Fra.Angelico.Beatutides

Christ: the Origin of All Social Doctrine

The social doctrine of the Church begins with Christ’s Incarnation and His very life.  He taught the way His disciples must follow in His Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.  He instructed them in the great mystery that what they do to the least of His brothers, they do to Him (Cf. Mt 25:40).  Jesus also pointed out a distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and any earthly powers: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s (Mt 22:21).”

Over time the Church has continued her mission of extending Christ’s redemptive work in the face of all kinds of social and political systems.  She has always proclaimed not only the Gospel message but also the truths of the human person, the family, and the common good.

Leo.XIIIPope Leo XIII and Social Doctrine in the 19th and 20th Centuries

In the late 19th century, the Church began to address social questions through encyclical letters and teachings aimed not only at the faithful but at society at large.  These texts addressed questions on the nature of justice, the authentic rights of workers, and the dangers of Marxist principles.  The 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII is generally hailed as the foundational text for modern social doctrine.  Many of the later encyclicals are written on the occasion of the anniversaries of that encyclical (1931, 1981, 1991).

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004) is the remarkable work of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice which unites, summarizes, and presents the Church’s teaching on social questions.

Listed below are some of the source texts of the Social Doctrine of the Church with links the Vatican website:

Papal Encyclicals

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Rerum Novarum (1891) Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter on Capital and Labor

Quadragesimo Anno (1931) Pius XI, Encyclical Letter on the Reconstruction of the Social Order, on the 40th Anniversary of Rerum Novaum

Pacem in Terris (1963) John XXIII, Encyclical Letter on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty

Gaudium et Spes (1965) Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World promulgated by Pope Paul VI (not strictly social doctrine but with many foundational texts on the dignity of the human person, the experience of the community of mankind, etc. especially #26ff)

Populorum Progressio (1967) Paul VI, Encyclical Letter on the Development of Peoples

jpii-encyclicals

Laborem Exercens (1981 ) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the 90th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis  (1987) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the 20th Anniversary of Populorum Progressio

Centesimus Annus  (1991) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum

Caritas in Veritate (2009) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter on Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth

Relevant Theological Instructions

Instruction on Certain Aspects of  the “Theology of Liberation” (1984) Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

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

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) 

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) addresses the issues for Social Doctrine in a straight-forward and easily accessible manner; see #1877 – #1948.

Part III: Life in Christ; Chapter Two: The Human Communion (1877);

Article One: The Person and Society
I. The Communal Character of the Human Vocation (1878-1885)
II. Conversion and Society (1886-1889)
In Brief” (1890-1896);

Article Two: Participation in Social Life 
I. Authority (1897-1904)
II. The Common Good (1904-1912)
III. Responsibility and Participation (1913-1917)
In Brief” (1918-1927)

Article Three: Social Justice (1928)
I. Respect for the Human Person (1929-1933)
II. Equality and Differences Among Men (1934-1938)
III. Human Solidarity (1939-1942)
In Brief” (1943-1948)

JPII.Cardinal.Van.Thuan

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004) is the remarkable work of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice which united, summarizes, and presents the Church’s teaching on social questions.

In order to make it widely available, the Vatican website offers the text in 16 languages: Albanian, Byelorussian, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano introduces the work through an opening letter addressed to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the time of the publication.  Next, Cardinal Martino’s Presentation of the work gives more of the history of the project and the important leadership under Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

In order to highlight its various parts, our Catholic Culture section will treat the rich content of its twelve chapters in a series of articles according to theme.