Roman Catholic

Hill Connections presents an introduction to the rich, evolving heritage of social justice documents in the Roman Catholic tradition.

Key Themes of Catholic Social Teaching

Dignity of Human Person

The sacredness of all human life — regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, race — is valued. The emphasis is on people over things, being over having.

Dignity of Work

Work is an expression of dignity. Economy exists to serve people, not vice versa.

Ecological Responsibility

This flows from the dignity of all of creation. We are to respect and share earth’s resources.

Economic Justice

Economy is for people, not vice-versa. World’s resources are shared equitably. Just wages and rights of workers to organize are respected.

Linkage of Religious and Social

Religious and social dimensions of life are intimately connected; thus, faith and justice are linked.

Linkage of Love and Justice

Charity manifests itself in actions and structures that enhance well-being of all peoples. Love demands justice.

Promotion of Common Good

Individual freedoms are in balance with the good of society, domestically and globally. Structures are created that give people opportunity to participate and to fulfill basic needs.

Promotion of Peace

Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent on right order among humans and nations. The arms race must cease. Progressive disarmament is necessary for secure future.

Rights and Responsibilities

Basic rights are respected and promoted. Democratic participation in decision-making is a right and responsibility. It is necessary to seek the common good.

Social Nature of Human Person

In relationship to and with others, humans realize the fulfillment of their dignity and rights. Sustainable, healthy communities are promoted by well-being of individuals.

Solidarity

As one family, interconnection demands respect and value. There are mutual obligations to promote rights and developments of all peoples. International structures must reflect justice.

Special Claim of Poor and Vulnerable People

Those with greatest need require greatest response; this builds a just society.

Subsidiarity

In local communities and institutions, responsibilities and decisions are made at the level nearest to individual initiative and in relation to governmental structures that promote common good.

Papal Documents

  • 1891, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) Pope Leo XIII. Equitable relations between capital and labor, rich and poor.
  • 1931, Quadragesimo Anno [After Forty Years] (On the Reconstruction of the Social Order) Pope Pius XI. Justice as norm for social relationships that allow personal growth.
  • 1961, Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) Pope John XXIII. Response to unequal distribution of world’s wealth and resources.
  • 1963, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) Pope John XXIII. Christians called to eliminate poverty and promote human rights and peace.
  • 1967, Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) Pope Paul VI. Speaks to challenges of development for all peoples.
  • 1971, Octogesima Adveniens (Call to Action) Pope Paul VI. Appeals for greater justice in all areas of life. Encourages Christians to reflect and to act.
  • 1981, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) Pope John Paul II. Work expresses and increases human dignity. People are subjects of work, not its objects.
  • 1987, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern) Pope John Paul II. Names “structures of sin.” Calls for solidarity and “option for the poor” by wealthy nations.
  • 1990, Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility Pope John Paul II. Message for January 1, World Day of Peace.
  • 1991, Centesimus Annus (Hundredth Year) Pope John Paul II. Identifies failure of socialist and market economies. Calls for a society of work, enterprise, and participation.
  • 1995, Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II. Calls for transformation from culture of death to life. Value and inviolability of human life from womb to tomb.
  • 1997, Developing Special Concern for the Homeless Pope John Paul II. Lenten message for first year of preparation for Jubilee 2000.
  • 1998, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) Pope John Paul II. Faith and reason support each other and are basis for planetary ethics.
  • 2002, No Peace without Justice, No Justice without Forgiveness Pope John Paul II. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.
  • 2004, An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace Pope John Paul II. Message for January 1, World Day of Peace.
  • 2003, Pacem in Terris: A Permanent Commitment Pope John Paul II. Message for January 1, World Day of Peace. 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris.
  • 2005, Do Not Be Overcome by Evil But Overcome Evil by Good Pope John Paul II. Message for January 1, World Day of Peace.
  • 2005, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) Pope Benedict XVI. Christian love links love of neighor and justice.
  • 2006, In Truth, Peace Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.
  • 2006, Urbi et Orbi Pope Benedict XVI. Christmas message calling for removal of barriers to peace.
  • 2007, The Human Person, the Heart of Peace Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.
  • 2007, Sacramentum Caritatis (Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist) Pope Benedict XVI. Letter stresses social dimension of Eucharist.
  • 2008, The Human Family, a Community of Peace Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.
  • 2009, Fighting Poverty to Build Peace Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.
  • 2009, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) Pope Benedict XVI. Encyclical letter on intregal human development in charity and truth.
  • 2009, Message for 96th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2010) Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, January 17.
  • 2010, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation Pope Benedict XVI. Message for World Day of Peace, January 1.