Themes and Theologies in Catholic Social Teaching over Fifty Years



This article has three sections, covering three themes in CST. In the first I sketch out the development of an integral humanistic approach and then go on to suggest that the ‘flip’ side of this is an unduly anthropocentric stance on ecological issues by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. In the second section I give an account of official Catholic teaching on justice for women and their equality with men. I suggest that over the past fifty years there have been major advances on this issue. But John Paul's concept of the complementarity of women and men raises great difficulties—particularly insofar as it is used as one of the main justifications for Vatican insistence that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women. In the third section I examine Vatican views on the appropriate means which Church authorities and the Church membership should use in working to promote justice. Should Church leaders limit themselves to clarifying the nature of authentic development, pointing out various forms of injustice, calling for change, and suggesting an alternative ‘economy of communion’? May they ever go further than such ‘education of consciences’, by encouraging the poor to struggle for justice, and by themselves confronting oppressive governments?