The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church gives “a concise but complete overview of the Church’s social teaching”. “The Church, the sign in history of God’s love for humankind and of the vocation of the whole human race to unity as children of the one Father, intends with this document on her social doctrine to propose to all men and women a humanism that is up to the standards of God’s plan of love in history, an integral and solidary humanism capable of creating a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity. This humanism can become a reality if individual men and women and their communities are able to cultivate moral and social virtues in themselves and spread them in society. ‘Then, under the necessary help of divine grace, there will arise a generation of new men [and women], the moulders of a new humanity’ (para. 19)”.

It has been emphasised repeatedly in these reflections that all instruments  of education arise from, and issue in, some understanding of humanity, of its origins, its nature, its destiny. All, therefore, are, in one way or another, to one degree or another, “moulders of a new humanity”. Catholic schools are, most definitely, “moulders of a new humanity”. Their raison d’etre is the formation of the young in Christ Jesus, the eikon of the invisible God, the first born of all creation (cf. Col 1:15), the template, the paradigm, the means to, and the end of, humanity at its most authentic.

A new Leaving Certificate subject, Politics and Society, was introduced in a number of recognised post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland on 1st September, 2016. Its aim is “to develop the learner’s capacity to engage in reflective and active citizenship informed by the insights and skills of social and political sciences”. Like the proposed Education about Religions and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics curriculum for primary schools – Politics and Society is, in fact, a “moulder of a new humanity”. It arises from, and issues in, an understanding of what the Minister and the Department consider young citizens of the Republic of Ireland should know about themselves, about themselves and others, about the political and social context in which they live.

There is, indeed, much to be learned about humanity “from the insights and skills of the political and social sciences” and Catholic schools must ensure that the young people committed to their care learn that “much”. However, not even the most ardent of their advocates, the ablest of their practitioners, would argue that these sciences tell us all that may be known, or should be known, about being human. Catholic schools will, therefore, help the young people in their care to keep the wider picture in view at all times. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church will be an indispensable instrument in the attainment of this objective. Used to this end, its contents will enable us examine Politics and Society from the complementary perspectives of faith and reason.

The Compendium, of course, is not intended as a text-book and, like other Roman documents, does not always read well in its official English translation. Help, though, is to hand in the form of DoCat: What to do, which is to the Compendium what YouCat is to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis describes DoCat as a “magnificent little book”. It is all that and in many ways. It is well-produced, well-organised and well-written. It does not talk down to its audience. It does not harangue them. It engages them, rather, in real and open dialogue on the topics considered.


Provided to CEIST by Dr. Frank Steele