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Discovering the Common Good in Practice: The Catholicity of Catholic Charities

JONES, PATRICIA (2019) Discovering the Common Good in Practice: The Catholicity of Catholic Charities. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This research examines a group of UK Catholic charities working in the field of homelessness and social exclusion in order to understand how their Catholicity is constituted and how this impacts on their practice. I argue that their Catholicity is primarily found in how their practices enact, test and extend Catholic social vision rather than in institutional alignment. I demonstrate that the charities have an ecclesiological specificity which official Catholic texts fail to recognise. They operate across the porous boundaries of the visible Church, drawing into their work people who share elements of the social vision articulated in Catholic thought and tradition. Theologically, they enact the Catholic intuition about the meaning of social bonds and reciprocal human flourishing by working to counter social exclusion and vulnerability and point social realities towards the Kingdom. Their location on ecclesial boundaries, their inclusiveness, and their embeddedness in secular structures of social welfare and politics, are necessary conditions of social mission.

I use the concept of the common good as a hermeneutic in order to read the charities as a case study testing how Catholic social teaching’s methodological strategies propose shared moral horizons. Using Thomas Bushlack’s concept of civic virtue in conversation with normative Catholic social teaching about the common good enables fresh insights into the practices which enact this principle. The charities discover the meaning of the common good by recognising and wrestling with the absence of the conditions that enable people to seek fulfilment. Their asymmetrical relational work, shaped by their narratives, renders an abstract and elusive concept as a real and practical task. Their communally held and inclusively enacted intuitions disclose pragmatic coherence with Conciliar ecclesiology and validate its orientations. The charities act as agents and inventors of mediated social mission, illuminating an expansive Catholicity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Catholicity, charities, homelessness, welfare, Catholic social teaching, common good, Catholic Church, caritas, civic virtue, social mission, practice.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 May 2019 11:19

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