Drama as Literature (EL 250)

2 Sep 2005

Catholic Social Teaching (CST)

Principles, once internalized, lead to something. They prompt activity, impel motion, direct choices. A principled person always has a place to stand, knows where he or she is coming from and likely to end up. Principles always lead the person who possesses them somewhere, for some purpose, to do something, or choose not to. -- William J. Byron, "Ten Building Blocks of Catholic Social Teaching"

One can read a novel or a poem alone, and one can create it alone. The same is not true of drama. Of all the art forms, drama is the most social. The very word "drama" comes from a Greek word that means "doing." We experience the theater communally, so it seems natural that the theater speaks about social issues.

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is a body of principles, informed by religious tradition and centuries of historical experience, but directed towards establishing a just society for all people, whether Catholic or not.

Among the values promoted by CST are the principles of the dignity of the human person ("It is not what you do or what you have that gives you a claim on respect; it is simply being human that establishes your dignity," says Byron), and the principle of the common good ("the social conditions that allow people to reach their full human potential and to realize their human dignity").

  • Drama is the most social of the art forms.
  • The public nature of drama demands audiences to make moral judgments.
  • Drama has deep religious roots, born through Greek worship services from 2500 years ago, and reappearing about 900 years ago an extension of the Mass (a ritual in which a priest re-enacts the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper).
Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is a collection of philosophical and moral principles that examine how human beings relate to each other in a just society. It is an extension of Christ's command to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

For us, the plays will always be the main subject, and CST will be one of several tools we will use to examine the plays. The plays will be written by Protestants, Jews, the non-religious, and a pagan, in addition to Catholics. We will look at some plays that the pope would probably dislike, and some that the pope would love.

You won't be expected to be able to apply every principle of CST to every play on the syllabus. Your grade won't depend on how "Catholic" your answers are.

Every play ever written says something about humanity, and all religious thought describes human attempts to define ourselves in relationship to the universe, I hope that CST will be a productive guide to finding deeper meaning in dramatic literature, because CST invites... no, expects people to bring a well-informed conscience to bear on the important ethical issues of the day. Drama is a means for exploring many of the same questions. Under what circumstances is the death penalty acceptable? Under what conditions is war or insurrection justified? What is a just minimum wage?

We will absorb CST principles a few at a time, as the issues come up during class discussions. There will be some supplementary reading. Later in the term, you will write an exercise that asks you to apply some principle of Catholic Social Teaching to one or more of the plays we have read so far this term.

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" A principled person always has a place to stand, knows where he or she is likely to end up."

These ten building blocks are exactly the thing that this society needs to pull forward and raise up from the everyday shackles that the world hold us down with. But I don't think that these princples should be narrowed down to being "Catholic" teaching. It would be understandable if any one is a Catholic following these rules. But what about the ones who are Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or maybe one who don't belive in an entity at all. It Sounds like to me that these princples are universal and should be expressed by every one. Like the Principle of Human Dignity, according to this everyone no matter what race, sex, age, religion, etc should deserve the basic respect that is due. I don't really belive that it should be just a Catholic teaching. I think everyone, no matter what their preferences should act closely to these principles.

Posted by: Kevin Hinton at September 1, 2005 10:29 AM

This is the bedrock principle of Catholic social teaching.

I agree with Kevin that every human should be treated with the same respect, although what sets Catholism apart from most other religions is that everyone should be treated as equals in the eyes of God. Unlike for example Islam who make their woman hide behind masks.

Posted by: Sean Runt at September 1, 2005 01:43 PM

I know about the women treatment in Islamic faith, but we should respect ALL people no matter what they do. Of course, Islam is different and maybe down right scary to some people but by giving them the respect God told us to give them we will be rewarded. We have no right to judge anyone.

Posted by: Kevin Hinton at September 1, 2005 05:48 PM

Good thoughts so far, everyone. Kevin, I understand your point about how it's not really for us humans to condemn others, but how do you feel about the validity of saying certain actions are "good" and others are "bad"? Again, I'm not talking about the state of another person's soul, I'm talking about actions that lead to consequences here and now, in the material world.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 1, 2005 06:42 PM

Prof. Jerz, deiciding weather or not something is good or bad is easy to tell. Even though it is not our right to judge it is our right to mediate and help. I find it difficult to see how we can make such decisions. By provisional guidance from our leaders (Academic, Political, last but not least Spiritual) we will be able to make these decisions without judging or hurting others physically or emotionally.

Posted by: Kevin Hinton at September 1, 2005 07:43 PM

I enjoyed reading about CST. I do not feel that it is just a religous aspect or theory. The principles of CST can be used in everyone's life and are like morals. I did not get how she considered it "the churches best kept secret". CST seems kind of like common sense or morals to me

Posted by: Rachel Prichard at September 1, 2005 08:55 PM
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