Santa Clara University


Catholic Social Thought

Catholic Social Thought has been developed, principally in papal encyclicals [letters], as a body of doctrine and practice to guide Catholics and other "people of good will" in their approach to modern social reality. Its modern history begins with the Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), which sought to come to grips with industrial capitalism. Some other important encylicals are Pius XI's Quadregesimo Anno (1931), in the midst of the Great Depression; John XXIII's Mater and Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963) at the height of the Cold War; Paul VI's Populorum Progressio (1967) on decolonization and development; John Paul II's Centesimus Annus (1991) after the fall of the Berlin Wall; and Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009) on globalization and the world economic meltdown. Readers can access copies of all the encyclicals at , then select the pope, then select the encylical.

A Short Introductory Course:

Himes, et al. present the tradition in its historical and documentary context. Hollenbach shows that national self-interest plus Enlightenment tolerance cannot provide a satisfactory framework for solving contemporary global problems. Coleman and Ryan edit a collection of the most prominent scholars in the field of global Catholic Social Thought. Finally, read a copy of Benedict's Caritas in Veritate (see above) and think about it in terms of the recommended readings and of current global affairs. It was released for the G8 Summit in Italy, and three days before President Obama met with the pope. For what commentators have said about it, see the Recent Articles below.

Himes, Kenneth R., O.F.M., ed. Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2004).

Hollenbach, David, S.J., The Common Good and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Coleman, John A., and Ryan, William F., eds. Globalization and Catholic Social Thought (Toronto: Novalis, 2005). This is a collection of the most  prominent scholars in this area.

Other texts:

Baum, Gregory, and Ellsberg, Robert, eds., The Logic of Solidarity: Commentaries on Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical “On Social Concern” (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). The encyclical and eleven commentaries.

Coleman, John A., S.J., ed., One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Thought: Celebration and Challenge (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Twenty-three essays on the tradition, family, work, and peace.

Curran, Charles E., Catholic Social Teaching, 1891-Present (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002). Curran divides his treatment into methodological and content sections.

Henriot, Peter J., DeBerri, Edward P., and Schultheis, Michael J., Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret, 3rd edition (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992). Brief introduction to tradition, and outlines of twenty-three documents from Center of Concern in Washington, D.C.

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (Ireland), Catholic Social Teaching in Action (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005). Collection of twelve essays.

O’Brien, David J., and Shannon, Thomas A., eds. Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002). Texts of fourteen crucial documents with introductions.

Recent Articles:

"Pope Urges Forming New World Economic Order to Work for the 'Common Good,'" New York Times, July 8, 2009.

"New Encyclical Seeks New Way of Doing Business," America, July 20-27, 2009.

"Pope Greets Obama: Encyclical precedes historic visit," by John Allen, National Catholic Reporter, July 24, 2009.

"Economics of Charity: Pope Benedict's 'Caritas in Veritate'", by Daniel Finn, Commonweal, August 14, 2009.

November 9, 2009.