Social teachings of the papacy

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Social Teachings of the Popes involves the teachings of the Popes on social issues, starting with the encyclical Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII in 1891.


The Industrial Revolution brought many concerns about the deteriorating working and living conditions of urban workers. Influenced by the German Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler, in 1891 Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Rerum novarum, which set in context Catholic social teaching in terms that rejected socialism but advocated the regulation of working conditions. Rerum novarum argued for the establishment of a living wage and the right of workers to form trade unions.[1]

Quadragesimo anno was issued by Pope Pius XI, on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Rerum novarum. Unlike Leo XIII, who addressed mainly the condition of workers, Pius XI concentrated on the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He called for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity.[2] He noted major dangers for human freedom and dignity, arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian communism.

The social teachings of Pope Pius XII repeat these teachings, and apply them in greater detail not only to workers and owners of capital, but also to other professions such as politicians, educators, housewives, farmers, bookkeepers, international organizations, and all aspects of life including the military. Going beyond Pius XI, he also defined social teachings in the areas of medicine, psychology, sport, TV, science, law and education. There is virtually no social issue which Pius XII did not address and relate to the Christian faith.[3] He was called "the Pope of Technology" for his willingness and ability to examine the social implications of technological advances. The dominant concern was the continued rights and dignity of the individual. With the beginning of the space age at the end of his pontificate, Pius XII explored the social implications of space exploration and satellites on the social fabric of humanity, asking for a new sense of community and solidarity in light of existing papal teachings on subsidiarity.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duffy 1997, p. 240.
  2. ^ Duffy 1997, p. 260.
  3. ^ Franzen & Bäumer 1988, p. 368.
  4. ^ O'Brien 2000, p. 13.


  • Duffy, Eamon (1997), Saints and Sinners, a History of the Popes, Yale University Press in association with S4C, Library of Congress Catalog card number 97-60897 
  • Franzen, August; Bäumer, Remigius (1988), Kleine Kirchengeschichte, Freiburg: Herder 
  • O'Brien, Felictity (2000), Pius XII, London [full citation needed]

External links[edit]

  • Catholic Social Teaching - Provides a comprehensive index of Papal teaching on Social Doctrine as well as articles by Catholic scholars.