Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Archbishop: Church's Christian Anthropology Is Basis For Social Teachings

By Sean Gallagher, Catholic News Service
CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The Catholic response to today's widely debated societal issues -- from abortion to immigration to racism -- must be rooted in the church's fundamental teaching about human dignity and the "destiny of the human person," said the archbishop of Indianapolis.
    In a pastoral letter addressed to the clergy, religious and lay Catholics of central and southern Indiana issued Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said he explores a number of issues widely debated in society from the perspective of Christian anthropology, which he described as "the way Christians view human dignity and the end or purpose of human society."
    Catholics' response to issues such as immigration, abortion, racism, religious liberty and drug abuse, Archbishop Thompson said, should be "deeply rooted in the church's understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of the human person as revealed in Jesus Christ."
    "Where we come from, who we are and where we are headed as individuals and as diverse communities of people," he noted, "determines our rights and responsibilities in human society."
    "We Are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology" is the first pastoral letter  Archbishop Thompson has issued since he was installed as the shepherd of the archdiocese July 28, 2017.
    The Catholic Church's Christian anthropology, he wrote in the letter, serves as the basis for its social teachings, which emphasize the equal dignity of all people as being created in the image and likeness of God. It favors helping those on the margins of society as the "the least of these, my brothers and sisters," with whom Jesus identified himself, he said quoting from Chapter 25 of St. Matthew's Gospel.
    Archbishop Thompson went on to show how these teachings apply well to immigrants, migrants and refugees, who come to the U.S. seeking relief from "economic, political or religious strife."
    God, he wrote, "loves them and considers them to be his precious children.
    "What's more, God has challenged us to welcome them as guests, not reject them as aliens, and he has told us in no uncertain terms, 'Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do to me,'" the archbishop said, again quoting from St. Matthew's Gospel.
    While acknowledging that drug abuse is "a very complex and difficult problem that is broadly and deeply embedded in our society," Archbishop Thompson wrote, "we must act in ways that are consistent with our baptismal responsibility to bring the healing power of Jesus Christ to all who suffer."
    In seeking to uphold the dignity of all and to serve those on the margins of society, Archbishop Thompson wrote that maintaining the religious liberty of all is vital.
    "When religious liberty is threatened or denied," he noted, "all human rights are jeopardized and the inalienable dignity of every human being is called into question. ... Professing religious faith should not make a person a second-class citizen. While religion is personal, it is never private."
    In concluding his letter, Archbishop Thompson wrote that "Catholic social teaching is as rich and diverse as the people it is intended to protect and defend."
    "As Christians and as citizens, we can disagree about how best to apply these principles in specific situations by means of laws, regulations or public policies," he said, "but there can be no doubt that these principles are grounded in the truth about the human person as known by the light of reason and by divine revelation, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
    "In a spirit of solidarity and hope, may we learn to love and serve one another (even strangers and enemies) as Christ has loved us," Archbishop Thompson noted.