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What is Social Justice?

What does the Lord require of you? Only this:

to act justly
to love tenderly
to walk humbly with your God.

-  Micah 6

Social justice is best understood by taking a look at what social ministry is.  Social ministry has two key components:  social service (also referred to charity or parish outreach) and social action.

Social Service is giving direct aid to someone in need.  It usually involves actions that fulfill a person's physical and related needs.  For example, giving money to the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, taking care of orphans and widows, visiting shut-ins, etc.

Social Action aims to alleviate human suffering by working to change those structures that cause or perpetuate the oppression, poverty, war, racism or sexism.  Another name for this is Social Justice.

There must be made available to all everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter;the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment . . . .Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind,attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to thosewho practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

(Gaudium et Spes, (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Vatican Council II)