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THCP602 Foundations of Social Justice , THEL604 - Catholic Social Thought

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. This includes structured synchronous or asynchronous learning activities. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation and submission of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Catholic organisations and institutions 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 initiatives must have a deep understanding of Catholic Social Thought and the ability to apply its core concepts and values 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’ social and professional 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 critically engage with Catholic Social Thought in interpreting and evaluating the current needs of mission-driven organisations and institutions and to contribute to the development of Catholic Social Thought.

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, GA3)

LO2 - Give an account of the social teaching of the Church in the modern era (GA3, 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, GA3, 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 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

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 regional groupings of bishops, 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
  • 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, case studies, discussion forums and supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

This unit 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.

Mode of delivery: This unit may be offered in different modes to cater to the learning needs and preferences of a range of participants:

On Campus

Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.


Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions and/or placements, to enable interaction. The full -day sessions may be timetabled outside of regular working hours. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.

When offered in intensive mode the unit caters 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.

In an intensive mode, students require face-to-face attendance in weekends or any block of time determined by the school. Students will have face-to-face interactions with lecturer(s) to further their achievement of the learning outcomes.

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.

Online unscheduled

Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 

Online scheduled

All learning activities are held online and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

ACU Online

This mode uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to demonstrate achievement of all three learning outcomes and achieve an overall mark of 50% or higher. 

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 utilises 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, LO2, LO3). 

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,LO2, LO3). 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, LO3

GA2, GA3, GA7

Extended Written Task 

For example: essay, annotated bibliography, review 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

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. 2nd Ed. 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. 

Rowlands, Anna. Towards a Politics of Communion : Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times. London ;: T&T Clark, 2022.

O'Neill, William. Catholic Social Teaching: A User's Guide. Maryknoll NY; Orbis, 2021.

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:

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