MR 228 - Catholic Social Ethics

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Module Level


Time Allowance

24 lecture hours


One essay (1500 words), and one end of semester written exam

Module Aims

This module examines aspects of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), through an examination of key social encyclicals and secondary commentary by social theologians and philosophers.

Using the Church’s social documents as the foundation, students will study several social justice issues, including the migrant/refugee crisis, climate justice, forced displacement, economic justice, and homelessness. Students will gain a comprehensive overview of the social tradition, as well as come to know the work of some leading contributors in this field. There will be both a local and a universal dimension to this module – global concerns will be discussed, but the local (Irish) Church’s contribution will also be a feature of the module.

Indicative Syllabus:

  • Various social documents, including Fratelli Tutti, Laudato Si, Populorum Progressio, and several Pastoral Letters by Bishops’ Conferences around the world.
  • The contributions of leading experts such as Heyer, Betts, Hollenbach, and Sandel.
  • A critique of the social and political vision of CST and its application to the migrant debate
  • Civic virtue, the rise of populism, and the common good
  • A “politics of the common good” versus narrow nationalism
  • Climate refugees: displacement and homelessness because of climate change
  • Economic justice, growing poverty, and integral human development.


  • Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 2020.
  • David Hollenbach, Humanity in Crisis, (Georgetown University Press, 2019).
  • Michael Sandel, Justice : What’s the Right Thing To Do ? (New York : Farrer Straus and Giroux, 2009).
  • Anna Rowlands, Towards a Politics of Communion : Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times, (London : T&T Clark, 2021).
  • Kristin Heyer, Kinship Across Boarders, A Christian Ethic of Immigration, (Washingtown : Georgetown University Press, 2012).
  • Alexander Betts, The Wealth of Refugees : How Displaced People can Build Economies, (Oxford : OUP, 2021).
  • Christina Peppard, Andrea Vicini (eds.), Just Sustainability : Technology, Ecology, and Resource Extraction, (Orbis Books, 2015).