The Portal February 2018 - Page 9

THE P RTAL February 2018 Page 9 Catholic Social Teaching The first in a new series of articles by Fr Ashley Beck I am grateful to my old friend Ronald Crane for inviting me to write a series for T he P ortal about Catholic Social Teaching. Many laypeople and even clergy don’t know much about this: quite often people say it is ‘the Church’s best kept secret’ or ‘the Church’s best buried secret’, so it is good to be able to share something about it with you. I hope I can show that many contemporary issues show how we can share the insights of our faith with one another and with others. There is another reason. Catholic Social Teaching is the Church’s reflection and teachings about the nature of society and the moral and political issues which society faces, developing in a particular way within the Catholic Church all over the world: but at the same time there has been an important tradition of teaching about social justice within Anglicanism, part of the heritage or patrimony of  the Ordinariate – so this is part of what you can bring as gifts to the whole Catholic community in this country. Therefore in these articles alongside what I will be writing about Catholic Social Teaching I will try to make the links with the Anglican tradition. I also want to make a shameless ‘plug’. At St Mary’s University we have just started a new postgraduate programme in Catholic Social Teaching, the first course dedicated to social teaching taught face-to-face on offer anywhere in the UK or Ireland. If you would like to find out more about the course, please email me on What do we mean by ‘Catholic Social Teaching’? It’s part of Catholic moral theology; the phrase describes the Catholic Church’s moral teaching about society and the world, in particular since 1891. That was when Pope Leo XIII (of Apostolicae Curae fame) issued an encyclical letter called Rerum Novarum addressing the needs of industrial workers from the standpoint of moral teaching. This set off a series of letters by subsequent popes, right down to Pope Francis in the present day and his 2015 letter on the care of creation, Laudato Si’. What was ground-breaking about what Pope Leo did was that it was the first time the Church at this level had specifically addressed an issue of this kind. In another sense social teaching didn’t start in 1891. Social justice has been a big part of the Christian narrative, clear in the Jewish scriptures, the New Testament, the early Church Fathers and theologians like St Thomas Aquinas. There is clear continuity –  ways in which our contemporary social teaching, like the rest of the Church’s discourse about morality, speak to all of us powerfully of God’s love made real for us in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the life of his Body, the Church. One final point in this introductory piece – properly understood Catholic Social Teaching is exciting, and it is also dynamite. It challenges so many of our own prejudices and ways of thinking, and because of that it can make many people, including a good many Catholics, feel very threatened and angry. So fasten your safety belts! Fr Ashley Beck is Assistant Priest of Beckenham in the Archdiocese of Southwark and Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He is Dean of Studies of the Diaconate formation programme for most of the dioceses in southern England and Wales, including the Ordinar iate. Trained for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House, he was Assistant Curate of St John’s, Walham Green (1985-1990) and Priest-in- charge of St Matthew’s, Camberwell (1990- 1994).He became a Catholic in 1994 and was ordained two years later.