A central theme of Judaism as instructed in the law of Moses and the preaching of the prophets is that of social justice. As we have seen in recent Sunday Mass readings from the prophet Amos, concern for the poor (both generously sharing our resources with them and seeking to correct unjust business practices, laws, and structures) is a matter of great importance for anyone who is claiming to worship the God of Israel. In fact, the prophets promise doom for those who are indifferent to the suffering of the poor. A central theme of Judaism, which we find in the Law of Moses and the preaching of the Prophets is that of social justice. While the expression “ social justice ” does not occur, “ justice ” and “ righteousness ” are words which are frequently used. As we have seen in recent Sunday Mass readings from the Prophet Amos, concern for the poor (both generously sharing our resources with them and seeking to correct unjust business practices, laws and structures) is a matter of great importance for anyone who is claiming to worship the God of Israel. In fact, the prophets promise doom for those who cause the suffering of the poor.
There are other elements to social justice which one sees in the writings of the Law, the Prophets and in the Psalms, including: equal justice for all before judges (avoiding bribes and bias), avoiding harassment of foreigners and exploitation of workers, access to credit, honesty, and a general concern for orphans and widows, who were the vulnerable members of society.
Anyone who is truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, will follow these teachings, doing our best to be righteous in all our conduct, including our civic involvement. There is some legitimate range of opinion, (i.e., prudential judgements) as to what the problems are, what the biggest priorities are, and how best to address them. No political party, no candidate, nor any elected official is officially endorsed by the Church. Catholics need to look at human rights, their own assessment of what is actually happening in our society, and the candidates and the propositions that are up for vote, and then they must vote their best to promote a just society as Christians. Of course, they should seek to be informed, and try to help by works of charity. They must also take part in the social/political sphere to see that human rights are respected and to make the world a better place.
Where then does the abortion issue fit into all of this? The U.S. Bishops have said in recent years that protecting innocent human life from abortion is a central social justice issue. How is concern about abortion social justice? It has to do with protecting the human right to life by our structure of laws. Simply hoping that the life of an innocent baby is not unjustly taken, or promising not to do it ourselves, is not enough (just like hoping that employers will be fair and just in their hiring and treatment of employees is not enough!). We must work together to protect the human right to life, not only in our works of charity (which are always important), but in the way we vote. Is abortion the only issue? No. Is it a central one for any Catholic? Yes, definitely.
May the Lord guide us in all we do to protect human life from conception to natural death.