In a political atmosphere where religious rhetoric is debated daily, one Catholic group says they aim to clarify how a Christian should serve the world according to Catholic principles.

Bob Nalewajek, the president of Centessimus Annus Pro Pontiface USA, and Archbishop Claudio Celli, a member of the Council for Public Affairs of the Church, discussed the basic principles of Catholic social teachings Thursday at St. Thomas More, where they outlined the benefits of many religious ideals to society.

“Catholic social teaching primarily comprises of a set of principles for reflection, aiming to evaluate the framework of society itself and to provide criteria for judgement,” Nalewajek said.

To apply these issues, Nalewajek said reflection, evaluation and action are all key.

Nalewajek said the individual is asked to reflect on human rights, the interdependence of human beings and what he called subsidiarity — placing the interests of the individual before those of the state. Democratic governments operating within a free-market economy best serve these ideals, he said.

“[The free-market economy] leads to better resource utilization,” he said.

Nalewajek admitted that, despite their benefits, free markets are also plagued by serious problems, the largest of which are the marginalization of third-world countries and the negative effects of consumerist culture in the developed world. The best way to aid the third world is to remove trade barriers by promoting political stability and eliminating corruption, he said.

To solve the equally important problems created by consumerism in Western societies, Nalewajek said life should be seen as a work to be accomplished and not as sensations to be experienced.

“Religion and morality are indispensable supports, as is commitment to solidarity and family,” Nalewajek said.

Celli said man’s true identity in society is only revealed to him through faith. He said the world order has been reversed and all principles have been shaken at their foundations.

“The increasing emphasis placed on the individual leads to a weakening of the social order,” Celli said.

Celli said this phenomenon in turn causes social indifference and isolation, and the future of Christianity is also at stake.

“The authority of the church is replaced by that of the state,” he said. “State authority is in turn replaced by the anonymous authority of common sense. We are all becoming robots.”

Celli said ethics should not be defined by rationality and rules of efficacy, but there should exist some type of anthropological and ethical subjectivity. He referred to big cities as “the crowds of the lonely,” saying that without ethics, individuals cannot engage in meaningful interpersonal exchange.

“Our times are difficult for faith,” he said. “Man is reduced to a work animal.”

To change our present condition, Celli said we should focus on moral laws that could lead to better results in the long run. He also said flexibility is more important than strict adherence to principles.

John Gaynor, who attended the event, said he was impressed by the quality of the speakers.

“They were very interesting,” he said. “They addressed issues that I have never seen addressed in church before.”

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