Catholic Perspectives

​​​​​​All Brisbane Catholic Education Schools have embarked upon embedding Catholic perspectives across the curriculum.  To assist you in your understanding of what this means for St John’s College, information about this approach will be periodically posted from the Brisbane Catholic Education Website.  Over the next year, we will also post approved theological information on some of the topics our students engage with to enrich an understanding of what is the Catholic perspective.  As teachers, we have access to explanations of the Catholic perspective which comes with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Brisbane as being in line with church teachings.

The following link contains a short video explaining this approach.

RSE Key Messages 2018 - YouTube

​Embedding Catholic perspectives

Embedding Catholic perspectives into Relationships and Sexuality Education is a response to:

• the human being's ongoing quest in seeking the purpose and meaning of life and relationships

• the Christian narrative, theology and Church tradition

• the Catholic vision for human thriving.

The distinctiveness of the Catholic perspective is found in responses to the Christic question of 'Who do you say I am?' and responses to questions such as: Who are we? Who are we trying to become? How do we get there? It is the Christian narrative that provides us with responses that deepen our understanding and thereby increase our capacity to flourish.

In a Catholic school, we are striving to support students to flourish to be their true self -in being confident about their relationship with themselves, others, creation and God.  It is the goal that these students will reach out to support others amongst whom they live and work in community to also flourish. 

Catholic Education, as an agent of the Catholic church, exists to give witness to Jesus' vision of reality through the integration of:

  • faith
  • life
  • culture

The Catholic School, 1977, n.37

Catholic perspectives across the curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)

​​Human Dignity: The Catholic perspective promotes human dignity, the essential worth or dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God. Each human being is unique and unrepeatable and loved and called by God. This means that every human being, in every circumstance, is good. This is not to say that they are morally good. Our moral goodness or moral badness is based on the moral decisions we make. Rather, to affirm the worth or dignity of the human person is to affirm that it is a good thing that he or she exists, that his or her existence is desired by God and that his or her existence is worthwhile. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2013). Catholic thinking about sexuality and relationships is based on this basic affirmation of the equal worth of all human beings.

BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)

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Identity: The human person is created out of love, for love, and is destined to flourish. God, who is perfect love, has created each person in the image and likeness of God. Each person is unique and equal in dignity to all others. Persons are rational and free beings having both a body and a soul. Human beings are in relationship to all of God's creation. God has made each person in the Divine image and likeness as an inseparable unity of body, mind and spirit. God gifts each individual with absolute and enduring dignity and the unconditional love of God. Through God the human person has the possibility of life lived to the full.

The concept of identity expresses the innate human desire to form a coherent sense of self through making free choices about who we want to be and what we want to do in the context of relationships. 'This includes, but is not limited to, the realms of gender, ethnicity, culture, social role, age group, personality, religion, spirituality, religious community, marital status, vowed life status, and sexuality' (Kappler, 2014). These relationships are formative for our identity in that they exert positive and negative influences on who we think we are and the roles we think we play. Moreover, as our place in these relationships changes over time, new expectations and opportunities arise to make choices to either embrace or reject these new roles as part of our sense of self. Whether we like it or not, these choices become part of our personal identities. We all experience being a child. When we are children no matter how much we might want to think of ourselves as adults we remain children.  Becoming parents or deciding not to have children has a certain objective impact on our identities. Once a person has a child, regardless of their actual relationship with that child, being a parent becomes part of their identity. The ways in which we respond to the objective dimensions of our identity arising from our relationships to the world, to others, to institutions, and to time and history contributes to the formation of our own sense of self in the world and the formation of the way other people see us.

Everybody wants to be somebody, to be significant. Everybody longs for an identity. Humans as bodily beings have experiences of the world which are ambiguous. Sometimes humans experience the world as a place in which they seem to be the sole actors, the creators of their own universes. The world responds to the way individuals engage with it. At other times, however, human beings experience themselves as objects in the world. Things happen to individuals that were neither sought nor desired. Sometimes, human beings experience the world as a place that affirms them, that makes them feel that they are worthwhile and that their life has meaning and purpose. At other times, however, humans experience the world as a life-threatening place in which other people treat them as worthless, a place where the natural world seems indifferent to their existence, or to whether they live or die. Of course, all human beings must face the inevitability of their own mortality, their own inevitable and unpredictable death.

Consequently every human being experiences a desire to affirm themselves, to affirm the meaning and purpose of their own lives and their own worth and dignity in the face of experiences that seem to undermine or deny them their human dignity, meaning and purpose.  Put another way everybody wants to be cherished and loved. From a Catholic perspective, individuals find themselves through loving and self-giving relationships. Whilst it might seem logical that our identities would be most affirmed by selfish or self-interested behaviour the contrary is the case. Our identities, our sense of ourselves as a person with meaning and purpose in life are most often discovered and affirmed when we are selfless and make a gift of ourselves in the service of others.

The paradox of identity is that it is both something that is always already true and unchanging and something that changes and develops over time. The Christian tradition affirms, on the one hand, that each individual is a unique creation of God possessing an inviolable inherent worth. God created you, loves you, and will always love you. On the other hand, it also takes seriously the reality that this unique individual is nonetheless situated in history. Each person grows through different stages of life, from childhood, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age. In all of these stages the essential core identity of the person remains constant. You are still essentially the same person that you were when you were born and the you that you will be when you die. But it also makes sense to talk about becoming a different person as we learn and grow through these stages of life. The child is different to the parent and the parent is different to the grandparent. Yet we can experience being all of these different people as we go through life. Still, we can only experience them by going through life. You can only experience being a grandparent by becoming a grandparent and can only make grandparent part of your identity if it is the case in real life. So, as we enter into different stages of our lives, we will often have to revisit and re-evaluate some aspects of our identity.

This developmental aspect of identity formation—the fact that though you remain the same person, you also change—is important for two reasons. First, one should not expect people at different stages of their lives to think and act in the same way. We talk about the wisdom of old age because the elderly have lived through the various stages of life and have the benefit of a lifetime of experience. Young people can only imagine what it is like to be old, but old people know what it is like to be young. Similarly, parents know what it is like to be a child, whilst children can only imagine what it is like to be a parent. It takes time to develop and mature, to learn what things are really worthwhile doing and which are not. It takes time to learn from one's mistakes as wells as from one's successes. Second, identity formation is an ongoing process that needs to be constantly revisited. Identity formation requires attention and flexibility. An unexplored, unexamined, unattended identity carries its own risks. A person runs the danger of drifting through life imagining that they are someone they are not. Individuals need to understand their changing identity in order to develop that identity or sense of self, in a way that truly affirms the meaning and worth of their life and desire for dignity. Humans need to  embrace those aspects of their identity that are positive and life-affirming while recognising and carefully managing aspects that might damage personal hopes and the hopes of others.

BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)

Resilience: Human Beings are creatures of emotion. Living wholeheartedly means embracing these emotions without being defined by them. Emotions are part of the suite of human capacities that enable us to navigate our relationships. We are afraid or angry in the face of perceived threats to our own flourishing or survival and desire things we perceive as good for us. Humans take pleasure in the enjoyment of things that are good and are sad when they perceive a lack of good things. Sometimes these emotions can come to be associated with things that are inappropriate. We may be angry at someone when in fact the circumstances that have given rise to our anger are a result of our own actions. We may be dominated by a fear of something, such as open spaces, that from a statistical point of view, is highly unlikely to kill us. We may desire things that are not really good for us or take pleasure in things that are harmful such as the classical vices of envy, gluttony, lust and greed. We may become deeply depressed in circumstances which materially-speaking really are not that bad. These examples illustrate how emotions, like so many of the attributes of the human person, are good for us. Emotions help us to flourish when we learn to experience, understand and act on them in an appropriate way. However, emotions can be damaging to us if they dominate us.

Key to understanding the notion of emotional and affective maturity is a proper acknowledgment of the importance of human freedom in the integration of our emotions. Created in the image of God, human beings are rational and free. When emotions come to dominate our thinking and acting in a way that compromises our freedom, then we are not living the fully human lives that we are created to live. When, however, our emotions are integrated through our rationality and freedom into our efforts to fulfil our calling to live wholeheartedly—to stand up for love—then emotions play an essential part in realizing human flourishing. The classical language of the Catholic tradition expresses this human flourishing using the emotive term happiness.

Happiness, beatitude, or flourishing is, according to classical philosophical and Catholic tradition, the thing that all human beings desire and which will ultimately be found in eternal life with God. Because we are endowed with reason and freedom by God we are able to experience a 'not-yet' perfect version of that happiness here and now. As images of God, that is, as God's representatives on Earth, we are able to work for the realisation of this happiness, this flourishing. Through our moral behaviour, moral choices and moral actions we can incarnate God's love in the world. In this way, we can literally make the world and ourselves, happier. Our emotions function to help us to perceive those things which are good because they contribute to this happiness, and those things which are bad or evil because they may ultimately frustrate the realisation of true happiness.

BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)

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