Catholic Social Teaching/International Human Rights Database

Catholic Social Teaching and
International Human Rights Database

For more information, contact Project Manager Christina Leblang via email at


The contest is on!

We are holding a Database Naming Contest until January 31, 2017. Read about the project below,
watch the video, then check out contest details at the bottom of the page.


Database Demonstration Video

This video offers a brief tour of the functionality of the database.




The Center for Civil and Human Rights, in partnership with the Center for Digital Scholarship, is creating an online research tool that will allow the simultaneous searching of Catholic social teaching documents and instruments of international human rights law. The project aims to bring Church teaching into conversation with international law, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue on human dignity and facilitating research on the Catholic Church’s understanding of human rights.

This free online database will help scholars, students, practitioners, advocates, public officials, diplomats, ministers, pastoral agents, and concerned citizens to identify convergences and divergences between Catholic social thought and international human rights law. The database will make digitized documents accessible in their totality, and searchable by topic or key word for purposes of comparison. Designed for a diverse audience and built upon an interdisciplinary framework, it is planned that the database will include not only primary sources but also secondary sources.

Functionality of the database


As currently envisioned, the user will make her initial choice of search methodology on a home screen, choosing either keyword search or a search constrained by pre-defined topics. Topics will be created by scholars in the field to maximize relational results between both sets of documents. Also available from the home screen will be a full listing of all documents contained in the database and educational resources such as reference guides, selected bibliographies, and special thematic essays to be prepared specifically for the database.








Searches may be further narrowed by application of geographic, date-related, or document-type filters. Results are displayed in separate columns for direct comparison. Users will have the option to download documents in PDF format, email search results to a personal email account, or place the documents into the database's central component, the Notebook. Optional expanded synopses allow the researcher to make an informed decision about whether to include the selected document in her final comparison.








The bulk of research will take place in the Notebook. Here the researcher can open various documents which have been saved from a search. On the left side of the screen one can scroll within a selected Catholic social thought document. On the right side of the screen one can scroll within a selected international human rights law document. Navigating both document types on a dual screen allows the researcher to easily compare texts between the two fields in an effort to understand points of convergence and divergence. Either document can be switched with another in the Notebook for a further level of comparative investigation.




Advanced research technology in development

In order to do justice to the complexity of the documents, each document needs to be analyzed at the paragraph level. This increases the number of “texts” to over 10,000 which must be each individually classified and labeled. With help from digital scholarship experts, the project includes various computational methods to aid in analyzing texts and assigning key words. The computer will be taught how to classify documents using a small subset of the total. Once the computer has "learned" how to classify documents, it will be able to classify the rest of the documents. This advanced technology will result in greatly enhanced searchability. Ultimately, it is hoped that tools such as computer-generated "clouds" will be added to the database system, opening the possibility of cross-document comparison of an even richer kind.


Project Lead for the Libraries

Alex Papson is the Metadata and Digital Projects Librarian at the University of Notre Dame Hesburgh Libraries Center for Digital Scholarship. Alex supervises the digital production and projects unit for the library, as well as outreach through the CDS on projects such as the CST/HR Database.

Project Manager for The Center for Civil and Human Rights


Christina Leblang

Christina Leblang holds a Masters of Engineering from Cornell University and a Master of Theological Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Previously working for Indiana University School of Medicine investigating the budding mechanism of Ebola virus, Christina brings her experience in project management to developing interests in human rights.

Contact Christina Leblang via email at

The Catholic Social Teaching/International Human Rights database project has received support from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Database Naming Contest

Our new database needs a name, and we are asking the Notre Dame community to help. If you are a Notre Dame student, faculty member, or staff member, give us your best ideas.

The name of this project should reflect its unique character, offering insights into both Catholic social teaching and human rights. The best idea we receive will win its author a $50 Visa gift card, and a framed copy of the iconic photo of Fr. Ted linking arms with Martin Luther King, Jr. Use the form below to send in your ideas, or:

TEXT your ideas to 574-233-9903 (remember to include your name and email address)
EMAIL your ideas to

Enter as many ideas as you like. Entries will be accepted until January 31, 2017.