Explain the central issue that Coates raises, both in broad terms and in (at least some)smaller details that you think are important.

Imagine that you have been assigned by the editor of America Magazine to write an article in response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. The editor’s most important question for you is “How should Catholics think about the issues Coates raises . In particular the editor wants you to base your response on your expertise in Catholic Social Teaching.

The Readers of “America” are mostly well-educated Catholics. They are older than you are now, and they are generally interested in Catholic social teaching but they might not be familiar with the specifics of it. So, for example, you can safely assume they have heard of Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum” but you can not assume they know what it says about the right to property or the common good. You will have to explain the relevant facts and ideas to them.

A good essay will do all of the following:

1. Explain the central issue that Coates raises, both in broad terms and in (at least some)smaller details that you think are important.
2. Apply tools of Catholic social teaching that you think are relevant (including the Bible and key principles and ideas as developed by popes, bishops, and theologians like Bryan Massingale), in order that the readers can understand how to think through the issue.
3. Give context to the issue and/or the relevant tools of Catholic Social teaching by drawing upon additional research you do.
4. Employ rhetorical structures described in “They say/I say” (like planting a naysayer, using metacommentary, or agreeing and disagreeing simultaneously) effectively to make your argument.

The research part can take a number of forms. You will need to accomplish at least one of these research tasks, but if you focus on just one, then you will need to go into greater depth with it:

1. Verify, supplement, or challenge the claims Coates makes in his article.
2. Get perspective from a scholar on how the biblical narrative may apply to mass incarceration, racism, and/or the effect of either of these on families.
3. Expand upon one or more relevant principles of Catholic social teaching.
4. Discover, explain, and build upon what bishops, academic theologians, and other knowledgeable writers have said about Catholic social teaching and mass incarceration.


1. Coates, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass In carceration”
2. Massingale, “Racial Justice and the catholic church”
3. The Bible
. At least one source must be a published academic paper or book.

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