Courtesy Reuters

The Catholic Church and Social Progress

THE distinction between the things that belong to Cæsar and the things that belong to God is fundamental for the Catholic conscience. It guarantees the liberty of the spiritual in regard to the temporal, of the Church in regard to the State. But this distinction is not a separation: divine must cooperate with human things. From this viewpoint the introduction of the Gospel into history has not simplified man's affairs. But it has quickened the movement of history and given it direction.

Further, according to the Catholic conception, the Church is truly a City (an organized community) of divine origin, the Kingdom of God in a state of pilgrimage, a complete society organized in accordance with its own laws and with its own hierarchy, in which authority descends from on high, to teach souls and direct them towards salvation. This City, one and universal, is spread among the nations and cities of men, whose nature and diversities it respects.

The end, finally, towards which this City leads its members is supernatural -- an entry into the life of God. Its common good is eternal life. Its concern is not the terrestrial life of men, not the conflicts, disputes and problems of the temporal order, not political and social progress, not the organization of happiness here below. The Church is not uninterested in all these matters. It cannot fail to be interested. On the one hand, by reason of the connections between the natural and supernatural orders, the mission of the Church is to watch over the integrity of the principles of natural reason, natural law, and over social as well as individual morality. On the other hand, and in virtue of a kind of superabundance which is a consequence of the law of the Incarnation, the Church brings to the world a boon which flows into the terrestrial life of men; this is of primary import for their political and social progress and for their attainment of a happier existence

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