Ignatius Press has brought out a readable adaptation of the social doctrine of the Church. It is titled Docat, sub-titled “What to Do?”, and is a sequel to YouCat – the Catechism of the Catholic Church adapted for young people. It was introduced at World Youth Day last month and its format is similar to the earlier book: many photos, excerpts from papal encyclicals and other teachings, and quotations in the margins from saints and (generally) Christian thinkers (although Churchill was more a deist than a Christian and Elie Wiesel was a Jew, famous for his writings on the Holocaust.)
The temptation, when adapting a serious text to make it accessible for “youth”, is that it might over-simplify or patronise. This volume does neither; the format is user-friendly but the text does not compromise Church teaching. It engages the attention by constantly asking thought-provoking questions, such as (in the chapter, Welfare and Justice for All: Economic Life): How do we achieve an economic order that serves man and the common good? What are the limits of the free market? How does one act justly in business?
These are perennial questions for Christians who engage in business. Indeed, they had occupied the thoughts of Lord Woolton, the very successful managing director of John Lewis before the War, who was asked by Chamberlain to become Minister of Food in 1940.
In William Sitwell’s entertaining book, Eggs or Anarchy, the story of Woolton’s extraordinary achievements in keeping the country well fed during the War, he raises Woolton’s own thoughts: “Could he merge his business aspirations with his social conscience? Was it possible to make money and look after people?”
Woolton, who had become increasingly concerned about the rising power of the Nazis, immediately ended John Lewis’s trade links with Germany after it had invaded Austria in 1938 and urged other companies to do the same. He was the kind of upright, conscientious and ethical businessman whom Docat might have used as an example, in putting the question, “Is capitalism compatible with human dignity?” St John Paul II is quoted: “If by capitalism is meant an economic system which recognises the fundamental and positive role of business…and the resulting responsibility for the means of production…then the answer is certainly in the affirmative…”
I would recommend Docat as a text for older students in all Catholic schools: it would make an excellent document for study and debate during PSHE sessions.