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The Second Vatican Council



"The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties, of the women and men of this age,

especially those who are poor or in any way oppressed,

these are the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties,

 of the followers of Jesus Christ."


Gaudium et Spes

(The Church in the Modern World)

Vatican II



The information below has been reproduced with the gracious permission of the

Office for Social Justice : Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis:





Catholic Social Teaching

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.

For the full texts of all of the Papal Encyclicals that relate to the Church's social teaching, see Papal Encyclicals above.





Pope Leo XIII
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography.

Leo XIII: Rerum Novarum: On The Condition of Labor (1891)
Summary Article |Online Concordance |  Critical Comments | Bibliography

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 pursuit 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.

Pope St. Pius X
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Pope Benedict XV
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Pope Pius XI
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Pius XI: Quadragesimo Anno: After Forty Years (1931)
 Summary Article |Online Concordance | Critical Comments | Bibliography

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. 

Pope Pius XII
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Pope John XXIII
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

John XXIII: Mater et Magistra: Christianity and Social Progress (1961)
Summary Article |
Online Concordance | Critical Comments | Bibliography

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.

John XXIII: Pacem in Terris: Peace on Earth (1963)
Summary Article |Online Concordance | Critical Comments | Bibliography
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.

Second Vatican Council
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Vatican Council II (1965)
 Summary Article | Online Concordance |  Critical Comments | Bibliography
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.

Pope Paul VI
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Paul VI: Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples (1967)
Summary Article | Online Concordance | Critical Comments | Bibliography
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.

Paul VI: Octogesima Adveniens: A Call to Action (1971)
Online Concordance | Critical Comments | Bibliography
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
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Justice in the World - Synod of Bishops (1971)
Summary Article| Critical Comments| Bibliography
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.

Pope John Paul I
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

Pope John Paul II
Introduction, critical comments, and bibliography

John Paul II: Laborem Exercens: On Human Work (1981)
 Online Concordance  Critical Comments| Bibliography
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.

John Paul II: Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: On Social Concern (1987)
  Online Concordance |  Critical Comments| Bibliography
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.  

John Paul II: Centesimus Annus: The Hundreth Year (1991)
Online Concordance| Critical Comments| Bibliography

John Paul II: Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel of Life (1995)

John Paul II: Fides et Ratio: Faith and Reason (1998)
Online Concordance

Benedict XVI: Deus Caritas Est: God is Love (2005)

Official text