The Catholic Social Teaching and International Human Rights Database

The Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights, in partnership with the Hesburgh Libraries, has created an online research tool, Convocate, that facilitates the simultaneous searching of Catholic social teaching documents and instruments of international human rights law. Convocate 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. Convocate makes 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 soon include secondary sources and specially commissioned scholarly papers.

For more information, contact Klau Institute Communications Program Manager Kevin Fye at

Enter Convocate


Convocate Demonstration Video

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

Using Convocate


The user makes her initial choice of search methodology on a home screen, choosing either keyword search or a search constrained by pre-defined topics. Topics have been created by scholars in the field to maximize relational results between both sets of documents. Also available from the home screen is a full listing of all documents contained in the database.


Searches may be further narrowed by application of source, date-related, or document-type filters. Results are displayed in separate columns for direct comparison. Users 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 comparison frame. 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 takes place in the comparison frame. 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 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.

Enter Convocate

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.