be wrong. Globalization is nothing but profit economy. Jesus said that you can’t serve two masters. In the same way, we cannot serve two systems. ‘ 

‘Consumerist culture’ imposed by globalization makes consumption as the sole part of identity. Globalization promotes a culture of ‘death’ and not ‘life’. Political policies are administered through ‘culture’. Mass media administers the world to serve ‘globalization’. 

Let us look at the two pillars of globalization, i.e. privatisation and liberalisation. In this context, if you look at religion, it is being made ‘private’. Religion is projected as a private thing, i.e. something between you and God. For example, the Pentecost religion reinforces this type of privatisation of religion. Religion is not only privatised but also liberalised. 

We must realise that there is no salvation outside the poor (Luke 14:18-19). Take the case of Zachaeus. When Jesus came to his house, he underwent a transformation and look at the changes in his life. He gave what he had to the poor; he felt the need to stand for justice when he said he will repay four times the amount, if he had cheated anyone and finally human dignity is restored. 

In the globalized world, the food we eat is poison; the water we drink is poison; the air we breathe is poison. ‘Tsunami’ is one of the manifestations of ecological destruction by humanity. 

We also witness another dangerous tendency of strengthening the police forces and the military in countries. The military coming into the country, as we witness in India during elections, etc. is very dangerous. Military knows only to ‘kill’ and police force is trained to enforce ‘law and order’. 

Society consists of individuals put together. But in this society, the individual is made to believe that only ‘buying’ gives an identity. ‘I consume, therefore I am’. In this consumerist society, people who cannot afford to buy are crucified and they are allowed to die. Globalization has waged an invisible war on the poor. This type of area of ‘dispensation’ is the worst part of globalization. If you are poor, you have no place in the society; you have no right to live because you are not useful in this type of economy. 

Talking of education, we all know that education is commercialized and the present day education is aimed at producing people to suit market economy. Market economy is projected as the ‘new temple’ and in this temple; globalization is the ‘new altar’. Money is the ‘new God’ and the poor are the ‘victims’ in this market economy. MNCs and TNCs are ‘new priests’ in this economy. 

Let us ponder over what is said in the Bible about this context. Sirach Chap.34:20-22 says: ‘He lifts up the soul and makes the eyes sparkle; he gives health and life and blessing. If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods, the offering is blemished; the gifts of the lawless are not acceptable.’ This reinforces my statement that there is no salvation outside the poor. Gospel is good news to the poor. 

There are also advantages of globalization. But the question is: who enjoys the fruits of globalization the most? 

Social commitment of the Church 

Vatican II was an ecumenical Council. It was a Council comprising of two trends, i.e. old mindset and new ideas. 

What is happening in the Church today is a reversal of what happened in Vat. II. Those who opposed or rejected Vatican II, for instance Pius X Society people, are taken back in the structures of Vatican. They will not allow the ‘laity’ to come up. 

The ‘sex scandal’ in Germany, Ireland and U.S. are baffling and raises many questions within the Church. 

We must never forget that the ‘Holy Spirit’ always brings people from the margin of society to save the society. We must device new ways and means instead of always confronting. Only then we can push forward our ideas and involvement to bring about change. 

Mission of the Church 

Basically, ‘Church’ is missionary. Basic orientation to priesthood is baptism and confirmation. In that sense, all of us are priests because, we are baptized and we received confirmation. But many in the Church will not recognise this. 

The basic ministry of the priest is to make the laity to fulfil their 3 fold function, i.e., priestly, kingly and prophetic. 

The major impediment for participation of the laity is the appropriation of non-clerical functions by the clergy. This needs to be reversed to enable active participation of the laity in the Church structures. 

To conclude, I would stress that ‘lay people are the voice of the world in the Church and the voice of the Church in the world’.