Four Sources of Catholic Social Teachings

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I. What is Moral Theology?
Moral theology asks how our understanding of God can help us reflect on how to use our freedom well. What is the highest purpose for which God created us and how can we realize this end? Jesus reveals most fully what a good life looks like. Catholic social thought can be understood as moral theology concerned with social issues.

II. Four Sources of Catholic Social Thought

1. Scripture. The authoritative books which record the Jewish and Christian experiences of God’s self-disclosure.
Scripture reveals who God is and who we are called to be in response to God. Interpretation of Scripture requires attention to historical context and is best done in community.

2. Tradition: the ways of thinking and living that are “handed over” (traditio) from one generation to the next; an ongoing conversation across the ages about our most important questions. Also the body of theological reflection and the ways of putting this reflection into practice that are “handed over” (traditio) from one generation to the next. Magisterium: official teaching office of church and authoritative voice of tradition. While theologians, activists, and ordinary Catholics make contribute to this body of theological reflection in important ways, a privileged source of Catholic tradition is the magisterium or the official, authoritative teaching office of the church. This official teaching office is exercised by Catholic Bishops, and in particular the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), as well as groups appointed by the Pope. This teaching is expressed in the form of a) papal encyclicals;

b) encyclicals of Church Councils (such as Vatican II) or Synods of Bishops, c) statements by Vatican offices, congregations, and commissions; & d) Episcopal conferences (regional meetings of Bishops, such as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United...
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