Economics, See-Judge-Act, Synodality, and the Modern World

Joseph Cardinal Cardijn formulated the “See, Judge, Act” (SJA) method that became engrained in Catholic Social Teaching. SJA is a process of Looking at social justice issues as they affect society in the modern world. SJA is a way of developing a societal response to the injustices and evils we encounter.

The tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and the SJA methods dates back to Thomas Aquinas, who borrowed much from Aristotle. Still, it was Joseph Cardijn that made the theory a practice, a form of praxis, that encourages a process of:

  1. Looking at the social justice issues as they affect society in our everyday lives – TO SEE or TO OBSERVE
  2.  Understanding the Cause/Effect and the ROOT Cause – TO JUDGE or TO DISCERN
  3.  Contemplation, Discernment, and overcoming obstacles and objections are all about taking the actions needed to respond – TO ACT ~ TO ENGAGE ~ TO IMPLEMENT

Think of Pope Francis as he used the See-Judge-Act method to form the foundational pastoral approach of Laudato Sí. Think of all the social encyclicals of Catholic Social Teaching since Rerum Novarum. They were all based on the See Judge Act methods. The SJA was the methodological preference of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, and you see it in Mater et Magistra and Gaudium et Spes. 

At the root of social injustice, we discover economic realities that cause the injustices to be promulgated and accepted in society. 

The encyclicals from Rerum Novarum to Fratelli Tutti call for understanding “Cathonomics”* and using the SJA methods to bring about the Kingdom of God here and now. To bring alive the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount in our world today, especially as we encounter social injustices, racial injustices, and technological change that will soon get us to address the questions Joseph Cardijn addressed about the ills of the workers at the height of the industrial revolution. 

Synodality denotes that as a people of God, we must think about Innovation~Education~Collaboration. The Key is Collaboration. To better innovate, educate and collaborate, the methods of See-Judge-Act become the framework of bringing the work of the Church, the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, into a particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing the nature of community as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the teachings of Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit working in every one of us to proclaim the Gospel, to live the Sermon on the Mount, to understand better that Synodality is in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.

The working statement of purpose of the Synod will require an understanding of the See-Judge Act to bring about innovation-education-collaboration.

“We recall that the purpose of the Synod is not to produce documents, but to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.”

*Cathonomics is a word coined by Tony Annett and is the title of his new book “Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy.”

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