2.3.3 Concluding exercise: CST in national life

Back to 2.3.2

Unit 2 Contents


This unit has looked at the historical background of modern CST and has introduced the main principles or concepts in terms of which it is presented.  It has also outlined a method for connecting up study of CST with practical engagement in working for justice in society.

As the discussion of ‘see, judge, act’ and the pastoral spiral have highlighted, it is vital to pay attention to context in seeking to work out how CST relates to specific issues.  We each live in a whole range of contexts, such as: local, national and international; English-speaking or/and Urdu-speaking; economically deprived or affluent; ethnically homogeneous or diverse, and so on.

One context for all of us is that of nation-state.  All the five universities and colleges involved in the Virtual Plater project are in England, a nation that is part of the United Kingdom.  (The UK is an unusual nation-state because it consists of a number of distinct nations, not just one – but this isn’t the place to go into this topic.)

Within the United Kingdom, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales form a single group, known as the ‘Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales’ (CBCEW), and they regularly make statements as a group.  For example, in 2002 they issued a document about environmental protection, called The Call of Creation, which is set as a reading in Unit 3.

In 1996 the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales issued a substantial document called The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching, which is generally referred to in short as The Common Good.  At the time, this received high profile press coverage and was generally assessed very positively by commentators outside as well as within the Church.  No other single statement by CBCEW has ever had as much attention in the media, except possibly one or two to do with the gross scandal of child sexual abuse by priests.

As a way of tying the threads together of what we have covered in Unit 1 and Unit 2, before moving to look at the first specific topic in the next unit, you are asked to look at this document.  I don’t suggest that you read it thoroughly (this would take a couple of hours).  Rather access it on screen and scan through it, looking at what it covers.  It is relatively easy to get a sense of what is in it because, after the Preface, there are a few pages headed ‘Introduction and Guide to this Document’.  They tell you exactly that.

Roughly speaking, the first half of the document gives a general introduction to CST and, in light of that, the second half comments on a range of major issues in British public life.  It has two appendices.  The first simply gives a range of quotations from some of the main primary documents of CST.  The second lists a wide range of Catholic organizations involved in working for justice in England and Wales and briefly outlines their work.  (This list is of course now out of date.)  After these, there are guidelines for studying the document in small groups and parishes.

It is simply worth being aware of The Common Good because it is the most substantial and high profile contribution on CST that there has been in our nation’s public life.  It was produced less than a year before the General Election of 1997, when the Conservative Party lost for the first time in more than 20 years and the Labour Party was elected with a huge majority, led by Tony Blair.  In other words, it was issued not long before what turned out to be a hugely significant change in the political landscape.  The Catholic Bishops were seeking consciously to contribute to the pre-election debate, but also to do more than this.  They say, “Although our document is produced in the light of the coming general election, the teaching in it is meant to endure beyond that” (Introduction, p. 4).  They achieved both aims: The Common Good had considerable impact at the time and it continues to be referred to quite often in discussions of CST in this country.



Access The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching at the link below.  Scan through the ‘Introduction’ and then look at parts of the statement on topics of special interest to you or that catch your eye.

To access a pdf of this document, go to the following URL and then click on the name of the document.


If you began study of this module with little or no prior knowledge of CST, you should find that much in The Common Good is much more familiar to you after study of Units 1 and 2 than before you started.

A question you might like to consider is to do with the structure of the document, including its appendices.  The guidelines for study at the end of it give an outline of the ‘see, judge, act’ method.  To what extent is this method followed in the way in which The Common Good is itself presented?  To some extent it is, but not as fully as would have been possible.  Do you think this is the sort of document could itself helpfully be structured on the basis of ‘see, judge, act’ or the pastoral spiral?

There is no Response to this Exercise, but you might like to make some notes on what is in this document in case you wish to draw on it when doing an assignment later.




Go to Unit 3 Contents

Outline of Module A

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