As you enter the chapel/church for Mass this weekend you will be handed a copy of the 2017-18 Social Justice Statement. I urge you to take a copy and to read it. It considers matters that affect all of us.
Pope Francis has called for an economic system that places the human person at the very centre – one that meets the needs of all people and is just and sustainable. He denounces economic structures that take a purely utilitarian view of human beings, treating them as mere elements of production, to be thrown away if they are not seen as useful or productive.
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2017–18 is titled Everyone’s Business: Developing an inclusive and sustainable economy. In this document they call for an economy that is founded on justice and offers dignity and inclusion to every person. The Bishops’ Statement is built around the Gospel for this Social Justice Sunday. Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where all are active contributors and are recognised for their human dignity.
Australia has experienced a quarter of a century of continuous economic growth, but the benefits of this good fortune have not been distributed equally. In our workplaces, conditions and security of employment have been eroded, while those who are unemployed subsist on incomes well below poverty levels. Australia is experiencing a housing crisis. And our Indigenous brothers and sisters struggle with economic and social burdens that most Australians cannot imagine.
In the light of these challenges, the Statement calls us to build an economy founded on true solidarity with those who are most vulnerable. Such a society will reject an ‘ideology of the market’ that forgets the principles of justice and equity. Justice must be built into the very foundations of our community, and business can work for everybody’s benefit, not just for shareholders. The excluded and vulnerable must have a voice in decision-making. God is calling us to use his bounty wisely, for the good of all and of our planet.
There is a temptation for all of us to think these matters are too big, too complex and best left to others. A close reading of the Statement will alert us to how relevant the matters considered are and how they influence all aspects of our life as Australians. I suggest the question we might ask ourselves is: what can I do and what ought I to do?