25 Years of Challenging Secularism in the Social Sciences

For 25 years, the Society of Catholic Social Scientists has increased awareness of the Church’s important social influences and challenged the modern, secularized approach to the social sciences, the Society’s co-founder Dr. Stephen Krason told The Cardinal Newman Society.

On the occasion of the organization’s 25th anniversary, the Newman Society sought Dr. Krason’s outlook on Catholic education and research today, while praising the great work of the SCSS.

“Steve Krason and the impressive Catholic scholars he gathers around him every year are doing such a tremendous service for the Church,” said Newman Society President Patrick Reilly, an SCSS member. “We congratulate and thank them, and we wish the very best for their 25th anniversary conference in October at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.”

By “combining objective scholarly analysis with fidelity to the Magisterium,” the SCSS integrates the Christian faith and Catholic social teaching into social science education and research. Membership in SCSS is open to Catholics with advanced degrees who are involved in the social sciences or related disciplines that are concerned with social questions. Today SCSS has about 400 members in the U.S., Canada and abroad.

Founded in 1992, the SCSS has been headquartered at the Newman Guiderecommended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, since its inception. Krason told the Newman Society that Franciscan was the logical choice for the society’s headquarters because of its strong Catholic identity. “Fr. [Michael] Scanlan TOR, who was president [of Franciscan University] at the time, gave us strong support,” Krason said. “They were committed to a strong Catholic orientation.”

According to Krason, who chairs the department of political science at Franciscan University, the primary aim of the SCSS is to produce objective knowledge about the political, social and economic orders that will assist the Church in addressing the challenges and problems of modern culture.

The SCSS does not endorse any particular social, economic, political, psychological systems or approaches. It does, however, speak out against social perspectives that are troublesome from the standpoint of the Church, because they reflect a flawed human anthropology. Members of SCSS have expressed the Catholic perspective on hot-button issues including same-sex marriage, abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

On behalf of the society’s board of directors, Krason penned a letter to the president of the American Medical Association when the group was considering abandoning its long-held position that “physician assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s professional role,” urging the association to refrain from changing its policy.

SCSS also encourages American scholars to consider the need and circumstances of the universal Church.

“American Catholics aren’t thinking too much about international questions and the Church’s role in world affairs,” said Dr. Krason. “The Church brings about relations between nations and peaceful resolutions of conflicts, but this significant topic isn’t being talked about very much.”

The SCSS has had a long-term relationship with the United Nations, Kason told the Newman Society. In 2015 for example, Dr. Brian Scarnecchia, associate professor at Ave Maria School of Law, addressed the U.N. Human Rights Committee on behalf of the SCSS, imploring them to “denounce the antenatal practices of abortion and same-sex ‘marriage’ for what they are – violations of integral human ecology, crimes against humanity and eugenic genocide.”

The impact of the SCSS has not been limited to only college professors. Krason told the Newman Society that, while planning for the upcoming anniversary conference, he had in mind “educated Catholic laity who are interested in what the Church is involved in, especially in terms of the social teaching of the Church.”

Franciscan University will host the conference on October 27 to 28, 2017.  Paper and panel proposals are still being accepted until June 1.

Conferences like these are opportunities to explain the fullness of what the Church teaches and “the nuances of certain principles and precepts the Church is putting forth more closely,” according to Kason. Participants of the conferences can expect to come away with a better understanding of the Church’s role internationally and the teaching of the Church about specific issues, Kason said.

In addition to sponsoring conferences, the SCSS annually publishes a scholarly journal, Catholic Social Science Review.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the SCSS-published Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy which is now in its third edition. The Encyclopedia was praised by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, who said the book was “filled with outstanding Catholic scholarship.”

“This is a key resource for every committed Catholic adult,” the archbishop said. “It’s invaluable.”

The SCSS also offers a Master of Theology in Catholic Social Thought through the Graduate Theological Foundation. Students in the program, which can be taken in person or online, study under members of the SCSS. Students are provided with a general background in Catholic social teaching and the opportunity to study within a Catholic framework a particular discipline including economics, history, political science, psychology and sociology.

By offering this education, the SCSS aims to continue its challenge of the secular assumptions, concepts and theories on which contemporary social sciences are dependent and cement the role of faith and Catholic social teaching in today’s social sciences.

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