Papal Documents

Below are some of the key papal teachings that have shaped Catholic Social Teaching

1891 Rerum Novarum – “Of New Things” – Leo XIII

The Condition of Labour examines working conditions in industrialised countries and insists on workers’ rights. The Church, employers & workers should work together to build a just society.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council resource page on Rerum Novarum here.

1931 Quadragesimo Anno – “On the Fortieth Year” – Pius X

The Reconstruction of the Social Order at the time of major economic depression: QA criticises abuses of capitalism & communism. Unity between capital & labour. Ownership brings social responsibilities. Subsidiarity.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) Summary and Discussion Guide on Quadragesimo Anno, part of ACSJC’s Catholic Social Teaching Series here.

1961 Mater et Magistra – “Mother & Teacher” – John XXIII

Christianity & Social Progress: Updates earlier teaching and applies to agriculture and aid to developing countries, thus ‘internationalising’ CST. Role of laity in applying social teaching as an integral part of Christian life.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) Summary and Discussion Guide on Mater et Magistra here.

1963 Pacem in Terris – “Peace on Earth” – John XXIII

Peace on Earth: With the imminent threat of nuclear war this is a plea for peace based on the social order from a framework of rights and duties applying to individuals, public authorities and the world community.

1965 Gaudium et Spes – “The Joys and Hopes” Vatican II

The Church in the Modern World: Church’s duty is discernment of the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. Principles of cultural development and justice, enhancing human dignity and the common good. Work for peace.

1967 Populorum Progressio – “The Development of Peoples” Paul VI

The Development of Peoples Charter for development – ‘the new name for peace’:  Deals with structural poverty, aid and trade. Limits put on profit motive and the right to private property. Christians to strive for international justice.

1971 Octogesima Adveniens – “On the Eightieth Year” – Paul VI

A Call to Action Rome doesn’t necessarily have the answer: Need for local church to respond to specific situations. Urbanisation has brought new injustices. We are called to political action.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) Summary and Discussion Guide on Octogesima Adveniens here.

1971 Justicia in Mundo – “Justice in the World” – Synod

‘Justice is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel…’ The Church must examine its conscience about its lifestyle and so witness to the Gospel. Importance of Education for Justice.

1975 Evangelii Nuntiandi – “Evangelisation in the Modern World”- Paul VI

Profound links between evangelization and development and liberation. Only the kingdom is absolute; everything else is relative. All levels of society are to be transformed by the power of the good news.

1978 Sollicitudo Rei Socialis – “The Social Concerns of the Church” – John Paul II

On the 20th anniversary of the papal encyclical Populorum Progressio (‘The Development of Peoples’) St John Paul II examines the ethical dimensions of international development and the responsibilities of nations within the  context of Marxism and liberal capitalism, calling for solidarity and the preferential option for the poor.

1981 Laborem Exercens – “On Human Work” – John Paul II

On Human Work For JPII work is the central social issue. Work increases human dignity. Priority of labour over capital. Rights of workers (especially women) and unions. Critique of capitalism as well as Marxism.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) Summary and Discussion Guide on Laborem Exercens here.

1987 Sollicitudo Rei Socialis – “The Social Concern of the Church” – John Paul II

Social Concern Updates Populorum Progressio with analysis of global development: North/South divide blamed on confrontation between capitalism and Marxism. Conversion from ‘Structures of sin’ towards solidarity and option for the poor.

1991 Centesimus Annus – “The One Hundredth Year” – John Paul II

One Hundred Years Review of CST and major events of the last century, constantly affirming human dignity and human rights, justice and peace. The fall of Marxism does not signify a victory for capitalism.  You can read the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Discussion Guide on Centesimus Annus here.

2005 Deus Caritas Est – “God is Love” – BenedictXVI

Love of God, love of neighbour and the role of love in the Christian life:  “The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man… Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man’s sufferings and his needs, including material needs.” (19)

2009 Caritas in Veritate – “Charity in Truth” – BenedictXVI

Charity in Truth Updates Populorum Progressio with a comprehensive review of development and some reflection on the economic crisis and business ethics. Provides a theological framework for CST.

2013 Evangelii Gaudium – “The Joy of the Gospel” – First Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis

The Pope speaks on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church.

2015 Laudato Si’“Praised Be to You” – Encyclical Letter on the Care for Our Common Home  – Pope Francis

Laudato Si’ is a letter to all people about our our global family and our common home, which encourages us to “acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.”   It speaks to our need to enter into dialogue with each other, share our resources and be responsible stewards of creation.