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In recent years, greater attention has been paid to the influence of Catholic social teaching as a contributor to legal debates in American society. As it has developed, Catholic social teaching clearly envisions a role for the Church to play in shaping society. The interplay between Catholic social teaching and American law is a fascinating, complex, and, at times, tense relationship. That relationship is the subject of these observations and reflections. The first part of this discussion explores how leading Church documents define the proper scope of influence for Catholic social teaching. After this brief background, the discussion will turn to reflection on the impact that Catholic social teaching has had on American law and politics. It will then explore in more depth three obstacles that have been barriers to a greater role for Catholic social thought in American legal and political discourse.



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