Catholic Social Teaching versus consumer culture

Catholic Social Teaching in Global Perspective  David McDonald SJ (ed.) Orbis Books , 2010

In this book, some leading Catholic scholars identify resources and difficulties in the formal Catholic social traditions, while other writers explore how Catholic thought has been interpreted or needs to develop in different regions, including Africa, Australia, East Asia, Europe and India. 

John Coleman SJ, in North American culture’s receptivity to Catholic Social Teaching, considers the tensions between Catholic Social Teaching, with its communitarian emphasis, and the dominant US culture built on individualism, utilitarianism, and a culture of consumer capitalism with its free-market “myth” and sense of Puritan “exceptionalism”.

Coleman cautions that it “would be fairly farfetched to claim that CST has made or left any major imprint on American larger culture and political philosophy” (p. 204).

But he particularly notes the US bishops’ involvement in the 1970s and 1980s in the debates over nuclear issues and the US economy, along with the wide range of other organisations and educational avenues used to inculcate Church social thinking.

Coleman compares the US experience with that of Canada with its very different cultural background, and where the Catholic bishops engaged more closely with their economists and political scientists in a more communitarian social culture and society.

The Canadian bishops were able to be more critical of failures of capitalism, and draw more strongly from communitarian cultural values of social justice. 

- Father Bruce Duncan CSsR

FULL BOOK REVIEW Struggling to be global: Catholic Social Thought (Social Policy Connections)

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