Acton Institute Powerblog

Philip Booth: How we can reclaim ‘social justice’

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The term “social justice” has a richly developed history in Christian thought, with application for every level of society. However, activists with less-than-heavenly aims have invoked the phrase to justify their activism, from Fr. Charles Coughlin to modern-day antifa rioters. At Religion & Liberty Transatlantic today, Philip Booth, says the misapplication of this term impoverishes all of society – both literally by inspiring counterproductive economic policies and figuratively by depriving citizens of their proper role in bringing about social justice.

Booth, a Catholic scholar and a senior fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), writes:

[W]hen it comes to social justice itself, it is quite clear that this it did not relate to some grand plan to redistribute income according to pre-agreed principles. Like the virtue of solidarity, social justice is the responsibility of every member of society and every organisation in society. Perhaps this is even clearer in the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris, which states, “In reality, besides commutative justice, there is also social justice with its own set obligations, from which neither employers nor workingmen can escape.”

It is not that there was no intended role for the state in bringing about social justice. However, the main subjects of social justice are individuals and groups within society.

What kind of actions may fall within social justice? ….

Read his full essay here.

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.