The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching

Its Origin and Contemporary Significance

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"The book will be a superb teaching resource for students who want to link theology and tradition with the contemporary search for a meaningful way of life that includes justice and the common good."--Lisa Sowle Cahill, Boston College
This accessible introduction covers the complete history and contemporary contexts of the church's involvement in Catholic social tradition, giving distinctive attention to the Bible, liturgy, the thought of Augustine and Aquinas, and recent theological developments.

Bringing together veteran teachers of Catholic Social Teaching who have worked together on the content, this book is designed to set social questions within the Catholic tradition and contemporary life. End-of-chapter application sections address practical concerns, such as racism in the church, charity, consumerism, and talking with neighbors and coworkers about moral issues. Discussion questions, case studies, excerpts of church documents, and suggestions for further reading enhance the book's usefulness. It will work well for students of theology and ethics, particularly Catholics but also Protestants who want to know more about the Catholic social tradition.


"This collection brings the venerable tradition of Catholic social justice in line with a newer generation's concerns about community, personal commitment, and liturgy. Social action and policy reform are integrally and dynamically related to the nature of the Christian life and the necessity of conversion. The book will be a superb teaching resource for students who want to link theology and tradition with the contemporary search for a meaningful way of life that includes justice and the common good."--Lisa Sowle Cahill, Boston College

"This collection arises from the collaborative habits of a real community of teacher-scholars, philosophers and theologians who live in the same place and talk to each other about the general education program in which they all work. Wise, timely, rigorous, and accessible to students, The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching is an ideal choice for an undergraduate course."--William L. Portier, University of Dayton

"The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching moves beyond principles to the lifeblood of Catholic thought--scripture, Eucharist, Augustine, Aquinas and more. The book will be a useful resource for those who teach the Catholic social tradition."--M. Therese Lysaught, Marquette University

"Designing a penetrating and comprehensive introduction to Catholic social teaching presents no small challenge given the myriad of possibilities for structuring the material, including: the documentary tradition since Rerum Novarum, essential themes in the tradition, or specific practical issues. David McCarthy and the contributors of The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching: Its Origins and Contemporary Significance have done us an enormous service by providing a text that masterfully interweaves all the key time periods, figures, sources, documents, themes, and issues in Catholic social teaching.

Its historical reach extends beyond the 'social encyclicals' starting with Rerum Novarum to the scriptures, Patristic and Medieval thought, and right up to Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est. The major figures addressed include not only the popes since Leo XIII, but also classic figures such as Augustine and Aquinas and 20th century thinkers such as Dorothy Day and Emmanuel Levinas. All the necessary themes in Catholic social teaching are treated accessibly and insightfully, including: the common good, private property, subsidiarity, solidarity, hospitality, natural law, and human rights. Finally, all chapters end by engaging at least one practical issue, including: the environment, the death penalty, religious liberty and coercion, health care, eating and grocery shopping, consumerism, voting, the nature of property and work, and the role of the family.

The book manages to present all of these different groupings as a unified, organically integrated introductory text.

Just as important, the book presents the heart of Catholic social teaching in a manner whereby both its intellectual rigor and its practicality are accessible, such that the reader is not only enlightened but also empowered."--William C. Mattison III, Catholic University of America

The Author

  1. David Matzko McCarthy

    David Matzko McCarthy

    David Matzko McCarthy (PhD, Duke University) teaches theology at Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is the author of Gathered for the Journey: Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective and Sex and Love in the Home: A Theology of...

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"Brazos is this fascinating imprint that attempts to dig deep into our best traditions as a church, relating them to the postmodern times of our contemporary culture. . . . They've done marvelous books, academic stuff and less scholarly work, too, almost all of impeccable scholarship and taste, interesting and important. There are more basic introductions to the coherence of the Catholic social ethic, but I doubt if you'll find a more interesting, thoughtful, and important collection. This weaves defty between Augustine and Aquinas, Scripture and Eucharist, peace, abortion, human rights, civic life and the deep spirituality of this venerable tradition."--Byron Borger,

"Offer[s] brief, helpful studies of various themes in CST [Catholic social teaching]. This volume, coupled with the foundational documents of CST, would make for a solid set of readings for an introductory course on the subject. . . . The essays are nonideological, balanced, informative, and hold together well. Thus, the collection is well worth the read. Undergraduates in CST courses would be an especially good audience for the book."--Mark S. Latkovic, Journal of Markets & Morality