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"Catholic Social Thought": Home

To present the Church's position clearly and without any other ideological frills

Catholic Social Teachings

Catholic Social Teaching answers a question posed by Tolstoy: 

“How, then, shall we live our life?”

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) contains a set of 'principles for reflection' to form our conscience, 'critera for judgement' to evaluate the framework of society, and 'directives for action'

"On the one hand it is constant, for it remains identical in its fundamental inspiration, in its "principles of reflection," in its "criteria of judgment," in its basic "directives for action,"6 and above all in its vital link with the Gospel of the Lord" (SRS, 3)

Papal Encyclicals

  • Centesimus Annus
    • "In this new encyclical, the Holy Father provides us with reasons to hope in a modern society which would obey the Church' s social teachings. The Pope also gives us, at the same time and by the same teaching, new reasons and motivation to further evangelize the world."  The Promises of Centesimus Annus

  • Laborem Exercens
    • John Paul II wrote the Encyclical "Laborem Exercens" in 1981, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum Novarum" on the question of labor. It was signed on September 14, feast of the Holy Cross.

      In it he develops the concept of man's dignity in work, structuring it in four points: the subordination of work to man; the primacy of the worker over the whole of instruments and conditioning that historically constitute the world of labor; the rights of the human person as the determining factor of all socio-economic, technological and productive processes, that must be recognized; and some elements that can help all men identify with Christ through their own work.

      The Encyclical has an introduction and four chapters: "Work and Man," "Conflict Between Labor and Capital in the Present Phase of History," "Rights of Workers," and "Elements for a Spirituality of Work."

  • Populorum Progressio
    • "Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Populorum Progressio in 1967 to address the world economy and its effect on peoples around the world. At this time many nations saw their economic development stall, while others continued to grow at a record pace. In the document he talks about the rights of workers to a just wage, job security, reasonable working conditions, and to join a worker’s association."

  • Pacem in Terris
    • "In Peace on Earth, Pope John XXIII contends that peace can be established only if the social order set down by God is fully observed.  Relying extensively on reason and the natural law tradition, John XXIII sketches a list of rights and duties to be followed by individuals, public authorities, national governments, and the world community.  Peace needs to be based on an order 'founded on truth, built according to justice, vivified and integrated by charity, and put into practice in freedom.'"

  • Mater et Magistra
    • "Pope John XXIII begins this encyclical by reviewing the major points of The Condition of Labor and The Reconstruction of the Social Order.  He notes that new political, social, and economic developments have necessitated Christianity and Social Progress.  He confirms previous papal teaching on the value of private initiative, just remuneration for work, and the social function of private property.  John XXIII then treats the questions of agriculture and aid to developing countries.  He urges a reconstruction of social relationships according to the principles of Catholic social teaching and states the responsibility of individual Christians to work for a more just world."

  • Rerum Novarum
    • "In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIII examines the situation of the poor people and workers in industrialized countries.  He states several important principles that should guide the response to these people.  He then articulates the role of the Church, workers and employers, and the law and public authorities in working together to build a just society.  Employers are given the major role as agents for change."

Catholic Social Teaching

2,000 Years of Catholic Ethics by Rob Esdaille

At its core, Catholic Social Teaching is simply the attempt to spell out the ethical consequences of the confession, “Jesus is Lord,” for the way in which we live. It is important to note that it is faith which is the starting-point for this reflection, not simply concern about particular issues facing society.

Such reflection has been a feature of Christian faith since the first Easter. The first believers in Jerusalem had to learn how to relate their new faith to the faith of Judaism (Ac 2.42-7) and how it should change their attitudes to property (Ac 4.32-7), to their pagan neighbours and to their persecutors. They had to come to terms with the ways in which paganism underpinned so much of public life, from the food in the markets (Ro 14.1ff) to the worship of the emperor (1 Tim 2.1-4). And they sought to make sense of their experience of the equality of all believers within the stratified and slave-owning society they knew (Gal 3.25-8; Col 3.11).

Later on, in the High Middle Ages, Catholic theologians were key players in the attempt to restrict the violence unleashed by warring princes, developing what became “The Just War” theory, with its various checks and balances.

St. Francis is now remembered for rethinking our relationship to the natural world. During the colonisation of the Americas Spanish, Dominican and Jesuit theologians upheld the dignity of the indigenous peoples whose lands were being invaded (Think of the film, The Mission), and laid the foundation for much of the modern concern for human rights. Whatever the limitations of their approaches, they made a serious attempt to think systematically about the moral value of human actions.

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World –– Gaudium et Spes

Introductory Statement: The Situation of Men in the Modern World

  • The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.

Catholic Social Teaching and Gospel Nonviolence (from The God of Peace: Toward A Theology of Nonviolence)

  • Christian nonviolence needs to be proclaimed not just an option, but an obligation for every Christian. The time has come for the church to dismiss the just war theory, to embrace Jesus' way of active nonviolence, and to call for its application on the national and international levels.

Papal Letters and Teachings

  • Dignitatis Humanae
    • "Essentially a declaration of religious freedom and the call for all Christians to respect religious freedom, a freedom which must also be permitted by states. The church must be allowed to work freely, but compulsion or force must play no part in a person’s response to God."

  • Octogesima Adveniens
    • "Pope Paul VI begins this letter by urging greater efforts for justice and noting the duties of local churches to respond to specific situations.  The Pope then discusses a wide variety of new social problems which stem from urbanization.  These issues include women, youth, and the 'new poor.'  Paul VI next treats modern aspirations and ideas, especially liberalism and Marxism.  He stresses the need to ensure equality and the right of all to participate in society.  He concludes this letter by encouraging all Christians to reflect on their contemporary situations, apply Gospel principles, and take political action when appropriate."

Pope Francis

Biography: who is JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO?

Vatican City, 13 March 2013 (VIS) – Following is the official biography, published on the occasion of the Conclave by the Holy See Press Office with the information provided by the cardinals themselves.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite, was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He studied as and holds a degree as a chemical technician, but then chose the priesthood and entered the seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11 March 1958 he moved to the novitiate of the Company of Jesus where he finished studies in the humanities in Chile. In 1963, on returning to Buenos Aires, he obtained a degree in philosophy at the St. Joseph major seminary of San Miguel.
Between 1964 and 1965 he taught literature and psychology at the Immacolata College in Santa Fe and then in 1966 he taught the same subjects at the University of El Salvador, in Buenos Aires.
From 1967 to 1970 he studied theology at the St. Joseph major seminary of San Miguel where he obtained a degree. On 13 December 1969 he was ordained a priest. From 1970 to 1971 he completed the third probation at Alcala de Henares, Spain, and on 22 April 1973, pronounced his perpetual vows.
He was novice master at Villa Varilari in San Miguel from 1972 to 1973, where he also taught theology. On 31 July 1973 he was elected as Provincial for Argentina, a role he served as for six years.
From 1980 to 1986 he was rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel as well as pastor of the Patriarca San Jose parish in the Diocese of San Miguel. In March of 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis. The superiors then sent him to the University of El Salvador and then to Cordoba where he served as a confessor and spiritual director.
On 20 May 1992, John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires, He received episcopal consecration in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires from Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Apostolic Nunzio Ubaldo Calabresi, and Bishop Emilio Ognenovich. of Mercedes-Lujan on 27 June of that year.
On 3 June 1997 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires and succeeded Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on 28 February 1998.
He was Adjunct Relator General of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2001.
He served as President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from 8 November 2005 until 8 November 2011.
He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Blessed John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001, of the Title of S. Roberto Bellarmino (St. Robert Bellarmine).
He was a member of:
The Congregations for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; for the Clergy; and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life;
the Pontifical Council for the Family; and
the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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