Universities – Educate workers for the common good

by | Jan 12, 2014 | Justice and Peace

Among its many tasks, the Catholic university must work to form its students as political workers for the common good through the promotion of research, social outreach and teaching, said Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace spoke on the mission of Catholic universities in the education of Catholics engaged in politics at the national Conference of the Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines

Research, he said, should be dedicated to the solutions of problems that threaten human co-existence and the common good. Social outreach should begin in the local community and extend globally. And instruction, he said, should first and foremost focus on critical thinking skills and an understanding on how to move from theory to practice.

Read Cardinal Turkson’s  full text:

The Education of Catholics Engaged in Politics: The mission of Catholic universities 
Some highlights…

The modern Popes from John XXIII to Francis have repeatedly called for the formation of new generations of Catholics involved in politics;10 and they all have pointed to Catholic Social Doctrine or Teaching as the most vital resource. Conveniently collected nearly ten years ago in compendium form, it comprises a tradition of teaching in relation to the body politic that talks “about hope, truth, freedom, love and justice as animating forces for politics, economy and civil society,” and “seeks to inspire very ordinary everyday practices of these virtues.”11 The guidance which the Church offers to public life and to all those responsible for the public good, and the resource materials which Universities can use to educate and form politicians, are found in Catholic Social Teaching (CST).

The Roles of the Catholic Universities 
With this understanding of the political vocation, then, how can the Catholic University form Catholics as political workers for the common good? There are of course many ways of understanding the role of the university, and indeed the mission of the Catholic university, as you well know. For purposes of our discussion, I find the following distinction among three roles to be quite useful: research, social outreach, and teaching.

First, I would look to university research to dedicate the various fields and methods of knowledge to resolving the problems threatening human co-existence and well-being. This research will be profoundly practical because it will influence the content and the methods both of social outreach and of teaching. Here are some concrete examples of how university research can help to prepare politicians.

* Universities must maintain a non-negotiable commitment to the search for truth – both for its own sake and for the stimulus it may give to more just and creative public policy.
* Especially now in our media-driven world, research by universities must reach behind the noisy headlines, to shine the light of truth on war, political economy, poverty, human migration and the ecological crisis. These issues have been at the heart of the Church’s social teaching, and they define this generation’s greatest political challenges.
* In the political field, it will be important for researchers to develop methods for reading and interpreting reality that help one to discern the objective demands of social justice in concrete situations.
* Through a commitment to excellence in research, universities can broker and foster new forms of public friendships between scholars and practitioners, between policy makers and politicians.

This commitment to political friendship is found in the work, for example, of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office in South Africa, of the Pedro Arrupe Institute of Political Formation in Palermo, and many others.

Secondly, social outreach is the University’s necessary exercise of responsibility for the society in which it is located – in that sense, its own putting-into-practice of what research brings to light about the surrounding social situation. And of course the word “surrounding” begins locally17 but finally extends globally. The interaction with the local surroundings is complex because the university is a complex institution: an employer and an investor, a property owner and a social actor.

Moreover, the University is the place par excellence of dialogue in society, where opposing viewpoints and clashing interests can be helped to discover common ground on which to make progress towards real solutions. CST is “a language of faith and reason…, but is not sectarian: it genuinely seeks a cooperative relationship between believers of all kinds and non-believers for the sake of the welfare of all. It believes in social pluralism, but insists that social pluralism be seen as a context for building constructive civil friendships across dividing lines.”18

The University can also motivate others, beginning with the family, the parish and other organizations, to form good Catholics who become excellent politicians. That duty of formation does not need to end when a student who cares about politics graduates. Universities could be playing a vital role in nurturing relationships and dignity through offering spaces for peer support and reflection for those involved in the challenges of politics.

Thirdly and best known is the University’s role of teaching or instruction. Christian education, says Pope John, has no gaps; and it reaches out to embrace every type of duty.

* First and foremost Universities should teach new generations how to think critically and with judgement, and also teach the skills needed to act in the common good, and so move from theory to practice.
* They should keep alive traditions of thought on politics, virtue and the common good, explored in their different cultural forms.
* Universities should open a space of intellectual imagination beyond the logic of market, and beyond a narrow politics of fear, short-termism and coercion.
* They should seek to help people overcome the debilitating separation between faith and life: a feature that unfortunately characterizes the lives of many today.
* It is also necessary to be professionally and technically competent. In particular, one must be able to create a harmonious and well-ordered synthesis between spiritual values and the scientific, technical and professional elements. The love of God and the refinement of conscience must go hand in hand with one’s own continuous ethical and professional formation. An obvious step is to introduce Catholic social teaching wherever possible in the syllabus (for example, St. Thomas University in Minnesota).

Now referring again to Vocation of the Business Leader, if that were my topic, I would be addressing myself principally to commerce faculties and schools of business administration, which are part of most Catholic Universities. And I would be encouraging them to incorporate Catholic social teaching into the curriculum and make the “Vocation” handbook available to professors and students (as has been done widely in the United States).

But if I had ”Vocation of the Political Leader” in hand, which faculty or department would I be addressing? Or to put the problem another way: if you survey the Filipino politicians active today, what faculties or programmes do you think they would be graduates of? It would be interesting to know! But even before doing a survey, I think we can already guess that politicians come from each and every corner of the educational enterprise. A few might even be ”self-taught” without having graduated from any educational institution.

So this is what we have to accept: future politicians will be studying throughout the University, in an unpredictable fashion and without any possibility of gathering them into a specialization. And we can see this as an essential characteristic of formation for political life. As discussed earlier, it covers both politics and policy, and the engagement of an immense spectrum of roles and avocations. So the appropriate education will not be a single curriculum with a narrow focus; as the Holy Father once observed, “Sometimes [politicians] have to put out a fire, but the vocation of the politician is not that of a fire-fighter.”19

Instead, the whole Catholic University must be oriented to producing excellent politicians keen, prepared and courageous to live their vocation fully, in service of the common good of the area for which they are responsible, and also the common good of the whole Philippines, and of all Asia, and of the whole globalized world. The demands of truth, justice, love and freedom require the insights and the labour of all our intellectual disciplines, of our whole university curriculum in collaborative endeavour.

Finally, to accompany the political formation of the Christian, I share with you this entreaty of Pope Francis:

“I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.24 We need to be convinced that charity ‘is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones).’25 I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. Why not turn to God and ask him to inspire their plans?”26

With this prayerful question of our Holy Father – why not turn to God and ask him to inspire the plans of all our politicians, our current ones and our future ones? – I thank you very much for your kind attention and ask God to bless the reflections and exchanges of this Conference.

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/01/09/catholic_universities_educating_for_political_engagement_/en1-762409
of the Vatican Radio website


He also offers “The eight beatitudes of the politician”:

* Blessed be the politician who has a high knowledge and a deep consciousness of his role.
* Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.
* Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his own sake or interest.
* Blessed be the politician who remains coherent: true to himself, to his faith and to his electoral promises.
* Blessed be the politician who works for unity and, making Jesus the fulcrum of unity, thus defends it.
* Blessed be the politician who works for the realization of a radical change: by fighting against intellectual perversion, by refusing to call good that which is evil, by not confining religion to the private sphere, by establishing the priorities of one’s own choices on the basis of faith.
* Blessed be the politician who is able to listen. Who listens to the people before, during and after the elections; who listens to his conscience; and who listens to God in prayer.
* Blessed be the politician who has no fear of the truth nor of the mass media, because at the time of judgment he will answer only to God, not to the media!

These eight beatitudes can serve as an examination of conscience for Catholic politicians who are honestly willing to assess their fidelity to the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching and the guidelines of Pope Francis.


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