Papal Teachings on the Family, the State, and the Social Question: A Summary

Papal Teachings on the Family, the State, and the Social Question: A Summary


A chapter on Papal social teaching from Dr. Krason’s 2009 book, The Public Order and the Sacred Order: Contemporary Issues, Catholic Social Thought, and the Western and American Traditions.

This chapter summarizes the main elements of Catholic social teaching, as derived primarily from the papal social encyclicals. These elements provide one of the main criteria by which we go on to approach and evaluate the different public questions we take up later in this book. The elements fall basically into five categories: the family, the obligations owed to human life, the role of the state, the “social question” (involving the moral issues concerning economic activity and the relationship between capital and labor and the taking care of the welfare of the needy), and the “international question” (relations among nations, war and peace, and human rights). The limits of this chapter do not permit a detailed examination of all the social encyclicals. Instead, the major ones of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries⎯-from the time of the earliest social encyclicals in the latter half of the nineteenth century⎯-are focused on. The summarization of the social teachings, then, will come mostly from the following encyclicals: Rerum Novarum (The Condition of Labor) (1891), Quadragesimo Anno (Reconstructing the Social Order) (1931), Divini Redemptoris (Atheistic Communism) (1937), Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) (1961), Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) (1963), Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) (1967), Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Social Concern of the Church) (1987), and Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) (1991). Other Church documents, encyclicals, and secondary source materials will also be referred to at different points in the summary.

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