Foundational Writings

Papal and Vatican Documents

  • Francis. 2015. Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home). Denounces abuses to the earth in pollution, wastes, throwaways, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, global inequality, etc. with the resultant decline of the quality of human life and social degradation. Urges a new dialogue on integral ecology which takes into consideration that “everything is connected,” i.e., the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of the world all influence each other in shaping the future of our planet.
  • Francis. 2013. Evangelii Gaudium (On Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World). Focuses on evangelization and appeals to communal commitment in addressing world poverty among the many people who live in “fear and desperation.” Challenges humankind to reject an “economy of exclusion and inequality,” to say no to “financial institutions which rules other than serves” and to reject inequality which produces violence.
  • Benedict XVI. 2009. Caritas in Veritate (On Integral Development in Charity and Truth). “Love in truth” as the “heart of of the Church’s social doctrine” and the principle that governs human development. Recommends justice and common good in any commitment to development. Appeals for market economy based on distributive justice and social justice other than that based on commutative justice.
  • Benedict XVI. 2005. Deus Caritas Est (On Christian Love). Describes the Church as a community of love that exercises charity in a manner desired by Christ of his followers. Discusses the multiple structures of charitable service in the social context of the time, especially the role of mass communication, and cooperation between state and Church in working for social justice. The Church’s charitable activity is distinctively a response to needs, independent of parties and ideologies.
  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. 2004. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
  • John Paul II. 1991. Centesimus Annus (On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum). Rereads Rerum Novarum and addresses the themes of family, work, just wages, healthy workplace conditions, and employment. Decries environmental degradation and “unbridled capitalism” and calls for addressing the issues raised on the above-mentioned themes in the spirit of the Gospel.
  • John Paul II. 1987. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Concern for the Social Order). Authentic development of humankind and society respects and promotes all dimensions of the human person. Critiques materialism, consumerism, and the arms race particularly for its impact on the poor and calls for solidarity in international development.
  • John Paul II. 1981. Laborem Exercens (On Human Work). Recognizes work as a fundamental dimension of human existence and critiques work understood and treated as a “merchandise” that the worker sells to the employer. Recommends worker solidarity in unionizing as a way to combat the excesses of capitalism and socialism.
  • Paul VI. 1971. Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action). Examines the negative effects of urbanization on families and neighborhoods. Challenges humankind to “master the growth of society,” “regulate its organization” and to “accomplish its animation for the good of all.” It discusses discrimination and encourages political action based on justice.
  • Paul VI. 1967. Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples). Acknowledges the widening gap between the rich and poor nations leading to social unrest in poor societies. Criticizes “unbridled liberalism” and discusses the interconnection between development and peace. Proposes fair trade relationships that support poor nations; supports taxation of the rich and calls for international cooperation.
  • Paul VI, Second Vatican Council. 1965. Dignitatis Humanae (On the Rights of the Person and the Community). Upholds the dignity of the human person and calls for a responsible freedom motivated by a sense of duty. Declares social and civil freedom in matters of religion.
  • Paul VI, Second Vatican Council. 1965. Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World). Articulates a person-centered worldview grounded in human dignity. Discusses issues such as the relationship between the Church and the world, the family and the nation, economic development and world peace.
  • John XXIII. 1963. Pacem in Terris (On establishing Peace on Earth). Urges respect for the dignity of the human person. Articulates human rights and the corresponding human responsibilities to protect those rights. Global peace is a common good for which Christians must work to establish in the spirit of truth, justice, charity and liberty.
  • John XXIII. 1961. Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress). Laments the extreme disparities in wealth throughout the world. Calls for cooperation and interdependence among nations.
  • Pius XI. 1931. Quadragesimo Anno (On the Reconstruction of the Social Order). Criticizes the extremes of capitalism and socialism, reiterates the right to just wages and the formation of unions. Proposes global collaboration on economic matters based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity.
  • Leo XIII. 1891. Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor). Calls upon governments to institute laws that protect the rights of workers including the right to employment, to a living wage, to a safe workplace, to form unions and to possess private property.

Documents from Regional and International Gatherings of Bishops

Additional Foundational Texts From the Catholic Tradition

  • Berrigan, Daniel, S.J. 2007. To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography. San Francisco, SF: Harper and Row.
  • Bernardin, Joseph Cardinal. 1988. Consistent Ethic of Life. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.
  • Day, Dorothy. 1952. The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
  • Gutiérrez, Gustavo. 1988. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation. Translated by Caridad Inda and John Eagleson. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988.
  • Holland, Joe  and Peter Henriot. 1983. Social Analysis: Linking Faith and Justice. Washington, DC: Center of Concern.
  • Prejean, Helen. 1994. Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Maritain, Jacques. 1947. The Person and the Common Good. Indiana, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Merton, Thomas. 1966. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. New York: Doubleday.
  • Murray, John Courtney, S.J. 1960. We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward.
  • Ryan, John. 1916. Distributive Justice: The Right and Wrong of our Present Distribution of Wealth. New York: Macmillan.