11  - Additional aspects of Justice, particularly Social Justice

Seeking Franciscan Perfection
A Reflection on the Franciscan Life by Fred Schaeffer, SFO


Part 11  - Additional aspects of Justice, particularly Social Justice


In this part, I will speak on Social Justice. In a Vision Paper by the Damietta Initiative, a Franciscan Initiative of the Capuchin Order, they wish to have an African Continent that is
non-violent, tolerant, conciliatory, respectful towards all creatures, and environmentally sustainable. A continent that respects the dignity of difference while revitalizing the spiritual search for values that will enable it to shape multiple “dialogues of a civilization” and non-violent alternatives to prophecies of impending clashes. They seek to awaken religious imagination among peoples in Africa to think of a future culture of peace permeating the continent. In this vision of Africa, every church, every mosque, every synagogue, every temple and other sites of worship will be dedicated to the embodiment of nonviolence in terms of tolerance, reconciliation and respect for creation.

Social Justice is the means to bring equal rights to all persons, all over the world, and as the Franciscan orders state that all people are to be regarded with dignity and love, Franciscans have a definite stake in the field of Social Justice.

Urbanization in the USA has dispersed inner-city employment, resulting in a lot of inner-city poverty and unemployment. To provided for inner-city people, many Catholic and, particularly, Franciscan Churches are involved in inner-city feeding programs for the poor and unemployed. This is particularly the case in large cities, such as Detroit, New York City, Chicago, etc.

Young People (Youths) in Inner-city environments are often involved with Cults and Gangs, and participate in the illegal use of drugs. From such use come higher crime rates. Franciscans and also diocesan clergy are hard at work with programs for Youths. That's even the case in smaller towns, where young people may be involved with "Youth on a Mission" and similar programs.

We're trying to provide equal treatment for women in the workplace, equal pay for the same work done as men. They are still being discriminated against in cultural, economic, political and social life.

Getting a just wage for the work performed - some employers consistently pay minimum wage, and in sure areas of the world, well below that.

There is still Racial Discrimination in some parts of USA and in the world in general. That is a Social Injustice that we must seek to solve.

Illegal Immigrants are a big problem in USA. Someone said the other day, we don't have 12 Million handcuffs - if we cannot deport them, then we have to find some way to keep them. The Catholic Church believes they should be protected and be treated with dignity.

Employment in USA has been sent overseas because labor costs are much cheaper in China, and other Far East countries. We have to find a way to bring some of this employment back to USA so that all workers who are not working now can find a job.

The Environment is in awful shape, Global Warming mostly caused by man, pollution and waste, and as a result bad diseases, cancer, new illnesses. We have an obligation to try to solve some of these tragic concerns. Going "Green" is a responsibility we should all take seriously.

So we have a lot of work to do. The Catholic Church in a Synod of 1971 developed an important position paper on the Church's tradition on Social Justice, entitled "The Practice of Justice" (Pope Paul VI).

Blessed Are the Peace-Makers
"St. Francis [of Assisi] lived the beatitudes of our Lord. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" was the wellspring of his sanctity. "Blessed are the Peace-Makers" was the light of his apostolate. Because these words were in the Gospel, he wanted them to be a special rule of life for all this brothers and sisters. Since the time of Francis, the greeting of Franciscans has been "Pax et Bonum!" "Peace and all good things to you!" "Peace and Goodness!" The memory of Francis can add a rich warmth to this greeting among Franciscans.¹"

Franciscans wear their habits. The priest and brothers (friars) wear a long habit with a white cord or cincture (or a Roman Collar and suit, when traveling in a secular country). Franciscan sisters wear habits too, and Secular Franciscans traditionally wear a TAU Cross. Since many other people also wear these crosses as pendants, not every wearer of this symbol is necessarily a Franciscan, but at least we can evangelize that we do follow the Rule of Saint Francis.

The reason I bring this up, however, is to emphasize that by wearing these garbs and/or symbols, we have an obligation which we have humbly accepted, to see that all peoples are treated in a Socially Just manner. So one can ask a Franciscan, what have you done lately, for the downtrodden?

We should make a special effort in this area of ministry or apostolate, be is as individuals or as fraternal groups. There is one thing we can do, all of us. If we see an unjust situation which cries for resolution, we can try to seek such a resolution or pass the problem on to higher authority, either some form of government, or prayer for the cause! We can always pray, and very often that is the best solution.

In the 12th Part of this series, I will reflect on Fraternal charity and other considerations. 

May you have joy in your heart and prayer on your lips.

Fred Schaeffer, SFO
Article #11, 11/07/2008, 2014

1. "The Third Order Vocation" Leonard Foley, OFM and Jovian Weigel, OFM.1976 Published by St. John the Baptist Province of the OFM (my writing follows the subjects in this books, to guide me along a certain path in this writing).



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