2.3.4 Review and discussion of Unit 2

Back to 2.3.3

Unit 2 Contents


We are now at the end of Unit 2.  This page outlines two ways of reviewing what you have learned, whether you are doing the module as part of a degree or using it to study informally.

A.        Assessing the ‘learning outcomes’

First, it will be useful simply to refer again to the learning outcomes for this unit (as given in 2.1.1).  Here they are:

Learning outcomes for Unit 2

By the end of this unit, you will be able

  • to outline the meanings of ‘industrial capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ and, in relation to them, the position articulated by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum in 1891 [2.1]
  • to list the main principles found in CST and discuss their meanings [2.2]
  • to explain the method of making use of CST referred to as ‘see, judge, act’ and the ‘pastoral spiral’ [2.3].

It is possible that, when you first re-read those points, you’ll think you can’t easily do those things.

But as you look again at some of the material, you might be surprised.  When you re-read specific pages, do you find that you largely know about what you encounter, even if you couldn’t easily bring it to mind beforehand?

Or is the material really unfamiliar?  If it is the latter, you might want to read through some of it again.


B.       Discussing your study

How you can best discuss with others what you have studied for this unit will depend on the university or other context you are in.

  • If you are studying formally, you may be expected to participate in a seminar on what you have read for Unit 2.  The format of this will be determined by the Module Convenor in your university/college.  Possibly one student will be asked to prepare a discussion paper. 
  • If you are studying informally in a parish, other Christian community or workplace, it will be worthwhile to join with others to compare and contrast your reactions so far.
  • If you are reading the material alone, so cannot have a face-to-face discussion of it, you are welcome to post your reactions to it and any questions at Comments on Unit 2.

Whichever of the above applies to you, your study will have provoked questions.  The ‘reflections’ are of course intended to do this.  You might like to have another look at the particular pages in which you were most interested to see what the ‘reflections’ asked you to consider.  As for the ‘exercises’, there have been four:

  • in 2.1.4 on the argument of economic liberalism in defence of capitalism
  • in 2.1.5  on major events in twentieth century world history
  • in 2.2.8, on a passage in Jacques Maritain’s writing about the common good
  • in 2.3.3, on the publication by the Bishops of England and Wales called The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching

These will provoke a range of questions.  Focus on those that really are to do with this unit – rather than others that might be highly interesting but are not relevant at this point.  You might also like to look again at the discussion questions proposed half way through unit: 2.2.6.

In addition to questions you come up with, below are some you could debate:

This unit has introduced the following principles found in Catholic Social Teaching:1

– the priority of labour over capital

– human dignity

– the common good

– integral human development

– the universal destination of material goods

– the preferential option for the poor

– subsidiarity

– solidarity

1.  From what you learned about economic liberalism and socialism in the historical outline (2.1), discuss whether each of the above principles is consistent with or contradictory to those two ideologies.

2.  It is clear that CST’s position is distinct both from economic liberalism and from socialism – but is it closer to one than to the other, or equidistant from both?

3.  Take any one of the above principles and think of it as a criterion or standard (in line with what 2.2.9 said about the meaning of ‘principle’).

Try to identify one practical thing in human social life (for example, in the workplace) that the principle positively requires – i.e. that meets the standard it sets. 

Then identify one practical thing that breaks the principle – i.e. that falls short of that standard.

This may not be an easy, but it is very much worth beginning to think about.

Do the same with a second principle, and, if you have time, a third.

Nothing for Myself4.  To what extent does the slogan in the banner pictured on the right express what ‘the common good’ means?

The banner is a work by artist Mark Titchner on a building at the shared site of two schools, Cathedral School (Church of England) and St Joseph’s School (Catholic), in Southwark, London.

(In the background is The Shard – the UK’s tallest building – the design of which was based partly on the church spires of the City of London, now hardly noticed because of office blocks.  The Shard’s ‘spire’ is as though broken off…  Has what the churches stood for in the financial world of the City, not least the common good, become eclipsed or broken off…? This question looks ahead to Unit 5.)

5.  Thinking back to Unit 1, to what extent are the characteristic concerns and emphases we saw in the ‘prophetic strand’ in the Bible expressed in:

(a) the church’s response in Rerum Novarum to the crisis of workers’ conditions?

(b) CST’s main principles?

6.  In relation to part 3 on ‘How to Engage with CST’:

  • In seeking to integrate taking action with study of CST, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘see, judge, act’ method and ‘pastoral spiral’?
  • In particular what pitfalls can ‘see, judge, act’ and the pastoral spiral help people to avoid?

You might wish to post some points from your discussion of these or other questions in Comments on Unit 2.

You are now at the end of Unit 2.  You might wish to review the Module A Outline or go to Unit 3 Contents.



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  1. We have also studied both what lies behind human dignity – that humans are made in the image of God (2.2.3) – and what follows from recognizing it – that human have duties and rights (2.2.5).  In addition, we gave attention briefly to ‘natural law’ (2.2.9).  I have not included any of these three in the list of principles because none of these three concepts is usually seen as a ‘principle’ of CST (though they could be understood in this way), because we shall give much attention to all of them later in the module, and in order to keep the list manageably short.