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U.S. Bishops On Homelessness

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"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect

Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for

the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the

Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosterity, do ordain and

establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

-Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

The above preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America holds admirable ideals in setting forth principles for the founding of this newly formed government. In form and content, the Constitution presents itself as one of the most consequential documents ever created for the establishment of a nation. The progenitors of this document, while espousing broad principles in theory, propagated, managed and sustained a clearly separate and less inclusive reality. There existed, and still exists, several dichotomized layers within these "United" States - one Black, one White, one rich, one poor. Slavery, in all of its brutishness existed, while at the same time equality for "all citizens" was being proclaimed. Women, indeed, were treated as second-class citizens, but to a much lesser degree than were Blacks and Native Americans, who were considered lesser forms of life. While it is not my intention to recount the entire history of the United States, it is my intention, with brevity, to review some policies of this nation, since its inception and up to the present time. America has a well-documented history of injustices towards those who are less fortunate and in an effort maintain the status quo, there are continual efforts to erode the basic human rights of those who are deemed the "scourge" of society. Today, those most fitting this description, include the burgeoning homelessness population

throughout the cities of America. While the preamble states the establishment of justice as a standard for the formation of the Union, the question remains, and strong evidence exists, as to

whether or not justice has truly been achieved for all citizens. This paper will explore the issue of justice, in theory and in deed, as a founding principle of the United States, in its application of policies concerning homelessness as compared and contrasted with the theory of justice as conveyed in the book Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy (Economic Justice for All).


In the book, Economic Justice for All, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops attempts to offer a "personal invitation to Catholics to use the resources of our faith, the strength of our economy, and the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society that better protects the dignity and basic rights of our sisters and brothers." According to its authors, this document was in no way intended to offer a resolution between the various economic schools of thought, nor was it to be used as an outlet for embracing a particular economic theory as might be suggestive by the title of the publication. The letter uses scriptural references as a guide to determine how economics should play a role in our lives. It is believed by the authors that there are six moral principles, which should provide a moral vision of economic life.

Those principles are as follows:

(1) Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person.

(2) Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community.

(3) All people have a right to participate in the economic life of society.

(4) All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable.

(5) Human rights are the minimum conditions for life in community.

(6) Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights.

By setting forth these principles, the Bishops had hoped to increase right action along with the application of Catholic moral principles in an effort to improve the economic status of the all people, but particularly the poorest among us. Throughout the book, the authors list specific ways that they believe that the United States and its citizens could address the needs of the poor in our country as well as to evaluate the impact that economic policies have on the life and stability of family. Although the publication seeks to address those who have embraced Catholicism, it also seeks the cooperation and support of those who support other faiths and traditions based on the "common bond of humanity."

The Church believes that man, by nature, is a sacred being and should be "respected with a reverence that is religious." Man was made in the image and likeness of God. Catholics embrace the belief that human life and human spirit is most fulfilled by having knowledge of,

and loving, the living God while in a spiritual union or communion with others. Using biblical quotes, the book addresses the central point of what justice truly means and arrived at the following definition: "Justice of a community is measured by its treatment of the powerless in society." Throughout the writing scriptural references are made as to the fair treatment and dealing with orphans, widows, the stranger, etc., as these groups were used as litmus tests to determine the quality of justice. The poor are looked upon as being most able to receive God's word with the purity of heart, mind and soul.

Justice has, in a biblical sense, many meanings and is more comprehensive than justice described philosophically. Justice, for the most part, "arises from loving gratitude for the saving acts of God and manifests itself in wholehearted love of God and neighbor." Catholic social teaching describes three basic categories of justice and they are as follows:

(1) Commutative justice - calls for fundamental fairness in all agreements and exchanges between individuals or private social groups.

(2) Distributive justice -



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