Article One: The Nature of Catholic Social Teaching
The Church as Mother and Teacher
1. The Catholic Church has been established by Jesus Christ as mother and teacher of nations, so that all who in the course of centuries come to her loving embrace, may find salvation as well as the fullness of a more excellent life. To this Church, the pillar and mainstay of the truth (cf. 1 Tm 3:15), her most holy Founder has entrusted the double task of begetting sons unto herself, and of educating and governing those whom she begets, guiding with maternal providence the life both of individuals and of peoples. The lofty dignity of this life, she has always held in the highest respect and guarded with watchful care.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 1)
2. Doubtless, this most serious question demands the attention and the efforts of others besides ourselves to wit, of the rulers of States, of employers of labor, of the wealthy, aye, of the working classes themselves, for whom We are pleading. But We affirm with out hesitation that all the striving of men will be vain if they leave out the Church. Manifestly, it is the Church that draws from the Gospel the teachings through which the struggle can be composed entirely, or, after its bitterness is removed, can certainly become more tempered. It is the Church, again, that strives not only to in struct the mind but to regulate by her precepts the life and morals of individuals, that ameliorates the condition of the workers through her numerous and beneficent institutions, and that wishes and aims to have the thought and energy of all classes of society united to this end, that the interests of the workers be protected as fully as possible. To accomplish this purpose she holds that the laws and the authority of the State, within reasonable limits, ought to be obeyed.
(Rerum Novarum, n. 16)
3. For the teaching of Christ joins, as it were, earth with heaven, in that it embraces the whole man, namely, his soul and body, intel lect and will, and bids him to lift up his mind from the changing conditions of human existence to that heavenly country where he will one day enjoy unending happiness and peace.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 2)
4. It is no wonder, then, that the Catholic Church, instructed by Christ and fulfilling his commands, has for two thousand years, from the ministry of the early deacons to the present time, tenaciously held aloft the torch of charity not only by her teaching but also by her widespread example that charity which, by combining in a fitting manner the precepts and the practice of mutual love, puts into effect in a wonderful way this twofold commandment of giving, wherein is contained the full social teaching and action of the Church.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 6)
5. In light of the sacred teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Church thus appears before us as the social subject of responsibility for divine truth. With deep emotion we hear Christ himself saying: The word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me (Jn 14:24).... Therefore, it is required, when the Church professes and teaches the faith, that she should adhere strictly to di vine truth (Dei Verbum, nn. 5, 10, 21), and should translate it into living attitudes of obedience in harmony with reason (cf. Dei Filius, chap. 3).
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 19)
6. In particular, as the Council affirms, the task of authenti cally interpreting the word of God, whether in its written form or in that of Tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the Church's living Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (Dei Verbum, n. 10). The Church, in her life and teaching, is thus revealed as the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1Tm 3:15), including the truth regarding moral action. Indeed, the Church has the right always and everywhere to proclaim moral principles, even in respect of the social order, and to make judgments about any human matter in so far as this is required by fundamental human rights or the salvation of souls (Code of Canon Law, Canon 747, n. 2). Precisely on the questions frequently debated in moral theology today and with regard to which new tendencies and theories have developed, the Magisterium, in fidelity to Jesus Christ and in continuity with the Church's Tradition, senses more urgently the duty to offer its own discernment and teaching, in order to help man in his journey toward truth and freedom.
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 27)
The Church's Mission
7. Coming forth from the eternal Father's love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose that can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, of members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God's children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns. United on behalf of heavenly values and enriched by them, this family has been constituted and structured as a society in this world (cf. Eph 1:3, 5:6, 13 14, 23) by Christ, and is equipped by appropriate means for visible and social union. Thus the Church, at once a visible association and a spiritual community (LG, n. 8), goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot that the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society for its renewal in Christ and transformation into God's family.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 40)
8. The teaching and spreading of her social doctrine are part of the Church's evangelizing mission. Since it is a doctrine aimed at guiding people's behavior, it consequently gives rise to a `commitment to justice,' according to each individual's role, vocation, and circumstances. The condemnation of evils and injustices is also part of that ministry of evangelization in the social field, which is an aspect of the Church's prophetic role. But it should be made clear that proclamation is always more important than condemnation, and the latter cannot ignore the former, which gives it true solidity and the force of higher motivation.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 41)
9. We profess our faith that the Kingdom of God, begun here below in the Church of Christ, is not of this world, whose form is passing away, and that its own growth cannot be confused with the progress of civilization, of science and of human technology, but that it consists in knowing ever more deeply the unfathomable riches of Christ, to hope ever more strongly in things eternal, to respond ever more ardently to the love of God, to spread ever more widely grace and holiness among men. But it is this very same love that makes the Church constantly concerned for the true temporal good of mankind as well. Never ceasing to recall to her children that they have no lasting dwelling here on earth, she urges them also to con tribute, each according to his own vocation and means, to the wel fare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited (cf. Libertatis Conscientia, Conclusion).
(Paul VI, Profession of Faith, 443 444)
10. Since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mys tery of God, Who is the ultimate goal of man, she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the inner most truth about himself. The Church knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 41)
11. From this source the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility, and self sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King.
(Lumen Gentium, n. 5)
12. As we know, the Church does not exist in isolation from the world. It lives in the world, and its members are consequently influenced and guided by the world. They imbibe its culture, are subject to its laws and adopt its customs. This intimate contact with the world is continually creating problems for the Church, and at the present time these problems are extremely acute. The Christian life, as encouraged and preserved by the Church, must resist every possible source of deception, contamination, or restriction of its freedom. It must guard against these things as it would guard against contamination by error or evil. Yet at the same time it must not only adapt itself to the forms of thought and living which a temporal environment induces, one might almost say im poses, on it provided, of course, such forms are not incompatible with the basic principles of its religious and moral teaching but it must also strive to approach these forms and to correct, ennoble, encourage, and sanctify them.
(Ecclesiam Suam, n. 42)
13. The Church offers mankind the Gospel, that prophetic message which responds to the needs and aspirations of the human heart and always remains `Good News.' The Church cannot fail to proclaim that Jesus came to reveal the face of God and to merit salvation for all humanity by his cross and resurrection.
(Redemptoris Missio, n. 11)
14. All things human are our concern. We share with the whole of the human race a common nature, a common life, with all its gifts and all its problems. We are ready to play our part in this primary, universal society, to acknowledge the insistent demands of its fundamental needs, and to applaud the new and often sublime expressions of its genius. But there are moral values of the utmost importance which we have to offer it. These are of advantage to everyone. We root them firmly in the consciences of men. Wherever men are striving to understand themselves and the world, we are able to communicate with them.
(Ecclesiam Suam, n. 97)
The Church's Social Message
15. The social concern of the Church, directed toward an authentic development of man and society that would respect and pro mote all the dimensions of the human person, has always expressed itself in the most varied ways. In recent years, one of the special means of intervention has been the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiffs which, beginning with the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII as a point of reference, has frequently dealt with the question and has sometimes made the dates of publication of the various social documents coincide with the anniversaries of that first document. The Popes have not failed to throw fresh light by means of those messages upon new aspects of the social doctrine of the Church. As a result, this doctrine, beginning with the outstanding contribution of Leo XIII and enriched by the successive contributions of the Magisterium, has now become an updated doctrinal `corpus.' It builds up gradually, as the Church, in the fullness of the word revealed by Christ Jesus (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 4) and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 16:13 15), reads events as they unfold in the course of history. She thus seeks to lead people to respond, with the support also of rational reflection and of the human sci ences, to their vocation as responsible builders of earthly society.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 1)
16. Amid the disturbances and uncertainties of the present hour, the Church has a specific message to proclaim and a support to give to men in their efforts to take in hand and give direction to their futures. Since the period in which the encyclical Rerum Novarum denounced in a forceful and imperative manner the scandal of the condition of the workers in the nascent industrial society, historical evolution has led to an awareness of other dimensions and other ap plications of social justice. The encyclicals Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra already noted this fact. The recent Council for its part took care to point them out, in particular in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. We ourselves have already continued these lines of thought in our encyclical Populorum Progressio, Today, we said, the principal fact that we must all recognize is that the social question has become worldwide (PP, n. 3). A renewed con sciousness of the demands of the gospel makes it the Church's duty to put herself at the service of all, to help them grasp their serious problem in all its dimensions, and to convince them that solidarity in actions at this turning point in human history is a matter of urgency.
(Octogesima Adveniens, n. 5)
17. Christian revelation ... promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living (GS, n. 23). The Church receives from the Gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfills her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom.
(CCC, n. 2419)
18. The social doctrine of the Church, which proposes a set of principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and directives for action is addressed in the first place to members of the Church. It is essential that the faithful engaged in human promotion should have a firm grasp of this precious body of teaching and make it an integral part of their evangelizing mission.... Christian leaders in the Church and society, and especially lay men and women with responsibilities in public life, need to be well formed in this teaching so that they can inspire and vivify civil society and its structures with the leaven of the Gospel.
(Ecclesia in Asia, n. 32)
19. The situation today points to an ever increasing urgency for a doctrinal formation of the lay faithful, not simply in a better under standing which is natural to faith's dynamism, but also in enabling them `to give a reason for their hoping' in view of the world and its grave and complex problems.... This is especially true for the lay faithful who have responsibilities in various fields of society and public life. Above all, it is indispensable that they have a more exact knowledge and this demands a more widespread and precise presentation of the Church's social doctrine, as repeatedly stressed by the Synod Fathers in their presentations.
(Christifideles Laici, n. 60)
20. True to the teaching and example of her divine Founder, Who cited the preaching of the Gospel to the poor as a sign of His mission (cf. Lk 7:22), the Church has never failed to foster the human progress of the nations to which she brings faith in Christ.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 12)
21. The Church shares with the people of our time this profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every aspect, nor does she fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice that the life of people and society demands. This is confirmed by the field of Catholic social doctrine, greatly developed in the course of the last century. On the lines of this teaching proceed the education and formation of human consciences in the spirit of justice, and also of the apostolate of the laity, which are developing in precisely this spirit. And yet, it would be difficult not to notice that very often programs which start from the idea of justice and which ought to assist its fulfillment among individuals, groups and human socities, in practice suffer from distortions.
(Dives in Misericordia, n. 12)
22. If, as We said, the Church realizes what is God's will in its regard, it will gain for itself a great store of energy, and in addition will conceive the need for pouring out this energy in the service of all men. It will have a clear awareness of a mission received from God, of a message to be spread far and wide. Here lies the source of our evangelical duty, our mandate to teach all nations, and our apostolic en deavor to strive for the eternal salvation of all men.
(Ecclesiam Suam, n. 64)
23. To be sure, there is no single model for organizing the politics and economics of human freedom; different cultures and different historical experiences give rise to different institutional forms of public life in a free and responsible society.
(Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 1995, n. 3)
24. In addition, the Church's social teaching has an important interdisciplinary dimension. In order better to incarnate the one truth about man in different and constantly changing social, economic and political contexts, this teaching enters into dialogue with the various disciplines concerned with man. It assimilates what these disciplines have to contribute, and helps them to open themselves to a broader horizon, aimed at serving the individual person who is acknowledged and loved in the fullness of his or her vocation. Parallel with the interdisciplinary aspect, mention should also be made of the practical and, as it were, experiential dimension of this teaching, which is to be found at the crossroads where Christian life and conscience come into contact with the real world. This teaching is seen in the efforts of individuals, families, people involved in cultural and social life, as well as politicians and statesmen to give it a concrete form and application in history.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 59)
The Scope of the Church's Social Teaching
25. The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another (cf. GS, n. 36; Octogesima Adveniens, nn. 2 5). For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation, a teaching which, as already mentioned, recognizes the positive value of the market and of enterprise, but which at the same time points out that these must be oriented toward the common good.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 43)
26. The Church's social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ (SRS, n. 1). This teaching can be more easily accepted by men of good will; the more the faith ful let themselves be guided by it.
(CCC, n. 2422)
27. However, when it comes to reducing these teachings to action, it sometimes happens that even sincere Catholic men have differing views. When this occurs, they should take care to have and to show mutual esteem and regard, and to explore the extent to which they can work in cooperation among themselves. Thus they can in good time accomplish what necessity required. Letthem also take great care not to weaken their efforts in constant controversies. Nor should they, under pretext of seeking what they think best, mean while fail to do what they can and hence should do.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 238)
28. The Church has no philosophy of her own, nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others. The underlying reason for this reluctance is that, even when it engages theology, philosophy must remain faithful to its own principles and methods. Otherwise there would be no guarantee that it would remain oriented to truth and that it was moving toward truth by way of a process governed by reason. A philosophy that did not proceed in the light of reason according to its own principles and methods would serve little purpose. At the deepest level, the autonomy that philoso phy enjoys is rooted in the fact that reason is by its nature oriented to truth and is equipped moreover with the means necessary to arrive at truth. A philosophy conscious of this as its `constitutive status' cannot but respect the demands and the data of revealed truth.
(Fides et Ratio, n. 49)
29. The social doctrine of the Church developed in the nine teenth century when the Gospel encountered modern industrial society with its new structures for the production of consumer goods, its new concept of society, the state, and authority, and its new forms of labor and ownership. The development of the doctrine of the Church on economic and social matters attests to the permanent value of the Church's teaching at the same time as it attests to the true meaning of her Tradition, always living and active (cf. CA, n. 3).
(CCC, n. 2421)
30. The Church's social doctrine is not a `third way' between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather 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 of the Church's tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation that is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior. It therefore belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 41)
31. Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to a fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed, the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix with out cause in these temporal concerns ; (Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, n. 65) however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to us and the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law, and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject to our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic activities themselves.
(Quadragesimo Anno, n. 41)
32. Today, the Church's social doctrine focuses especially on man as he is involved in a complex network of relationships within modern societies. The human sciences and philosophy are helpful for interpreting man's central place within society and for enabling him to understand himself better as a social being. However, man's true identity is only fully revealed to him through faith, and it is precisely from faith that the Church's social teaching begins.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 54)
Evangelization and Church Social Teaching
33. The `new evangelization,' which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include amongits essential elements a proclamation of the Church's social doctrine. As in the days of Pope Leo XIII, this doctrine is still suitable for indicating the right way to respond to the great challenges of today, when ideologies are being increasingly discredited. Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the `social question' apart from the Gospel, and that the `new things' can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 5)
34. What counts, here as in every area of Christian life, is the confidence that comes from faith, from the certainty that it is not we who are the principal agents of the Church's mission, but Jesus Christ and his Spirit. We are only co workers, and when we have done all that we can, we must say: We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty (Lk 17:10).
(Redemptoris Missio, n. 36)
35. I now wish to propose a `rereading' of Pope Leo's encyclical by issuing an invitation to `look back' at the text itself in order to discover anew the richness of the fundamental principles which it formulated for dealing with the question of the condition of workers.... A rereading of this kind will not only confirm the permanent value of such teaching, but will also manifest the true meaning of the Church's Tradition which, being ever living and vital, builds upon the foundation laid by our fathers in the faith, and particularly upon what the Apostles passed down to the Church (St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, I, 10) in the name of Jesus Christ, who is her irreplaceable foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:11).
(Centesimus Annus, n. 3)
36. The presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced.
(Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 5)
37. We have been sent. For us, being at the service of life is not a boast but rather a duty, born of our awareness of being God's own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light (cf. 1 Pt 2:9). On our journey we are guided and sustained by the law of love: a love which has as its source and model the Son of God made man, who by dying gave life to the world (cf. Roman Missal, Prayer Before Communion). We have been sent as a people. Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly `ecclesial' responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all the members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not, however, eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to become the neighbour of everyone: Go and do likewise (Lk 10:37).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 79)
38. Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 79)
Table of Contents - English
- Article One: The Nature of Catholic Social Teaching
- Article Two: The Human Person
- Article Three: The Family
- Article Four: The Social Order
- Article Five: The Role of State
- Article Six: The Economy
- Article Seven: Work and Wages
- Article Eight: Poverty and Charity
- Article Nine: The Environment
- Article Ten: The International Community
- Article Eleven: Conclusion