This unit will examine Catholic social and political ideas and movements in Europe and elsewhere, and evaluate their impact and interpretation in Australia. It will consider key issues in Catholic social movements in Europe, outline the backgrounds to the papal social encyclicals, and trace their development internationally to Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Unit code: CH9230Y

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: Yarra Theological Union

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Learning outcomes


show competence in reading and interpreting social encyclicals


demonstrate the importance of key social concepts: the common good, solidarity, social and distributive justice, capitalism, communism, socialism, corporatism


analyse debates about Catholic social movements, with an ability to critique various views


critique the strengths and weaknesses in the development of Catholic social thought


evaluate the social and political contexts in the development of social justice traditions in the Church

Unit sequence

A foundational unit in Church History or Moral Theology


The unit requires students to read closely the major social justice encyclicals in light of the historical context and the social justice debates at the time. Students are also required to discuss their findings and evaluate Church social reform efforts overseas and their impacts in Australia. The unit will outline the development of Catholic social thinking in Australia, including as reflected in the social justice statements of the Australian bishops. The lecturer will also make use of film and digital resources which succinctly portray various aspects of these developments. Written assessment requires significant reading and evaluation.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Duncan, Bruce. Crusade or Conspiracy? Catholics and the anti-Communist Struggle in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2001.
  • Faggioli, Massimo. J*ohn XXIII: the Medicine of Mercy*. Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 2104.
  • Himes, Kenneth R., ed. Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations. Washington, DC: Georgetown UP, 2004.
  • Hogan, Michael. Australian Catholics: The Social Justice Tradition. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1993.
  • Ivereigh, Austen: The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2014.
  • Mathews, Race. Of Labour and Liberty: Distributism in Victoria 1891-1966. Melbourne: Monash Publishing, 2017.
  • Pabst, Adrian. The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Pope Benedict XVI’s Social Encyclical and the Future of Political Economy. Cambridge, UK: James Clarke & Co., 2011.
  • Rourke, Thomas R. The Roots of Pope Francis’s Social and Political Thought: From Argentina to the Vatican. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.
  • Tornielli, Andrea & Galeazzi, Giacomo. This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice. Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 2015.
  • Vallely, Paul. Pope Francis: Untying the Knots. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Essay 3000 40.0
Essay 4000 60.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Carolyn Alsen on 1 Jun, 2019

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:49 +1000