Government by The Popes


The French Revolution, which began in 1789, set in motion a set of agenda that almost defined how the papacy in particular responded to the world around it. Here one saw the destruction of the Church as it was previously known. Short of funds, the State confiscated much of the property of the Church, paid the clergy a stipend, and then restructured and redistributed these new civil servants. This led to a radical secularization of both the Church and the society as well as a period of severe persecution of the members of the Church. The low point of this process was probably on 10 December 1793. The cathedral of Notre Dame was the scene of a feast of reason that consisted of enshrining a temple of philosophy on the altar and installing an actress from the opera as the Goddess of Reason.

Some improvement had occurred by the time Napoleon came on the scene, but he was to impose his own imprint on the Church in France. For openers, the French army kidnapped the 80 year old Pope Pius VI and was frustrated in its attempt to take the Pope to France by his death in 1800. Pius VII was elected in Venice and succeeded in making his way back to Rome a year later. Despite these rather inauspicious beginnings, Napoleon knew he could not effectively rule France without the Church, and he initiated efforts to regularize their relationship. On 15 July 1801, a concordat between the Pope and Napoleon was signed. Critical to this concordat was the restoration of the power of the Church to appoint clergy, the restoration of its property, and freedom of religious practice.

Though Pius VII attended Napoleon's coronation in Paris, relations did not remain chummy, for Napoleon not only titled himself King of Italy, he also coveted his neighbor's goods: specifically the Papal States. These had been given to the papacy by the Carolingian kings in the 8th century and basically consisted of central Italy. Their purpose was to give the Holy See "sufficient temporal substance to prevent her from being at the mercy of every turbulent faction." While this surely occurred, particularly during the Middle Ages, such possessions also forced the papacy into significant temporal concerns and were an occasion of critical political entanglements. Thus in May of 1809, Napoleon occupied the Papal States and Pius VII barricaded himself into a Roman palace for five years. In addition to his problems in Russia, Napoleon met fierce resistance from Pius VII. Eventually Napoleon met his various fates, and the 1895 Council of Vienna helped restore some semblance of order to Europe.

Critical to the story of the social teaching of the Church is this account of mayhem, attacks, and personal assaults the papacy suffered. The upshot of this was a critical decision to enter into concordats with many of the European nations to establish the Church's place in a restructured Europe. The factual matter was that these states were reconstituted as hereditary and absolute monarchies. We must not make the mistake of assuming that this was a papal vote for monarchy; it was a vote for order after a tempestuous time. Yet there was a tendency for the two to become intertwined and interchangeable. And that gave a certain spin to future ecclesial discussions of Church and State relations.

Philosophy of Government

Things were no better on the theological front. The French revolution proclaimed "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality." And when the Church saw how these were politically implemented, a little of the luster of the movement and any enthusiasm for it were lost. Yet the slogan is a powerful one, and its echoes reverberate even to our times--as well as do problems with its implementation, particularly as the critical theological background to modernism and the implications of the theologie nouvelle, which developed in France after World War II. Modernism had several faces and several responses to it. Lamennais, a French priest and editor of the journal L'Avenir, proclaimed "a free Church in a free state," which was to be done by the Church's supporting democratic and revolutionary movements wherever they occurred." Gregory XVI, however, had had to help put down a few revolutions in his neighborhood and was not favorably disposed to this perspective. Lamennais additionally held the position that "the evolution of truth was part of the progressive evolution of the people." This helped lead to his eventual excommunication and set in motion ideas, which would cause considerable dismay to Popes Pius IX and X.

Elected in 1846 when he was but 54, Pius IX came in on a high note which included freeing prisoners, helping light the streets of Rome with gas, and holding garden parties. The Year of Revolutions, 1848, however pushed him in a different direction. The Pope refused to become entangled in disputes with Austria, would not commit his army to defend the northern border of the Papal States and eventually, fearing persecution, fled to Gaeta near Naples. Pius IX was restored two years later, and he assumed a greater authoritarian rule over both the Papal States and the Church.

In the late 1850s, King Victor Emmanuel began presiding over a reunification movement of Italy, which had, as one could imagine, any number of plots and subplots. A common theme, however, was the loss of the Papal States, which were viewed differently by Pius IX than various political groups. The Pope raised an army of international volunteers to resist the invasion which occurred in 1860, but it was unable to resist, and ultimately in 1870 the Papal states fell, and "thus the oldest temporal sovereignty in Europe disappeared."

These political movements were accompanied by various slogans: liberalism, progress, and modern civilization. But such slogans inevitably become incarnated in social movements, and Pius IX was not impressed with what he saw. One outcome of this was the Syllabus of Errors, a collection of propositions culled from various encyclicals and documents frequently taken from their context and presented, in 1864, in a rather unnuanced fashion. This list set the tone for future debates within Catholicism. I cite here a few of the more interesting

Errors of Governments:

15. "Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. " False
22. "The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the church." False
63. "It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes and even to rebel against them." False
77. "In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship." False
78. "Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship." False
80. 'The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization." False

Vatican I

It was in this rather interesting political, philosophical, and theological atmosphere that Pius IX convened Vatican I in 1870. Its purpose was to "define the nature of the Church itself. But before it could do that, it was necessary for it to reassert the fundamental dogmatic basis of Christianity itself, since this was now, for the first time, being called in question." Vatican I is most remembered for two events. The first is Pastor Aeternus, which defined papal infallibility. The second is the capture of the remnants of the Papal States by Victor Emmanuel, which led to Pius IX's leaving Rome and sequestering himself in the Vatican as a self-described prisoner thereof. This also led to the de facto ending of Vatican I, though John XXIII declared its de jure ending before the opening of Vatican II.

Rerum Novarum

Given that Pius IX died a "prisoner of the Vatican" and surrounded by all manner of political, economic, and social upheavals, few held high hopes for bold initiatives from Leo XIII. The times seemed to be against him. When one considers this general history as well as the specific background out of which Rerum Novarum emerged, it is a wonder that the document was written at all. In addition to the previously mentioned unpleasantness associated with events in Europe, a new issue for the Church was coming to terms with the new reality of a secular state, one neutral to all religions. Though such neutrality was not always in evidence, particularly during the Kulturkampf, the Church had to rethink its position vis a vis these new political entities.

Additionally, the Church now had to contend with the ideas of Marx and Darwin. The thought of Marx was to make the more immediate impact because of the rise of various revolutionary movements. But the impact of the concept of evolutionary change was to have profound epistemological significance for both society and the Church. And then there was the Industrial Revolution itself.

Begun in the new factories of Britain, but rapidly spreading throughout Western Europe, this event continues to have profound consequences for society. While this revolution was most significant for the lower classes, no one escaped its effects. The dislocation was staggering. The shift from the land to the city caused massive social dislocation, lack of housing, and left millions unemployed. The shift from the home to the factory led to miserly wages, deplorable working conditions (particularly for children), and severe strains on families. While the social effects of this revolution were particularly keen in England, few cities in Europe or America escaped its effects. The seeds of discontent sown by this movement found fertile ground in the various social movements inspired by this revolution as well as the various political movements that were descendants of the French and other nationalistic revolutions of the century.

However, Rerum Novarum began a new and critical use of the papal encyclical as a means of promulgating Catholic social teaching. The encyclical also established the "social question," as it was called then, as a central feature of papal teaching, thus giving the social teaching of Catholicism a new prominence and status because of its association with the papal office. And its publication initiated a significant tradition within Catholicism: the publication of an encyclical on social issues to commemorate the various anniversaries of the publication of Rerum Novarum.

From the early 1800s on, social teaching in the Catholic Church had been developing slowly, and occasionally in opposition to various conservative forces within the Church as well as within the larger society. Nonetheless, in the light of the deteriorating conditions in labor, various Catholic social initiatives were developed, first in Germany, and then in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and England. America too had a strong labor movement in which the Church was involved. Thus Rerum Novarum emerged out of a developing tradition.

A particular problem for the labor movement in Europe was its linkage with violence and revolutionary movements. In Europe, questions of labor were connected with discussions of politics and a philosophy of secularism, atheism, and materialism. Such linkages made some discussions of the labor question difficult, since they appeared to contradict central tenets of the Catholic faith, as well as to challenge the Church's relations with various governments.

Quod Apostolici Muneris

Socialists, Communists, nihilists

Such a situation is shown well in Leo's 1878 encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris which dealt with socialism. This encyclical dealt with a "deadly plague" promulgated by "socialists, communists, or nihilists," meeting now openly to proclaim publicly what they had previously discussed in secret: "The overthrow of all civil society whatsoever." Thus a clear linkage exists in Leo's understanding of socialism and revolution.

Four errors in particular are noted by Leo in the opening paragraph.

First, the socialists "refuse obedience to the higher powers."

Second, they "proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties."

Third, socialists "debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples."

Finally, they "assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law ... and strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one's mode of life."

Moreover, two other errors are singled out for particular criticism.

One is the emancipation of reason from the bounds established by divine revelation. Such a movement began in the sixteenth century and was presently leading to an attempt to subvert all revelation, and overthrow the supernatural order, that thus the way might be opened for the discoveries, or rather the hallucinations, of reason alone.

Additionally and equally adamantly, the Pope spoke against new directions in political philosophy: a new species of impiety, unheard of even among the heathen nations, states have been constituted without any account at all of God or of the order established by him; it has been given out that public authority neither derives its principles, nor its majesty, nor its power of governing from God, but rather from the multitude, which, thinking itself absolved from all divine sanction, bows only to such laws as it shall have made at its own will.

Thus behind socialism, Leo XIII saw a secularism which sought to liberate all from any bounds imposed by God or the power given to a state by God. Additionally, as noted above, the Church was confronting the reality of the disengagement of various governments, states, and nations from their previously intimate and frequently constitutionally sanctioned relations with the Church.

The success of such a movement would reduce the Church to yet another actor in the very complex drama of the formation of the modern state. That the Church had to respond to such a movement is clear. That it could do so successfully by a return to the status quo ante the Protestant Reformation is highly doubtful.

Yet, this appeared to be the direction for at least two reasons spelled out in detail in this encyclical. The first is an appeal to patience:

"And if at any time it should happen that the power of the State is rashly and tyrannically wielded by princes, the teaching of the Catholic Church does not allow an insurrection on private authority against them, lest public order be only the more disturbed, and lest society take greater hurt therefrom. And when affairs come to such a pass that there is no other hope of safety, she teaches that relief may be hastened by the merits of Christian patience and by earnest prayers to God."

This advice was then coupled with an exhortation to social contentment:

"But you, venerable brethren, who know the origin and the drift of these gathering evils, strive with all your force of soul to implant the Catholic teaching deep in the minds of all. Strive that all may have the habit of clinging to God with filial love and revering His divinity from their tenders years; that they may respect the majesty of princes and of laws; that they may restrain their passions and stand fast by the order which God has established in civil and domestic society. In fine, as the recruits of socialism are especially sought among artisans and workmen, who, tired, perhaps, of labor, are more easily allured by the hope of riches and the promise of wealth, it is well to encourage societies of artisans and workmen which, constituted under the guardianship of religion, may tend to make all associates contented with their lot and move them to a quiet and peaceful life."

Catholic Social Studies

In spite of such reactionary sounding statements, progress was being made in various countries on behalf of the working class. Leo himself, in spite of how these statements sound, was very open to workers and their plight, as evidenced by his continued reception of them in papal audiences. Additionally, Leo established the Roman Committee of Social Studies whose purpose was to study deeply and thoroughly, from a Catholic point of view, the social and economic question of labor, to establish principles based on that study, and secure acceptance of these principles as a basis for action".

This group gave rise to other groups in various countries and led to the formation of an international organization known as Social Catholicism. After prolonged debate on the ideological implications of this name, the group renamed itself The International Union of Social Studies. While some of their discussions reflected the conservative posture of the Church, the group did recognize and support state legislation on behalf of workers. Moreover, in 1890, a conference was held in Berlin to discuss various problems. Participants sent a memorandum to Leo XIII. And this memorandum was the germ from which grew, after much study, Leo XIII's greatest encyclical.

Thus, although the times were not auspicious for an initiative in social reform, Leo had the prescience to recognize the plight of the workers and to make an intervention on their behalf. And surely, little did he realize what a tradition he would set in motion.

One of the dominant issues running through Rerum Novarum is the necessity for social stability. Such a priority is hardly surprising given the nature of the revolutionary and violent changes in Europe during the centuries preceding Leo's reign. Such an assumption, though unstated, accounts for the comments about class. Leo saw the socialists of his day stirring up society, implanting wild dreams in the minds of the workers, destroying marriage, rejecting private property, and redistributing income. To stabilize society, Leo thought it necessary to maintain the class structure - which he thought was in the order of nature and not a violation of human dignity. But he did not think that this structure justified "the callousness of employers and the greed of unrestrained competition" Thus while Leo recognized and condemned the excesses of laissez- faire capitalism, he also thought that these excesses could be corrected without changing tire socioeconomic system. All of his solutions assume good will on the part of employers, the acceptance of certain ethical principles, and the acceptance of the guidance of the Church. He also assumed that workers would "supply by economy for the want of means . . . [and] be content with frugal living. . .". Thus, and this is a most critical issue, charity not justice, is the basis on which social adjustments are to be made. Yet, as long as one argues on the basis of charity, the structure will remain the same, and while some excesses may be corrected, their causes will remain.

A Just Wage

One of the more enduring concepts from Rerum Novarum is that of the just wage. What is critical in the concept is that wages cannot be set totally by a unilateral contract on the employer's part or through supply and demand. Given the necessity of labor for survival (for Leo does recognize the sea change in the basis of the international economy) together with his assumption that everyone would want private property as a source of social security, Leo argues that the wage must be sufficient to support the worker, the family, and provide enough so that they can save to buy property.

While Leo recognized that in the new economy, most would be wage earners, he still seems to assume that property is critical for social stability and well-being. Here he may not have made an adequate transition to the urbanization consequent to the Industrial Revolution. Neither the form that private property would take nor the specific role that it would play for the workers is clear in the encyclical.

This dimension of property to the social situation of the worker is a critical breakthrough and a genuine check on the worst excesses of the Industrial Revolution. Its significance is also attested to by its being a feature of all subsequent social teaching. In John XXIII's Pacem in Terris, for example, the criterion is that of "a proper wage determined according to criteria of justice, and sufficient, therefore, in proportion to the available resources, to provide for the worker and his family a manner of living in keeping with the dignity of the human person"

Leo XIII recognized that workers were not chattel, that they had dignity, that wage labor was nothing to be ashamed of, and that workers had a right to reasonable compensation--and the basis of that compensation was independent of the employer's wishes.

Workers' Associations

Perhaps the most significant impact of the encyclical-at least in America--was its support for workers' associations. Leo was not against workers associating with each other. Such private associations are guaranteed by the natural law. What worried Leo was gatherings by the socialists or other groups devoted to violence or the overthrow of society, or the destruction of Religion, i.e., Roman Catholicism. Thus, although Leo was quite sympathetic to workers and gave audiences to many workers' pilgrimages, he was not favorably disposed to the various socialist movements that stood behind many workers' organizations.

In America, though, various workers' movements were growing. The Knights of Labor in particular was making various gains and had a Catholic president and a large Catholic membership. This movement, however, was tainted by the European experience of the Church and was in quite serious danger of being condemned by Rome. Only the active and sustained personal intervention by Archbishop Gibbons of Baltimore saved the Knights. This action opened a most significant chapter of labor and Catholicism in the United States.

What is critical here is that Leo, at least in this instance, was able to rise above his history and experience and trust a new movement in what was still a young, missionary church in a country that was not yet established. That openness gave a critical signal that the Church supported labor and was able to separate the interests and organization of workers from other revolutionary workers' organizations.

The teaching on private property clearly reflects its social context. Leo, arguing as strongly as he can against the socialists and their affirmation of the community of goods, defends private property as a core element of the natural law, as a means of providing for the welfare of families, and a key element of stability within society. While not rejecting the social dimension of property, Leo XIII emphasized the private or individualistic dimension. Property, in addition to these very real dimensions, also takes on for Leo a symbolic dimension in that it becomes the core concept around which he can ground many of his attacks on socialism. Given that Leo saw a society in which chaos had been the norm for several centuries, that authority - both civil and religious - had been under severe assaults, and that workers were almost totally disenfranchised, it is no wonder that his teaching on property is so conservative and supportive of established authority. Such a defense was Leo's way of grounding some stability in society.

Pope - the final authority

Quadragessimo Anno Commissioned by Pius XI and authored solely by the German Jesuit Oswald Nell-Breuning, this encyclical was published in 1931. There are four main themes in the encyclical.

First, the revival of the Thomistic natural law philosophy as a basis for both personal and social optimism as well as for the reordering of the world which was suffering the effects of an international depression.

Second, a statement of the role of the papacy which was two-fold: 1- the Pope as the possessor of a centralized authority and 2 - the role of the Pope as the restorer of international moral order.

Third, continuing a theme of Pius X, Pius XI continued the fight against modernism by focusing on papal authority and rejecting rationalism and efforts to reinterpret dogma. Finally, the economic question.

Here Pius XI deplored the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and critiqued the wide-spread unemployment that preceded the depression.

While the encyclical proceeded calmly from its basis in natural Law "If this law be faithfully obeyed, the result will be that particular economic aims will be intimately linked with the universal teleological order, and as a consequence we shall be led by progressive stages to the final end of all, God himself, our highest and lasting good and from the role of the Pontiff - To the feet of Christ's vicar on earth were seen to flock, in unprecedented numbers, specialists in social affairs, employers, the very working men themselves, begging with one voice that at last a safe road may be pointed out to them." nonetheless there were several critical observations made.

Pius XI argued, for example, that charity to the poor was not a sufficient response to violations of justice. He also critiqued severely both socialism primarily it conceived of human society "in a way utterly alien to Christian truth" but also because of private property.


Capitalism did not fare much better since by concentrating wealth in the hands of a few, ""Free competition has committed suicide; economic dictatorship has replaced a free market." QA also proposed the just wage understood to be sufficient to support the worker and his family and should be sufficient so that mothers would not have to work outside the home to supplement the father's salary.

 A noted point of QA is its clear enunciation of what is now called the principle of subsidiarity:

"one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice to and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by a lesser and subordinate bodies."

Pius XII & John XXIII

In his lengthy Christmas Addresses, Pius spoke to various issues, including his support of democracy which he saw as a form of government in harmony with human dignity. Though seemingly opposed to the underlying philosophy of capitalism, he saw capitalism as an alternative to communism and as a system that could succeed in a democracy.

Pius' reign encompassed some of the most significant events of our last century: WWII, the Holocaust, the first uses of the atomic bomb, the cold war, struggles of colonialism and the Korean police action. It was not an easy time to be Pope.

Then in 1958, Pius XII died and was replaced with a 73-year-old cardinal who was assumed to be a caretaker pope. And the contrasts could not be more stark: Pius was gaunt, John rotund; Pius aesthetic; John was pictured with a cigarette in one hand and a martini glass in the other; Pius was a bureaucrat; John was a diplomat. And then on 25 January 1959, John XXIII called for an ecumenical Council.

Pacem In Terris

. Following Augustine, John argued that peace "can be firmly established only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed." . The encyclical then articulates four interdependent spheres in which order must be obtained: order between humans, order between humans and public authority in a single state, order in relations between states, and order between individuals and political communities within a world state. Order is predicated on an interconnected series of goods and rights are secured by the establishment of the order of justice. This is based on authority within the community but this authority is, in turn, "has as its source in nature, and as, consequently God for its author." Furthermore, since this authority "is the power to command according to right reason, authority must derive its obligatory force from the moral order, which in turn has god for its first source and final end."

John Paul II

Libertatis Conscientia The role of the community is not to formulate social teaching but to implement it. The church already has the principles and the criteria for developing social teaching. What remains is to put it into practice, the proper job of the laity. Thus the starting point is doctrine, not practice. The doctrine advances in history through a consideration of new questions, but is not constituted in or through its history.

  1. theoretical: teachings that "the Magisterium of the church has explicitly formulated an organic and systematic reflection in its social documents. These are permanent ethical principles, not changeable historical judgments or 'technical matters' for which (the Magisterium) has neither the equipment or the mission";
  2. historical: the used of these principles as "framed in a real view of society and inspired by an awareness of its problems";
  3. practical: "the effective application of these principles that are in practice by translating them concretely into the ways, and to the extent, that circumstances permit or require it."
The Common Good
Solicitudo Rei Socialis The West is characterized by liberal Capitalism and the East is characterized by Marxism. Though quite different, both share some characteristics: excessive reliance on self interest whether expressed individually or collectively; a dominant economic view of human nature, and a dominance of materialistic ideology which denies in practice or theory any sense of a transcendence. Both focus on an arms race, use of terrorism, imperialism, and demographic campaigns against birth all of which gives a picture "destined to lead us more quickly toward death, rather then one of concern for true development which would lead all towards a 'more human life."

As a response to this, JPII poses the virtue of solidarity, which is primarily a commitment to the common good "of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all." Additionally, this practice of solidarity is to recognize one another as persons and the recognition that the good of creation "are meant for all" . Finally, solidarity helps us see the other 'whether a person, people, or nation-not just as some kind of instrument with a work capacity ... but as our ''neighbor', a 'helper', to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God." .

Thus solidarity (the common good) is the "path to peace and to development.


The Church already has the Way

Finally, JPII argues that the Church's social teaching is not some third way, a counter ideology to either liberal capitalism or Marxism. The social teaching is not an ideology but a theology, "the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society, and in the international order, in the light of faith and the Church's tradition. It is part of the Church's evangelizing mission. This teaching centers on the dignity of the human person and argues that Development which is merely economic is incapable of setting man free; on the contrary, it will end by enslaving him further. Development that does not include the cultural, transcendent and religious dimensions of man and society, to the extent that it does not recognize the existence of such dimensions and does not endeavor to direct its goals and priorities toward the same, is even less conducive to authentic liberation.

Centesimus Annus

Written in 1981 on the occasion of the centenary of RN, CA was an occasion to review the corpus of Catholic social teaching. In particular, JPII saw this as an occasion to look back, look around, and look to the future. JPII summarized the core of RN as pointing to two key errors:

  1. "the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as a element, a molecule so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socioeconomic mechanism."
  2. "an understanding of human freedom which detaches it from obedience to the truth, and consequently from the duty to respect the rights of others." . Thus the wellspring of the problems and excess of the last century, from war, to the arms race, to Communist totalitarianism, to the consumer society.

However the year 1989 was a pivotal point with the collapse of the Soviet Union. JPII identified two factors in the breakup: violation of the rights of workers and economic inefficiencies. However the primary cause was: the spiritual void brought about by atheism, which deprived the younger generation of a sense of direction and in many cases led them, in the irrepressible search for personal identity and for the meaning of life, to rediscover the religious roots of their nation's cultures, and to rediscover the person of Christ himself as the existentially adequate response to the desire in every human heart for goodness, truth, and life. .

These seismic events in Eastern Europe had three major consequences. First is the collaboration between the church and workers movements to which the church can contribute its vision of the person and its vision of freedom and social responsibility. Second is potential for the re-explosion of all of the injustices committed during the communist regime that could erode the process of peace. Third, development must be understood non-exclusively in economic terms, but also in human terms:

The Pope then uses the strongest language of his papacy:

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in community the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Summary of Church Social Teachings

Just wages, the rights of labor to organize, the social and ethical implications of economic systems, the status of the poor, and the active role of the Church in addressing social problems. The Principle of Human Dignity, The Principle of Respect for Human Life, The Principle of Association, The Principle of Participation, The Principle of Preferential Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable, The Principle of Solidarity, The Principle of Stewardship, The Principle of Subsidiarity, The Principle of Human Equality, The Principle of the Common Good.

Summary of Major Documents

Rerum Novarum Quadragesimo Anno Mater et Magistra Pacem in Terris Gaudium et Spes Populorum Progressio Octogesima Adveniens Justice in the World On Human Work On Social Concern The Hundredth Year The Gospel of Life

1891 Pope Leo XIII Rerum Novarum

(On the Condition of Labor)

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.

1931 Pope Pius XI Quadragesimo Anno

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.

1961 Pope John XXIII Mater et Magistra

(Christianity and Social Progress)

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.

1963 Pope John XXIII Pacem in Terris

(Peace on Earth)

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.

1965 Vatican Council II Gaudium et Spes

(Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

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.

1967 Pope Paul VI Populorum Progressio

(On the Development of Peoples)

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.

1971 Pope Paul VI Octogesima Adveniens

(A Call to Action)

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.

1971 Synod of Bishops Justicia in Mundo

(Justice in the World)

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.

1981 Pope John Paul II Laborem Exercens

(On Human Work)

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.

1987 Pope John Paul II Solicitudo Rei Socialis

(On Social Concern)

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.

1991 Pope John Paul II Centesimus Annus

(The Hundredth Year)

1995 Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae

(The Gospel of Life)

1998 Pope John Paul II Fides et Ratio

(Faith and Reason)

1992 The Vatican The Catechism of the Catholic Church

1984 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation

Affirming that liberation is first and foremost the freedom from slavery to sin, this document points to the dangers of certain "theologies of liberation" which embrace Marxist premises, and as a consequence, prevent true and holistic human development.

1986 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation

Responding to the contemporary curtailment of freedoms and widespread oppression, the Congregation reaffirms the Church's determination to advocate for the rights of the poor and the workers, with a view towards establishing changes called for by justice in the social and political order.