Social Doctrine Compendium Has a Companion

Prelate Encourages Laypeople to Apply Principles

DUBLIN, Ireland, SEPT. 27, 2007 ( The compendium of the Church’s social doctrine is a “theological reading of the signs of the times,” and a recently published companion makes its wealth more accessible, says an Irish prelate.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, primate of Ireland, said this Wednesday at the launching of the Companion to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, written by Father Padraig Corkery.

The Compendium was released in 2004, prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

“Curiously, interest in Catholic social teaching waned with the coming of Vatican II,” Archbishop Martin said. “Many were unhappy with the term doctrine, preferring social teaching or social reflection or social thought.

“There was the feeling in many places that the social teaching of the Church should be a form of social ethic which could be shared by people of various viewpoints, religious or not.”

The prelate encouraged getting back to the “grass roots in the formation of laypersons […] for the ‘secular nature of their Christian discipleship,’ their duty ‘to proclaim the Gospel with an exemplary witness of life rooted in Christ and lived in temporal realities.'”

He added, “Irish society and Irish democracy would benefit from a new generation of laypeople, prepared and capable of informing public opinion, on the contribution that can be derived from the message of Jesus to establishing values to inspire pluralistic Irish political and social life.”

No recipes

Archbishop Martin explained the nature of Catholic social doctrine: “A book on Catholic social teaching is not a recipe book, or a catechism old-style with a list of ready made answers to the social and political questions of the day.

“It presents a unified corpus of principles and criteria which draw their origin from the Gospels and which are applied to the realities of the times in order to form Christians to make their own personal responsible judgments on the best manner to stimulate the ideals proposed by the Gospel in contemporary culture.

“Catholic social doctrine does not take away the risk of politics, but it aims to provide an in injection of purpose, idealism, integrity and truthfulness into the way politics is carried out.”

The 62-year-old prelate continued: “The social teaching of the Church is an admirable instrument for community formation. […] As I said at the launch of the Compendium, the Compendium is too important a document to be usurped by episcopal commissions or professional Church bureaucrats.

“There is a sense in which the real ‘translation’ of any social encyclical or any document of the social teaching of the Church is written not by professional interpreters, but by the action of Christian laypeople in the world — who try, day by day, to apply these principles in their life and commitment.”

For his part, Father Corkery, who is also the director of postgraduate studies and a lecturer in moral theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, said he hopes his Companion has two effects: to “introduce people to the richness of Catholic social teaching; and to move them toward action so that we can construct a society and local communities that live the virtue of solidarity and treasure the gift that is the human person.”

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