Modern Catholic social teaching is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the papal, conciliar, and other official documents issued since the late nineteenth century and dealing with the economic, political, and social order. This teaching is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.
The following list includes not only the encyclical and conciliar documents that are typically considered to be the core texts, but also some key teaching documents issued by national bishops conferences and Vatican congregations, documents which contribute to the ongoing development of Catholic social teaching.
Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) — Pope Leo XIII, 1891
This seminal work on modern Catholic social thought addresses the plight of the industrial workers in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. It calls for the protection of the weak and the poor through the persuit of justice while excluding socialism and class struggle as legitimate principles of change. It affirms the dignity of work, the right to private property, and the right to form and join professional associations.
Quadragesimo Anno (After Forty Years) — Pope Pius XI, 1931
Writing in response to the alarming concentration of wealth and power in the socio-economic realm, Pius XI calls for the reestablishment of a social order based on the principle of subsidiarity. In commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, this encyclical reaffirms the need for a social order animated by justice.
Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) — Pope John XXIII, 1961
Applying the teachings of his predecessors to modern problems, and affirming the role of the Church as a teacher, and as a nurturing guardian of the poor and oppressed, John XXIII calls for a greater awareness of the need for all peoples to live as one community with a common good. Special attention is focused on the plight of the farmers and farm workers in depressed rural, agricultural economies.
Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) — Pope John XXIII, 1963
Covering the entire spectrum of relations between individuals, between the individual and the community, and between nations, John XXIII affirms the inviolability of human rights. Peace, based on mutual trust, can be well-founded only if undergirded by a unity of right order in human affairs arising from a genuine respect for and adherence to the law of God.
Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) Vatican Council II, 1965
Calling for a new sense of service by the Church in a rapidly changing world, the Council presents the ethical framework of the Church’s commitment to pastoral work in the world. This servant Church addresses itself to the real concerns and problems faced by Christians living in the modern age and calls for a development based on an unqualified accceptance of the inherent dignity of the human person.
Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) — Pope Paul VI, 1967
Calling attention to the worsening marginalization of the poor, Paul VI presents the various dimensions of an integral human development and the necessary conditions for growth in the solidarity of peoples. Only with an accompanying theological reflection on liberation from injustice and genuine human values can there be true development towards a more human condition.
Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action) — Pope Paul VI, 1971
Realizing the need for a genuine renewal in domestic and international societal structures, Paul VI calls on Christians to live up to the duty of participation in social and political reform as a way of discovering the truth and living out the Gospel.
Justicia in Mundo (Justice in the World) — Synod of Bishops, 1971
Calling attention to the structural roots of injustice afflicting human relations, the Bishops declare that action in the pursuit of justice, and participation in the transformation of the world are constitutive elements in the Church’s mission of preaching the Gospel.
Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) — Pope John Paul II, 1981
Exhorting Christians everywhere to be involved in the transformation of existing socio-economic systems, John Paul II presents work as a fundamental dimension of human existence through which the “social question” must be viewed. The meaning of work can only be properly understood when the dignity of labor is taken as an underlying premise.
Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern) — Pope John Paul II, 1987
Expanding on the notion of development in Populorum Progressio, John Paul II reviews the state of world development in the past two decades. The moral nature of development leading humanity to the “fullness of being” is emphasized.
Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) — Pope John Paul II, 1991
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) — Pope John Paul II, 1995
Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) — Pope John Paul II, 1998
Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) — Pope Benedict XVI, 2005
Sacramentum Caritatis (Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist) – Pope Benedict XVI, 2007
Caritas in Veritate (In Charity and Truth) — Pope Benedict XVI, 2009
Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) — Pope Francis, 2013
Evangelii Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation on The Joy of the Gospel) — Pope Francis, 2013
Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Freedom)–Second Vatican Council, 1965
Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World)–Paul VI, 1975
The Church and Racism: Towards a more fraternal society –Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 1989
Veritatis splendor (The Splendor of Truth)–Pope John Paul II, 1993
Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person)–Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1998
Ecclesia in America (The Church in America)–Pope John Paul II, 1999
Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life–Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church–Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2004
The Participation of Catholics in Political Life–Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002
The Catechism of the Catholic Church–The Vatican, 1992