Catholic Social Teaching – The Founding Documents


The following fifteen documents provide the foundation for the social teaching of the Catholic Church. While Catholic teaching is rooted in Scripture, these fifteen documents work through the teaching of scripture and provide practical guidance for society. These documents take on contemporary social issues and, in the light of Christian faith, they reflect upon:

World peace; rights and responsibilities between individuals, groups and states; the global economic balance; freedom; social concerns and action; development and peace; urban poverty; condemnation of unfettered capitalism; combating injustice; advocating fair trade; the relationship between truth and charity; and concern for the earth.


1891 – Rerum Novarum – on workers’ rights

1931 – Quadragesimo Anno – criticizes abuses of capitalism and communism

1961 – Mater et Magistra – on agriculture and aid to developing countries

1963 – Pacem in Terris – a plea for peace based on rights and duties

1965 – Gaudium et spes – on human dignity and the common good

1967 – Populorum Progressio – on structural poverty, aid, trade, and international justice

1971 – Octogesima Adveniens – on new injustices and a call to political action

1971 – Justicia in Mundo (Justice in the World) – on justice as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel

1975 – Evangelii Nuntiandi – on links between evangelisation and development

1981 – Laborem Exercens – on the rights of workers, especially women, and unions

1987 – Sollicitudo Rei Socialis – on solidarity and the option for the poor

1991 – Centesimus Annus – on human dignity, human rights, justice and peace

2009 – Caritas in veritate – a comprehensive review of development, and reflection upon the recent economic crisis and business ethics

2013 –  Evangelii Gaudium – on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world

2015 – Laudato si’ – an ecological critique of the current global political, social, economic and cultural model as it impacts our common home, the earth


The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004), systematically presents the foundations of Catholic Social Teaching as outlined in these documents, and it is a most useful guide.


Prepared by John McGeady
OLA Justice Officer
May 2019