Education in Catholic Social Teaching

Ashley Beck

The leader of a new postgraduate qualification in Catholic Social Teaching describes its contents, aims and objectives. Ashley Beck lectures in Pastoral Ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and is a Catholic priest based in Beckenham, Archdiocese of Southwark.

Catholic Social Teaching is a branch of moral theology which focuses on the teachings in Christianity relating to social relationships. While it encompasses all the settings in which men and women relate to each other (such as teaching about family, marriage and the sanctity of life) the tradition tends to be focused on moral issues relating to the ordering of society such as the rights of workers and Christian approaches to the economy. While all the teachings in the tradition are found in the whole of Christian theological history and in Sacred Scripture, as a distinct theological body of teaching it is usually seen as having begun with Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on industrialized society, Rerum Novarum. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, outside small groups such as the Catholic Social Guild in the first half of the last century, the tradition of social teaching has been less important and less well known than in most of western Europe and North America, partly because of the more fragile character of the Catholic community emerging from persecution and marginalization, and also because Catholic higher educational institutions have not been well-resourced and for many years concentrated on the training of clergy and teachers.

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