5.1.4 From ‘see, judge, act’ to the ‘pastoral spiral’

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Unit 5 Contents

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The explanation of ‘see, judge, act’ on the last screen is fairly simple.  It might seem just to be common sense.  Fair enough.  If only we always had common sense, life would go smoothly!  The fact is that as we participate in any area of society and face challenging issues, it can be hard to know where to start and what to do next.  The straightforwardness of ‘see, judge, act’ is one if its strengths. Obviously it can be necessary to employ the method flexibly and imaginatively in real life.

Over the several decades since Cardijn’s work, the ‘see, judge, act’ method has been developed in various contexts to enable it to be used intelligently in flexible ways.  The need to go on using it repeatedly, as different issues have to be addressed, led people to think of it in terms of a circle or cycle.  Its usefulness in relation to a wide range of issues that come up in pastoral ministry led to some calling it the ‘pastoral cycle’.

The first element, ‘see’, has been distinguished into two stages, often labelled ‘experience’ and ‘social analysis’.  This leads to an emphasis on people first bringing to mind the stories that articulate their own experience, before seeking to understand the issues they face by looking at the historical and social context.  On one interpretation, this emphasis on experience can be seen as manifesting commitment to human dignity: all are recognized as legitimate participants in deliberation about what needs to be done.  All, both individuals and groups, have experience that others don’t, knowledge of which can assist people to ‘see’ more clearly.  Yet, on another reading, emphasis on subjective experience runs a risk that people will fail actually to ‘see’ beyond themselves and will not gain the necessary wider perspective.

In the context of the pastoral cycle, the ‘judge’ element is generally referred to as ‘theological reflection’.  This is because the main aim is to gain new insight by looking at how Christian teaching bears on the issues.  Perhaps a disadvantage of this label, however, is that it underplays the need, in real life, actually to come to a conclusion and to make an assessment or judgment.

Hence the four stages of the pastoral cycle are usually now known as ‘experience’, ‘social analysis’, ‘theological reflection’ and ‘action’, although other terms are also used.

Some emphasize that it makes more sense to see this method as a spiral rather than a cycle.   The idea is not that you end up where you started, but that you have made some progress, have come to a better vantage point.

The website of the Jesuits in Australia gives access to a helpful PowerPoint presentation on the ‘pastoral spiral’.  This gives more information than I have about how this tool has developed.  It also presents it in visual form.  For the next reading, simply work through this presentation.  In light of what this screen has said, it should make sense (even though it was probably designed to be shown as someone was speaking).

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Reading (6pp)

Sandie Cornish, ‘Introducing the Pastoral Spiral’

At the following page, find the heading above and click on the green arrow after it to access the PowerPoint presentation:

http://www.faithdoingjustice.com.au/catholic-social-teaching/methodology.html

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Reflection

On the last screen you were asked if there are social problems that have affected you which could be helpfully addressed using the ‘see, judge, act’ method.  Bring those issues back to mind.  In the light of this PowerPoint presentation, do you think the ‘pastoral spiral’ can cast additional light on those issues?

Can you think of other issues which you could make use of it to address?

What do you think the benefits could be of making use of this tool to deal with such issues?  What are its potential downsides?

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In Unit 6 we shall consider the ‘pastoral spiral’ critically.  We now move on to study Mater et Magistra.

 

 

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End of 5.1 INTRODUCTION: ACTING FOR JUSTICE

Go to 5.2 MATER ET MAGISTRA

Module B outline

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