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Center sponsors Rome conference on enacting Catholic social tradition

By: JP Shortall

January 5, 2017

The University of Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns will sponsor “Enacting Catholic Social Tradition: Making a Difference on the Ground,” a conference at the Notre Dame Global Gateway in Rome, January 12-14, 2017. It will be the first gathering of the Applied Catholic Social Tradition Network, an international group of scholars focused on the application of Catholic social tradition (CST) to various social problems.

The idea for the network originated with Bill Purcell, associate director, Catholic social tradition and practice at the Center for Social Concerns, and Clemens Sedmak, visiting professor of Catholic social tradition and community engagement at the Center for Social Concerns and the Keough School for Global Affairs. “There are many institutions interested in applying Catholic social teaching, and we would like to establish better connections for joint research in areas such as migration, ecological conversion, subsidiarity in different cultural settings, health care provision, and just wages,” says Sedmak.

Conference participants will explore fundamental and practical questions concerning the difference that Catholic social tradition can make in concrete social situations, especially at the peripheries of society. They want to respond to Pope Francis’ reminder in Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”

Purcell explains that conferences like this are important because they give Notre Dame a venue for addressing problems of concern to CST. “The network and conference use Notre Dame’s unique resources to engage scholars on questions of application,” he says, “because Catholic social tradition calls us to both thought and action for the sake of correcting injustices.”

The conference program includes talks by Helen Alford OP (Rome), “Enacting Catholic Social Tradition into the Future,” Johan Verstraeten (Louvain), “From Social Doctrine to Social Discernment,” and Michael Sherwin (Fribourg), “Catholic Healthcare from a Holistic Christian Perspective.”

Sedmak holds the F.D. Maurice Chair in Moral and Social Theology at King's College London and is the F.M. Schmölz Visiting Professor for Social Ethics at the University of Salzburg. He has been Director of the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research at the University of Salzburg since 2005, and President of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Social Ethics in Salzburg since 2008. He has recently published A Church of the Poor: Pope Francis and the Transformation of Orthodoxy (Orbis Books, 2016). 

Purcell oversees the integration of Catholic social thought into Center courses and programming. He also co-directs the interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Social Tradition for the University and acts as a liaison for the Center with national Catholic institutions that focus on justice education.

Contact: Clemens Sedmak, 574-631-0199, or Bill Purcell, 574-631-9473,


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