What the Church says about divorce is inextricable from what she says about the poor. What she says about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is inextricable from what she says about human dignity. When we fail to see the integrity of the Faith, not only do certain truths escape our notice; the rest, the truths we think we see, grow monstrous, like cancers, and destroy the flesh they once seemed to restore.
Anthony Esolen provides a remarkable addition to the overall corpus of works related to Catholic Social Teaching with this remarkable work, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching. Although I’ve not read his forthcoming book, Out of the Ashes, I think his book on Catholic Social Teaching will provide a useful foundation for his book about the restoration of American culture. As Esolen says in the first few pages, “First principles and human realities–we must return to them.” (8)Esolen’s work looks at various aspects of society, beginning with the individual, moving through marriage, the family, and the community, and then culminating with organized society and the State. At each level, Esolen discusses some of the major documents of Catholic Social Teaching and how the principles in them relate to different situations found at each level. With Esolen’s unflinching honesty and a significant amount of grace, this work is a learned critique of our current situation, but also a blueprint for the principles we should embrace and employ in our own lives and social interactions.
If you have not been exposed to Catholic Social Teaching at all, this book would serve as a great introduction. From there, you can move to the documents Esolen cites throughout as a way to learn more from the source documents. With three pages of Works Cited, you will have no shortage of additional material.
I read this book in the context of a men’s group, which is an effective way to read it, particularly because being social is part of the program. Working through this book with others helps you capture more of the nuance because you see how these principles play out in other people’s lives.
I admire a lot of Esolen’s work, and this is no different. In fact, this is one of my favorites (that is, until I read his next one). Speaking of that, check out this article for a preview of his next work.