8.3.2 Dorr’s critical assessment after 100 years

Back to 8.3.1

Unit 8 Contents

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I have quoted from Dorr’s book, Option for the Poor: A Hundred Years of Catholic Social Teaching, at a few points, especially in Unit 4 on working life.  This was in connection with his interpretation of what John Paul II said in Laborem Exercens about ‘solidarity’.  Dorr argued that the Pope saw this concept as giving a basis for participating in social conflict in a way that retains fundamental commitment to the common good (4.3.4).

Donal Dorr is an Irish missionary priest who has worked in Brazil and several African countries, as well as Ireland, and has taught and written on a range of topics.  He is an insightful reader and a sympathetic critic of CST.

You are asked to read the final chapter from Option for the Poor (2nd ed. 1992). This is accessible at Dorr’s website (May 2014), as a Word document (and with different pagination from the book).  Before you read it, you might wish to find out a bit more about his work – see www.donaldorr.com.

When reading Dorr’s ‘Evaluation’, focus attention on the topics we have looked at in this module.  Dorr of course mentions other issues too that can be studied in Module B.

Near the start of the chapter, he makes clear that he sees an encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII in 1961, Mater et Magistra, as especially significant in CST’s development, in that it marked a shift in where CST fitted into the context of wider debate.  In this module we have given almost no attention to Mater et Magistra, although in Unit 2 we did note its advocacy of ‘See, judge, act’.  In Unit 7, we focused on Pope John XXIII’s second social encyclical, Pacem in Terris.  Perhaps it makes sense to characterize Mater et Magistra as the forerunner of the momentous development in CST dubbed the ‘Catholic human rights revolution’, even though it is Pacem in Terris and Dignitatis Humanae that together directly represent this.

In the second half of the chapter, Dorr suggests several strengths and weaknesses of the tradition of CST, as this stood in the early 1990s, after Centesimus Annus.

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Reading (29pp)

D. Dorr, Option for the Poor: One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Teaching (2nd ed.), Chapter 14, ‘Evaluation’

This link accesses a Word document in which the chapter has different pagination from the book (in which it is pp. 352-380).

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Reflection

Dorr suggests seven strengths and nine weaknesses of CST (pp. 366-77 in book; pp. 10-17 on-line).

Writing in the early 1990s, Dorr presents as the first weakness of CST, that it “has not yet become sufficiently ecological in scope” (p. 369 in book; p. 12 on-line).

Of the specific topics we have looked at in units 3 to 7, CST has developed further on ecology than on the others over the past 25 years, although (as we saw in Unit 3) there is not yet an encyclical that addresses this as its main topic.  We looked at various statements issued since Dorr wrote, including Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 World Peace Day message, ‘If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation’.

In light of these, do you think that this particular criticism that Dorr makes is applicable now?

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EXERCISE

Following on from that reflection, spend a few minutes forming your own view on Dorr’s proposed strengths and weaknesses. In the light of your study, do you agree with his assessment?  In what ways do you disagree with it?  Why?

This exercise is preparation for discussion at the end of the unit, so make notes of your responses.

Moving beyond Dorr’s suggestions, what do you think are CST’s strengths and weaknesses in each of the areas of human living this module has covered:

  • ecology
  • work and rest
  • business and economics
  • family life
  • duties and rights?

These are wide-ranging questions and therefore are not easy. The way they are framed is not meant to imply that you should be able to come up with a balance of strengths and weaknesses. Rather, they are asking for your informed assessment, whatever this is.

In light of the thinking they provoke, are there ways in which you think CST needs to develop further in these areas?

We shall return to these questions in the context of the ‘Review and discussion of Unit 8’ (8.4.3).

(There is no ‘response’ to this exercise.)

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End of 8.3.2

Go to 8.3.3 Justice for women: the “biggest lacuna” in CST?

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