Uniting Catholic Education & Social Teaching: Our Vital Gifts - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1959 Words
Date:  2023-01-30


Our community of faith is blessed with many gifts. Two of the most vital are our remarkable commitment to Catholic education and catechesis in all its forms and our rich tradition of Catholic social teaching. As we look to a new millennium, there is an urgent need to bring these two gifts together in a strengthened commitment to sharing our social teaching at every level of Catholic education and faith formation.

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Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came "to bring glad tidings to the poor liberty to captives recovery of sight to the blind"(Lk 4:18-19), and who identified himself with "the least of these," the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the eucharist. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren" (no. 1397).

Catholic social teaching emerges from the truth of what God has revealed to us about himself. We believe in the triune God whose very nature is communal and social. God the Father sends his only Son Jesus Christ and shares the Holy Spirit as his gift of love. God reveals himself to us as one who is not alone, but rather as one who is relational, one who is Trinity. Therefore, we who are made in God's image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love and justice.

Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment. Our commitment to the Catholic social mission must be rooted in and strengthened by our spiritual lives. In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love one another as God has loved us.

Because this commitment to social justice is at the heart of who we are and what we believe, it must be shared more effectively. We offer these reflections to address the pressing need to educate all Catholics on the Church's social teaching and to share the social demands of the Gospel and Catholic tradition more clearly. If Catholic education and formation fail to communicate our social tradition, they are not fully Catholic. The statement is addressed in a particular way to those engaged in Catholic education, catechesis, and social ministry. As pastors and as teachers of the faith, we ask Catholic educators and catechists to join with us in facing the urgent challenge of communicating Catholic social teaching more fully to all the members of our family of faith.

This is a call to action, an appeal especially to pastors, educators, and catechists to teach the Catholic social tradition in its fullness. These reflections are not a comprehensive summary of its rich heritage and content. Our social tradition has been developed and expressed through a variety of major documents, including papal encyclicals, conciliar documents, and episcopal statements. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the essence of this social teaching and roots it in faith and liturgical life, presenting it as an essential part of the moral teaching of the Church. In addition, the Vatican has developed Guidelines for the Study and Teaching of the Church's Social Doctrine in the Formation of Priests. Our own conference of bishops has outlined this heritage in A Century of Social Teaching. Catholic social teaching can be understood best through a thorough study of papal teaching and ecclesial documents.

The focus of this statement is the urgent task to incorporate Catholic social teaching more fully and explicitly into Catholic educational programs. This must be undertaken in the context of efforts to share the faith in its entirety and to encourage Catholics to experience the gospel call to conversion in all its dimensions. Recognizing the importance of this broader goal of Catholic education and formation, we call for a renewed commitment to integrate Catholic social teaching into the mainstream of all Catholic educational institutions and programs. We are confident that this goal can be advanced, because we know firsthand of the dedication, talent, and deep faith of those involved in the work of education, catechesis, and faith formation. The work done by principals, teachers, catechists, directors and coordinators of religious education, youth ministers, college and seminary professors, adult educators, and social action leaders is vitally important. We thank and commend all those who carry out the holy work of educating others to understand and to act on the truths of our faith. We recognize the commitment and creativity of so many educators and catechists who already share our social tradition in their classrooms and programs.

However, despite these significant and ongoing efforts, our social heritage is unknown by many Catholics. Sadly, our social doctrine is not shared or taught in a consistent and comprehensive way in too many of our schools, seminaries, religious education programs, colleges, and universities. We need to build on the good work already underway to ensure that every Catholic understands how the Gospel and church teaching call us to choose life, to serve the least among us, to hunger and thirst for justice, and to be peacemakers. The sharing of our social tradition is a defining measure of Catholic education and formation.The Task Force's Mission and FindingsFor these reasons, in 1995 our bishops' conference established the Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education. The task force brought leaders of Catholic education and social ministry together to assess and strengthen current efforts and to develop new directions for the future. As Catholic bishops in the United States we have received and very much welcome the report of the Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education. We affirm their work and urge action on their report. Our brief reflections here do not take the place of the full report, but we wish to highlight several key themes developed by the task force. After our reflections, you will also find the task force summary report.

In its overall assessment, the task force found much good will and many innovative efforts by Catholic educators to communicate the social doctrine of the Church. At the same time, however, it is clear that in some educational programs Catholic social teaching is not really shared or not sufficiently integral and explicit. As a result, 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. We need to do more to share the social mission and message of our Church.

Our Catholic social teaching is proclaimed whenever we gather for worship. The homily presents an excellent opportunity for sharing Catholic social teaching. The word of God announces God's reign of justice and peace. Our preaching of the just word continues the preaching of Jesus and the prophets.

Central to our identity as Catholics is that we are called to be leaven for transforming the world, agents for bringing about a kingdom of love and justice. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we are praying for God's kingdom of justice and peace and committing ourselves to breaking down the barriers that obstruct God's kingdom of justice and peace and to working to bring about a world more respectful of human life and dignity.

Catholic Social Teaching: Major ThemesThe Church's social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. It offers moral principles and coherent values that are badly needed in our time. In this time of widespread violence and diminished respect for human life and dignity in our country and around the world, the Gospel of life and the biblical call to justice need to be proclaimed and shared with new clarity, urgency, and energy.

Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents that explore and express the social demands of our faith. The depth and richness of this tradition can be understood best through a direct reading of these documents, many of which are cited in the Report of the Content Subgroup (pp. 36-48). In these brief reflections, we wish to highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition. We hope they will serve as a starting point for those interested in exploring the Catholic social tradition more fully.

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

In a world warped by materialism and declining respect for human life, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and assisted suicide. The value of human life is being threatened by increasing use of the death penalty. The dignity of life is undermined when the creation of human life is reduced to the manufacture of a product, as in human cloning or proposals for genetic engineering to create "perfect" human beings. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

SolidarityOur culture is tempted to turn inward, becoming indifferent and sometimes isolationist in the face of international responsibilities. Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that "loving our neighbor" has global dimensions in an interdependent world. This virtue is described by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" ( Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38).

Care for God's Creation

On a planet conflicted over environmental issues, the Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

This teaching is a complex and nuanced tradition with many other important elements. Principles like "subsidiarity" an...

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Uniting Catholic Education & Social Teaching: Our Vital Gifts - Essay Sample. (2023, Jan 30). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/uniting-catholic-education-social-teaching-our-vital-gifts-essay-sample

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