How well do you know your Catholic social teaching documents?
Challenge yourself with this activity, which can be completed either individually or in small groups. During the activity, you will increase your familiarity with the major social teaching documents and explore the development of the Church’s social teaching since 1891.
How to implement this activity with a group:
- Provide background information.
An encyclical is a letter from the Holy Father that is a “teaching document.” Its audience is every Catholic and all people of good will. A “social encyclical” applies the consistent, traditional moral teachings of the Church to the social and economic challenges of the current day. For example, the most recent social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, was written to address the current economic crisis and other issues facing the world today, and deals with moral aspects of economic life, poverty and development, human rights and duties, environmental responsibility, and other moral and economic issues.
- Break into small groups of 2-3 persons each.
Provide each group with a copy of the timeline of events (you may want to provide tape to adhere the pages of the timeline together horizontally) and batches of the cut-out rectangles with the Catholic social teaching documents descriptions. Explain that we are going to see how, over the past 120 years, these documents have helped guide Catholics’ perspectives on issues and problems facing our human family.
- Small group activity.
Ask each group to read the events on the timelines and to try to match the cut-out rectangles describing the documents with the events timeline. If participants need help, tell them to pay attention to:
- Events mentioned in the timeline that are also mentioned in the social documents descriptions.
- The names of the popes, since documents by the same popes will follow one another.
- References to anniversaries, since some documents were written to celebrate the anniversary of a previous document.
- Checking answers.
When all the groups are finished, go through each of the years on the timeline one-by-one, mentioning some of the events that happened that year. For each year, ask participants to call out the correct social teaching document. The group leader can check answers using the answer key. When the correct document is named, ask the person who got it correct to explain how the document was responding to those issues facing the world.
- Discussion. Discuss following questions:
- What social teaching document did you find most interesting? Why?
- Name an example of how a social teaching document responded to issues facing the human family at a particular time? How did that document help Catholics see issues facing the world in the light of their faith?
- Which document(s) might you be most interested in reading in full? Be sure to mention that students can find links to the text of all the documents at www.usccb.org/campus!