WASHINGTON (June 11, 1998) -- The U.S. Bishops will consider aggressive educational efforts to promote the Church's social mission among Catholics as part of their annual June meeting, June 18-20 in Pittsburgh.
The churchmen will address the concern as they vote on "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions," a 15-page statement proposed by the heads of three U.S. Catholic Conference (UCSC) committees. They include Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, Chairman of the International Policy Committee; Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, Chairman of the Education Committee; and Archbishop William S. Skylstad, Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee.
"If Catholic education and formation fail to communicate our social tradition, they are not fully Catholic," the proposed document states.
The chairmen pointed to current deficiencies in conveying Catholic social thought.
"Sadly, our social doctrine is not shared or taught in a consistent and comprehensive way in too many of our schools, seminaries, religious education efforts, colleges, and universities," they said. "We need to build on the good work already underway to ensure that every Catholic understands how the Gospel and Church teaching call us to 'choose life,' to serve the 'least among us,' to 'hunger and thirst' for justice, and to be 'peacemakers.' The sharing of our social tradition is a defining measure of Catholic education and formation."
The chairmen noted the approaching Third Millennium.
"The test for our Church is not simply have we 'kept the faith,' but have we shared the faith," they said. "As we approach the Jubilee of the Lord's birth, we seek to support and encourage renewal efforts to make the social dimensions of our faith come alive in caring service, creative education and principled action through the Catholic community."
The statement follows a recently completed report of a special Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education, chaired by Archbishop John R. Roach, retired archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and composed of top leaders in Catholic education from seminaries and universities to parish religious education. The task force spent more than a year studying the extent to which Catholic social teaching currently is being taught in Catholic educational programs.
The report, which was presented to the bishops with the statement they are to vote on, found that "although many Catholic educational and catechetical programs excel in communicating Catholic social thought, there are many others that cover the social mission incompletely, indirectly, or not all.
"This situation represents a critical problem for the Church's efforts to hand down the faith accurately and in all its dimensions," the task force added.
The 13-page report listed several recommendations for further incorporating Catholic social teaching into church educational programs.
Among them are calls for
- Dioceses to incorporate Catholic social teaching into in-service training of teachers and curriculum guidelines.
- Development of a national clearinghouse to collect and share models and resources for teaching Catholic social thought at all levels.
- Colleges and universities to form a national network of faculty who would focus on justice and peace studies
- Seminaries to offer not less than one required course specifically on Catholic social teaching.
- Textbook publishers to incorporate the principles of Catholic social thought into all disciplines in addition to providing materials specific to Catholic social teaching.
- Archbishop Roach noted the significance of the findings.
"I believe the task force report has highlighted a serious concern and an important challenge for our Church," he said. "The statement from the bishops, if approved, will be a wake-up call to all of us involved in Catholic education and social ministry."