success stories

Book: Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching
Author: Kenneth Himes, O.F.M.
Paulist Press, New York, 2001

Excerpt from Jacket:

Part of the popular “Response to 101 Questions” series, this volume provides basic and introductory information about the tradition of Catholic social teaching. It gives a concise overview of what the major documents of the tradition say about political, economic and social life. Laced throughout with references to the actual documents, the volume puts into accessible language the key ideas that the Church has proclaimed in the area of social teaching.

Grouped by topics, the questions represent that most common inquires that the typical Catholic asks about the Church’s teaching. The answers are brief, accurate responses based upon the important official documents of the Church. While the book can be read easily in a sitting or two, the format also permits the reader to check on a single topic or idea for quick reference. Ideal for personal education, the book is also suitable for adult formation, discussion and reflection.

A Sample of the 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching

One: General Background

1. What is meant by Catholic social teaching?

2. Some people say that Catholic social teaching is “the church’s best kept secret.” Why?

3. Where do you find this social teaching?

4. What are these documents and where can I find them?

5. Do all the writings of CST come out of Rome?

6. Is liberation theology another way of talking about the social teaching of the Church?

7. Since the tradition of CST has developed over time, are there stages in the development of the teaching?

8. Who writes these documents, the pope and the bishops?

Two: Ecclesiological Issues

9. Since the literature of the CST has been written by popes, groups of bishops, individual bishops and various advisors then I have to ask, what authority does this teaching have?

10. It would seem from your remarks that some statements or even parts of statements have more authority than others. So am I a so-called bad Catholic if I disagree with my bishop about a political or economic issue?

11. What is the role of the conference of bishops in this country in regard to CST?

12. We are talking a lot about the pope and bishops, but what role is there for lay people in the formulation of CST?

13. Are there any examples of lay social action involvement around now?

14. Why does the church get caught up in political and economic issues that others should be dealing with instead of doing the one thing the church is supposed to do, serve the spiritual dimension of life?

15. Even if I accept that the church should be involved in public life, or perhaps can’t help but be involved, that does not settle how I should be involved in a nation that believes in the separation of church and state. What about the first amendment?

16. I’m confused. Are you saying there are no legal limits on the church’s role in politics, that priests can tell me whom to vote for in their homilies?

17. Does CST ever address issues of justice within the church itself?

Three: Foundational Themes

A. Communitarianism

18. Is three a basic perspective or idea that runs through the documents of CST?

19. This emphasis on the communal aspect of being human is appealing but can you say more about it?

20. You mentioned individual and collective errors. What are you talking about?

21. Perhaps I am asking this question because I am an American, but what about personal freedom? It does not seem from what I know that the Catholic Church has always struck the right balance between the individual and the community.

B. Human Dignity

22. Why is human dignity the starting point for the teaching?

23. Doesn’t starting with human dignity feed the American emphasis on the individual instead of the community? Maybe we should stress the communitarian approach instead.

24. I can think of people who behave so badly, they act in such an inhumane way, that they sink below the level of human dignity. Can people lose their dignity?

25. What is the connection between human rights and human dignity?

C. Human Rights

26. What are the human rights that the church endorses today?

27. That’s a pretty long list of rights. How does the church decide something is or is not a human right?

28. Are you suggesting that as social conditions change a person’s human rights change?

29. Why have human rights become so important to CST?

D. Common Good

30. Can you explain what is meant by the common good?

31. When I hear language like ‘serve the common good” I begin to worry about personal freedom. Some talk about the common good sounds an awful lot like socialism. Isn’t the common good a socialist idea?

32. But who defines what is the common good?

33. What do you mean by solidarity?

34. What is meant by the “preferential option for the poor”?

E. Justice

35. What does the church mean by justice?

36. Can you say more about “participation” as an approach to justice?

37. You said that the biblical meaning of justice is different than the usual way the word is understood by Americans. What do you mean?

38. There seem to be several kinds of justice mentioned in the documents. Can you explain them?

39. You have not mentioned social justice in your comments. Where does the church use the term in its teaching?

40. Could you say more about social justice and how it relates to the other forms of justce?

41. When I was educated in the Catholic school system used to hear a lot more about the virtue of charity than justice. What is the relationship of charity to justice?

F. Social Life

42. How is family envisioned in CST?

43. As someone who works as an economist, it seems to me that part of what explains CST’s emphasis on social justice s that the teaching has been formulated in a period when the social sciences have given us new insights into our world. What do you think?

44. We need personal conversion, does that mean society is a sinner?

45. I am a little confused. I have heard of original sin and actual sin that is mortal or venial. Where did this social sin idea come from?

Four: Political Life

46. Among the key social institutions is the state. What is the role of the state according to CST?

47. Charging the state with protecting and promoting the common good makes for a pretty expansive description of the state’s role in social life, doesn’t it?

48. What are those norms governing the state’s role?

49. Can we summarize subsidiarity to mean that “smaller is better” or “the less government the better?”

50. I understand what you have been saying, but the impression I have is that the church teaching ignores a large role for the state in economic affairs. Is that not so?

51. What, then, does the church say about big government programs such as food stamps or public housing?

Seven: Specific Concerns

92. What does CST have to say about women in society?

93. Does CST say anything about racism and race relations?

94. A big issue in my region of the nation is immigration. What, if anything, does CST have to say about immigration?

95. It seems as if the death penalty has become a concern in this country and I know John Paul II opposes it. What does CST say about capital punishment?

96. In all your comments, I get no sense that CST has an ecumenical aspect. Does ecumenism figure in the tradition of CST?

97. I don’t mean this in a mean-spirited way, but can you say that CST made any difference in the real world of American politics, economics and culture?

99. Is there much attention given to spirituality in CST?

100. I’d like to put you on the spot for two questions. First, up until now you have done your best to put a good face on CST. What criticisms of CST do you think are legitimate?

101. My final question also asks you to take a risk. Can you predict the future of CST?