Survey of Catholic Social TeachingCourse Level: Intermediate

Course Summary

"Far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic Social Teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. This poses a serious challenge for all Catholics, since it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel."

United States Catholic Conference Introduction to: Sharing Catholic Social Teaching

The goal of this course is to provide the kind of background on Catholic Social Teaching suggested by the bishops as fundamental for living the Christian life. The course relies heavily on documents prepared by the bishops and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Survey of Catholic Social Teaching will cover the seven key themes of Catholic Social Teaching outlined by the bishops: the life and dignity of the human person; the call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God's creation. Also included is a process for defining and effecting change related to significant social justice issues at the diocesan and parish level.

Sometimes people question whether it is the business of the Church to be involved in these issues. They wish to separate Church and state and relegate to government the solutions to problems that injure others, deny a basic quality of life, or damage God's creation.  The course will reiterate the centrality of social justice teachings for all Christians, and its consistent independence from any political ideology of the left or the right. It relies heavily on mainstream teachings of the Church"”the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Father Kevin E. McKenna's A Concise Guide to Catholic Social Teaching which summarizes papal encyclicals and statements of the U.S. bishops.

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • Understand the key tenets of Catholic Social Teaching
  • Be more aware of injustices in their communities and their world
  • Learn a process which will help participants assess a need of their communities, reflect on the root causes and Church’s social teaching of that issue, and be involved with both social outreach (charity) and social transformation (justice) by taking action.

Course Materials

  • No books required. All readings are online.

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: Catholic Social Teaching
    • Understand the history and background of Catholic Social Teaching
    • Learn briefly about the key themes and terms of Catholic Social Teaching
    • Begin to learn how to understand and apply Catholic Social Teaching to daily life[br]
    • Begin to understand how Catholic Social Teaching functions within secular society today
  • Week 2: The Human Person and the Family
    • Share the Scriptural background to issues of life and dignity of the human person
    • Understand the difference between the culture of death and the culture of life
    • Learn about the different issues concerning the life and dignity of the human person
    • Understand the importance of family as a central social institution
    • Learn about the social nature of human beings and the importance of community
  • Week 3: Participation in Community, Rights and Responsibilities
    • Learn about the social nature of human beings and the importance of community
    • Learn about how people have a right and duty to participate in society, seeking the common good of all and the well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable
    • Understand the responsibility of the individual to participate in working for justice in society
  • Week 4: Wealth, Poverty, Work, and Social Solidarity
    • Clarify the terms communicative justice, social justice, and distributive justice
    • Understand and describe the value and dignity of human work in the context of your own work
    • Learn about the rights of all workers
    • Understand the concept of the preferential (not exclusive) option for the poor
    • Understand the concept of solidarity in the context of Catholic Social Teaching
  • Week 5: Care for God’s Creation
    • Understand the Scriptural context of this theme
    • Understand the issues of ecological concerns and the environment
    • Learn how these issues influence other issues such as human dignity, human life, and the economy