Catholic social teaching and contemporary political life

This is an edited version of a lecture given by John Bruton, former Taoiseach of Ireland and European Union Ambassador to the United States of America, at the Institute of Theology in St Mary’s University, Notre Dame Centre, London, in April 2019

To say I was daunted by the invitation to give this lecture would be an understatement. While I have some knowledge of political life, my study of Catholic Social Teaching has been rudimentary. Although I might not have realised it at the time, Catholic Social Thought has influenced my views about political, economic and social questions throughout my public life. I set to work and read, for the first time in my life, numerous documents of Vatican II. I also revisited some of the important Papal Encyclicals on Catholic Social Teaching.

In all this reading I discovered something that should not really have surprised me.

The extent to which Catholic Social tThinking influenced my politics was not the result of abstract thought or personal study of Encyclicals, because I did neither, but through day-to-day confrontation with difficult issues and the influence of other people on the way I looked at them.

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