Lent Course 2007: Magnificat


This Lent Course was born at the Affirming Catholicism Conference at St. Chad's College, University of Durham from 7th to 10th September 2006. The title of the Conference was Living the Magnificat: God's Cry for Justice, Mercy and Humility and this Course covers some of the same ground.

I am indebted to all of those who spoke at the Conference: James Alison, Fran Beckett, Father Joe Cassidy, Bishop Michael Doe, Shami Chakrabati, Father Mark Chapman, Bishop Stephen Conway (Ramsbury), Bishop Stephen Cottrell (Reading), Father Mongezi Guma, Linda Hogan, Richard Jenkins, Father Charles Lawrence, Sister Margaret Magdalen. I am also indebted to Margaret Carey for her help with Unit Four on criminal justice and to Tim Moulds for his help with Unit Five on economic justice. Needless to say, any errors are mine.

As with my 2006 Lent Course, I have maintained the practice of providing analytical tools before tackling difficult problems. In this case the tools concern the status of different kinds of statements and the extent to which we can attribute causality and motivation to outcomes and the problems are criminal, social and economic justice.

Kevin Carey
December 2006.


Please select a section:

  1. Introduction
  2. Unit One - What is Truth?
    The question that all philosophers (and Pontius Pilate - John 18:38) have asked down the centuries is notoriously difficult. In our tradition there has been an attempt to abstract truth from individual and collective experience but in other traditions there is no such distinction. We will examine our own tradition and try to distinguish between fact, truth, theory, paradigm and belief.
  3. Unit Two - Why Stuff Happens
    Our tradition is very exercised about causality, about how things happen. At a human level we tend to put more emphasis on motive, on why people do something, rather than on outcome, on what people do and how it affects others. But this is changing in two fundamental ways: first, the idea that anything happens without a definable cause is losing ground; and, so, secondly, even within Christianity there is now a strong tendency to judge (whatever that might mean) on the basis of a supposedly known motive that links an action to an outcome that can be categorised as good or bad.
  4. Unit Three - Who Made Me?
    How much am I a product of my culture and inheritance and how much am I self made? Unit Three is a homework unit to help each of us to examine ourselves. We will conduct an audit of our power and wealth to see how we compare with poor people in our own country and poor people in developing countries. Then, after studying Units Four and Five, we will come back to look again at our self assessment to see if anything has changed.
  5. Unit Four - Whodunnit?
    Traditionally we have taken personal circumstances, as a component of motivation, into account when dispensing criminal justice but the trend is now towards less flexible, more punitive measures. Why is there such a strong correlation between poverty, alienation and criminal convictions? What are the purposes of criminal justice? How important is motive compared with outcome? Can we punish and rehabilitate simultaneously?
  6. Unit Five - Whose World?
    For most of the second half of the 20th Century it was widely believed that it was our responsibility in richer countries to provide development assistance to poorer countries but even in the face of Jubilee 2000 there are many who think that this money has been wasted. At home, while we debate the economics of inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. What have Christians to say about global and local social justice, including justice between generations, an issue raised by the prospect of global warming?
  7. Unit Six - Power Point
    After studying Units Four and Five, we will come back to consider what we said about ourselves in Unit Three and whether we see our relationship with less powerful people in the same light.