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     Catholic Social Teaching refers to a set of church teachings regarding modern societal issues like poverty, economics, labor, and international relations.   

     Its starting point is 1891, when Pope Leo XII wrote the document "Rerum Novarum", literally the "new things" in society that come about because of the industrial changes in Europe during the 19th century.  Many workers were being exploited, so the pope decided to write moral guidelines about the "Condition of Labor" (which is the subtitle of the document).

     Since then, Popes have issued other documents about workers, political ideology and national economic development as a response to the specific conditions of their time.


Even though there is no set list of church documents that make up Catholic Social Teaching, these 12 documents are recognized as foundational.  Listed below are the names of the documents in Latin, their literal English translation in underlined italics, and the year they were published.   Next are notable quotes from each document, which we'll be adding to on a weekly basis.




On the Condition of Labor

  • "Gainful occupations are not a mark of shame to man, but rather of respect, as they provide him with an honorable means of supporting life." (Paragraph 31)

  • "He that has art and skill, let him do his best to share the use and the utility in this regard with his neighbor." (Paragraph 22)

  • "The members of the working classes are citizens by nature and by the same right as the rich; they are real parts, living the life which makes up, through the family, the body of the commonwealth." (Paragraph 33)

  • “[Owners should] not look upon their work people as their bondsmen [i.e., slaves], but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character.” (Paragraph 20)

  • "If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice." (Paragraph 45)




On Reconstructing the Social Order

  • "The function of the rulers of the State is to watch over the community and its parts; but in protecting private individuals in their rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor." (Paragraph 25)

  • "In protecting private individuals in their rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor." (Paragraph 25)

  • "Social charity, moreover, ought to be as the soul of this [economic] order, an order which public authority ought to be ever ready effectively to protect and defend." (Paragraph 88)




On Christianity and Social Progress

  • "As for the State, its whole raison d’être is the realization of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters." (Paragraph 20)

  • "Both workers and employers should regulate their mutual relations in accordance with the principle of human solidarity and Christian brotherhood." (Paragraph 23)

  • "All forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity." (Paragraph 39)

  • "Unbridled ambition for domination has succeeded the desire for gain...As a consequence, even the public authority was becoming the tool for interests of the wealthy, which was thus gaining a stranglehold on the entire world." (Paragraph 36)




On Peace among Peoples based on Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty

  • " claim one's rights and ignore one's duties, or only half fulfill them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other." (Paragraph 30)

  • "Since men are social by nature they must live together and consult each other's interests." (Paragraph 31)

  • "To safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority." (Paragraph 60)




On the Church in the Modern World

  • "Since the concrete demands of this common good are constantly changing as time goes on, peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly." (Paragraph 78)

  • "Man achieves his goal when, emancipating himself from all captivity to impulse, he pursues his dignity in a spontaneous choice of what is good." (Paragraph 17)

  • "Wisdom gently attracts the mind of man to a quest and a love for what is true and good. Steeped in wisdom. man passes through visible realities to those which are unseen." (Paragraph 15)




On the Development of Peoples

  • "Development cannot be limited to mere economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every person and of all humanity." (Paragraph 14)

  • "In protecting private individuals in their rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor." (Paragraph 25)

  • "When work is done in common—when hope, hardship, ambition and joy are shared—it brings together and firmly unites the wills, minds and hearts of men. In its accomplishment, men find themselves to be brothers." (Paragraph 27)

  • "The development We speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man." (Paragraph 14)




On the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum

  • "The political power must know how to stand aside from particular interests in order to view its responsibility with regard to the good of all men." (Paragraph 46)

  • "Words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action." (Paragraph 48)

  • "The most important duty in the realm of justice is to allow each country to promote its own development, within the framework of a cooperation free from any spirit of domination, whether economic or political." (Paragraph 43)




On Human Work

  • "Since disabled people are subjects with all their rights, they should be helped to participate in the life of society." (Paragraph 22)

  • "Work is a good thing for man - a good thing for his humanity - because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being." (Paragraph 9)

  • "Work serves to add to the heritage of the whole human family, of all the people living in the world." (Paragraph 10)




The Twentieth Anniversary of Populorum Progressio

  • "Those who are more influential because they have greater share of goods and common services should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess." (Paragraph 39) 

  • The development of peoples begins and is most appropriately accomplished in the dedication of each people to its own development, in collaboration with others. (Paragraph 44)

  • "Moreover, one must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest." (Paragraph 16)

  • "This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all." (Paragraph 38)


100 YEARS 


The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum

  • "Peace is built on the foundation of justice." (Paragraph 5)

  • "One must be guided by a comprehensive picture of man which respects all the dimensions of his being and which subordinates his material and instinctive dimensions to his interior and spiritual ones." (Paragraph 36)

  • "There are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold." (Paragraph 40)




Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth

  • "The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development." (Paragraph 18)

  • "The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension." (Paragraph 34)

  • "While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place." (Paragraph 38)




On Care for Our Common Home

  • "Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds." (Paragraph 219)

  • "Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us." (Paragraph 228)

  • "A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress." (Paragraph 194)

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