The Place of the Virtues in Catholic Social Thought

Catholic Social Thought is the body of learning and teaching concerning the Catholic Church’s considered views about a broad range of social, political, and cultural concerns informed by and in response to changing circumstances. Here is a new book that locates the role of the virtues (as developed in the Western philosophical tradition) within Catholic Social Thought, Catholic Social Teaching in Practice: Exploring Practical Wisdom and the Virtues Tradition (Cambridge University Press), by Andrew Yuengert.

Although the virtues are implicit in Catholic Social Teaching, they are too often overlooked.  In this pioneering study, Andrew M. Yuengert draws on the neo-Aristotelian virtues tradition to bring the virtue of practical wisdom into an explicit and wide-ranging engagement with the Church’s social doctrine.  Practical wisdom and the virtues clarify the meaning of Christian personalism, highlight the irreplaceable role of the laity in social reform, and bring attention to the important task of lay formation in virtue. This form of wisdom also offers new insights into the Church’s dialogue with economics and the social sciences, and reframes practical political disagreements between popes, bishops, and the laity in a way that challenges both laypersons and episcopal leadership. Yuengert’s study respects the Church’s social tradition, while showing how it might develop to be more practical.  By proposing active engagement with practical wisdom, he demonstrates how Catholic Social Teaching can more effectively inform and inspire practical social reform.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Groff v. DeJoy, a case examining the extent to which Title VII requires accommodation of employees’ religious practices. In this case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that accommodating a Christian Sunday sabbath observer by allowing him not to report for work on Sunday would cause an “undue hardship” to the U.S. Postal Service, and that, therefore, failure to grant that accommodation did not violate Title VII. Petitioners asked the Supreme Court to revisit and reject the “more than de minimis” test for “undue hardship” announced in TWA v. Hardison.
  • In Bosarge v. Edney, a Mississippi federal district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring religious exemptions from the state’s mandatory vaccination requirements for school children, arguing that the current statute allowing only medical exemptions is an “unconstitutional value judgment.” The court rejected the Attorney General’s claim that the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (MRFRA) saves the law, stating it cannot be read to cure all potential Free Exercise Clause violations.
  • In Konchar v. Pins, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of fraud, defamation, and breach of contract claims by a former Catholic school principal. The court stated that “the First Amendment precludes inquiries by ‘a civil court’ into ‘the decision of whether Konchar was suitable for the role of Principal at St. Joseph’s.'” Two justices filed a concurring opinion emphasizing that the majority opinion leaves the door open to formally applying the ministerial exception in Iowa.
  • In Grace United Methodist Church Inc. v. Board of Trustees of FL Annual Conf of UMC Inc., a Florida state trial court dismissed a suit by 71 Methodist congregations seeking to break away from the United Methodist Church over LGBTQ+ issues. The court cited Florida precedent requiring deference to church hierarchical decisions while noting that “merely deferring to the UMC on all matters and denying the Plaintiffs access to the courts to litigate neutral property and trust matters does not meet the strictest scrutiny.”
  • The Washington Post reported that Texas federal district court judge Matthew Kacsmaryk removed his name as author of a pending law review article criticizing Obama-era protections for transgender people and those seeking abortions just prior to his nomination to the federal bench. The article, titled “The Jurisprudence of the Body,” was published in September 2017 under the names of two colleagues from First Liberty Institute, without disclosing Kacsmaryk’s role or listing the article in his Senate confirmation paperwork. A spokesman for First Liberty claimed Kacsmaryk’s name had been a “placeholder” and that he had not provided a “substantive contribution.”
  • The Antisemitism Worldwide Report for 2022, published by the Center for the Study of European Jewry and the ADL, noted an alarming rise in anti-Jewish violence in the U.S. It calls for accurate reporting to avoid sensationalism and highlights that antisemitic defamation can occur even in countries with small Jewish populations, citing examples from Yemen and Japan.