Caution about the capacity of the apostles’ successors to speak authoritatively about society or even transform it.
Catholic social doctrine is addressed to society, with a view to informing it how it can be more justly organized. This is indeed very important. But, as C.S. Lewis observes in one of his writings, societies, nations, communities don’t go to heaven or hell. Surely the “central mission” of the faith is not the construction of a more just social order–as important as it is to strive for that–but instead the proclamation of truth and the ministry of the sacraments in order to save souls. That is the Church’s highest and most urgent concern.
Here is a nice bit from the excellent Father Ronald Knox, where he is commenting on the temptation of Jesus, where he refused to turn stones into bread:
All through the centuries the Church has had to act in great measure as a nursing-mother to the faithful, not content to be merely their teacher in the faith; providing schools, hospitals, orphanages, tending the sick, relieving the poor, burying the dead; she has drawn a whole network of charitable institutions across the world, vying with one another in the service of men’s bodies. And always, that is not the point. With the other Christianities there is a constant risk that their spiritual message will lose itself in philanthropic endeavor. The movement which began in an access of burning zeal for men’s souls will have been replaced, a century or two later, by a vast organization, religious in name, but merely philanthropic in purpose. With the Catholic Church, so much older than these others, it has never been so. Her message is of the world beyond; on it her eyes are set; she tends, feeds, teaches her children distractedly, only that she may point them to heaven; she will not lose her soul in what the world calls charity.
Maybe the spirituality of the church is a doctrine that only comes in handy when you don’t like the social gospel on tap.
Then again, it makes perfect sense if the really big question is what will happen on that truly great day.