1.1.1 CST by Sat Nav

Unit 1 Contents                                                 Catholic Social Teaching

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In this module you will study what is known as the Social Teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

To do the module you need to work through what appears on screen – just follow the ‘learning path’ that has been designed to guide you through what can seem at first glance an impenetrable maze of possible routes.

Why this metaphor of multiple routes?  Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is extremely interesting, indeed inspiring and uplifting.  At least many people find it to be these things, once they’ve got hold of the main elements of what it is saying.  But its main source is a series of lengthy documents issued on behalf of the Catholic Church over the past 120 years, directed to different historical, political and economic contexts, which are not always easy reading.  In fact they’re pretty difficult!

So faced with, for example, a single book containing all those documents, it could seem like an unknown country you’d most likely get lost in.  Starting at the beginning and reading through them wouldn’t quite be like a John Grisham novel (or even one by Graham Greene).

This module is called ‘Living Life to the Full’ and is one of two that aim to lead you through Catholic Social Teaching in a way that makes it accessible.  The second module is called ‘Living in a Just and Free Society’ and is similar to this one in form and structure, but it covers different topics.  You might have studied it already, or you might have the opportunity within your course to study it later on.

The basic objectives of this module are twofold: first, that you understand the part of Catholic Social Teaching that it covers, and second that you see what it means in practice.

CST is about both understanding and action – right action, action for justice and the common good, action based on proper appreciation of what such big ideas mean, action that changes things for the better.

The social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all also a basis and a motivation for action. 

(Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #57)

As you study the module, you will be frequently asked to do a piece of reading (or occasionally watch a video clip or listen to someone speak).  Most of these readings are on-line, so you need to have access to the internet all the time while you are working on the module.

What each reading is will be presented in a box on screen, including the full web address or URL.  To access most of them you will need simply to left-click on the URL.  This will take you to the reading (without closing this document, the module text).

Without further ado, here is a first short reading on CST.

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Reading (2pp)

Christine Allen, ‘The Catholic church has always cared about social justice – we’re commanded to’

This was published as the ‘Face to Faith’ column in The Guardian, 27 June 2009. Christine Allen was then executive director of Progressio, an agency working in international development (www.progressio.org.uk). As she says in the article, she wrote it shortly before the publication of a major new contribution to Catholic Social Teaching by Pope Benedict XVI.  This is an encyclical letter called Caritas in Veritate. This is studied later in this module and more fully in Module B.

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What do you think of that?

Throughout the module you will also be asked to reflect on what you are studying.  Items marked Reflection are essentially points at which to ‘pause for thought’.   They are intended to stimulate a few minutes’ reflection on what you have encountered.  Do not spend too long on these Reflections – 2-5 minutes is usually long enough.  But do spend this much time on them.  In the light of reading you’ve done to that point, let them provoke lines of thought and argument in your mind.  Make a few notes of these if you think they may be important later. This can greatly increase both enjoyment of study and understanding.

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Reflection

A book called Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret is now in its fourth edition.1. In fact CST is much better known now than when the first edition of that book was published, in 1985.  But Christine Allen’s article of 2009 refers to CST as still Catholicism’s best kept secret.  I wonder if she is right.  What do you think?

What do you know already about Catholic Social Teaching?

How do you know what you know?

  • From talks and sermons?
  • Because you are a peace and justice activist?
  • From your family?
  • From previous study?
  • From the internet?

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End of 1.1.1

Go to 1.1.2 Doing this module: practicalities

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  1. Edward P DeBerri & James E Hug, Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret, 4th ed., Center of Concern, 2003 

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