The freshly translated catechism of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), Christ Our Pascha, covers the entire spread of Catholic doctrine, including the Church’s social magisterium. While a single post cannot review the whole of this catechism’s teaching on the subject, it is important to highlight that the UGCC falls into agreement with the wider Church on matters such as property, solidarity, subsidiarity, and wages. Contrary to the claims of Catholic economic liberals, such as those housed at the Acton Institute, the UGCC understands that the right to property is neither absolute nor exclusively private under all circumstances. Here is paragraph 941:
In defending the right to personal property, Christian tradition does not make this right absolute, but regards it in the context of the universal appointed purpose of all material goods. In this appointed purpose lies the social function of private property. Only the Lord, as Creator of heaven and earth, is Master of the whole world that he created. We are but stewards in the Lord’s vineyard. He has entrusted it to our care. Thus, in timely fashion, we are to return its fruits to their true Master (see Mk. 12:2-11).
In the following paragraph, the catechism goes on to speak about distributive justice which “is safeguarded when communal goods—in accordance with just laws—become accessible to all members of society.” These goods include, but are not limited to, “appropriate society security, health care, [and] pension protection[.]” Further, “[d]istributive justice . . . ensures that no member of society is denied access to basic goods and services (for example, appropriate social protections, health care, pension, income, and the like).” Although the catechism does not spell-out the means for securing these goods for everyone in society, it should be clear that free-market capitalism, with its emphasis on profit, private acquisition, and individualism, is antithetical to achieving the ends of a just society. As the book makes clear throughout, our time in this world is centered on drawing closer to God and living our lives in a Christ-like manner. The “wisdom of the world,” with its material obsessions and constant pursuit of entertainment, cannot properly guide our lives or social relations.
Another paragraph worth looking at is 949, which covers morality and mass media.
Advertising and various entertainment programs are sometimes directed toward arousing artificial human needs; they engender a consumer mentality and can become a powerful means of spreading ideas contrary to the Christian worldview. This unscrupulous commercialization of the mass media, the drive for profit, and the creation of various technologies designed to influence and manipulate the public—all of these distort authentic values and human needs, and promote artificial norms and examples of behavior.
Here again the catechism cuts against the ideology of economic liberals by emphasizing the negative consequences of mass marketing and advertising. While capitalists often seek to defend advertising by claiming it “neutrally” provides “information” about goods and services to the public, this is rarely, if ever, the case. Advertising is directed at manipulating the public with few meaningful constraints. While it is theoretically impermissible for advertisers to outright lie or make other misrepresentations to the public, it is relatively easy for companies to play around at the margins in order to induce as many people as possible to buy their wares. Moreover, contemporary marketing often relies on perverse imagery and amoral (if not immoral) messages to go their products over; basic decency be damned.
As a final comment on this portion of the catechism’s social teaching, let me direct you to an excerpt of Metropolitan (St.) Andrey Sheptytsky’s 1904 pastoral letter, On the Social Question, which is quoted in paragraph 977 on worker’s wages.
Therefore, justice demands that a salary somewhat exceed a minimal sum necessary for life. A lower salary will surely be unfair, and even in the event of a voluntary agreement to accept lower pay because of the pressure of the employer’s financial distress, the employer is obliged to compensate in accordance with the appropriate level.
These remarks dovetail with the wage-teachings contained in both Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s later encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno. The liberal-economic argument that wages are “just” or “right” when calibrated to the “market rate” is absolutely false. Granted, this does not mean that all wages are to be set equally across all sectors, firms, times, and localities. However, it is impermissible for businessmen—particularly Catholic businessmen—to “let the market decide” exclusively when setting pay rates for their employees. Higher principles of justice must always be taken into consideration.
That the UGCC should teach these things should surprise no one. Since returning to communion with Rome over four centuries ago, the Ukrainian Church has worked toward exemplifying what it means to be “truly Catholic” and “truly Orthodox.” That is to say, it stands between East and West as a witness to the world of the Truth of Christ in its fullness, including its public dimension. As such, the UGCC carries forth its social mission in continuity with her towering doctors such as Ss. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom while bonded in charity to the See of Rome and her own complementary patrimony.