The Social Ethics and Solidarity Certificate Program

Massachusetts Citizens for Life offers a first-in-the-nation certificate program to foster, and provide training for, the high adventure of civic conversation concerning what we owe, socially and politically, to the most powerless human life. All questions and viewpoints are welcome.

The course is taught by Dr. J. David Franks, Chairman of MCFL’s Board of Directors.

Over the course of eight months, this Social Ethics and Solidarity Certificate program provides intellectual and cultural formation for pro-life activists and any other person of good will motivated to realize more perfectly the American declaration of the equal dignity of each human life. 

With the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court, the possibility of a post-Roe v. Wade world has opened up. To meet the requirements of the political time of day, MCFL offers a humanistic exploration of social ethics so that pro-lifers can speak to those not yet convinced of the necessity of recognizing the right to life in law. Common ground can be found in recurring to science, social ethics, political philosophy, and the principles of the American founding.

The program approaches social and political questions in the spirit of the liberal arts, and adds to the mix theology, critical theory, American history, art, music, and literature (especially poetry). Every human heart has a natural desire for the true, the good, and the beautiful, and it is on that common ground that we must take our stand.

We will read authors including Dante, Aquinas, Lincoln, Maritain, John and Abigail Adams, Hannah Arendt, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, as well as explore composers and artists along the way, including Shostakovich, Mahler, Leonard Cohen, Rouault, and Chagall.

Dr. Franks was a professor of theology at Saint John’s Seminary for nine years, which included tenures as vice president for mission and director of certificate programs for the seminary’s Theological Institute for the New Evangelization. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston College.



The course will examine the basic principles of social ethics (the dignity of the human person, the common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity); the American Republic and the future of freedom; why politics matters and what is social justice; bioethical science and reasoning; how love and suffering stand at the heart of human action. 

The program reading list includes: The Waste Land and Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot, letters of John and Abigail Adams, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, selections from Dante’s Purgatorio, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, the “Treatise on Law” from the Summa theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Trauma and Recovery by Judith HermanLincoln by Allen Guelzo, On Revolution by Hannah Arendt, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Kids are welcome to sessions, and parking is ample. The Sullivan Square T station is also very close.


The sessions will be on the first Saturday of each month (except for the first session, which will be held on October 13th), running through May, from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at the MCFL Office at the Schrafft Center in Charlestown. They will be available as video recordings for participants who cannot attend in person. (That is, one can take this course without attending the classes in person, which would involve watching all of the recordings and meeting with the professor for a single session, gathering all those doing the program remotely, at a mutually arranged time in the spring. Or one could take the course in a “hybrid” format: attending in person when possible and watching the recordings when unable to attend.)


Young adults and others who want to reconnect to the pursuit of the common good; teachers; priests and ministers who would like to bear a greater prophetic witness when it comes to abortion and euthanasia, but who feel unprepared to make the case in a merciful way; parishioners hungry for a socially relevant theology; anyone seeking to foster social consciousness from a pro-life perspective; any person who wants a safe space to talk over the complexities involved with the defense of human dignity.


The Program Registration Fee is $495. Register online today by clicking HERE or by sending a check to Massachusetts Citizens for Life, 529 Main Street, Suite 1M9, Boston, MA 02119. Scholarships may be available. Please contact dfranks@masscitizensforlife.orgwith any questions.


Supporting This Educational Initiative

This certificate program provides the equivalent of a college course in terms of hours and comprehensiveness of syllabus. An average course of this type generally costs a minimum of $2,500 in tuition and fees. We would like to make this kind of learning more accessible and the full two-semester's registration is only $495.

We hope to reach a large audience, especially among the young and clerics and parish workers and teachers, who might not be able to afford very much. In order for this to be feasible, we ask that those who have abundant means sponsor our program, through a a tax-deductible donation. 

Due to generous sponsorships so far, we are pleased to be able to offer a student/young professional (under 35) tuition fee of $100. For all others, the cost is $495, but scholarships may be available. Please do not let financial constraints keep you from applying!

General tuition cost: $495
Student/young adult price (under 35): $100

CLICK HERE to make a donation to support the Social Ethics and Solidarity Certificate Program.


Download a Flyer


Whether or not you are able to attend or make a donation, please support the Program by downloading a flyer, printing it out, and posting it (with permission) in your church, at a school, or in other public places and disseminating it electronically to those you think would be interested. You can also help by sharing a link to this page to Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Ellen Kolb
    commented 2019-05-05 17:41:09 -0400
    I’m sorry that I was only able to attend one of the sessions for 2018-19. If you repeat it, I’ll certainly look into the online option.
  • Douglas Hayman
    commented 2019-02-11 08:19:39 -0500
    The cost is too high for most people. Very few people think mainly in terms of abstract ideas and high moral principles and they interact with other people who ALSO do not think or act in this way. To reach the masses, we or you cannot talk philosophy that is far beyond them. Why not just deliver the message in a foreign language? I suggest Swahili! Hope you get my point.
  • Paul Fullen
    commented 2018-11-30 23:57:40 -0500
    Is there homework involved?