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​Dominican: Social Justice Lies at the Heart of the Gospel

Providence, R.I.--Social justice is not a separate ministry of the Catholic Church but is essential to the message of the Gospel of Jesus, said Rev. Carlos Rodríguez Linera, O.P., chair of the International Dominican Commission for Peace and Justice.

Father Linera spoke to students, faculty, and staff about “Dominican Perspectives on Peace and Justice” during a talk sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies. A native of Spain, he is based at the church of Santa Sabina in Rome, home to the Dominican Order since the 13th century, and travels the world promoting justice, peace, and human rights.

Rev. Joseph J. Guido, O.P., vice president for mission and ministry, explained that Father Linera spent almost 30 years in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, as a social worker, counselor, MBA candidate, professor, and always, as a Dominican. He came to Providence College after representing the Dominican Order at a conference on poverty at United Nations headquarters in New York. 

“The Gospel is not for us to choose and say it is divided into praying, or to charity, or to sacraments, or to social issues,” Father Linera said. “The Gospel is living my life with my brother and sister, living together, and building together the kingdom of God.... We must present to the world an alternate way of building society.”   

Father Linera explained his method of outreach in foreign countries, where many leaders are resistant to Church teachings.

“Every morning, for many years, I get up and keep repeating to myself something that by midday I have forgotten: ‘Carlos, what is right for you may not be right for the other person. What you see as important might not be important to the other person,’” said Father Linera. “The implication is that I have to engage people in a dialogue.”

The image of St. Dominic and the torch is “a symbol for my life,” Father Linera said.

“This torch is a light that goes with me to illuminate the way I walk, that allows me to see the other, to see you, and allows you to see me, so we can have an encounter, an open encounter, and begin to walk and build together,” said Father Linera. “Not that I have the truth and that I carry the truth. Only God has the truth.”

In the Dominican tradition of contemplare et contemplata allis tradere, “to contemplate and to give to others the fruit of contemplation,” Father Linera said he learns by living with and listening to others.

“I filter this through my humanness. I make them feel the human touch,” Father Linera said. “Then I bring it to the library” for study. After that comes a dialogue, and then “contemplation of my heart.”

Once, in Spain, Father Linera was accused of being a Communist. Later, in China, he was called “a capitalist Rightist.” Father Linera said he is careful not to denounce others. He is inspired by Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus the tax collector, who climbed a tree to get a better view.

“What if Jesus had said, ‘Look, that is the man who is robbing you, taking away your food, making your children hungry’?” asked Father Linera. “I think the crowd would have stoned Zacchaeus to death. Instead, Jesus said, ‘Zacchaeus, what are you doing up there? Come, we want to live at your house.’”

Honing in on social justice

Economic inequities, migration issues, and peace and human security are the top social justice priorities for the Order, Father Linera said.

In Manila, Philippines, where “poverty is amazing,” Father Linera once walked along a complex that was surrounded by a wall topped with barbed wire and men armed with machine guns. When he asked how many prisoners were there, he was told, “It’s not a prison. It’s a big huge compound where rich people have beautiful villas.”

“The super rich have beautiful villas,” repeated Father Linera. “They have so much they could not spend it in all their lives, so they protect their wealth from those who have nothing.”

When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was translated into Chinese, it took nine months for Chinese leaders to approve it, Father Linera said.

“Of all things, they said that Catholic social teachings were the most dangerous for them,” said Father Linera.  

Father Linera said he welcomed the opportunity to visit PC.

“I was told, ‘You have to go to Providence and see what they are doing there and what they have accomplished,’” said Father Linera. “You are doing things with students, forming minds not only to have a job and become rich, but to build up a decent society.” 

--Vicki-Ann Downing


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