The contribution of the Church community

The Church community, meanwhile, has this mediating role: “to take her stand beside the poor, to discern the justice of their requests, and to help satisfy them, without losing sight of the good of groups in the context of the common good.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis -“Social Concern” (1987), paragraph 39). The fundamental option of the poor thus has practical political implications for the Church and its members, even though it is not the business of its clerical leaders to outline programmes for government or economic development.

This apparent smudging of the boundaries between church and society, between religious and secular and between public and private is given an interesting further twist in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published by the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace in 2004. In its discussion of solidarity it, not surprisingly, follows in large measure (and often word-for-word in quotation) the treatment given by John Paul II but here the language of conversion is applied to institutions. Since these are enmeshed in the ‘Structures of Sin’ previously identified by JPII, “they must be purified and transformed – so says the Compendium – into structures of solidarity through the creation or appropriate modification of laws, market regulations and juridical systems.”(Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, London, Burns & Oates, 2004, 99 (paragraph 193)). That requirement, of course, applies as much to the Church’s structures as to any other organisation of human beings. Another question to ponder, then (whether in our work with young people or on our own): What needs purification and transformation in order for the Church in which I minister to be truly a ‘structure of solidarity’?