Bishop speaks on Pope Francis, social teaching

Staff Writer

Photo by Joe Sanchez
Photo by Joe Sanchez

“Catholic social teaching helps us to see the depths of being one with the Church that Pope Francis calls us to, said Bishop Mark Bartchak, who gave a talk at Franciscan University of Steubenville Feb. 18.

Bartchak, bishop of the diocese of Altoona, Penn., gave a talk on Pope Francis and Catholic social teaching as a whole.  Bartchak met the pope last summer.

The bishop divided his talk into three sections of the doctrine of social teaching:  principles, spirituality and actions. Most of the talk focused on his experience with teaching the doctrine to youth, particularly those in high school.

One of the most basic ideas he stressed is to know and make known that “God made us and He made us to love and know Him,” Bartchak said.

Bartchak also listed the nine principles that make up the doctrine of Catholic social teaching: the idea that all human life is sacred, the human person is the principal object of all, that we were created to thrive in families and communities, that organizations must promote the dignity of the human person, we are established by God, all authority must be used for the common good, that the common good should promote spiritual goods in society, we must eliminate human inequality and that we are one human and global family.

The bishop spoke of criticisms that have arisen regarding the pope’s “radical” behavior and also acknowledged that while criticism has come about, more people are interested in the pope rather than critical of him- regardless of their religious affiliation.

“Of all the things the pope has said, he has always said that there is nothing he has said that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the Church or in his apostolic exhortation (Evangelii Gaudium),” said Bartchak.

Bartchak ended his talk by stating that the doctrine of Catholic social teaching is most definitely a call to action — a call that the pope is taking seriously and encourages all of us to.

He also responded to a question about whether the pope’s stance on doing good for the sake of doing good compromises the spread of the Gospel. Bartchak said that we cannot begin to spread the Gospel in a profound way until we gain a special relationship with those to whom we are evangelizing to. If we feed someone who is hungry or help someone in need, they will see the good in us as an intrinsic good and that curiosity about its origin is when we are given the opportunity to speak about Christ.

“It is not enough for us to pray for the poor. We must pray with the poor because we are also the poor,” Bartchak quoted the pope.

Jonathan Sanford, associate vice president for academic affairs and professor of philosophy, organized the talk. Sanford said he chose Bartchak for a number of reasons.

“His background as bishop and his works as a canon lawyer make him one who truly understands the pope’s social teaching and emphasis in evangelical outreach- as well as how to teach it,” Sanford said. He also added that the bishop is a friend of the Rev. Sean Sheridan, TOR.



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