Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

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Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church By the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C., 2004, 446 pages, $50

A compendium is "a concise but comprehensive summary of JL JLa larger work." The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" lives up to this definition. It presents an overview of Catholic social teaching and takes a systematic approach to find solutions for social problems while incorporating the "see, judge, act" methodology of Catholic action.

The work is divided into three parts and 12 chapters. Drawing on the theology of Vatican II, the introduction stresses the link between social doctrine and evangelization at the beginning of the third millennium. This opus is meant to promote the pastoral priority of making social doctrine known and to foster the activity of Christians in the social sector to build the reign of God. The dynamism of social doctrine is emphasized: "It must not be forgotten that the passing of time and the changing of social circumstances will require a constant updating of the reflections on the various issues raised here, in order to interpret the new signs of the times" (p. 4).

The compendium is meant for teachers. "Those responsible for formation will find herein a guide for their teaching and a tool for their pastoral service" (p. 4). Teachers and pastors should have this document on their shelves as a resource for their own teaching and preaching. It should be in the libraries of all Catholic institutions as a tool for research.

The compendium offers an outstanding analytical index that references sub-themes such as the common good, the family, social sin, subsidiarity and participation, under larger themes such as citizen or citizenship. This index makes the book a user-friendly document that can be used to trace the development of church teaching on a topic and the sources that have contributed to it. Because it covers the full range of church teaching, it is a valuable resource for dialogue with those who focus on single issues without an appreciation for how every individual statement depends on and is embedded in the wider context of the opus of Catholic social teaching, both theologically and practically.

Within the covers of the compendium are found references from the Old and New Testaments; ecumenical councils; doctors of the church; papal documents such as encyclical letters, apostolic exhortations and apostolic letters; Motu Proprios; and written and radio messages and speeches from five popes dating from 1855 to 2004. It also references church documents such as "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" and documents produced by the Roman Congregations for the Clergy, the Doctrine of the Faith and Catholic Education.

It contains references to the work of the pontifical councils such as those for Social Communications, the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, the Family, Justice and Peace. Finally, writings from the Commissions for Relations with Judaism, the Academy for Life, the Code of Canon Law and references from international law are also cited. An appendix explaining the levels of authority attributed to various documents would be a helpful supplement to this work. …