About DOCAT

By Gilbert Choondal, SDB

This CAT is out to change the world. What is this cat? Where is this cat? Why is this cat now? The book, DOCAT, is going to be released soon! Let me explain this book the DOCAT way.

1. What is DOCAT ?

DOCAT (du:kæt) is a popular adaptation of the Compendium of  the Social  Doctrine  of  the  Church, a summary of  the Social Teachings  of  the Church: “DO” comes from the verb to do whereas “CAT” stands or Catechism. Apart from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, insights from the two social encyclicals of Benedict XVI (Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate) and the encyclical of Pope Francis (Laudato Si’) have been incorporated in this Youth-friendly Catechism. Written in resonance with the style of YOUCAT, this DOCAT will be offered as a free gift to the youth during the for the coming World Youth Day (26 July 2016 to 31 July 2016) in Krakow, Poland. The DOCAT has been published by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference and approved by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

2. What exactly is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church?

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was published in 2004 by the Pontifical Council  for Justice  and  Peace  at  the request of Pope John Paul  II. This  document  offers a complete overview of the fundamental framework of the doctrinal corpus of Catholic Social Teaching from Leo XIII to John Paul II. The compendium is divided into three parts, comprising twelve chapters and with several pages of abbreviations, references and indices. Specifically, it deals with questions on divine providence, the Church as the mission of Jesus Christ and its social doctrine, the human person and human rights, the family in society, human work and the economy, the political and international communities, the environment, promoting peace, pastoral actions and the activities of  the laity, and working to build a civilization of love.

3. What are the major teachings of the Church on Social Doctrine?

There are twelve social Encyclicals as of now. Furthermore there are two documents of the Second Vatican Council specifically on social doctrine. Pope Leo XIII wrote the first social encyclical called Rerum Novarum (1891). It discusses the right to property, the rejection of class conflict, the rights of the weak and the dignity of the poor; and on the right of workers to form labour unions. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novatum Pope Pius XI promulgated the encyclical, Quadtagesimo Anno (1931). It speaks of a “living wage” that can feed a family; rejects unlimited free enterprise; and articulates the principle of subsidiarity. In 1961 Pope John XXIII wrote the encyclical, Mater et Magistra. The aim of this encyclical is to create a genuine community in which needs are satisfied and the dignity of each individual is promoted. Two years later, John XXIII Wrote another encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963). It promotes freedom and the propagation of human rights as central concerns of the Church. Vatican II, in the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes (1965), envisages a comprehensive dialogue with modern culture, economy, and society. Another Vatitan II document, the Declaration called Dignitatis Humanae (1965), treats of the ecclesiastical recognition of religious liberty as a right that is founded on the dignity of the person. In 1967, Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical, Populorum Progressio, which proposes a worldwide common effort for the development of all peoples and world peace. The encyclical, Humanae Vitae (1968) by Paul VI treats of the transmission of human life and the dignity of marriage. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Paul VI wrote the Apostolic Exhortation, Octogesima Adveniens (1971). In it, a series of special issues are addressed, as for instance: unemployment, environmental problems and population growth. In 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical Laborem-Exercens, dealing with human work, which not only earns a person his livelihood, but also has a special dignity, sharing as it does in the dignity of the person and of his Christian vocation. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, John Paul II wrote another encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987). Here, the development of the so-called Third World is again addressed; development must be understood, hot merely in economic terms, but more comprehensively, including moral development. On the centenary of Rerum Novarum and subsequent to the collapse of Communism, John Paul II wrote another encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991). It emphasises the value of democracy and the free market economy.The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est (2005) reflects on love from various dimensions and social milieu. Another encyclical of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (2009) deals at great length with the various facets of globalisation. Finally; the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato SÍ (2015) deals with questions of preserving the environment within the larger context of the right of all human beings to a dignified life and development.

4. How did the idea of the DOCAT originate?

The DOCAT was an idea of the youth of the United States of America. These young people had participated in the World Youth Day (2011) in Madrid, Spain. The youth of WYD in Madrid were given a free copy of the YOUCAT. After going through the YOUCAT, these young Americans wrote to the ‘Youcat Foundation’ in 2011 (after the WYD in Madrid): “Now we know what faith is, but What Should We do? What do you think about a DOCAT, (from to do)?” Social doctrine calls for participation. The team implemented this important principle of the social doctrine from the very outset. Under the guidance of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, scholars and youth from all over the world worked together to bring out the DOCAT. These young people were involved in a number of ways in the process of the coming-to-be of the DOCAT: searching for the topics, formulating the questions, participating in workshops and providing pictures.

5. How is DOCAT different from YOUCAT?

The YOUCAT is intended to offer the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a youth­ friendly language and format to the youth. The DOCAT, instead, is intended to implement the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to the youth in the same style. In both cases, it is a concerted effort on the part of young people. Cardinal Schonborn says: “When you do something for young people, you have to make it with young people.” Pope Francis writes in the Introduction to the DOCAT: “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 c’an truly change the world.” The subtitle: What to do, indicates that the DOCAT leads one to action. In the words of Pope Francis: “This social doctrine does not come from any particular pope or from any particular scholar. It comes from the heart of the Gospel. It comes from Jesus Himself. Jesus is the social teaching of God.”

6. What are the major parts of DOCAT? 

The DOCAT has 328 questions and answers contained in 12 chapters. The chapters discuss love, the Church’s social mission, the human person, principles of the Church’s social teaching, family, work, economic life, political community, the international community, the environment, peace and love in action. These chapters are patterned after the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Apart from these chapters, there is an Introduction by Pope Francis and indices at the end on names, scriptural references and subjects.

7. What is unique about  DOCAT?

The  DOCAT follows the style of YOUCAT in both form and layout. Apart from questions and answers, in every page, there are Biblical citations, citations from various authors, citations from the teachings of the Church, explanations of concepts and Stick Figures. One will find paragraph-numbers from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church and YOUCAT to every answer for further understanding on the topic. Pope Francis is quoted about 80 times. Like the YOUCAT, the  DOCAT is also a flipbook with a message towards a civilisation of love. The unique contribution of the  DOCAT can be said to be the references from the teachings of the Church at the end of each chapter on themes that are discussed in that chapter. Some chapters include additional topics that are relevant today in the form of Digression. The quotes include those from ‘the living and those no longer alive, be they Christians or non-Christians. Their contributions can stimulate a discussion on the truth. The real life photos included in the  DOCAT are drawn from young people all over the world, selected after a photo-contest on the topic. While the YOUCAT is dominated by the colours, yellow and white (the colour of the Catholic Church), the  DOCAT is dominated by blue, the colour of hope (according to the publishers).

8. What is the message of Pope Francis in DOCAT?

Pope Francis has written an inspirational Introduction to the DOCAT. He repeatedly challenges young Christians to become actively involved in working for greater justice in the world: “A Christian who in these times is not a revolutionary is not a Christian.” He exhorts Christians to be involved in the lives of the poor. “If a Christian in these days looks away from the need of the poorest of the poor, then in reality he is not a Christian!” He wants the young to learn and live the social doctrine of the Church. “When I invite you all now really to get to know the social doctrine of the Church, I am dreaming not just about groups that sit under trees and discuss it. That is good! Do that! My dream is of something greater: I wish I had a million young Christians or, even better, a whole generation who are for their contemporaries “walking, talking social doctrine.”

9. When will the  DOCAT be available in Asia?

Asian Trading Corporation (Bangalore) is the official publisher of the  DOCAT in Asia. The Asian DOCAT will be available by the end of July 2016. The  DOCAT is already in the process of being translated into 15 Indian languages. The authority responsible for the  DOCAT has permitted space for inculturation in each of the local languages especially as regards photos and rites.

10. Why is this Question-Answer method being followed? Doesn’t it lead to rote memory?

Benedict XVI says in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Question-Answer method involves a spirituality of dialogue between disciple and master. “The idea is to reproduce an imaginary dialogue between master and disciple, through a series of incisive questions that invite the reader to go deeper in discovering ever new aspects of his faith. The dialogical format also lends itself to brevity in the text, by reducing it to what is essential. This may help the reader to grasp the contents and possibly to memorise them as well.” The first catechism of the Catholic Church in 1566 (Roman Catechism) began this way. This is our tradition. This is our faith­ book. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2005) and the YOUCAT (2011) followed the same conversational spirituality. Now, the DOCAT is not only a talking doctrine but it is going to be emerged as a walking social doctrine (Pope Francis)!

Fr Gilbert Choondal, SDB,  professor at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore is the President of Indian Catechetical Association.

The New Leader, July 16-31, 2016