The Church shares with the people of our time this profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every aspect, nor does she fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice that the life of people and society demands.
1891: a good starting point for the Catholic movement in social justice. Let’s remember it well:
This is confirmed by the field of Catholic social doctrine, greatly developed in the course of the last century. On the lines of this teaching proceed the education and formation of human consciences in the spirit of justice, and also individual undertakings, especially in the sphere of the apostolate of the laity, which are developing in precisely this spirit.
St John Paul rightly identifies this movement for justice as arising “especially” among the laity. While I do appreciate the support of popes, bishops, and clergy on this, it is undeniable that justice in human culture must be the work of the laity. It is we lay people who have to cultivate relationships, manage the politics, do the study and research, and propose solutions in the various media of the day.
This pope fielded criticism for his harshness to clergy who were active in politics, but I largely agree with him on that stance. I think there might be exceptions to that strain, but mostly, justice movements should be led by the laity. It is part of our baptismal call.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana