Can religion make a meaningful contribution to society? What can Catholic Social Teaching offer in the way of forming public policy in Australia? These questions are explored in Professor Greg Craven’s latest book, Shadow of the Cross. To officially launch the book, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli is hosting an online event on Thursday 18 November which will feature two of the book’s key contributors: former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

Shadow of the Cross is structured in an “argument-response” style, with former Vice-Chancellor of Australian Catholic University (ACU) Greg Craven laying out his argument and leaving the rest of the book for people to respond, with Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott constituting two of those major responses and critiques.

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Archbishop Comensoli will launch Shadow of the Cross with guest speakers Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott

Craven’s argument is that Catholic Social Teaching remains an important resource for many of the political problems that face Australia today. He outlines the three broad approaches to public policy-making – liberalism, social democracy, and conservatism – and says that while Catholic Social Teaching resonates on some level with all three, it also offers deep critiques and a more comprehensive vision of human life than they are capable of.

This teaching, he says, ‘contains a vision for human flourishing in social and political spheres,’ and ‘its evolving body of teaching addresses the contemporary issues that affect the social life of the human person, condemning what infringes upon the common good while affirming the dignity, freedom, and interdependence of human beings in changing social circumstances.’

Along with other authors, Abbott and Rudd offer their responses to Craven’s argument, with Abbott acknowledging the important role that Catholic social teaching plays in shaping our thinking and character, but stops short of agreeing on its ability to direct Australian policies. Rudd is slightly more sympathetic, recognising that the Gospel ‘is in part an exhortation to social action,’ but that it ‘doesn’t provide a mathematical formula to answer all the great questions of our age.’ What it does offer, he says, ‘is a starting point to debate those questions with an informed Christian ethical framework that always preferences social justice, the poor, and the powerless. And that includes protecting creation itself.’

Other contributors to the book include Frank Brennan SJ, Philip Booth and Sandie Cornish, each offering their own thoughts on the future of politics and policy, and the utility of Catholic social teaching as a resource for policymaking in their responses to Craven’s analysis.

Register now to attend the free online launch of Shadow of the Cross on Thursday 18 November from 8-9.30pm AEDT. This event is being presented in collaboration with ACU.