Socio-Political Guidelines

I. The Present Situation

The present is characterized by world-wide national and international transitions:

(1) Industrial societies are becoming post-industrial service-sector societies; agrarian societies are in part incorporating industrial means of production and associated modern service industries, in part this trend is expanding. The abundance of available goods and services in highly developed industrial countries stands in marked contrast to a corresponding scarcity of these commodities among the majority of the Earth's population. These facts call for co-operation and equalization as an ongoing responsibility for individuals and nations alike.

(2) A variety of inventions and new technologies facilitate a comprehensive system of communication between individuals and nations. Through it, mutual solidarity can be established and strengthened. At the same time, the quantitative expansion and qualitative improvement of information and communication networks give rise to new dangers. The freedom of individuals can be eroded, societies manipulated, and cultures robbed of their intrinsic quality. These developments call for vigilance from all those responsible.

(3) In agrarian, industrial, and service-sector societies, the ecology is gaining a significance of its own. At the same time, the limitation of natural resources necessitates new ways of thinking and acting on the part of everybody. Responsible preservation and development of the environment is gradually being demanded internationally as a necessary ecological cornerstone.

Local, national and regional, economic, social and ecological responsibilities and interdependencies, as well as opportunities, are increasing. New religious fundamentalist movements are spreading. Outmoded collectivist political systems are dissolving. This evolving freedom of the individual opens up new opportunities, but it also requires people to accept additional areas and dimensions of political responsibility and involvement.

The above-mentioned changes, particularly the political granting of religious freedom in formerly atheistic political systems, challenge the world-wide development of the Church as the bearer of the Good News to all people. This development means new challenges for peace among nations.

II. Concept and Socio-Political Foundations of the International Kolping Society

(6) The Kolping Society, founded and shaped by Father Adolph Kolping, is the free, family-like, and life-long association of believing Christians. The clear aims, objectives, and activities of Adolph Kolping are the basis of the Kolping Society as a democratic, education and action-oriented organization on a local, national, and international level.

(7) The Kolping Society is an independent and autonomous Catholic social movement. The indispensable foundations of the Kolping Society are the message of Jesus Christ, the social initiatives and achievements of Adolph Kolping, the various Social Teachings of the Church, and other Vatican II documents.

(8) The Kolping Society perceives itself as part of God's people, and thus as part of the Church in society, and at the same time, as part of society in the Church. Particularly significant for the work of the Kolping Society are: the bond of Adolph Kolping to the ordained position in the Church as priest of the Archdiocese of Cologne, and that of the praesides on all levels of the Kolping Society and in all countries in which it is active: as priests, deacons, or other persons officially appointed for the pastoral ministry in their dioceses or parishes. Further foundations are the various articles of the Church's doctrine outlining the Church's self-concept, and the decree on the apostolic mission of the laity.

III. Historical Task and Responsibility of the Kolping Society

The Self-Image of the Kolping Society gives rise to its historic task and responsibility

The beginning of industrialization gave rise to numerous new problems, particularly during the middle of the last century. Adolph Kolping attempted to alleviate these social needs. The Journeymen's Association tried to stem individualism and created new communities - help for self-help was one of the cornerstones of these responsible endeavours. Adolph Kolping called young people to voluntary and accountable participation.

At this stage of modern developments, people world-wide are experiencing similar, as well as new difficulties. The historical function of the Kolping Society is to use help for self-help to initiate and implement responsible development of new circumstances.

The individualistic tendencies of the last century were also a reason for various philosophical, even atheistic trends. Active Christianity was publicly belittled, scorned and mocked. Adolph Kolping saw these facts and developments as further causes of social hardships. Consistently he demanded renewal of thinking and encouraged the members of his movement to give courageous public witness of their Christian faith.

(12) The current decrease in faith has many reasons; some non-democratic societies have been - or still are - imposing sanctions on the public expression of Christianity and Christian life. Thus, the historical objective of the Kolping Society also includes bringing life-giving aids of faith to all people who are searching. The person renewed in faith must also make, in and through the Kolping Society, a responsible contribution toward mastering the new situation and its human difficulties. Therefore, the Kolping Society is responsible for the realization of Adolph Kolping's historical aims and values in today's society. New human difficulties in society are to be alleviated through renewal of our way of thinking.

During the last century, individualism and atheism contributed to the dissolution of communities, such as the family, parishes, guilds, and neighbourhoods. The particular individualism that originated in Europe is currently establishing itself in other countries. The loss of these social structures meant the loss of the social safety-net for people finding themselves in need. Therefore, the Journeymen's Association was intended to be a new community, as are the Kolping Families today; however, in addition to this, Adolph Kolping emphatically demanded a completely new safety-net: he demanded socio-political measures from the legislators.

(14) In most countries, the Kolping Society on its own is unable to overcome or even alleviate the new hardships. Therefore, the Kolping Society challenges national and international bodies to reach appropriate agreements and to pass necessary legislation. Global and new problems must also be alleviated by legislators with appropriate jurisdiction. In accordance with its aims, the Kolping Society must consistently and explicitly pressure for such action.

(15) The function and responsibility of the Kolping Society, in the past, the present and in the future, are focused primarily on mitigating and solving the problems experienced particularly by people dependent on others for their employment; this is to be achieved through help for self-help, by opening new approaches to personal faith, and through constant efforts for necessary legislative measures.

IV. Cornerstones of Responsible Performance of These Functions

(16) The self-image and foundation of the Kolping Society result in the responsible performance of its historical duties, particularly with regard to the following values which are indispensable, especially for socio-political guidelines:

(17) Human Dignity as a Starting Point
The unique dignity of each human being as a person cannot and must not be erased through legislative measures. The inalienable and inviolable basic human rights, particularly those referring to freedom of faith, religion and conscience, as well as the right to life, must be accepted unconditionally by national as well as international legislative bodies. Every legal measure that contravenes these most basic rights does not alleviate problems, but rather creates new and far-reaching hardships for people.

The more that responsible freedoms are granted to individuals, the fewer are the hardships in society.

(18) The Family as the Primary Unit
The family, as primary unit of every human community, is to be maintained and strengthened through appropriate assistance by the legislators. For the reduction of countless traditional social ills and human distress, the family is irreplaceable as the natural community; the legislators must therefore protect this community. Legislators have to guanrantee specific rights to this primary unit of society. The charter of family rights 'FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO' is one such example.

The more natural primary units - families - there are in a society, the less common distress occurs in that society.

(19) Society - a Well-Ordered Diversity
The quantity and quality of mutually supportive groups are ultimately the signs and guarantees of human plurality. Human beings in their complexity and diversity are the initiators, the moving force, and also the objective of every social activity. This well-ordered diversity within society (QA, Art. 84) must not be diminished by legislators anywhere. Social and political activities are not aims in themselves. They must consistently correspond to the principle of subsidiarity.

The greater the human diversity and variety of mutually supportive groups in society, the more human dignity exists in community life of that society.

(20) The Service Function of the Economy
The economy must provide the means (goods and services) for the optimal satisfaction of basic human needs (food, shelter, clothing). All people are to have access, as equally as possible, to the goods produced. Therefore, the economy is to serve the people, rather than people serving the economy. Thus, human dignity, shared decision-making, accountability and responsibility of working people are to be respected, expanded and secured unconditionally by all those involved, including the legislators. These legal efforts refer particularly to those people who are dependent on others for gainful employment. This applies to manufacturing as well as to the service-industries. The economy has to serve the people; it is not to be in the service of political power.

The more humane the processes of work and economics are structured, the less hardships these respective societies will suffer.

(21) Work as the Basis for Human Existence
In industrial, agrarian, and post-industrial service societies, work is basic to human existence and an insurance against social needs. The obvious conclusion is that work exists to serve individuals rather than individuals existing to serve work. In this context, a new understanding of work becomes more significant: Work is understood as an opportunity for personal development, for service to the community, and for the shaping of the environment. However, technological progress, the opening of borders, free access to markets, and other conditions, causes and interdependencies increasingly limit the function of work. Unemployment and the absence of a secure foundation for human existence are the consequences. Therefore, the unemployed and their families require special legislative assistance. The lower the unemployment and the more comprehensive the assistance for the unemployed and their families, the more secure will be the foundation of human existence in the various societies.

(22) The Individual as Vessel of Political Power
This concept of humanity, society, and economy corresponds exclusively with democratic expressions of political power. This is not dependent on varying rationalizations. Therefore, political power exists for people, rather than people for political power. Human dignity, human rights and with it the safeguarding and developing of human life are the mandated function of all democratic and political power. Today, they are considered the key elements of every legal and social system of human co-existence, regardless of the level of development within a society. National legislators, as well as international bodies, have to protect and guarantee the safety of these indispensable cornerstones. The more secure that human dignity and human rights are - in context and implementation - within a political system, the more humane and socially friendly are the structures of human coexistence.

(23) Peace is More Than the Absence of War
Peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace follows the social and political implementation of human dignity and human rights. In view of the world-wide interdependencies, this also includes the preservation and responsible conservation of nature. Furthermore, for the committed Christian, nature is the work of the Creator. Thus, peace means the fairest possible structure of human coexistence. Political endeavours on all levels must bring about this comprehensive peace and continue to make it a reality. The more widespread and determined the striving for world-wide peace, the more humane will be the coexistence of the global community.

V. Implementation of the Contextual and Organizational Key Elements

(24) As an education and action-based organization, the Kolping Society works toward the implementation of the above-mentioned principles in its national Societies and international bodies, by providing continuous information on human dignity, human rights, and the preservation and development of human life. Suitable activities accompany these educational programs, right down to the local communities of the National Kolping Societies, the Kolping Families.

(25) As action-oriented communities, the Kolping Families, the National Kolping Societies, and the International Kolping Society repeatedly and emphatically encourage their members to participate in labour unions, social organizations, political parties, and church committees, and to introduce the key elements of Christian Social Teachings in the interest of all those who depend on others for gainful employment.

(26) As a Catholic social movement, the Kolping Society introduces these pertinent subjects into the legislative process through the use of lobbying by its members and other like-minded people and organizations, and continuously strives for coexistence with human dignity, also through the legislative process.

(27) As part of the Church, the Kolping Society, in its national communities and as an international organization, attempts to apply the principles of the Catholic Social Teachings in the Church, in society, and in national and international bodies. In order to achieve this, the Kolping Society co-operates on all levels and in all areas with organizations and their representatives, as long as they do not contradict its program.

(28) This actually means: the National Kolping Societies have to motivate their members on all levels through the use of the program and other resolutions passed by the International Kolping Society, and to instruct them by constantly providing seminars and educational training opportunities. The documents of the Catholic Social Teachings are indispensable for the training and the activities of the membership. The National Kolping Societies also need to prepare their members on all levels for the necessary co-operation with other sympathetic organizations and individuals, to nurture this co-operation through contacts and liaison, and to make it public in Church, in society and in politics.

(29) Based on Adolph Kolping's vision, the International Kolping Society's socio-political guidelines for a changing world can be summarized as follows: the more that laws correspond to all-encompassing human dignity and human rights, the more humane human coexistence will become world-wide.

Sao Paulo, March 14, 1992

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