Ashley Beck

Our Reviews editor presents an article on Reclaiming the Common Good. How Christians can help rebuild our broken world edited by Virginia Moffatt, publisher Darton, Longman and Todd, 2017, price £9.95. Ashley Beck lectures in Pastoral Ministry at
St Mary's University, Twickenham, and  is a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Southwark.

reclaiming common groundAn important characteristic of Catholic Social teaching, particularly in the last fifty years, has been a recognition of the extent to which Catholics can co-operate with other Christians. One of the signs that interest about Christian witness for social justice is growing in this country is that new 'think tanks' and networks are springing up all the time, many of them ecumenical, such as Ekklesia and Together for the Common Good. Four of the writers in this new collection are linked to the first of those groups (including its director), and one of its strengths is the variety of the backgrounds of its contributors.

Virginia Moffatt explains in her introduction that the aim of the book is to explore in depth the concept of the 'Common Good' in the context of many of the challenges facing contemporary British society. The plan was to take time to look at issues such as welfare, austerity, migration, the environment, and peace and security in the years leading up to an expected general election in 2020, but this leisurely approach was scuppered by the Prime Minister's snap election earlier this year. This should, however, be seen as a good thing since the rapid change in political circumstances (e.g. the uncertain future of the said Prime Minister, Labour's resurgence, the growth in political engagement by young people and the state of negotiations to leave Europe) has led to new opportunities for change: 'After decades of political consensus, we are entering into a period where everything is up for discussion. We are beginning to ask ourselves - what kind of a society do we want to be? What kind of world do we want to live in? One that works for a few, or one that works for the common good?' The concept of the 'Common Good' offers a very good way into assessing the principal challenges facing Christians from different backgrounds who are committed to social justice.

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