Do you ever get confused by debates about social issues? Do you ever get frustrated by the way politics plays out and how people with opposing political views never seem to have constructive conversations? Do you ever get the feeling that the REAL issues behind problems like abortion, the economy, immigration, and racism aren't really being dealt with in public and private conversations? If so, this course is for you.
In this practical overview of Catholic Social Teaching, you will learn about the purpose of social living, from God's perspective, and about the principles that are necessary to help any society achieve that purpose. This course will help you have a clear but profound understanding of key concepts that are often used in confusing and contradictory ways - concepts like the common good, human dignity and human rights, social justice, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the universal destination of goods.
As an overview, the course will not dig into the current issues in today's headlines (those will be dealt with in future courses, I hope), but it will equip you to be able to do just that in an intellectually and emotionally satisfying, and in a truly Christ-centered, way.
Here is the text of the course syllabus:
Society and Spirituality: A Practical Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching, Online Course Syllabus
Course Designer: Fr John Bartunek, LC, SThD
Online Course Troubleshooter: Teresa Chabot
Course Modality: Self-Directed, Do-It-Yourself
Course Objectives and Description:
Many people make reference to “Catholic Social Teaching” in public and private discourse about social, political, and economic problems and issues. And yet, these many people very often disagree about the solutions to those problems and the significance of those issues. Sometimes those disagreements become passionate, confusing, and even scandalous. How can this be? Does this mean that Catholic Social Teaching is impractical, useless, or irrelevant? It is our hope that this online course will shed some light on these questions and allow you, the student, to understand what is at play in those disagreements while also benefiting personally from the wisdom behind Catholic Social Teaching. Specifically, the course has four concrete objectives:
This version of the online course is designed to be done at your own pace as individuals or small groups, without the assistance of the Instructor. It will require you to:
Since the mid-19th century the Catholic Church has gradually developed a coherent body of doctrine regarding how best to organize human societies. This body of doctrine is commonly known as Catholic Social Teaching, or Catholic Social Doctrine. This online course, Society and Spirituality: A Practical Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching, presents the essential elements of this doctrine in a clear, organic, and practical way. This online course is meant to be an overview of this body of doctrine, and so it will not go into detail about the history, development, or specific controversies surrounding that history and development. Rather, this course will present the fundamental concepts and principles of this body of doctrine in such a way as to show how they relate to each other and how they can be used to help untangle difficult social issues. The following topics will be addressed in this order:
Intro: Why study Catholic Social Teaching? Four excellent reasons.
Lesson 01: What Is “Catholic Social Teaching”?
Lesson 02: What is “The Common Good” and what are some common misunderstandings of this term?
Lesson 03: The First Essential Element of the Common Good: What do we really mean by “Human Dignity” and what is its relationship to the Common Good?
Lesson 04: The Second Essential Element of the Common Good: What do we mean by “Development and Social Well-Being” and what is the relationship between Development and the Common Good?
Lesson 05: The Third Essential Element of the Common Good: What do we mean by “Peace” and what is its relationship to the Common Good?
Lesson 06: Principles of Action
Throughout the course, students will be given short readings that will help them assimilate the material covered in the lectures. These readings will be taken mostly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004). Both of these documents in their entirety are available for free on the Vatican website (vatican.va). The Catechism is the surest guide we have to the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The Compendium attempts to expand on the basic principles, offering reflections about how those principles should be understood and how they can apply to various social situations. To appreciate the Compendium fully, however, one must first have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of this branch of theology. That is what this course hopes to supply, and that is why we do not use the Compendium as a kind of “textbook” for the course. In fact, there is no textbook. The lectures themselves are the textbook. (Even the DoCat, a kind of catechism on Social Doctrine created for young people, can be easily misunderstood in parts without a clear grasp of the fundamentals and how they fit together.)
Below you will find a list of the major papal and conciliar writings that comprise the magisterial written expression of Catholic Social Teaching. The list shows how extensive the writings are. These magisterial documents are not always easy to understand; they are written for particular historical contexts and with an assumption that the readers have a basic knowledge of the basic principles. In order to appreciate them fully, therefore, one must first have a solid grasp of the fundamentals. The lectures will sometimes refer to passages from these writings, but for the most part, the course presents a dependable synthesis of the basic principles, which will enable you to read these papal encyclicals and letters more fruitfully after you have completed the course.
It is important, however, to read through the list at least once, so as to familiarize yourself at least with the titles and the scope of these documents.
Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum [On Capital and Labor], 15 May 1891
Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno [Reconstruction of the Social Order], 15 May 1931
Ven. Pius XII, Christmas Radio Messages, 24 December 1941&1942; The Ideal Film, 21 June 1955
St. John XXIII:
Mater et Magistra [The Church as Mother and Teacher of All Nations], 15 May 1961
Pacem in Terris [Peace on Earth], 11 April 1963
The Second Vatican Council:
Gaudium et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World], 7 December 1965
Dignitatis Humanae [Declaration on Religious Freedom], 7 December 1965
Bl. Paul VI:
Populorum Progressio [On the Development of Peoples], 26 March 1967
Octagesima Adveniens [On the 80th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum], 14 May 1971
St. John Paul II:
Laborem Exercens [On Human Work], 14 September 1981
Solicitudo Rei Socialis [On Social Concerns], 30 December 1987
Centesimus Annus [On the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum], 1 May 1991
Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate [Charity in Truth], 7 July 2009
Francis, Laudato Si [On Care for our Common Home], 24 May 2015
Papal Messages for the World Day of Peace, 1 January, annually, beginning in 1968
Papal Discourses to the United Nations, Bl. Paul VI (4 October 1965), St. John Paul II (2 October 1979, 5 October 1995), Benedict XVI (18 April 2008), Francis (25 September 2015)
Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He has taught moral theology at various ecclesiastical institutions at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, Inside the Passion, the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican¹s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.
His most widely known book is called The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer . It is the first of three meditation books that make us his “Complete Christian Collection”. The other two are: Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, and Go! 30 Meditations on How Best to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. In 2016 he published a series of meditation books delving into the spiritual values behind the natural world: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter Meditations. A compilation of his many online answers to questions about the spiritual life was published in book form as: Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions. He continues answering fresh questions online at SpiritualDirection.com.
His ongoing series of Do-It-Yourself online Catholic Retreat Guides are available in multiple formats at RCSpirituality.org. Fr. John currently resides in Michigan, where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director.