Page 4, 11th May 1990

11th May 1990
Page 4
Page 4, 11th May 1990 — Social teaching

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Social teaching

I MUST congratulate you on your series "Christian living today" (April 27 and May 6). Catholic social teaching has indeed been neglected hence the title "our best kept secret". This must surely account for the church being a little out of touch on certain social issues.

In so many instances Catholic social teaching is spoken of as if it began with Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) and so I was glad to see Brian Davies (April 27) refer to Old Testament writers and the gospel as source material.

However, the Jewish law as found in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy must be included, particularly in the teaching on the care of the homeless ("you shall love the homeless stranger as yourself" Leviticus 19:34). Moreover the bulk of all this earlier teaching, together with that of the fathers, is still to be found in the vast corpus of canon law of the mediaeval church. The relevant sections are largely to be discovered in what is called the Decretum, and a complete record of teaching from the time of the early church is outlined in the Concertia Discordantium Canonum.

This evidence gives ample witness that the mediaeval church had a poor law infinitely more compassionate than that drawn up in the reign of the first Elizabeth.

Fr Mark Elvins Brighton

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