Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ask Ellen: Catholic Social Teaching #3

Theme 3: Rights and Responsibilities

Last week we discussed how we are all interconnected through society and through our families.  We learned that it is our responsibility to care for the poor among us.

This social teaching flows directly from the first two we discussed.  The Church teaches that every person not only has the right to life but also has the right to human decency.  What does this mean?  I would ask students to give examples of things humans need to live well.  Food, clothing, shelter, education, medical treatment etc.

The Church in this social teaching tells us that it is our right to have these things.  Yet, it is also our responsibility to make sure everyone else does as well.  I would explain that  being responsible means we will be asked to answer for it.  The Church tells us that God expects us to help  everyone have what they need to live.  Not only does He expect it, he makes it our job.  We will answer for how well we did this.

This would be an excellent teachable moment for you as a family or class to brainstorm ways you can help people acquire the basics for human decency.  I encourage you to have the students spring into action

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ask Ellen: Catholic Social Teaching: Theme 2: The Call To Family, Community and Participation

Last week we learned that the Church teaches that each life is sacred.  We addressed the many issues that should define the pro-life movement.  I challenged you to encourage your children to be consistent in the stand to protect all life, at all stages in all parts of the world.

This week students will see that each person is also interconnected to others.  We are a society.  We have laws, an economy, politics, a way we work, etc.  These things shape how humans live and whether or not they flourish.  I would ask children in what ways they have seen this to be true?

Families are part of society.  Families are the key to the progression of a society.  The Church tells us that if we want society to flourish, it must begin within the family.  I would ask the students to examine their role within their own families.  Do they do their part to strengthen it and make it grow?  I would encourage them to pray for all families, especially ones they know who might being having difficulties.

The Church goes on to tell us that we have rights and responsibilities as members of society and within our families.  We should be active participants in both.  We should always seek to serve the common good and well being of others, especially the poor and vulnerable.  I would ask students what things they could be doing to help others, especially the poor?

The important thing for students (and us) to understand is that we have been granted many privileges.  But with these privileges come responsibilities.  Caring for the poor and marginalized is not an option, it is a responsibility.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ask Ellen: Catholic Church's Social Teachings for Middle School Students: Theme One

Theme 1: Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Middle school students are at an age where they can really begin to understand this.  It is a wonderful time to present the correct social teaching and the logic behind it.

The Catholic Church teaches respect for ALL human life.  There are many controversial issues surrounding this teaching such as abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, the death penalty, war and terrorism to name a few.  Children might be somewhat familiar with these terms but we need to be sure that they have the correct reasoning behind the teaching.

Simply put all of the above issues interfere with the value of life on some level.  One of the things that many adults fail to understand is that is truly difficult to find someone who is totally pro-life.  Most people are inconsistent.  Some people are adamantly anti-abortion, yet they vote for people who support the death penalty.  Some people are horrified by euthanasia, yet they support war.  Most people in America have no problem accepting these inconsistencies.  But to truly follow the Church’s teachings, you have to admit that this is contradictory.  We either have to modify our worldview or admit that we aren’t who we say we are.

Children (and adults) might try to argue that the world has gotten too complex for such a simplistic worldview.  Advances in medicine and the current global landscape are challenging.  Yet the Church’s teaching is really very simple: respect ALL human life: in the womb, in the nursing home and in Iraq.  It really is that simple.

I would encourage children to be consistent in carrying out this teaching.  I would encourage them not to get so swept up in one aspect that they overlook the others.  It is a super large teaching with many hot button issues, but at the core it is just common sense.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ask Ellen: Could you explain the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church in a way Middle School students would understand? Kim, PA

I received this very intriguing question from a principal of a Catholic school.   Yikes!

The more I thought about the request, the more I knew I needed to answer her.  I needed to answer her so I would begin to understand it.  Over the next eight Ask Ellen questions, I will attempt to explain these Social Teachings of the Catholic Church is very simplified terms.

I begin today by explaining what it means to be social.  Merriam- Webster tells us that it means “of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.”

What does that mean?  It means that we are all part of something way larger than ourselves.  We are members of a family, a city, a state, a country, a race, a religion etc. 

How we behave as members of all of these larger groups is important.  The Catholic Church knows that.  The Church asks us to behave as responsible members and to respect all other people of all the other groups.   In short, these teachings tell us how we should act and relate to the world.

Over the next seven weeks we will look at these teachings.  They include: respect for life, participation, responsibilities, caring for the weak, the value of work, loving our neighbors and caring for the earth.

These themes will help us understand what role we are to play in society.  These may be the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church but certainly there is something all of us can learn about our place in society.  I encourage you to think about these issues and how you address them in your own life and how you teach your children about them.  Hopefully, by the time we finish learning about them we will all be better citizens.