Catholic Social Teaching is not just a collection of documents, but the social justice tradition is often communicated through Catholic Social Teaching documents from Popes, and from local Bishops. These are the major international Catholic Social Teaching documents. To find Catholic Social Teaching documents by local Bishops, use the search function, or look under the Asia Pacific Teachings category. Click here for tips on how to make sense of these documents. To find quotes from the Catholic Social Teaching documents, or commentary on them, enter the document name in search engine. List of Major International Catholic Social Teaching Documents Laudato Si’ (On the Care of Our Common Home), Francis, 2015. Introduction Full Text Resources Laudato Si’ Week 2016 Evangelii Gaudium (On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World), Francis, 2013. Introduction Full Text Resources Caritas in Veritate (Integral Human Development in Love and Truth), Benedict XVI, 2009. Introduction Full Text Resources Centesimus Annus (The One Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum), John Paul II, 1991. Introduction Full Text Sollicitudo rei Socialis (On Social Concerns), John Paul II, 1987. Introduction Full Text Laborem Exercens (On Human Labour), John Paul II, 1981. Introduction Full Text Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), Paul VI, 1975. Introduction Full Text Justice in the World, Synod of Bishops, 1971. Introduction Full Text Octogesima Adveniens, (A Call to Action) Paul VI,1971. Introduction Full Text Populorum Progressio, (On the Development of Peoples) Paul VI, 1967. Introduction Full Text Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Vatican II,1965. Introduction Full Text Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), John XXIII, 1963. Introduction Full Text Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) John XXIII, 1961. Introduction Full Text Quadragesimo Anno (After Forty Years), Pius XI,1931. Introduction Full Text Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of the Working Classes), Leo XIII, 1891. Introduction Full Text
Context Pope John Paul II issued his last major social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, in 1991. It commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Momentous historical events shape its content. Communism fell in much of Eastern Europe in 1989. The Gulf War had just ended, and the USSR would soon collapse. John Paul II’s own involvement in these dramatic events lends additional significance to his reflections. Major Issues John Paul II is highly critical of communism. He warns against the risk of the welfare state usurping the responsibilities of individuals and smaller non-state groups. Yet he does not uncritically endorse capitalism: “We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called “Real Socialism” leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization. It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies that leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development.” John Paul II stresses the role of culture in integral human development. He warns of the danger of consumerism and raises ecological questions. In Centesimus Annus he reminds us that there are “collective and qualitative human needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms.” Far from uncritically promoting the free market, he argues for a strong juridical framework to ensure the rights of all people. Methodology In this encyclical John Paul II follows the pattern of other commemorative encyclicals. He recalls the teachings of Rerum Novarum, surveys changes since then, and applies its teachings to the current situation. Contribution to Catholic Social Teaching Centesimus Annus summarises Catholic objections to communism and explains the reasons for its failure. It clearly rejects the idea that the fall of communism reflects the victory of capitalism. In fact, the encyclical presents a detailed critique of contemporary capitalism. It signals that the Church will continue to critique all social and political systems in view of human dignity and the common good. Read Centesimus Annus Read the full text of the official English translation here.
Context Pope John Paul II’s 1987 social encyclical Sollicitudo rei Socialis marks the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio. Sollicitudo rei Socialis is also known by the English title On Social Concerns. It was the first major Catholic Social Teaching document to mark the anniversary of a social encyclical other than Rerum Novarum. Major Issues John Paul II analyses the current state of development in terms of conflict between Eastern and Western blocs. He says this conflict is often played out by proxy wars in the global south, and contributes to underdevelopment there. John Paul II critiques both the liberal capitalist ideology of the West and the Marxist collectivist ideology of the East. He proposes instead freedom and solidarity based on respect for the human person and a vision of authentic human development. He identifies sin and structures of sin as barriers to development. John Paul II emphasizes the virtue of solidarity as a moral response to interdependence. Methodology In Sollicitudo Rei Socialis John Paul II follows a pattern similar to that of the pre Vatican II encyclicals. He begins by recalling the teachings of Populorum Progressio, then he notes changes in the situation since Populorum Progressio. Next he develops its teaching in relation to the contemporary situation, and then he concludes with guidelines for action. John Paul II makes a strong claim for the teaching role of the Papacy. He declares that “the Church has something to say today, just as twenty years ago, and also in the future”. By using the term “social doctrine” rather than social teaching, and insisting on the need for “an international outlook” in the teachings, he stresses the importance of the unchanging and global over the local and contingent. By modifying the term ‘option for the poor’ to ‘love of preference for the poor’ he also signaled a more critical stance towards liberation theology. Contribution to Catholic Social Teaching Sollicitudo rei Socialis gives more emphasis than previous teachings to the experience of the global South. Although his stance towards liberation theology is somewhat critical, John Paul II incorporates and affirms the concepts of structural sin and an option for the poor. Solicitude res Socialis signalled a movement away from an approach that hesitated to issue a unified message with universal validity for the whole world. Read Solicitudo rei Socialis Full Text
Context Pope John Paul II issued Laborem Exercens to mark the ninetieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. It is also known by the English title On Human Labour. John Paul II’s own experience as a manual labourer and his personalist philosophical ethics shape this social encyclical. Major Issues Unemployment and the impact of technology on work are major concerns of this encyclical. As well as affirming a right to work, to a just wage, and to form unions, Laborem Exercens introduces the concept of an ‘indirect employer.’ The indirect employer includes those persons and institutions that impact on and shape the relationship of the ‘direct employer’ and the employees themselves. The direct employer is the one who actually enters into a work contract with employees. Laborem Exercens concludes with a spirituality of work. This spirituality focuses on the role of work in the transformation of nature and in personal fulfillment, the provision of the basis of family life, and contributing to the common good. John Paul II values the subjective over the objective dimensions of work. Work is valuable because it is the free act of a human person who is a subject and not an object. Methodology John Paul II does not start from the signs of the times but rather from a philosophical and theological reflection on work that offers universally applicable general principles. He brings a strongly personalist approach to questions of work. Contribution to Catholic Social Teaching Laborem Exercenss is notable for its well-developed spirituality and philosophy of work. It is the first encyclical on work by a Pope with personal experience of being worker. Read Laborem Exercens Full Text
Context Pope Paul VI reflects on the challenges of post-industrial society and the inadequacy of ideologies to address them in this 1971 Apostolic Letter. Octogesima Adveniens is an open letter addressed to the President of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Roy. Although it is not a social encyclical, Octogesima Adveniens is considered to be one of the major Catholic Social Teaching documents. It commemorated the eightieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Major Issues Octogesima Adveniens was a call to action, urging Catholics to take responsibility for Christian action in all dimensions of their lives. It affirms two aspirations that Paul VI saw growing “stronger as human beings become better informed and better educated: the aspiration to equality and the aspiration to participation” (n 22). Other issues addressed by the letter include: – urbanisation (n 8 – 12) – the role of women (n 13) – discrimination (n 16) – the right to emigrate (n 17) – social communications (n 20) – and the environment (n 21). Methodology Octogesima Adveniens provides the strongest expression of an historically conscious ethical approach in the papal social teachings to date. The action it asks of Christians starts from the local and the particular rather than from universal and unchanging principles. It advocates an inductive approach to taking up responsibility for Christian action in social life. Paul VI does not regard all morality as contingent and changeable. He recognises continuity and universality in Church teaching but grounds his reflections in experience in context (n 42). Contribution to Catholic Social Teaching Octogesima Adveniens affirmed the possibility of a plurality of Catholic options for action. It assigned an unprecedentedly strong role to the local churches in reading the signs of the times and responding in their own places. Because situations varied so much, Paul VI said that it was often difficult to make universal pronouncements. Read Octogesima Adveniens Read the full text of the official English translation here.