Lists and Resources on the Social Teaching of the Church

Yes…Virginia…I do take suggestions.


The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

The Difference God Makes by Francis Cardinal George

Happy are Your Poor – The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom by Fr. Thomas Dubay

An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching by Fr. Rodger Charles, S.J.

Christian Social Witness and Teaching volumes I and II by Fr. Rodger Charles, S.J.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky



The Catholic Church and the Liberal Tradition

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

The John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought

The Economy Project: Kindle the Light of Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Education Resource Center



1891 Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) by Pope Leo XIII:

  • The beginning of the “modern” social teaching of the Church on the question of labor, Pope Leo provides the groundwork for everything that follows.
  • For a paragraph-by-paragraph summary of Rerum novarum download this document (pdf).

1931 Quadragesimo anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order) by Pope Pius XI:

  • In the midst of the global great depression, and through the struggles of German Catholic thinkers who tried to find a way other than Communism and National Socialism, Pope Pius calls us to reconstruct the social order.
  • The first use of the terms “social justice” and “subsidiarity”
  • He condemns socialism in all its forms.

1961 Mater et magistra (On Christianity and Social Progress) by Blessed Pope John XXIII:

  • From justice for agriculture, to the denial of a population problem, to practical suggestions about teaching the social doctrine, Pope John does what a pastor does and presents the truth lovingly.
  • Gives us “Look, Judge, Act”
  • Calls on all laity to take special responsibility for the social doctrine.

1963 Pacem in terris (On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Charity, Justice and Liberty) by Blessed Pope John XXIII 1963:

  • A stunning presentation of the Natural Law arguments for many of the Church’s positions in the social doctrine. Clear and systematic.
  • Gives us the four values for a society “Truth, Freedom, Justice and Love.”

1965 Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) Vatican II:

  • One of the crowning achievements of the Council with portions written by Karol Wojtyla (Blessed Pope John Paul II). Moving from the nature of man and his relationship to God and the Church, the Fathers provide us with the contexts for social action starting with Marriage and Family.
  • A must read, pure and simple.

1965 Dignitatis humanae (On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters of Religion) Vatican II:

  • One of the more controversial documents from the Council, going through more drafts than any other, while still being one of the shortest. It is a testament to the organic development of doctrine about which Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote.
  • Argues for freedom of conscience in matters religious.

1967 Populorum progressio (On the Development of Peoples) by Pope Paul VI

  •  Relatively short document and impassioned at times, Pope Paul pleads with the world to take to considering the global development of all peoples instead of mere progress.
  • Frames the teaching in terms of the human development of the whole person and all people.

1968 Humanae vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) by Pope Paul VI

  • Included in this list because it is one of the most important documents about Catholic social life in the history of the Church, and because it strikes at the heart of what sexuality and thus family is about. As Gaudium et spes taught, it is marriage and family at the foundation of social doctrine.

1971 Octagesima adveniens (On the 80th Anniversary of Rerum novarum) by Pope Paul VI:

  • Addressing a wide variety of issues from urbanization, to social communication, to the role of women and, for the first time, the environment, Pope Paul offers some sober observations about the dangers of mixing Marxism with Christian charity.
  • Emphasizes a “call to action” for all laity, to make the social doctrine a reality in the world, especially in the area of authentic liberty.

1981 Laborem exercens (On Human Work) by Blessed Pope John Paul II

  • Written around the time of the Solidarity movement in Poland’s Gdansk shipyards, Pope John Paul provides a piercing meditation on the nature of work in light of the Scriptures, a philosophical approach and finally a spirituality of labor.
  • Declares that labor is a participation in the creative work of God.

1987 Solicitudo rei socialis (On the 20th Anniversary of Populorum progressio) by Blessed Pope John Paul II:

  • Fleshing out the outline provided in Populorum, Pope John Paul presents us with “authentic human development” that provides for all persons and the whole person. It is a full explanation of the principle of solidarity.
  • It raises and discusses several issues of the time, including Liberation Theology – though he defers to the work by then Cardinal Ratzinger in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
  • Speaks of structures of sin that keep the world from the authentic human development Christ desires for it.

1991 Centesimus annus (On the 100th Anniversary of Rerum novarum) by Blessed Pope John Paul II:

  • After the fall of the Soviet system, in this sweeping address on the previous 100 years of social teaching, Pope John Paul draws down certain loose strands in the teaching by, for instance, emphasizing the important balance between solidarity and subsidiarity.
  • Warns against the “social assistance state.”
  • Articulates clearly the principle of the universal destination of goods.

2009 Caritas in veritate (On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth) by Pope Benedict XVI:

  • A groundbreaking encyclical that lives up to the Holy Father’s spiritual and professorial style of writing, Pope Benedict provides new insights into the approach to the social doctrine and reiterates some of the contemporary problems with it.
  • Introduces the term “gratuitousness.”
  • A thoroughly Christocentric approach to the social teaching
  • For a paragraph-by-paragraph summary of Caritas in veritate download Caritas in veritate paragraph-by-paragraph summary (pdf).