How well do you know your Catholic social teaching documents?
Challenge yourself with this activity, which can be completed either individually or in small groups. During the activity, you will
increase your familiarity with the major social teaching documents and
explore the development of the Church’s social teaching since 1891.
How to implement this activity with a group:
- Provide background information.
An encyclical is a letter from the Holy Father that
is a “teaching document.” Its audience is every Catholic and all people
of good will. A “social encyclical” applies the consistent,
traditional moral teachings of the Church to the social and economic
challenges of the current day. For example, the most recent social
encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, was written to address the
current economic crisis and other issues facing the world today, and
deals with moral aspects of economic life, poverty and development,
human rights and duties, environmental responsibility, and other moral
and economic issues.
- Break into small groups of 2-3 persons each.
Provide each group with a copy of the timeline of events
(you may want to provide tape to adhere the pages of the timeline
together horizontally) and batches of the cut-out rectangles with the Catholic social teaching documents descriptions.
Explain that we are going to see how, over the past 120 years, these
documents have helped guide Catholics’ perspectives on issues and
problems facing our human family.
- Small group activity.
Ask each group to read the events on the timelines and to try to match
the cut-out rectangles describing the documents with the events
timeline. If participants need help, tell them to pay attention to:
- Events mentioned in the timeline that are also mentioned in the social documents descriptions.
- The names of the popes, since documents by the same popes will follow one another.
- References to anniversaries, since some documents were written to celebrate the anniversary of a previous document.
- Checking answers.
When all the groups are finished, go through each of the years on
the timeline one-by-one, mentioning some of the events that happened
that year. For each year, ask participants to call out the correct
social teaching document. The group leader can check answers using the answer key.
When the correct document is named, ask the person who got it correct
to explain how the document was responding to those issues facing the
- Discussion. Discuss following questions:
- What social teaching document did you find most interesting? Why?
- Name an example of how a social teaching document responded to
issues facing the human family at a particular time? How did that
document help Catholics see issues facing the world in the light of
- Which document(s) might you be most interested in reading in
full? Be sure to mention that students can find links to the text of
all the documents at www.usccb.org/campus!