Social Justice - List of Social Encyclicals
Issued on the fifteenth of May 1891. Literally “Of New Things,” on capital and labor and the condition of the working class. This was the most significant of all the encyclicals before or since.
broke down the barriers that separated the church from the worker. Never before had the church spoken on social matters in such an official and comprehensive fashion**.
Issued May 15, 1931. Literally “In forty Years,” commemorating the fortieth anniversary of
. This encyclical repeated many of the themes of
the dignity of labor, the rights of workers to organize, etc.
also emphasized the immorality of keeping economic control in the hands of a few. It recognized the principle of
, which held that higher levels of authority should act only when lower levels cannot deal with a problem. **
Issued May 15, 1961. Literally “Mother and Teacher,” on Christianity and Social progress. This encyclical gave an updated interpretation of the classic theme of private property and introduced the notion of private initiative as an extension of private property. While and left responsibility for social justice with the individual, placed some in the hands of the state. (this encyclical needs to be read in conjunction with , literally “Peace on Earth,” Pope John XXIII’s other great encyclical.) **
Issued March 26, 1967. Literally “On the Progress of Peoples.” A vigorous endorsement of presented Catholicism as no longer tied to a social system based on natural law, but rather as a proponent of a pluralistic, decentralized approach to economic problems.
Issued on September 14, 1981. Literally “On Human Work.” focused on the themes that work is central to the social question and that work has potential not only to dehumanize but also to be the means whereby the human person cooperates in God’s ongoing creation.
Issued on December 30, 1987. Literally “On Social Concerns,” commemorating the twentieth anniversary of presented an overview of modern social problems with some guidelines for action. It dealt with authentic human development and adopted a critical attitude toward both capitalism and communism. warned that economic development alone may not set people free but only enslave them more. **
Issued on May 1, 1991. Literally, “The Hundredth Year,” commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of brought up to date and tied it to “the preferential option for the poor.” done in the context of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, still criticized both capitalism and communism.