Youth and Social Justice

DoCat: What to Do (Ignatius Press, $19.95)

In 2011, during the pontificate of (and with a forward written by) Pope Benedict XVI, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (the YouCat) was published as an authoritative source of the Faith — a book to which young people could turn with questions on what the Church teaches — and why.

In his foreward, the scholarly Pope Benedict, who was prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming pope, and who played a large role in the formation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, discussed the book’s origin. He noted that following the publication of the Catechism, “the question arose: Should we not attempt to translate the Catechism of the Catholic Church into the language of young people? Should we not bring its great riches into the world of today’s youth?”


And so the YouCat was born, giving young people an accessible reference point to the doctrines of the Church. In the fall of 2016, during the fourth year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, a follow-up book was released. DoCat: What to Do looks at the social justice teaching of the Church. The book notes that the collection of social justice teaching covered begins with Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (“On Capital and Labor”). It also includes Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ (“On Care for Our Common Home”), his 2015 encyclical on human ecology.

“Young people especially ought to take an interest in reading the major documents of the Church in the original text and in guiding their action by the maxims of truth, justice and charity that are contained in them,” the book’s introduction states. “Again and again Pope Francis challenges Christians to become actively involved in working for greater justice in the world.”

Throughout his pontificate, in his encyclicals and homilies, speeches and apostolic letters, Pope Francis has continued to emphasize that Christians have a responsibility to work toward the good of others. In his inspirational forward for the DoCat, the Holy Father goes even further, writing: “If a Christian in these days looks away from the need of the poorest of the poor, then in reality he is not Christian.”

He continues: “DoCat answers the question: ‘What should we do?’”; it is like a user’s manual that helps us to change ourselves with the Gospel first, and then our closest surroundings, and finally the whole world. For with the power of the Gospel, we can truly change the world.”

Much like the YouCat, the DoCat is presented in a series of questions (328 in total) relating to the theme of the book’s 12 chapters, which touch on the Church’s social mission, the family, human work, economics, politics, the environment and peace, among others.

Each of the DoCat’s more than 300 pages contains a treasure trove of Church teaching, introducing young readers to: relevant quotes — by saints, presidents, popes, etc. — on the topics being covered; definition of terms; magisterial teaching via passages from encyclicals, apostolic letters and other Church documents; related reading in Scripture; and where the reader can find more information on each topic in the Catechism, YouCat and the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church.

As the faithful try to follow Pope Francis’ lead in truly emulating Christ in the Gospels, the DoCat is an invaluable resource for young people (and, truthfully, not-so-young people, as well) striving to learn more about the Church’s social justice teachings.

Will we accept the challenge made by Pope Francis in the book’s introduction?

“Become active yourselves.... When many do that together, then there will be improvements in this world and people will sense that the Spirit of God is working through you. And maybe then you will be like torches that make the path to God brighter for these people.

“And so I give you this magnificent little book, hoping that it might kindle a fire in you.”

Scott Warden is associate editor for content at Our Sunday Visitor.