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THEL604 - Catholic Social Thought, THCP602 - Foundations of Social Justice

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Catholic organisations often invoke the principles of Catholic Social Thought in their efforts to communicate to stakeholders the values and ethos of their missions. Effective Leaders of Catholic organisations must have a deep understanding of Catholic Social Thought and the ability to apply its principles to the challenges they face in their professional roles.

Beginning with an examination of the biblical and theological foundations for social justice, this unit examines the evolution of modern Catholic Social Thought, the issues it seeks to address, and its application to contemporary Catholic organisations and institutions. Key principles such as human dignity, the common good, preferential  option for the poor, solidarity, and subsidiarity are examined and applied to participants’ organisational contexts.

The unit aims to provide participants with a critical grounding in Catholic Social Thought. It develops their critical thinking abilities and aims to resource them with skills to apply Catholic Social Thought in interpreting and evaluating the current needs of their organisations.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Explain the biblical and theological foundations of social justice, and their implications for Catholic organisations and institutions (GA2) 

LO2 - Give an account of the social teaching of the Church in the modern era (GA7) 

LO3 - Analyse and evaluate the mission, vision and work of Catholic organisations and institutions in light of core concepts and values of CST (GA1, GA2, GA8) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


  • The background to social justice in the biblical witness and its theological interpretation 
  • Key documentary sources for Catholic Social Thought, including the Papal encyclicals but also a small selection of other documents such as those emerging from Puebla, for example 
  • The core concepts and values of Catholic Social Thought, including the dignity of the human person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, solidarity, and subsidiarity 
  • Examples of Catholic Social Thought in action, such as the work of Jean Vanier 
  • Issues arising in the contemporary context, and the application of Catholic Social Thought 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of  10 hours per  week  for 15  weeks.  The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, workshops activities, case studies, class discussions and supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

This unit is offered exclusively in intensive mode in order to cater for the needs of the working professionals and managers who participate in the unit. The participants learn through formally structured and sequenced learning activities such as case studies, class discussions and written assessment that require participants to analyse, reflect on and critically evaluate information provided through lectures and class reading.

The unit utilises this strategy because it specifically offers a model of adult-learning that recognises, supports and respects the wealth of experience and knowledge that participants bring to this unit. This strategy aims at facilitating participants' appropriation of unit content in relation to their own learning needs and personal growth. As a result, this strategy generates readiness for personal engagement and meaningful professional impact.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy of this unit aims to facilitate participants' incremental and scaffolded appropriation of unit content in relation to their personal and professional experience and learning needs. The assessment tasks enable participants to synthesize and deepen their learning of philosophical ethics and the Catholic moral tradition.

The unit utilizes two assessments, each of which scaffolds unit content with respect to participants’ professional contexts and learning needs. The first assessment provides the participant with the opportunity to develop important analytical skills through the identification and description of fundamental normative principles (previously outlined in unit content) operative in the participants’ professional context (LO1, 2, 3). 

The second assessment task both builds on participants’ appropriation of learning in the first and facilitates the participants’ focused application of learning to their professional context (e.g., in a case study) by asking participants to develop a cogent response to a significant ethical issue or challenging situation (LO1, 2, 3). Both assessments provide a strong, practical connection between unit learning outcomes and participants’ professional roles in Catholic organisations. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short Written Task 

For example: critical précis, analysis of an issue 


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA7

Extended Written Task 

For example: essay, annotated bibliography, review 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

Arbuckle, G. A. ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’: Application to Catholic Health and Aged Care Ministries in 

Australia. Deakin, ACT: Catholic Health Australia, 2008. 

Astorga, C. A. Catholic Moral Theology and Social Ethics. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2014. 

Bozeman, B. Public Values and Public Interest: Counterbalancing Economic Individualism. Washington, DC: Georgetown University, 2007. 

Clark, M. J. The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights

Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014. 

Himes, K. R. Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching. New York: Paulist, 2001. 

Himes, K., ed. Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2004. 

Hollenbach, D. The Common Good and Christian Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Hornsby-Smith, M. P. An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2006. 

Massaro, T. Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action. 2nd Ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. 

Schwindt, D. Catholic Social Teaching: A New Synthesis, Rerum Novarum to Laudato Si’. Bal Harbour, FL: Agnus Dei Press, 2015. 

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004. Available at: 26_compendio-dott-soc_en.html 

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