8.4.3 Review and discussion of Unit 8

Back to 8.4.2


You are now at the end of Unit 8 – and of the module.  Congratulations!

As at the end of earlier units, this page outlines two ways of reviewing what you have learned in this unit.

First open Unit 8 Contents to remind yourself of what has been covered.

A.        Assessing the ‘learning outcomes’ for Unit 8

First, look again at the learning outcomes for this unit (given in 8.1.1). As reproduced below, they show where in the unit each of them has been most directly addressed.

By the end of this unit, you will be able to

  • outline landmarks in the development of CST in the twentieth century and how they fit in relation to other historical events [8.1]
  • summarise the content and significance of Centesimus Annus [8.2]
  • identify possible strengths and weakness in CST and engage constructively in critical discussion about these [8.3]
  • communicate how CST in the areas covered in this module forms an overall vision (although an incomplete one) of living life to the full. [8.4] 

How easily you can do these things?  In relation to the third, the questions below give you opportunity to discuss such strengths and weaknesses in CST.

B.       Discussing your study

As throughout the module, how you can best communicate with others about what you have encountered in this unit will depend on your context of study:

  • If you are studying formally, you may be expected to participate in a seminar on what you have read for Unit 8.  One student might be asked to prepare a discussion paper.
  • If you are studying informally in a parish, other Christian community or workplace, try to arrange to talk about what you have looked at.
  • If you are doing private study, you may like to post your reactions to it at ‘Comments on Unit 8’ (see bottom of page).  If you do, I’ll respond.


‘Reflections’ and ‘exercises’ have given opportunities to consider various questions raised by the material in this unit, and no doubt others will have struck you at various points.  There have been three ‘exercises’:

  • in 8.1.2, on events in modern Western history since 1776
  • in 8.2.1, recalling the main planks in what Rerum Novarum called for to address the crisis in working conditions
  • in 8.3.2, identifying and assessing strengths and weaknesses of CST in the areas studied in this module

Here are some questions for discussion:

1.  Early in Unit 1, two statements from Centesimus Annus were quoted:

[T]o teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church’s evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour. (CA, #5, quoted in 1.2.4)

The social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all also a basis and a motivation for action.  (CA, #57, quoted in 1.1.1)

To the extent that you are familiar with the life of one or more Catholic parish churches and with other Church associations, discuss ways in which CST finds expression in those contexts, in word and action. 

Do these ways reflect what those quotations say? 

At the start of the module (1.1.1), I referred to a label that has often been given to CST: “the Church’s best kept secret”.  In your experience, to what extent is this label apt? 

In light of your study of the module, are there ways in which local churches and Christian bodies of various kinds might do things differently in order to respond more fully to CST?

2.  Pick one of the areas of human living this module has covered, i.e. one of:

      • ecological responsibility
      • work and rest
      • business and economics
      • family life
      • duties and rights.

In light of your thinking in response to the third ‘exercise’ listed above (from 8.3.2), discuss what you see as CST’s strengths and weaknesses in the area you have chosen.

Are there ways in which you think CST needs to develop further in this area?

If you have time, move on to discuss one or more of the other areas the module has addressed.

3.  This module has introduced you to the method of engaging with social questions called ‘see, judge, act’ and, in a more developed form, the ‘pastoral spiral’.  The latter requires you:

(i)   to bring in your relevant experience

(ii)  to try to understand the issue in its social and economic context – which inevitably means its historical context

(iii) to bring to bear and to assess what Catholic Social Teaching says about it

(iv)  to deliberate about the next step(s) to take in practice.

Apply this to CST itself, as you have encountered it in this module:

(i)   What relevant experience did you bring to study of the parts of CST we have looked at?

(ii)  In what ways has new knowledge about historical context given you new understanding of the main issues addressed?

(iii) What do you see as the most significant points and insights in the perspectives given by CST on these issues?

(iv)  In what new or different ways could you now act on these?   

As with question 3, you may wish to consider these questions in relation to each distinct area the module has covered, rather than all of them together.

4.  To what extent have you achieved the ‘learning outcomes’ for the module as a whole?  Consider each of them in turn:1

By the end of the module students will be able to:

1.  explain some of the main concepts and principles in Catholic Social Teaching, in particular: human dignity, the common good, the priority of labour over capital, solidarity, the universal destination of material goods, natural law

2.  outline the sources of Catholic Social Teaching, including the prophetic tradition in the Christian Bible

3.  summarize what CST means in practice for working life (Unit 4) and for [two out of]* the following four areas of human living: ecological responsibility (Unit 3), economic life (Unit 5), family life in society (Unit 6), duties and rights in practice (Unit 7).

4.  describe some main landmarks in the historical development of CST since 1891

5.  discuss lines of argument in defence and critique of the content of CST in the above areas.

(Reproduced from 1.1.3.)

* If you are studying the module for 15 credits, you are expected to study CST on working life [Unit 4] and two out of the other four topics [Units 3, 5, 6, 7].

5.  At the very start of the module, I ventured a bold claim:

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is extremely interesting, indeed inspiring and uplifting.  At least many people find it to be these things, once they’ve got hold of the main elements of what it is saying.  (1.1.1; quoted on 8.3.1 also)

That first sentence does represent my own view.  I came to CST after studying economics, politics and some philosophy and theology, after working in the private sector and politics, and as a (non-Roman Catholic) Christian. I find the overall vision of society, economics and politics that CST gives more coherent and intellectually compelling than any other around, whether in secular or religious thinking.

What do you think?  In light of all you have learned, can you identify with the above claim? Or do you find it an overstatement?  

Possibly you take a diametrically opposite view, as would, for example, convinced neoliberals or Richard Dawkins-type atheists.  If you see yourself as basically an opponent of what CST stands for, what are the reasons?

In not more than three sentences, what is your own assessment of CST?  


End of 8.4.3



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  1. These are the ‘subject-specific learning outcomes’ in the draft statement of LOs given on 1.1.3.  The exact formulation of learning outcomes is a matter for each institution that accredits the module.