DOCAT a practical guide to Catholic social teaching
by Chad Prososki | Catholic Charities ND
Our values statement declares: “Catholic Charities serves all people, regardless of faith. These values inspire the work that we do for and with those most in need: Our mission is sustained by hope, guided by charity, and rooted in Christian faith and the principles of Catholic social teaching.”
Previously in this column I’ve discussed some resources available on Catholic social teachings. These include papal encyclicals addressing topics on charity and justice, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and of course Sacred Scripture and the Catechism. These are all very insightful sources, but over the past couple of years, I have been searching for a more accessible guide to social teachings.
This past fall a mentor shared a newer resource with me called the DOCAT. The DOCAT tries to do exactly what it says, that is, to answer the question of “What should we do?” Some of you may already be familiar with the YOUCAT, a catechism for youth that was prepared through a grassroots initiative and distributed to young people at World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. The YOUCAT has grown in popularity since then, was followed by the DOCAT for World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, and most recently the same team published a YOUCAT Bible as well.
The DOCAT was created in response to the vision of Pope Francis and others as a guide for young people on how to live out their faith in the world. In fact, the DOCAT includes a foreword from the Pope himself, where Francis invites all of us to learn the social doctrine of the Church and participate in social action. He adds, “If a Christian in these days looks away from the need of the poorest of the poor, then in reality he is not a Christian!”
Addressed especially to our young people, the DOCAT contains a richness and depth to it that can benefit individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The social teachings are a great gift from the Church, and all people of goodwill should find many ideas for consideration in how we can respond with love and care to problems we face in the world today. A companion DOCAT Study Guide is also available to help with individual lessons or group discussions. Copies of both are available at Catholic bookstores, at a discount through the Fargo Diocese Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, or online.
Interestingly, the DOCAT is structured in a question and answer format similar to the way St. Thomas Aquinas addressed common questions or objections with his responses in Summa Theologica. This method also hearkens back to the ancient philosophers and is still commonly known today as the “Socratic Method” after the Greek Philosopher Socrates, who was reported to have asked questions of his students or followers in order to teach them.
The DOCAT begins by explaining where the social teachings come from and their purpose. Over time, the Catholic social teachings have been developed through the Popes and Bishops (Q24-25). The purpose of the social teachings is: (1) “To set forth the requirements of just social action as they appear in the Gospel,” and (2) “In the name of justice to denounce social, economic, or political actions and structures wherever they contradict the Gospel message.” (Q23). Helpful summaries of the key themes or principles of the social teachings can be readily found from the USCCB and other sources.
In describing the DOCAT, Pope Francis says, “it is like a user’s manual that helps us to change ourselves with the Gospel first, and then our closest surroundings, and finally the whole world.”
Through twelve chapters, the DOCAT answers tough questions about living in our world with others, on the individual level, locally and nationally, and on the international field. It explains concepts such as solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good, and discusses the importance of family in society. Another great feature of the DOCAT is the digressions on different current topics. These include brief coverage of new media, bioethics, poverty, global goods, and research.
Although the DOCAT is small, there is much to digest. It can be picked up and reflected upon as most people would not want to or be able to read it all at one time. In my experience, I could easily spend an hour on each of its twelve chapters, and may have taken much longer if I had the time. With substantial indexes, the DOCAT can serve as a useful reference tool as well. Much of the beauty of this book is how well-researched it is. It contains many helpful quotes, stories, and examples to drive home its points. For this and the reasons above, I think the DOCAT hits a homerun!
Chad Prososki is the Director of Development and Community Relations for Catholic Charities North Dakota. For more than 90 years, Catholic Charities North Dakota and its supporters have been putting their faith in action helping people, changing lives. You can reach Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 235-4457.