Turning to the World: Social Justice and
The Common Good Since Vatican II

St. Thomas More College
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
March 8-9, 2013

St. Thomas More College was pleased to host a conference on social justice and the common good on March of 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.  The conference drew an interdisciplinary audience of scholars in areas such as sociology, history, philosophy, religious studies, economics, and political studies whose research has focused on documenting and comprehending changes in the field of social justice that stemmed from this momentous historical event.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dr. Terrence Downey, President, St. Thomas More College - Greetings
Bishop Don Bolen, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – Opening Prayer

Opening Session - Chair:  Dr. Carl Still, Dean, St. Thomas More College

Bishop Remi De Roo, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Victoria
Living the Vision of Vatican II

Dr. Catherine Clifford, Professor, Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University
Social Justice and the Common Good in the Teaching of Vatican II
Abstract:  This paper will explore the notion of the common good as it has emerged in Catholic teaching in the early twentieth century and received in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, with particular attention to its development in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) which relates it to the “general welfare of the entire human family” (GS 26). Finally, it will ask what dimensions of the common good might merit consideration in the present context.

Dr. Michael Duggan, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, St. Mary’s University College
Personalism, Conscience and Freedom: New Foundations for Catholic Social Teaching at Vatican II
Abstract:  The understanding of the human person, with attention to conscience and freedom, provided the platform for the principles of Catholic Social Teaching at Vatican II, animated social reflection throughout the reign of Paul VI, and remained foundational to discussions of social justice over the past 50 years. This paper consists of three parts: (1) an examination of the human person, conscience and freedom in relation to social justice principles in the conciliar documents Gaudium et Spes and Dignitatis Humanae; (2) a description of how the new humanism of Vatican II propelled calls to action during the papacy of Paul VI in his encyclicals Populorum Progressio (1967) and Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) which were bookends for the statements of the Medellin conference of the Bishops of Latin America (September 6, 1968), and documents Justice in the World of the third synod of Bishops (1971), and (3) a summarizing conclusion that highlights the urgency of refocusing attention on liberation, which had been central to Catholic Social Teaching in the first decade after the Council but has received diminishing emphasis from 1980 to the present. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Co-keynote Address  - Moderator:  Dr. Terrence Downey, President, St. Thomas More College

Dr. Gregory Baum, Professor Emeritus, McGill University (via Skype)
Faith and the Commitment to Social Justice
Abstract:  In the historical context of the 1960s and 1970s official Catholic social teaching called for radical social change and looked upon the struggle for justice as a public witness to Jesus Christ. A typical example is the statement 'Justice in the World' published by the World Synod of Bishops of 1971. In the present lecture I wish to show that in the historical situation beginning in the late 1980s, official Catholic teaching became more conformist and made a clear distinction between the Church's evangelizing mission and its commitment to promote justice and peace. A typical example are the new regulations imposed by the Canadian bishops on the Catholic N.G.O. Development and Peace.

Dr. Stephen Scharper, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, and Centre for Environment, University of Toronto
Vatican II and Social Justice: From the Common Good to the Commons
Abstract:  Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, religious conversations concerning social justice have increasingly included environmental concerns.  Rather than simply a “Velcro-like” addition to the ecclesial social justice agenda, ecological concerns are foundational to Christian responses to the common good. Re-envisioning the role of the human is thus a critical enterprise. In this presentation, the notion of “the commons” as it relates to creation, commodified nature, and the link between an “option for the poor” and “option for the earth” will be explored. This new ecological moment, it will be suggested, challenges church teaching to move from anthropocentrism, where even as stewards of creation we see ourselves in a managerial role, to the notion of anthropoharmonism, where we see the human role as focal but nonetheless oriented toward respectful and loving integration within the biotic community. 

Session I  –  Preferential Option for the Poor, Chair:  Dr. Anna Klimina, Associate Professor, Department of Economics,St. Thomas More College

Fr. Eduardo Soto Parra, PhD Candidate, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba
The Role of Vatican II in the Roman Catholic Church Orientation Towards Social Justice in Latin America
Abstract:  The change that happened in the 1970s and 1980s in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America regarding social justice and attention to the poor is evident, not only in the ways that the resultant documents from the Latin American Bishop Conference have addressed the topic, but also in the method and locations chosen by church leaders to pursue their task of evangelization.  However, this change is due not only to the influence of Vatican II but also to certain political situations and philosophical orientations that also were relevant in Latin America at that time.  By  analysing of the final documents released by each Latin American Bishop Conference since Vatican II, this paper defines the role of the Vatican II documents in the shift referred above, and how the Vatican II orientation enlightened understandings and interpretations of those events and situations in the region that modeled the Latin American Church.

Ms. Anna Blackman, PhD Candidate, Catholic Social Teaching and Civil Society, Durham University
Moralising Neo-Liberalism?  An analysis of the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic Social Teaching
Abstract:  This paper will explore the evolution of the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic Social Teaching in relation to interpretations of what constitutes necessary and appropriate State intervention. In particular, attention will be paid to the developments following Vatican II, highlighting the relationship between Catholic Social Teaching and Neo-liberalism.  Using the recent critique by the Radical Orthodoxy Movement of the account of subsidiarity found in Church teaching, this paper will question whether Catholic Social Teaching has failed to be sufficiently critical of Neo-liberalism and the expansion of the Market, perhaps even going so far as to implicitly endorse them. Can the theology of Radical Orthodoxy act as a corrective to this, providing a moreadequate reading to provide for social justice, based on an ecclesiological theology that radically rejects the entire Neo-liberal system, rather than one based in natural law which it criticises for simply 'moralising' the system's worst excesses?  This paper will conclude by considering the contribution of Rowan Williams, suggesting this may provide a useful middle ground between both theologies.

Session II  – Religious Pluralism/Culture of Peace, Chair:  Dr. Darrell McLaughlin, Associate Dean, St. Thomas More College

Dr. Alisha Pomazon, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion and Culture, St. Thomas More College
Linking Nostra Aetate to Social Justice Teaching
Abstract:  What is human dignity? How is it understood in terms of interreligious dialogue and social justice teachings? In this paper, I will analyze the connection between dialogue and dignity by looking at these as ideas as promulgated by Nostra Aetate and Catholic social justice teaching. In doing so, I intend to analyze foundational ideas of covenant, covenantal relationship and Jewish social justice in order to argue that Nostra Aetate, the Vatican’s understanding of its relation to the world, and the Vatican’s understanding of its relation to the world’s people represent moments of social justice, which grounds the idea of human dignity in the world. Thus, this paper will draw on the Vatican’s documents concerning its relation to Judaism and the modern world, as well as upon Jewish responses (including David Meyer, Jonathan Sacks and David Rosen) to Vatican documents, Catholic social justice teaching, and the ideas of interreligious dialogue.

Dr. Darren Dahl, Sessional Lecturer, Department of Religion and Culture, St. Thomas More College and Director of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism
Piercing the Banality of the Present: Ecumenism, Politics, and Reformation

Abstract:  This paper discusses the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) in light of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) in order to explore the connections between ecumenism and political theology in the thought of Johann Baptist Metz. Drawing particularly on Metz’s 1970 Concilium essay dedicated to the question of ecumenism, the paper argues that the Decree on Ecumenism can be fruitfully read in conversation with Gaudium et Spes. In constructing the conversation in this manner, the paper seeks draw ecumenical theology into a properly political engagement.

Mr. Chris Hrynkow, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion and Culture, St. Thomas More College
A Green Vision of Peace?  Catholic Social Teaching and Its Contribution to the Culture of Peace Since Vatican II

Abstract:  This paper builds on the premise that exercises of the magisterial office, addressing both “the faithful” (who now number over one billion) and (often) “people of good will” on matters of peace and justice have a role in crafting a culture of substantive peace. In this paper, I propose to critically examine this contribution from a green perspective that seeks to keep social justice, ecological health and the cosmic common good symbiotically joined. In short, this paper will comment on how, when viewed through an theo-ecological ethical lens, select content of post-Vatican II Catholic Social Teaching is significant for the way its moral standpoint rhetorically contributes to or detracts from human flourishing within an atmosphere of substantively peaceful and mutually enhancing human-Earth relationships (i .e. a green perspective on the culture of peace). By way of a conclusion, suggestions for possible green improvements to Catholic Social Teaching so that it can better contribute to a substantive culture of peace will be offered.

Session III Living Social Justice and the Common Good, Chair:  Dr. Saeed Moshiri, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, St. Thomas More College    

Dr. Loren Stuckenbruck, Professor of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität
Visions of Social Justice and Human Integrity in Early Jewish Apocalyptic Thought:  Implications for Christian Theology

Abstract:  Vatican II and its aftermath, beginning with Nostra Aetate (1965), opened up pathways among biblical scholars to explore social justice issues while drawing theologically on Jewish tradition, whether the Old Testament or other ancient writings. Critiques of oppressive wealth, heard in the Hebrew Bible, reached a climax within “apocalyptic” tradition that proclaimed a vision for a different world, in order to comfort the faithful for whom it is a hostile place. Although focus on another world could undermine work towards social justice within the present, it originated from a Jewish protest tradition that anticipated a transformation more than the dissolution of present structures and institutions. In the spirit of Nostra Aetate, this paper explores social justice in relation to human dignity and the environment in 1 Enoch, which – as claimed by the Irish scholar R.H. Charles (1912) – shaped early Christian tradition more than any other ancient Jewish text.

Dr. Cynthia Wallace, Assistant Professor, Department of English, St. Thomas More College
To the World: Castillo’s
The Guardians and Literature after Vatican II
Abstract:  In the decades after Vatican II a tentative, dialogic tone has emerged in the multi-voiced global community of writers who claim Catholicism as heritage or hope. This dialogic stance is often pairedwith explicit concern for social justice. Ana Castillo's 2007 novel The Guardians manifests this turn, combining realistic representations of injustice at the Mexican-American border, critiques of both church and state, and postsecular celebrations of characters' mystical devotion.  Though it suggests no comfortable resolution to the political and spiritual mysteries of suffering, The Guardians invites readers into a social ethic opened up by Vatican II through its implicit call to responsibility, its exemplary community of mutually caring "guardians," and its provocative conclusion, in which the protagonist Regina's unexpected turn to the Gospel of Matthew leads her to an act of tenuous but beautiful peacemaking.

Dr. Heidi MacDonald, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Lethbridge 
The Sisters of Charity (Halifax), Perfectae Caritatis and Social Justice, 1969-1979      
Abstract:  In response to Perfectae Caritatis: Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, the Sisters of Charity, Halifax, engaged in a vigorous period of renewal, which culminated in a “Chapter of Renewal” and publication of Interim Constitutions in 1969.  The Congregation, founded in 1849, had a strong history in education and health care in both Canada and the United States and had approximately 1700 sisters in 1965. While Perfectae Caritatis instructed religious institutes to maintain prayer as their primary function and responsibility, a thorough review of apostolic works was also required, particularly through the directive to, “return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time.” This paper has two parts.  The first part uses records of the Sisters of Charity’s pre-Chapter workshops; questionnaires; sub-committee reports; position papers and reports from the Provinces; study guides; and minutes of the “Chapter of Renewal” to examine their process and decision to more directly serve the poor and engage in other social justice projects.  The second part of the paper traces the Congregation’s withdrawal from some of their more traditional ministries into apostolates grounded in social justice, including support for single mothers and socio-economic initiatives and leadership in chronically depressed urban and rural communities in Nova Scotia between 1969 and 1979.

Plenary Session – Chair:  Ms. Gertrude Rompré, Director of Mission and Ministry, St. Thomas More College

Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, Senior Fellow, Massey College
Canada and the Search for the Common Good

Abstract:   In the years after Vatican II, there was a new interest in articulating theologies and spiritualties that were appropriate for specific contexts. Canada is still searching for ways of naming its particular context, its particularities of sin and grace. I will attempt to name the particular search for this common good in this time and place. One consideration will involve challenging conventional wisdom that Canada is grounded on a historic compromise that laid the basis for a particular social contract. This contract leaves out those who were herefirst (aboriginals) and newcomers  (immigrants, refugees). Another consideration will attempt to reclaim a sense of the earth as the good we hold in common, and the ensuing responsibility of Canadians for this particular place on earth. Redeeming our relationship to nature and the aboriginal peoples will involve naming our particular "original sin."

Abstracts posted with permission.

This conference was sponsored by the newly established Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair for Catholic Studies, University of Saskatchewan Conference Fund and the Connection Grant program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.