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2011: Catholic Social Teaching

120 years after Pope Leo XIII published Rerum Novarum, which kicked the whole show off, the CTA chose to have its annual conference on CST. A critical appraisal was timely because it is all too easy and perhaps complacent to keep calling it the Church’s best kept secret (or ‘best buried secret’ as Michael Kirwan called it in his paper) without seeing how it stacks up in the current global political and economic turmoil.  What emerged was an appreciative understanding of how CST might be developed, because it cannot afford to stand still.  It was an exercise in what our colleagues on main;and Europe call ‘scientific theology’ and not just adulation of selected papal documents.

Donal Dorr’s survey of fifty years of CST focussed on three areas: humanism; women; and justice while David McLoughlin made it clear that these encyclicals make little or no reference to the New Testament other than as occasional proof-texts. Michael Walsh’s account of the historical background to Rerum Novarum demonstrates that it was never meant to be a justification for socialism.  Michael Kirwan reviewed CST from the perspective of the radical tradition of liberation theology.

Drawing on her experience of working with asylum seekers, Anna Rowlands looked at what CST has to say about forced migration and the injustices that nation-states inflict on many migrants, looking at ‘the neglected category of commutative justice’.  Through a detailed analysis of recent papal encylicals. Celia Deane-Drummond charted the development of what CST has to say about our environment and Ashley Beck looked at a different facet of the Church’s practical wisdom found in the life of the Christian Worker Movement, suggesting that it might provide a way of living Catholic Social Teaching practically in a way of life rooted in the sacraments and focussed on the poor and pacifism.

Finally, Frank Turner showed how important it is for the Church’s voice to be heard in Europe.

(Papers published in New Blackfriars, March 2012)