Catholic Social Teaching

catholic social teaching

Catholic Social Teaching Timeline

This was my final for ICT 104 in the Spring of 2022.

A visual historical timeline that has events and Church documents in response to the times. Noted are three revolutions that had a tremendous impact on society.

Three Revolutions

Technological Revolution – A technological revolution is a period in which one or more technologies are replaced by another, novel technology in a short amount of time. 

Sexual Revolution – The sexual revolution, also known as a time of sexual liberation, was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the United States and the developed world.

Industrial Revolution – The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States.

This timeline begins in the present time and works backward to the Communist Manifesto in 1848. Listed are visual representations with a drop-down button to the Church’s response to the time. 

Attached are also the Church teachings & documents themselves for you to read.

Reverse Timeline Begins | 2022 to 1848

Technological Revolution

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overruled Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the grounds that the substantive right to abortion was not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history or tradition”, nor considered a right when the Due Process Clause was ratified in 1868, and was unknown in U.S. law until Roe.

The decision, most of which was leaked in early May, means that abortion rights will be rolled back in nearly half of the states immediately, with more restrictions likely to follow. For all practical purposes, abortion will not be available in large swaths of the country. The decision may well mean too that the court itself, as well as the abortion question, will become a focal point in the upcoming fall elections and in the fall and thereafter.

Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito indicating that the Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe and Casey in a pending final decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, expected to be held by June 2022. 

A press release from Chief Justice John Roberts the following day confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document, but stated that the draft “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case”.


2016 March 19 | Amoris laetitia (The joy of love) is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis addressing the pastoral care of families.

The exhortation covers a wide range of topics related to marriage and family life as well as the contemporary challenges faced by families throughout the world. It encourages both pastors and laypeople to accompany and care for families and others in situations of particular need. 

Amoris laetitia also includes an extended reflection on the meaning of love in the day-to-day reality of family life.

Read Amoris laetitia

2015 May 24th | Laudato si (Praise Be to You) is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. The encyclical has the subtitle “on care for our common home”. In it, the pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”

Laudato Si takes its name and inspiration from Saint Francis’ work. The title means “Praise Be to You” in medieval Italian, a phrase that is repeated throughout the Canticle of the Sun (also called the Canticle of the Creatures), a poem and prayer in which God is praised for the creation of the different creatures and aspects of the Earth. The tone of the Pope’s phrasing has been described as “cautious and undogmatic, and he specifically calls for discussion and dialogue:

“There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”

Read Laudato Si’

2013 | Evangelii gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) is a 2013 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis “On the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world”. In its opening paragraph, Pope Francis urged the entire Church “to embark on a new chapter of evangelism.”

Evangelii gaudium is directed “at overcoming complacency at every level of the church’s hierarchy and in the life of every Christian.” Calling for an “ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred”, Francis is critical of the over-centralization of church bureaucracy, unthinking preaching, and excessive emphasis on doctrine.

An apostolic exhortation is a magisterial document written by the pope. It is considered third in importance, after apostolic constitutions and encyclicals. Exhortations generally encourage a particular virtue or activity. Apostolic exhortations are frequently issued following a Synod of Bishops, in which case they are known as post-synodal apostolic exhortations.

They do not define Church doctrine and are not considered legislative.

Read Evangelii gaudium

2009 | Caritas in Veritate (English: “Charity in truth”) is the third (2009) and last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, and his first social encyclical.

Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.

Caritas in veritate contains detailed reflection on economic and social issues. The Pope points out that the church does not offer specific technical solutions, but rather moral principles to inform the building of such solutions. The economic themes include an attack on free market fundamentalism, though a simplistic polarization of the free market model versus interventionist big government solutions is rejected.

The encyclical begins with a discussion of how charity and truth are fundamental parts of our development, both as individuals and for humanity as a whole. Love (charity) is described as an extraordinary force motivating people to strive for the common good:

“The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbor’s, the more effectively we love them”.

The Pope emphasizes that while charity is “at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine”, it must be linked to truth if it is to remain a force for good. Without truth, love can become an “empty shell” to be filled with emotional influences which in the worst case can result in love turning into its opposite.

Read Caritas in Veritate

2005 | Deus caritas est (English: “God is Love”), subtitled De Christiano Amore (Of Christian Love), is a 2005 encyclical, the first written by Pope Benedict XVI, in large part derived from writings by his late predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Its subject is love, as seen from a Christian perspective, and God’s place within all love.

A problem of language

Today, the term “love” has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings.

Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word “love”: we speak of love of country, love of one’s profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbor and love of God.

“Eros” and “Agape” – difference and unity 

“Let us note straight away that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros only twice, while the New Testament does not use it at all: of the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, New Testament writers prefer the last, which occurs rather infrequently in Greek usage.”

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16)

Read Deus Caritas Est

2001 August 31 – September 7 | Racial prejudice or racist behavior continues to trouble relations between persons, human groups and nations. Public opinion is increasingly incensed by it. Moral conscience can by no means accept it. The Church is especially sensitive to this discriminatory attitude.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace decided to republish the document The Church and Racism.: Towards a More Fraternal Society, with the addition of an introductory update.


Introductory update

I – Racist Behaviour Throughout history

II – Forms of Racism Today

III – Dignity of every Race and the Unity of Humankind: The Christian Vision

IV – Contribution of Christians, in Union with Others, to Promoting Fraternity and Solidarity Amongst Races

Read The Church and Racism.: Towards a More Fraternal Society

1991 | Centesimus annus (Latin for “the hundredth year”) is an encyclical which was written by Pope John Paul II in 1991 on the hundredth anniversary of Rerum novarum, an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. It is part of a larger body of writings, known as Catholic social teaching, that trace their origin to Rerum novarum and ultimately the New Testament.

Rerum novarum attempted to respond to the conflict between capital and labor.

General Principals include:

  • The dignity and rights of the worker (#3).
  • The right to establish professional associations of employers and workers (#3).
  • The right to private property (#6).
  • The right to a just wage (#8).
  • The right to discharge freely one’s religious duties/freedom of religion (#9).
  • The kingdom of God cannot be confused with any temporal kingdom (#25).
  • To defend and promote the dignity and rights of human persons regardless of personal convictions

Read Centesimus Annus

1987 December 30 | Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (Latin: The Social Concern) is an encyclical promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 30 December 1987, on the twentieth anniversary of Populorum progressio.

It deals once more with the theme of development along two fundamental lines:

1) the failed development of the Third World and

2) the meaning of, conditions and requirements for a development of a worthy person. 

The context of the aim and inspiration of the “development of peoples,” 

Read Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

Technological Revolution Begins

1981 | Laborem exercens (Latin: Through Work) is an encyclical written by Pope John Paul II on human work.

It is part of the larger body of Catholic social teaching, which traces its origin to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum.

Some of the trends mentioned by John Paul within the encyclical are:

  • Increased use of technology, especially information technology, which John Paul predicted would bring changes comparable to the industrial revolution of the previous century.
  • Environmental issues. The pope noted that some resources, particularly oil, were becoming scarce. Also, the need to protect the environment was becoming apparent.
  • People in the developing world wanted to be more involved in the global economy. John Paul welcomed this trend, but feared it would bring unemployment for many skilled workers as work was distributed more widely.

Read Laborem Exercens

Sexual Revolution Continues

1981 November 22 | Familiaris consortio (The fellowship of the family; subtitled On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope John Paul II.

The document describes the position of the Catholic Church on the meaning and role of marriage and the family, and outlines challenges towards realizing that ideal.

Familiaris consortio restates the Church’s opposition to artificial birth control, stated previously in Humanae vitae, and briefly mentions the opposition of the Church to abortion. It also discusses the responsibility and expectations of the family regarding the education of children. It continues with a description of the expectations of the family relative to the larger society, including service to the poor.

Read Familiaris Consortio

History of abortion laws in the United States

In 1821, Connecticut passed the first state statute banning abortion in the United States. 

In 1868, abortion by itself was not legal before quickening in 27 out of all thirty-seven states. Altogether, 30 of the thirty-seven states and six of the ten U.S. territories had codified laws which restricted abortion along with the Kingdom of Hawai’i where abortion had once been common.

Every state had abortion legislation by 1900.

In the United States, abortion itself was sometimes considered a common law offense before specific statutes were made against it.

In all states throughout the 19th and early 20th century, pre-quickening abortions were always considered to be actions without a lawful purpose. This meant that if the mother died, the individual performing the abortion was guilty of murder. This aspect of common law regarded pre-quickening abortions as a type of inchoate felony. Negative liberty rights from common law do not apply in situations caused by consensual or voluntary behavior, which allowed for abortions of fetuses conceived in a consensual manner to be common law offences.

The majority opinion for Roe v. Wade authored in Justice Harry Blackmun’s name would later claim that the criminalization of abortion did not have “roots in the English common-law tradition”.


Rose Fosco, who posed as a woman seeking an abortion during sting operations for the Chicago Police Department. As an undercover officer she worked to break up illegal abortion rings.

One purpose for banning abortion was to preserve the life of the fetus, another was to protect the life of the mother, another was to create deterrence against future abortions, and another was avoid injuring the mother’s ability to have children. Judges did not always distinguish between which purpose was more important.

Rather than arresting the women having the abortions, legal officials were more likely to interrogate them to obtain evidence against the individual doing the abortions.

This law enforcement strategy was a response to juries which refused to convict women prosecuted for abortion in the 19th century.

In 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion stated that “the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage”.

By 1971, elective abortion on demand was effectively available in Alaska, California, Washington, D.C., Washington state, Hawaii, and New York. 

Some women traveled to jurisdictions where it was legal, although not all could afford to.

In 1971, Shirley Wheeler was charged with manslaughter after Florida hospital staff reported her illegal abortion to the police. Wheeler was one of few women who were prosecuted by their states for abortion.

She received a sentence of two years probation and as an option under her probation, chose to move back into her parents’ house in North Carolina.

The Playboy Foundation donated $3,500 to her defense fund and Playboy magazine denounced her prosecution. 

The Boston Women’s Abortion Coalition raised money and held a rally where attendees listened to speakers from the Women’s National Abortion Action Coalition (WONAAC). Her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Florida.

The history of the personal computer as a mass-market consumer electronic device began with the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s.

personal computer is one intended for interactive individual use, as opposed to a mainframe computer where the end user’s requests are filtered through operating staff, or a time-sharing system in which one large processor is shared by many individuals.

1968 July 25 | Humanae vitae (Latin: Of Human Life) is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI.

Subtitled On the Regulation of Birth, it re-affirmed the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding married love, responsible parenthood, and the rejection of artificial contraception.

Mainly because of its restatement of the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception, the encyclical was politically controversial.

It affirmed traditional Church moral teaching on the sanctity of life and the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal relations.

It was the last of Paul’s seven encyclicals

Read Humanae Vitae 

1967 March 26 | Populorum progressio is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI on the topic of “the development of peoples” and that the economy of the world should serve mankind and not just the few

It touches on a variety of principles of Catholic social teaching such as the right to a just wage; the right to security of employment; the right to fair and reasonable working conditions; the right to join a union; and the universal destination of resources and goods.

Twenty years later, Pope John Paul II issued another encyclical, Sollicitudo rei socialis, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Populorum progressio.

Read Populorum progressio

Dignitatis humanae (Of the Dignity of the Human Person) is the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom.

Dignitatis humanae spells out the church’s support for the protection of religious liberty. It set the ground rules by which the church would relate to secular states.

The passage of this measure is considered by many to be one of the most significant events of the council.

Read Dignitatis humanae

Gaudium et spes  (“Joy and Hope”), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, is one of the four constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

The four major constitutions by date promulgated:

  • Lumen GentiumDogmatic Constitution on the Church, November 21, 1964.
  • Dei VerbumDogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, November 15, 1965.
  • Gaudium et SpesPastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, December 7, 1965.


It was the last and longest published document from the council and is the first constitution published by an ecumenical council to address the entire world.

Gaudium et spes clarified and reoriented the role of the church’s mission to people outside of the Catholic faith.

It was the first time that the church took explicit responsibility for its role in the larger world.

Gaudium et spes, the document came to cover a wide range of topics examining the inner workings of the church and its interactions with the world as a whole.

Such topics include marriage and family, the development of culture, economics, politics and peace and war.

Read Gaudium et spes

Sexual Revolution Begins

1963 April 11 | Pacem in Terris (lit. ’Peace on Earth) was a papal encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII on the rights and obligations of individuals and of the state, as well as the proper relations between states.

The full title of the encyclical is On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Liberty.

Due to its importance and popularity, Pacem in Terris is deposited at the UN archives.

It emphasized human dignity and equality among all people.

Pacem in terris is an extended reflection on the moral order. The document is divided into four sections.

  • The first section of the encyclical establishes the relationship between individuals and humankind, encompassing the issues of human rights and moral duties.
  • The second section addresses the relationship between man and state, dwelling on the collective authority of the latter.
  • The third section establishes the need for equality amongst nations and the need for the state to be subject to rights and duties that the individual must abide by.
  • The final section presents the need for greater relations between nations, thus resulting in collective states assisting other states. The encyclical ends with the urging of Catholics to assist non-Christians and non-Catholics in political and social aspects.


Read Pacem in Terris

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings.

Adopted as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, the UDHR commits nations to recognize all humans as being “born free and equal in dignity and rights” regardless of “nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status”

Read the UN Declaration on Human Rights

1947-1991 Cold War | The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, which began following World War II.

Industrial Revolution Continues


1945 August 6 & 9| Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki | The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

1945 September 2 – 1939 September 1 | World War II

World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers.

Quadragesimo Anno  (Latin for “In the 40th Year“) is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI 40 years after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum, further developing Catholic social teaching.

Unlike Leo XIII, who addressed the condition of workers, Pius XI discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order.

He calls for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

Industrialization, says Pius XI, resulted in less freedom at the individual and communal level, because numerous free social entities were absorbed by larger ones. A society of individuals became a mass and class society.

Read Quadragesimo Anno

Casti connubii (Latin: “of chaste wedlock“) is a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Pius XI on 31 December 1930 in response to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion. It stressed the sanctity of marriage, prohibited Catholics from using any form of artificial birth control, and reaffirmed the prohibition on abortion

Casti connubii was a response to the Lambeth Conference of 1930 in which the Anglican Communion approved the use of birth control in limited circumstances. It covered four major topics: the sanctity of marriage, opposition to eugenics, positions on birth control and the purpose of sexuality, and reaffirmation of the prohibition on abortion.

Read Casti Connubii 

Industrial Revolution Continues

1933 – 1929 Great Depression | The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, lasting from 1929 to 1939. It began after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors.

1918 – 1914 The Great War | World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1 or known as the First World War began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918.

World War I, also known as the Great War, began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. His murder catapulted into a war across Europe that lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.

1917 March 8 | Russian Revolution was a period of political and social revolution that took place in the former Russian Empire which began during the First World War.

This period saw Russia abolish its monarchy and adopt a socialist form of government following two successive revolutions and a bloody civil war.

Industrial Revolution Begins

Rerum Novarum is subtitled “On the Conditions of Labor”.

In this document, Pope Leo XIII articulates the Catholic Church’s response to the social conflict in the wake of capitalism and industrialization which had provoked socialist and communist movements and ideologies.

The pope declared that the role of the state is to promote justice through the protection of rights, while the Church must speak out on social issues to teach correct social principles and ensure class harmony, calming class conflict. He restated the Church’s long-standing teaching regarding the crucial importance of private property rights, but recognized, in one of the best-known passages of the encyclical, that the free operation of market forces must be tempered by moral considerations:

“Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.”

Read Rerum Novarum

The Communist Manifesto, originally the Manifesto of the Communist Party, is an 1848 pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Considered one of the world’s most influential political documents.

It briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism.

In the last paragraph of the Manifesto, the authors call for a “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”, which served as a call for communist revolutions around the world.

Read The Communist Manifesto