J. Milburn THOMPSON, Introducing Catholic Social Thought. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010. pp210. $22.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-57075-862-1.
Reviewed by Christine FLETCHER, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL 60532

This is the textbook I have been seeking for my undergraduate class in Catholic Social Teaching. It is important to note that it introduces Catholic Social Thought, an important distinction. I will rename the course.

The book is a part of the Orbis series Introducing … and does an excellent job of presenting Catholic Social Thought in its richness and complexity while maintaining readability and accessibility. The text includes the newest documents in the tradition, including Caritas in Veritate. The historical development of Catholic Social thought is presented with a quick historical overview from the Hebrew Scriptures to the present.

I particularly liked that the author did not presume knowledge in the reader and so provided background information and stories throughout the text to illustrate important points. In the chapter ‘War and Peace’ he includes helpful sidebars on the Holocaust; bombing in modern warfare including the Blitz, the bombing of Dresden and the firebombing and nuclear bombing of Japan; Berlin as the Symbol of the Cold War and the Vietnam War. His carefully chosen stories such as that of César Chávez which introduces the chapter ‘Economic Justice’ or that of Sister Dorothy Stang in the chapter ‘A Consistent Ethic of Life and Care for the Earth’, help the reader understand that this teaching is meant to be lived and makes a difference in the world. The discussion questions at the end of the chapter are thought-provoking and would stimulate good classroom discussions. The final chapter takes a critical appraisal of Catholic social teaching and highlights the relationship of Catholic Social thought to Catholic Social Teaching.

The layout of the book, using pure black and white print with font distinctions works without dazzling or more likely distracting the reader from the flow of the argument and the additional evidence presented in the sidebars. The index is comprehensive. The endnotes and bibliography complement the text well and give the student an excellent starting point for a research paper on any of the topics covered in the book. All in all, an excellent textbook.


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