Wednesday, November 29, 2006

excited about Catholic Social Teaching and Action!!!!!

The weekend before last I attended a series of conferences at my church on Catholic Social Teaching, titled, “The Quest for the Catholic State”. Speakers spoke on a range of issues including business, education, politics, medical ethics etc. I enjoyed it thoroughly, catching up with people I haven’t seen for a while, and meeting new people, spending the majority of Sunday serving tea and coffee. Great fun! I even spent a couple of hours the night before cooking a lasagne for the hot buffet. It was amazing how many people brought food - we had too much!! Almost enough to feed the 5,000!! I was so proud of my effort that I even took a photo!!!! (I don’t cook very often so this was a big achievement for me!)


More importantly however was the subject matter – Catholic social teaching and action. Sometimes Catholics (particularly those labelling themselves as ‘traditional’) get unfairly caricatured as being obsessed with ritual and liturgy and unconcerned with social issues. And sometimes the latter is true; there are Catholics who are seemingly indifferent to social concerns. So it was good to hear about the experiences of various members of the laity trying to live out their faith on a day to day basis and the various struggles they faced in their professions. There was also quite a bit of expounding on the various documents the Church has produced on social teaching.

Catholic Social Teaching
Two encyclicals much quoted from were ‘Rerum Novarum’ (Concerning New Things) issued in May 1891 by Pope Leo XIII and ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ (Forty Years) written by Pope Pius XI. ‘Rerum Novarum’ describes the ‘wretched conditions’ of many of the working classes and how socio-economic changes have lead to industry and commerce falling under the power of a very rich few who have “laid a yoke almost of slavery on the unnumbered masses of non-owning workers”. The encyclical urges that action be taken by the State, employers and workers to cure this evil but warns against Socialism as holding the solution.

Catholic Social Action
One of the speakers talked a little about the Catholic Worker Movement (CWM) established by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in America in the early 1930s. Their activities were wide ranging; they produced a newspaper containing Catholic teaching which they distributed regularly along with Catholic pamphlets; set up the Worker House where they cared for those that were poor and needy, and Maurin established ‘Round Table talks’ on Friday evenings for the ‘clarification of thought’ around Catholic doctrine. There was also the development in the 1940s of the retreat movement. See these sites for more info. and

Dorothy Day
Upon recommendation by a priest I am currently reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography ‘The Long Road to Loneliness” which is a fascinating read. I am just at the bit where she’s seriously contemplating conversion (it’s all very exciting) so I am sure I will blog more about Dorothy Day and the CWM in due course……


At 11:17 am, Blogger Joee Blogs said...

I know nothing about Dorothy Day - any chance of a bit of explanation as to who she is etc?

At 9:23 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

I had already started drafting something!!!! I still can't put any pictures up though - it's so temperamental!!! Tells me it's done loading a photo but there's no image there. It's very very annoying.

At 11:14 pm, Blogger Oliver McCarthy said...

One of the Catholic Worker sites has a link to Call to Action.

I'd be very careful of them.

The best book I've come across on the Church's social teaching (other than the Popes' actual teachings, of course) is _The Framework of a Christian State_ by E Cahill. It's not in print any more, but it used to be the standard reference book on the subject and there should be plenty of secondhand copies floating around on and other secondhand books sites.

At 11:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are either of you using Blogger beta? I used to use usual blogger and had to use Picasa and similar to upload photos. Much easier with blogger beta, though. If either of you need a google mail invite, leave your current email addy in my comments section and I'll sort you out.

At 11:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll want the password, though, before I send anyone anything. Katrina, Joee will tell you what it is.

At 10:18 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:28 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

Oliver, I've just been on the 'Call to Action' website and I've noticed on that there's a picture of Joee's favourite liberal nun, Sister Joan D. Chittister on their homepage as she's recently spoken at one of their conferences!!! Yikes!

As for the Catholic Worker websites I should've pointed out that the links were there to access the historical details. I don't know how reliable the recent stuff is and I know that in the 50s and 60s many Catholic Worker houses were affected by the radical cultural changes and lost their Catholic ethos. However I am assured that there are still some genuinely Catholic ones still in operation.


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