The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them.
Mark 14: 7
Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs. The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity.
The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God's plan for man.
Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.
A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good. Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.
Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits.
It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.
I once had an interesting conversation with a conservative friend. We were talking about the Obama administration and Israel. He chided me for citing an article from Ha'aretz, saying that Ha'aretz is a left-wing paper. Now this is true as far as it goes. Even so, it struck me as a bit odd, as if left and right wing views are somehow universal.
The reverse has happened too. A commenter from the UK once expressed surprise that my views would be considered radical here; that socialism is such a loaded word in American politics. The idea is similar. In a country with socialized medicine, for example, support for it or opposition to it is not a necessary part of left or right wing views.
It's true, for American political dialogue, I identify myself as a socialist. Though the label isn't perfect, it's convenient. It gives people a quick, general idea of where I stand. On the other hand, I am not a member of any political party, socialist or otherwise. My so-called socialism derives not from Marx or Lenin, but from Catholicism.
I often hear Mark 14:7 quoted in opposition to things like a minimum wage, a minimum income, progressive taxation, welfare programs and the like. The idea is usually that we are called to personal charity only; that attempts to address the needs of the poor on a societal level are not only futile, they somehow deprive us of an opportunity to do good works. Progressive taxation in support of such goals is seen as "mandated charity."
Yes, personal charity is important. Personal charity cannot, by definition, be mandated, but it goes beyond that. Before any question of charity is the issue of justice. "The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity." "Man is himself the author, center, and goal of all economic and social life. The decisive point of the social question is that goods created by God for everyone should in fact reach everyone in accordance with justice and with the help of charity." (CCC, 2459)
Am I a socialist? A radical? That depends on who you ask. What I am is Catholic. For some, that's even worse. But there it is.
As far as American politics are concerned, I am a socialist. I accept that label. It's accurate enough, but it isn't the whole story. I don't spend much time thinking about Marx or Lenin. I don't curl up with a copy of The Communist Manifesto.
No, my politics come from another book entirely.