Strategic Directions

Drop Shadow

Catholic Social Teaching Open Forum, March 1, 2005

[pdf file for printing]

Facilitators: Terri Monroe, Stephen Conroy

Dr. Conroy explained that Catholic Social Teaching represents the core values of Jesus’ life, and—like Jesus’ life—are somewhat controversial. The “ten themes” on the handout is an arbitrary grouping of concepts compiled by the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. The CST Task Force selected six of the ten themes they thought were most important to the USD community. The U.S. bishops have published a grouping of seven themes.

Comments from Forum Participants

  • Question how the task force narrowed down to 6 themes – why not focus on all 10?
  • Most controversial is the positive role of government (#5) – that theme should not be omitted. Virtually all students believe government is bad and suppresses justice. We can interpret “subsidiarity” as the Church recognizing that there are roles for government in helping those who can’t help themselves.
  • Participation (#9) is also important to make it possible through our demographics to achieve participation. We need to include the challenging themes.
  • We should support rights and responsibilities (#5).
  • Role of Government (#5) and Participation (#9) are centrally connected. May want to look at a specific approach to represent these themes: challenging, controversial – but important basis of social teaching.
  • Not all items are on a par with each other. Dignity of human person (#1) and common good and community (#2) tell us about fundamental values—that is, what to seek after. Role of government (#5), economic justice (#6), and promotion of peace and disarmament (#8) tell us how. We should pay attention to the different relationships among these items.
  • Role of government (#5) – and every one of these themes can be hijacked by both extremes (conservatives and liberals). How can we integrate all ten?
  • How to implement role of government (#5) – begin by teaching about rights and responsibilities (#4); show the integration of the various social teachings. Teach through integrating the teachings not by separating out (i.e., top 2-3 or top 6 themes).
  • We could group or cluster them in a way that would let all of them remain. They are already intermingled. Ten themes is limiting – but clustering and showing integration between themes may be a way to highlight all ten.
  • Must look at another way for USD to organize the themes, so that the teachings are not limited.
  • Start with the dignity of the person and work your way out? That is, person - local – world.
  • Dignity of human person (#1) and common good and community (#2) are the lynchpin—all of them are held together by #1 and #2—the underlying dignity of the individual expressed in community. These two may be the way to address the remaining 8 themes. Every department and program can assess itself vis a vis the themes in light of what they do: is there progress each year? Possibly we could rotate through one theme a year (cycle).
  • The Social Issues Committee has tried to cycle through and synchronize themes. We may need to work on areas that don’t fit into the metric. New “D” core requirement relates to a lot of them. Some will jump out and let us measure them. It is desirable to have measurement, but not always realistic.
  • Common good (#2) could be incorporated into the GE requirements.
  • The handout lists major ideas from the workshop. Workshop idea #3, an inventory of what we’re doing, should involve a good number of faculty – include faculty to understand what’s already being done in academic arena. It’s disappointing to read workshop idea #2 about tampering with the promotion and tenure process instead of finding ways that the campus is already united or ways that will tie them together. We need to look at ways to get more faculty involved.
  • The first year of a five-year action plan may be devoted to an inventory. What are USD’s strengths? We must understand the rhythm or flow of these themes and how to incorporate them into the USD culture.
  • This is an apathetic campus. It’s disappointing that we’re fighting over major themes when this topic should be about activism and justice—codes of conduct with administrators —fair trade (how USD buys and sells) — administrative support for the Romero Center and supporting student trips to poor areas (e.g., in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia).
  • Some of those things could be included in a service requirement (for students as well as faculty, staff and administrators). Need to be physically involved and everyone held to a higher standard. Question: should there be an internationalization requirement?
  • We need the inventory, because much is already being done. The input into creating the inventory may stimulate discussion and new ideas.
  • Economic justice (#6) implies options for the poor (#3), which in turn implies global solidarity (#10)—economic justice here and abroad. Similarly, the role of government (#5) implies participation (#9). Human dignity (#1) implies common good (#2) and the responsibility to promote rights (#4). That leaves peace (#8) and stewardship (#7). Ten themes seem tidy, organized; could be reduced to five clusters. Dignity (#1) and common good (#2) could be seen as goals as the other 8 are implemented.
  • American Catholics are oftentimes seen as “ala carte” – therefore, the action plan needs to address the entire community on all of the themes so that we can become aware of social teachings are our responsibilities. More people may interact with the information, and could be challenged to volunteer (e.g., Jesuit Volunteer Corps).
  • These ten themes are evolving (and represent the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. There is some flow, liquidity in the number when comparing different documents. Bishops began with certain themes, increased these.
  • Want to say thank you for the February workshop and Open Forums: as action plans go forward, though, need more faculty involvement.
  • Important not to rush to create action plans – important to involve community and have ability to change action plans as we go along.
  • Important the people understand that the social teachings flow from spirituality, relationship with God; this is the animating spirit behind the teachings. Need experiential process in order to create environment when people can change; action plan and implementation should not be legalistic.
  • The first step of the action plan: should not be to reinvent the wheel. Need to look at what is in place. How can we be better guided? Maybe the CST task force and Social Issues Committee should work together to implement and use what we already have?
  • Sexuality and reproduction are areas unrepresented by the ten themes. Also, bioethics, women’s rights, women’s health, the family. Make campus students more aware of these topics discussed by the Catholic Church.
  • “Dignity of life from conception to natural death” implicitly covers many of those issues.
  • Important that we help students with real issues – which means learning may not always be in the classroom (e.g., common good and community).
  • In project planning, there should be an up front discovery phase and a clear definition of the end goal. You need to know where you are, and then decide where you want to be at the end of five years. The measurable objectives should be assessed by the departments, schools and within the degree programs.
  • Where do we go from here? The first step is to assess we are; inventory. Where are we strong; where are we pathetic.
  • How do we do this consciously? We need action items to challenge us to teach and practice the themes.
  • In order to do that, we must talk to people most likely to be disadvantaged in “walking the talk.” Have those people voice the ways in which they aren’t being treated well. Examples: input of people at lower levels of staff positions or people who work part-time without benefits.
  • How many part-timers with no benefits does USD employ?
  • After the Ethics-Across-the-Campus survey was conducted several years ago, several recommendations were made. The Task Force could assess what progress has been made with respect to those recommendations.
  • A coalition of student justice groups on campus (through Romero Center) is planning to create an on-line calendar listing all the justice-related events occurring on campus.
  • Economic justice is bad on this campus.
  • Need more student involvement; need buy-in and discussion with administration regarding economic justice issues.