IN A move which looks set to raise the profile of the Church's social teaching, Rome has issued new guidelines for seminaries giving the relevant encyclicals a more prominent role in students' training course.
The guidelines, published by the Congregation for Catholic Education, describe the Church's teaching on social and economic matters as a "rich inheritance" which needs to be taught and developed. It is "not a 'third way' between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism...but a disinterested service which the Church offers according to the needs of the times and places".
The Church's social teaching, which is "a modern version of the gospel message" is not being seminaries, according to the Congregation. Major social encyclicals should be required reading for all students for the
priesthood, and seminarians should also get a chance to experience directly the problems being discussed — by, for example, meeting trade unionists, workers and employers.
In recent years many Catholic organisations, including the Third World charity Cafod, have tried to enhance the place of the Church's social encyclicals. Brian Davies, head of development education at Cafod, said the new guidelines were a good sign but cautioned that the documents themselves were often rather long and dry.
"At the moment, most clerics are barely aware of the existence of the documents and you rarely hear sermons on themes of social justice. So if this document means seminaries will give more emphasis so the clergy see it as something important that's a good thing" he saki.