Catholic social teaching
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2018 - 12:00am

Many decisions made by businessmen are based on their moral and personal values. Most people would prefer to look to some religious source as basis for their moral framework.

The difficulty is the application and relevance of these values to business. For businessmen who profess the Catholic faith and for all men and women of goodwill, the answers to this dilemma lie in the body of work known as Catholic Social Teaching.

In several of my columns, I hope to provide busy business executives with some materials for reflection on how the way of doing business can be an expression, in very practical ways, of their faith and moral values.

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 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.

There are certain encyclical and conciliar documents, as well as some key teaching documents, which are typically considered to be the core texts of the still ongoing development of Catholic social teaching.

This list, based on the suggestions of the Office for Social Justice (US Bishops Conference), would include the following documents:

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

This encyclical began the papal tradition of modern Catholic social teaching. This seminal work on modern Catholic social thought addresses the plight of the industrial workers in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. It calls for the protection of the weak and the poor through the pursuit of justice while excluding socialism and class struggle as legitimate principles of change. It affirms the dignity of work, the right to private property, and the right to form and join professional associations, i.e., labor unions.

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

Writing in response to the alarming concentration of wealth and power in the socio-economic realm, Pius XI calls for the establishment of a social order based on the principle of subsidiarity. In commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, this encyclical reaffirms the need for a social order animated by justice.

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

Applying the teachings of his predecessors to modern problems, and affirming the role of the Church as a teacher and as a nurturing guardian of the poor and the oppressed, John XXIII calls for a greater awareness of the need for all peoples to live as one community with a common good. Special attention is focused on the plight of the farmers and farm workers in depressed rural, agricultural economies.

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

Covering the entire spectrum of relations between individuals, between the individual and the community, and between nations, John XXIII affirms the inviolability of human rights. Peace based on mutual trust can be well-founded only if undergirded by a unity of right order in human affairs arising from a genuine for and adherence to the law of God.

Guadium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) – Vatican Council II, 1965

Calling for a new sense of service by the Church in a rapidly changing world, the Council presents the ethical framework of the Church’s commitment to pastoral work in the world. This servant Church addresses itself to the real concerns and problems faced by Christians living in the modern age and calls for a development based on an unqualified acceptance of the inherent dignity of the human person.

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

Calling attention to the worsening marginalization of the poor, Paul VI presents the various dimensions of an integral human development and the necessary conditions for growth in the solidarity of peoples. Only with an accompanying theological reflection on liberation from injustice and on genuine human values can there be true development towards a more human condition.

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

Realizing the need for a genuine renewal in domestic and international societal structure, Paul VI calls on Christians to live up to the duty of participation in social and political reform as a way of discovering the truth and living out the Gospel.

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

Calling attention to the structural roots of injustice afflicting human relations, the bishops declare that action in the pursuit of justice and participation in the transformation of the world are constitutive elements in the Church’s mission of preaching the Gospel.

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

Exhorting Christians everywhere to be involved in the transformation of existing socio-economic systems, John Paul II presents work as a fundamental dimension of the human existence through which the “social question” must be viewed. The meaning of work can only be properly understood when the dignity of labor is taken as an underlying presence.

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

Expanding on the notion of development in Populorum Progressio, John Paul II reviews the state of world development in the past two decades. The moral nature of development leading humanity to the “fullness of being” is emphasized.

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

The social encyclical issued by John Paul II in May 1992 is a landmark event in contemporary religious thought about human freedom and its embodiment in culture, economics and politics. Written to honor the centenary of Rerum Novarum, this encyclical is both a look back at the res novae, the “new things” that seized the attention of Leo XIII and a look ahead to the new facts of public life at the end of the 20th century and the turn of the third Christian millennium.

The encyclical is divided into six chapters comprising 62 numbered paragraphs. Businessmen would be especially interested in Chapter IV, paragraphs 30 to 43 entitled “Private Property and the Universal Declaration of Material Goods.”

Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) – Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

Pope Benedict continued the Church’s teachings on social justice. He condemned the prevalent economic system “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and called on people to rediscover ethics in business and economic relations. He wrote, “Love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace...Charity is at the heart of the church’s social doctrine.”

Laudate Si, (Apostolic Exhortation on “Praised Be”) Pope Francis, 2013

His encyclical incorporates the themes of Catholic social teaching including its promotion of solidarity, stewardship and the common good; preferential attention to the poor and preserving human dignity. It details the conditions of authentic human development and implores economic systems in service of people, not the other way around.

Summer creative writing classes and workshop for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on April 7, 14, 21 & 28, May 12, 19 & 26 (1:30 pm-3pm; independent sessions); Wonder of Words Workshop on May 7, 9, 11, 14, 16 & 18 (1:30-3:30 pm for 8-12 years old/ 4-6 pm for 13-17 years old) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration contact 0945-2273216 or

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