As Br. Charles over at A Minor Friar has pointed out, there's another negative consequence to misunderstanding Catholic social thought: a separation between social justice and evangelization. Catholic social teaching is part of the Church's broader message about redemption and the reconciliation between God and man brought about through Jesus Christ. Br. Charles writes:
There is a sense that we have our faith, we celebrate it at the Eucharist, and then we are called to go out into the world and work for justice. This is true as far as it goes, but I think we sometimes forget that the love of God and the Eucharist are themselves the social program par excellence. Yes, goods like a living wage, honest work, and access to health care and education are all things we should work for on behalf of those who need them, but in the end the old cliche holds: Jesus is the answer. In other words, we are good at remembering that we are called to struggle against social injustice, but because the world tells us to keep our religion to ourselves, we conveniently forget that God himself is the remedy for the ills of society.That's exactly right. The struggle for proper order in society must involve the preaching of the Gospel, because ultimately the only deep answer to the problems of this earthly sojourn are found in God's revelation of himself through his Son Jesus Christ. As Christians, our concern for others is rooted in the love of God that we have been shown through Jesus Christ. As St. John tells us, "The command we have from Christ is blunt: loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both" (1 John 4:21, The Message translation). The reason Christians love & care for people is because of the love they have for God, a love which is itself a gift from God manifested in the Gospel. To quote St. John once again, "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19, New American Bible translation). Once that truth is obscured, work for justice becomes divorced from faith in Christ, and a meaningful commitment to Catholic social teaching becomes impossible.
A spiritual life in Christ is a necessary component to Catholic social teaching. They are linked . And it is from the spiritual life, which comes from God and is oriented to him, that Catholic social teaching gains its power. As Bl. Oscar Romero put it:
When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity, when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern itself for those who are hungry, for those who have no schools, for those who are deprived, we are not departing from God’s promise. He comes to free us from sin, and the church knows that sin’s consequences are all such injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world when it undertakes to speak also of such things.¡Bl. Oscar Romero, ruega por nosotros!