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Church Documents on Social Justice


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.


Rerum Novarum  (On the Condition of Labor)  --  Pope Leo XIII, 1891

Quadragesimo Anno  (After Forty Years)  --  Pope Pius XI, 1931

Mater et Magistra   (Christianity and Social Progress)  --  Pope John XXIII, 1961

Pacem in Terris   (Peace on Earth)  --  Pope John XXIII, 1963

Gaudium et Spes  (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) 

Populorum Progressio   (On the Development of Peoples)  --  Pope Paul VI, 1967

Octogesima Adveniens  (A Call to Action)  --  Pope Paul VI, 1971

Justicia in Mundo  (Justice in the World)  --  Synod of Bishops, 1971

Laborem Exercens   (On Human Work)  --  Pope John Paul II, 1981

Solicitudo Rei Socialis  (On Social Concern)  --  Pope John Paul II, 1987

Centesimus Annus  (The Hundredth Year --  Pope John Paul II, 1991

Evangelium Vitae  (The Gospel of Life)  --  Pope John Paul II, 1995

Fides et Ratio  (Faith and Reason)  --  Pope John Paul II, 1998

Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth) -- Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

Other Papal and Vatican Statements of Note

The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 21, 2002

Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation"
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1986

Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media:

A Pastoral Response

Pontifical Council for Social Communications May 7, 1989

U. S. Bishops' Statements


Program of Social Reconstruction, 1919

Pastoral Letter of 1919

Brothers and Sisters to Us, 1979

Capital Punishment,  1980

Economic Justice All, 1986

The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, 1993

Communities of Salt and Light, 1993

A Decade after Economic Justice for All, 1996

Called to Global Solidarity,  1997

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, 1998

Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, 1998

Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, 2001

Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, 2001

Cristianos de cada día: tienen hambre y sed de justicia, 2001

Online Documents at US Catholic Conference of Bishops

Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, 2003

Other Statements of Note

The Common Good and the Catholic Church's Social Teaching
Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, 1996

This Land is Home to Me, Appalachian Catholic Bishops, 1975

Securing our Moral Heritage: Towards a Moral Society

(A Pastoral Exhortation on Proposed Bills on Sex Education and Reproductive Health)

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines



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