Berkley Center Knowledge Resources Home Berkley Center Home Berkley Center on iTunes U Berkley Center's YouTube Channel Berkley Center's Vimeo Channel Berkley Center's YouTube Channel Berkley Center's iTunes Page Berkley Center's Twitter Page Berkley Center's Facebook Page Berkley Center's Vimeo Channel Berkley Center's YouTube Channel Berkley Center's iTunes Page WFDD's Twitter Page WFDD's Facebook Page Doyle Undergraduate Initiatives Undergraduate Learning and Interreligious Understanding Survey Junior Year Abroad Network Undergraduate Fellows Knowledge Resources KR Classroom Resources KR Countries KR Traditions KR Topics Berkley Center Home Berkley Center Knowledge Resources Berkley Center Home Berkley Center Forum Back to the Berkley Center World Faiths Development Dialogue Back to the Berkley Center Religious Freedom Project Back to the Berkley Center Religious Freedom Project Blog Back to the Berkley Center Catholic Social Thought Back to the Berkley Center Normative Orders Collaborative
April 17, 2014  |  About the Berkley Center  |  Directions to the Center  |  Subscribe
 
Topics Traditions Countries Classroom US/China  

Stpetersbasilica

The Catholic Church in World Affairs

Publications (73)

As one of the most ancient and extensive institutions in the modern age, the Catholic Church has had and continues to exert a significant influence on diverse world affairs. From the heights of the Papacy to regional conferences of bishops to individual clergy and lay members alike, the Catholic Church remains active in its commentary and critique on modern political, economic, social, and religious issues. This page gathers together diverse sources and resources on what the Church has said on these various concerns, highlighting key thematic concentrations and categories for further study.

For more information on the broader tradition, explore our resources on Christianity.


Filter on:
  • November 24, 2013
    The second major document written by Pope Francis, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's Word) reflects and expands on the call to evangelization issued by the 2012 Synod of Bishops. The introduction encourages readers to daily encounter Jesus Christ. Five main sections address the church's missionary transformation, the crisis of communal commitment, proclamation of the Gospel, the social dimension of evangelization, and becoming spirit-filled...
  • June 29, 2013
    Lumen Fidei is an encyclical written in part by Pope Benedict XVI and completed by Pope Francis that addresses the nature of faith in the contemporary world. In the first chapter Francis describes faith as a supernatural gift by which all other truth is illuminated, using the life of Abraham and the history of Israel to illustrate "what faith is." He then examines how Christ's death produces the fullness of faith and reorients the life of the believer and the believing community. The second...
  • March 1, 2012
    Political Activity Guidelines for Catholic Organizations is a regularly updated document (first published in 2007) by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of General Counsel to provide general guidance on the political activities of Catholic organizations, including parishes and schools. Under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, religious organizations are federal income tax exempt, provided they do not participate in or intervene on behalf of a political...
  • October 24, 2011
    The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released this letter in order to address the pressing question of macroeconomics and social justice. Drawing on the 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, the statement recognizes the harsh realities of the contemporary global financial crisis that struck in 2008, and that a multi-layered approach to reform is required to restore order. The document takes a proactive stance and views the dire state of the world economy as an opportunity for...
  • March 8, 2010
    This document, part of a review of the Fourth World Conference on Women and a release of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, stresses the distinction between focusing on the dignity of women versus focusing on gender equality and calls attention to what the Roman Catholic Church sees as the shortcomings of the latter approach. The document notes how challenges like HIV/AIDS, sexual trafficking, and illiteracy still disproportionately affect women and pinpoints certain...
  • November 17, 2009
    The US bishops’ pastoral letter is an investigation of the sacrament of marriage using biblical and theological principles and a call for a collective reaffirmation of its integrity following perceived attacks upon the institution. In the face of contemporary secular trends that diminish the sanctity of marriage, the bishops argue that a declining care for the holiness of marriage leads to divorce and the widespread belief that the institution itself may be obsolete, or at least a private...
  • June 28, 2009
    Caritas in Veritate is an encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI that addresses the relationship between charity and truth as the foundation of the Church's social doctrine. Benedict XVI praises the work of Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio and commits to reinterpreting the principles of integral human development for contemporary times. After reviewing the writings of Paul VI, he uses the then-current financial crisis to evaluate the global economic system and present-day conceptions of...
  • November 30, 2007
    Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) discusses the relationship between faith, hope, and redemption. It begins with a meditation on a passage from Saint Paul to the Romans, "Spe Salvi facti sumus," (Rom 8:24) meaning "in hope we were saved." Pope Benedict XVI then considers the complementary individual and social components of salvation. After an evaluation of the post-Enlightenment world's hope in finding redemption through political and social revolutions based on...
  • November 14, 2006
    This letter attempts to provide guidelines for pastors seeking to address homosexuality within their community, while also reflecting more broadly on sexual orientation and behavior. The document begins with the premise that a posture of acceptance and openness must be the first principle when approaching the subject of human sexuality. The bishops affirm the goodness of properly ordered sexuality, the dignity of all humans regardless of orientation, and decry homophobic discrimination. The...
  • January 25, 2006
    An encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI meditating on the nature of love, Deus Caritas Est defends a concept of love that integrates its possessive and faith-centered elements, declaring that one without the other constitutes an impoverishment of the love embodied in Jesus Christ. Charity is a manifestation of love and a fundamental part of the Catholic Church. The encyclical emphasizes that the Church should not become directly involved in political struggles over the establishment of a just...
  • June 29, 2004
    The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a detailed description of Catholic social teaching developed in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Connected to the dawn of the third millennium and Pope John Paul II's push for human rights throughout his papacy, the compendium seeks to first place mankind in relationship with God, and then detail how that relationship is lived out in a variety of social situations. The document addresses Catholic social doctrine in...
  • June 18, 2004
    This statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops vigorously promotes the responsibility of Catholics to engage American political life, and it pays particular attention to the issue of abortion. "Catholics in Political Life" emphasizes the traditional Christian reverence for human life, identifies abortion as an “objective evil,” and warns of the soteriological implications of particular acts that sin against the “common good.” This document is a response to a report by the...
  • May 31, 2004
    In this letter issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, outlines the Catholic Church's contemporary perspective on the role of women in society. The principle of "active collaboration" rests on the notion of complementary equality, which acknowledges both the fundamental differences between men and women and their shared humanity. Ratzinger uses the concept of covenant to illustrate the parallels between...
  • September 1, 2003
    Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility is the 2003 version of a series of documents published every four years by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholic teachings and political elections. Written in preparation for the 2004 election cycle, the document shies away from specific candidates or ballot initiatives, instead explaining and reflecting on Catholic social and moral teaching in order to inform Catholic voters' consciences. The first half...
  • July 31, 2003
    Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons is a Catholic document written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that reiterates and summarizes the essential points of Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality and same-sex unions. The "Considerations" express great worry over recent international trends towards granting legal recognition to homosexual unions and seek to articulate the proper response by the Catholic laity, in...
  • November 13, 2002
    This US bishops’ pastoral document addresses the topic of “the moral scandal of poverty” on both domestic and international levels. Recognizing the uncertainty that the Catholic Church faces as reports of widespread clerical abuse come to light, the bishops also note the vulnerability of children to widespread poverty as the result of globalization, violence, and corporate mismanagement. The document outlines the debilitating effect of contemporary worldwide economic need and the dearth of...
  • October 14, 2002
    In this press release, the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) and the Kenya Episcopal Conference (KEC) announce their joint initiative "Born to Live," designed to fight mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Kenya. The memorandum, signed by CMMB and KEC, enables CMMB to implement its prevention of mother-to-child transmission program into 41 hospitals, 94 health centers, and 276 dispensaries. Members express their belief that this faith-based partnership will significantly reduce HIV/AIDS...
  • November 20, 2001
    In this paper, Maryann Cusimano Love discusses the gaps created by capitalism and globalization, including those of capacity, participation, jurisdiction, legitimacy, and ethics. She asks whether religious institutions, commonly described in political science literature as sources of conflict, can help to bridge these gaps. She focuses on the institutions of the US Catholic Church and their ability to alleviate discrepancies caused by globalization. This paper was presented at the American...
  • June 15, 2001
    In "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a moral and ethical perspective on an issue that is often dominated by scientific, economic, and political factors. The bishops emphasize care for the environment as essential to addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable, especially on a global scale. Catholic social teaching calls for stewardship and respect for the common good, allowing all the...
  • April 22, 2001
    Jointly issued by the Conference of European Churches and the Roman Catholic Council of European Bishops' Conferences, the Charta Oecumenica outlines a set of common guidelines for promoting ecumenical dialogue. The first section asserts the fundamental unity of the church as expressed in the Nicene Creed. The second section describes various areas for joint action, including evangelism, prayer, and dialogue on theological and ethical issues. In the third section, the churches pledge support...
  • November 24, 1999
    Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium is the 1999 version of a series of documents promulgated every four years by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholic political life. Addressing both the upcoming 2000 election cycle and the new millennium in general, the document does not directly support any candidate or ballot initiative, but instead explains and reflects on Catholic social and moral teachings in order to help inform Catholic voters'...
  • November 18, 1999
    This pastoral statement published by the US Catholic bishops advocates a combination of charity and justice work in order to develop both a comprehensive social work program that addresses immediate instances of suffering and also reforms the system of inequality that creates them. The bishops promote a transformation within Catholic social teaching from theory into practice and suggest ways in which all members of society can serve the greater good and societal justice. The bishops...
  • September 1, 1999
    "From Newcomers to Citizens: All Come Bearing Gifts" is a statement on migration issued by the Committee on Migration of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (the precursor of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). The first half of the short document advocates for the fair and right treatment of immigrants to the United States, condemning proposed restrictions to obtaining citizenship and supporting birthright citizenship for the American-born children of non-citizens. The...
  • November 18, 1998
    This statement was approved during the semi-annual General Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and calls on American Catholics to use political pressure to combat abortion and euthanasia as part of a consistent reverence for human life. In it, the bishops exercise their role as pastors and teachers, affirming a “Gospel of Life.” While the enterprising American spirit has elevated the United States to a special position within the global community, the nation’s rapid...
  • September 14, 1998
    Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, addresses the essential complementary relationship between faith and reason. Arguing that faith without reason is mere superstition and that reason without faith devolves to relativism and meaninglessness, the pope claims that the truth that both faith and reason seek can be reached only when they work together to understand the world and higher things. John Paul also suggests that modern moral decline and other social...
  • June 19, 1998
    This publication is a summary report of the US Bishops’ Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education, which is broken up into two discrete documents—the bishops’ statement and the task force’s analysis. The bishops’ statement seeks to combine the two traditions of education and social engagement, in order to promote a universal recognition of human dignity and collective flourishing. The Catholic social program is based on a vision of the human person as imago Dei, and...
  • December 10, 1996
    Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with Vatican officials, Inside the Vatican affords a firsthand look at the people, the politics, and the organization behind the institution. He gives an account of how popes are elected and bishops appointed, how dissident theologians are disciplined, and civil authorities dealt with. Throughout, anecdotes from church history and the present day bring the unique culture of the Vatican to life. Reese provides details on everything from the mundane...
  • March 1, 1996
    In the wake of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 visit to the United States, the US bishops framed their letter as a call to American voters to effectively exercise their freedom for the moral well-being of their fellows. American Catholics are called in a particular way to infuse the democratic process with the wealth of wisdom and virtue that their religion brings to bear in the public arena. Issues include abortion and poverty, the role of the family, and the balance between environmental and...
  • May 25, 1995
    Ut Unum Sint, an ecumenical encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, reiterates the Second Vatican Council's calls for dialogue with other Christian churches and invites a reconsideration of the role of the papacy in the reunification of the Christian denominations. Notable for its highly personal language, the encyclical recounts John Paul's many pilgrimages to Protestant and Orthodox churches. He argues that the unity of the Christian faith is essential to Christ's mission of salvation, and...
  • March 25, 1995
    Issued in 1995, Evangelium Vitae articulates the Church's position on certain social issues related to the sanctity of human life. The encyclical reaffirms the Church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and artificial contraception, but it likewise addresses matters of economics as they relate to human life, connecting abortion's pervasiveness with a perception of the poor as burdensome. Respect for human dignity and dedication to human flourishing must be at the heart of any business...
  • January 1, 1994
    Follow the Way of Love is a 1994 pastoral message from the United States Catholic Bishops on the importance of the family in society, arguing that the family is the "first and most basic" unit of society and that it serves as a "sign of God's presence." The message, recognizing new challenges to the family in the modern world, emphasizes the importance of the family for fostering life, passing down faith and morality, and growing in love. The document concludes with a pledge between the...
  • August 6, 1993
    Veritatis Splendor is an encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the moral authority and truth of the Catholic Church. The pope condemns the modern adoption of moral relativism and the claim that the truth is unknowable as fundamentally toxic and dangerous for society, and argues that the Catholic Church possesses the authority to fully pronounce the truth on moral issues. John Paul also commends the protection of human freedom in recent times but expresses concern that the divorce of this human...
  • November 14, 1991
    A statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching" links concern for the environment with care for the poor and vulnerable. It highlights existing Catholic efforts to protect the environment before turning to reflect more extensively on the biblical vision of the created world. The bishops find that Catholic social teaching stresses respect for life, the ability to...
  • October 17, 1991
    This edition of the “Political Responsibility” series demonstrates a change in focus for the bishops from "Civil Rights" generally to "Discrimination and Racism" more specifically. The statement also builds on previous Catholic social teaching by underscoring organized labor’s rights to bargain collectively. The bishops also highlight the need for moral education in public schools and address euthanasia directly for the first time. Concern for international refugees, religious freedom,...
  • May 1, 1991
    Centesimus Annus, issued by Pope John Paul II on the hundredth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, reinterprets Catholic social teaching in light of immense geopolitical changes surrounding the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The encyclical cautions previously socialist Eastern European nations to remember that a free market must be meticulously regulated to prevent the worker exploitation, glorification of profit, and marginalization of the lower classes. Persons must be treated as...
  • December 7, 1990
    Redemptoris Missio is an encyclical of Pope John Paul II on the urgency and necessity for missionary activities and endeavors in the world. Upholding the universal importance of missionary activity for all Christians but recognizing its negative connotation in the multicultural and religiously tolerant modern world, the pope attempts to revive the missionary vitality of the Christian community while defending its intention. John Paul elaborates that Christian missionary activity does not...
  • October 12, 1987
    The bishops’ quadrennial letter on Catholic civic obligation, published in anticipation of the 1988 presidential election, addresses recent socio-economic developments in American life and attempts to provide moral guidance for action. It specifically discusses advances in medical and military technology and contemporary trends in US economic and international policy. While affirming the American separation of church and state, the bishops recognize that the two are intertwined, while...
  • June 30, 1987
    Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, released on the twentieth anniversary of Paul VI's Populorum Progressio, continues in the tradition of Catholic social teaching begun by Leo XIII and focuses on the notion of development, especially the influential, large-scale actions of nations and corporations. The accumulation of wealth in North America and Europe has led to an increasing disparity vis-à-vis poorer, developing nations in Africa and Latin America. The encyclical decries the fact that nations...
  • February 22, 1987
    Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life) is a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that offers specific replies to common questions about the Catholic Church's position on the dignity of human life. Composed in 1987 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, it attempts to apply general moral teachings of the Catholic Church to specific issues and concerns within biomedical ethics of the time. The document is divided into three parts: the first...
  • November 1, 1986
    Economic Justice for All is a pastoral letter on Catholic social teaching and the US economy promulgated by the Catholic bishops of the United States in November 1986. The letter challenges conventional views of the economy and justice as the bishops contend that the market economy must be tempered by a preferential option for the poor. They argue that although industrial expansion and technological progress are laudable, they must not be achieved at the expense of either the dignity of the...
  • March 22, 1984
    Political Responsibility: Choices for the ‘80s is the 1984 statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Board for American Catholic voters. While the bishops are edified at the apparent increase in voter engagement during the recent 1982 congressional elections, they are nevertheless concerned that the last presidential election turned out only 50 percent of eligible voters; they are particularly interested in promoting participation among traditionally...
  • October 22, 1983
    Charter of the Rights of the Family is a Vatican document drafted by the Pontifical Council for the Family that presents a set of fundamental rights that are inherent to all individuals, families, and societies, whether they be Christian or not. Instead of presenting new materials, the charter organizes a tradition of common human values present in the teachings of the Church. The rights that the charter proclaims, including the right to life, to marry freely, to raise a family, to decent...
  • May 3, 1983
    The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response is a pastoral letter on war and peace delivered by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on May 3rd, 1983. The congregation of American bishops (which would become the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) emphasized the Catholic Church's opposition to expanded nuclear armaments and proliferation legislation, instead calling for "a world freed of the nuclear threat." The letter also summarized Church positions on war, peace,...
  • November 19, 1981
    Health and Health Care is a pastoral letter published by the American Catholic Bishops that presents the Catholic Church's thoughts and position on health care in the United States. The letter consists of four parts: a discourse on theological and historical foundations of Catholic thought on health, a call for personal responsibility for health, a declaration of support for Catholic medical professionals, and a set of basic principles for public health care policy. Regarding public health...
  • September 14, 1981
    Issued by Pope John Paul II on the ninetieth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, Laborem Exercens expands and reshapes the corpus of twentieth century Catholic social teaching, calling for a renewed understanding of labor's role in human life. Tied intimately to human dignity and vocation, it is through labor that humans participate as co-creators with God and fulfill their intrinsic dignity as persons. John Paul emphasizes that labor must focus on the laborer, rather than only at the...
  • November 30, 1980
    Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) discusses the theological foundation of mercy and its place in responding to the challenges of modern life. Pope John Paul II first reviews the message of mercy preached by Jesus Christ before turning to the role of mercy in the Old Testament. He then examines the parable of the prodigal son as an analogy of divine mercy. The next section of the encyclical concentrates more deeply on God's mercy revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of...
  • November 15, 1979
    The US bishops’ statement on the eve of the 1980 election engages eligible voters in an effort to foster greater participation. The text echoes its 1976 predecessor's concern over voter abstention, which had grown over the previous decade. The bishops perceive a collective sense of disempowerment among American citizens, based on a lack of strong identification with traditional organizing principles. They link this to the psychological instability of rapid social change and the persistence of...
  • October 15, 1976
    Inter Insignores (Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood) is a document promulgated by the Holy See's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document addresses the "role of women in modern society and the Church," in particular the question of whether women should be allowed to become Catholic priests. Laying out its case with reference to scripture, the life of Christ, and the consistent traditions of the Church, the Congregation...
  • February 12, 1976
    Political Responsibility is the first of the quadrennial US bishops’ “voter guides” published prior to presidential elections. The document’s primary purpose is to encourage American Catholics to exercise their voting rights and participate in the electoral process. On the 200th anniversary of the founding of the republic, the bishops promote the symbiotic relationship between Roman Catholicism and American democracy, but they are concerned that citizens' political apathy threatens to erode...
  • December 29, 1975
    This statement published by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) was meant to clarify official Church teaching on a variety of sexual matters. The text begins by reaffirming the objective basis for moral theology and the ability to discern ethical norms using scripture and deductive reasoning. On the basis of applying biblical and natural principles, the statement investigates a variety of sexual acts that the CDF identifies as “intrinsically disordered.” These include...
  • May 14, 1971
    Octogesima Adveniens, an apostolic letter written by Pope Paul VI on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, represents a reformulation and expansion of the Catholic social teaching tradition in light of the events of the late 1960s. Paul's letter exhorts Catholics to be politically engaged, but it cautions that political action alone will not resolve the world's problems. The letter focuses on extending participation to include all members of society, sharing responsibility...
  • March 26, 1967
    Popolorum Progressio, released amid the tumultuous late 1960s, expresses Pope Paul VI's concerns regarding growing global inequality and the prevalence of dire poverty in the developing world in light of his own travels to Latin America and Europe. It links basic tenets of Christianity with the moral imperatives created by the unequal distribution of material resources. In addition, the encyclical decries the political instability and social conflict that often flow from such radically unjust...
  • November 21, 1964
    Issued by the Second Vatican Council, Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism) signals a shift in attitude towards ecumenical dialogue. The introduction begins by affirming the growing ecumenical impulse within Christianity as truly inspired by God. The first chapter outlines Roman Catholic principles on ecumenism, including the validity of apostolic succession and the imperfect communion which exists with non-Catholic believers. Chapter two then explores the practical forms of ecumenical...
  • August 6, 1964
    Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Paul VI's first encyclical, deals with the Church's approach to the modern world and articulates a vision for dialogue with both other religions and the world at large. Released on the eve of the final session of the Second Vatican Council, the encyclical exhorts Christians to develop a strong understanding of their own faith before they move into dialogue with the wider world. He emphasizes the importance of dialogue with other faiths, and, in a gesture to the later...
  • April 11, 1963
    Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII's final encyclical, reinterprets fundamental Christian precepts such as the dignity of the person and the inviolability of human rights and is the first encyclical addressed to "all men of good will." In it, John presses for an end to the Cold War and refutes the notion that Marxism is inherently antithetical to Christianity, but argues that its precepts frequently have been misinterpreted. John praises the progress of workers' rights, the emancipation of...
  • November 10, 1961
    In Aeterna Dei Sapientia (On Commemorating the Fifteenth Centennial of the Death of Pope Saint Leo I: The See of Peter as the Center of Christian Unity), Pope John XIII uses the story of Saint Leo I to guide discussions about Church unity taking place during the Second Vatican Council. It begins by tracing the life of Saint Leo I, who presided over the Council of Chalcedon and its "recognition of the magisterial primacy of the Roman Pontiff." The encyclical then addresses the topic of Church...
  • June 29, 1959
    Pope John XXIII's first encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram (To the Chair of Peter), is a warm and pastoral letter to the Catholic community on truth, unity, and peace, in a spirit of charity. The pope calls out ignorance of and indifference towards the truth as the cause of many of the world's social evils, and calls for modern communications and the press to remember their responsibility to report only the truth. Concurrently, the encyclical implores readers to seek greater unity between nations...
  • August 1, 1952
    Exsul Familia, an Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII, is considered a magisterial magna carta on migration that systematically lays outs the challenges of and principles for providing spiritual assistance to migrants. Holding up the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) as refugee archetypes, Pius XII first reviews the Church's past efforts, including care for pilgrims and pastoral ministry in diverse languages, as well as more recent work with immigrants to the Americas and across...
  • October 20, 1939
    Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Human Society) explores the need for the Christian message in a time of turmoil. It affirms the "supernatural brotherhood of peoples" despite the scourge of war and laments the unbelief that has contributed to widespread moral collapse. Pope Pius XII identifies two particularly dangerous errors. First, some deny the fundamental unity of humanity. Pius asserts that this unity is enriched, rather than threatened, by diversity in culture and economic...
  • March 19, 1937
    Divini Redemptoris, written in direct response to the increasingly severe persecution of Christians in Russia, explicitly condemns communism as a form of government. In unforgiving terms, Pius XI decries communism as inherently atheistic, intrinsically perverse, and wholly at odds with Christian teaching. The encyclical moreover charges that communism robs human persons of their dignity and strips them of their liberty. The scathing language is tempered only by the qualifier that the Roman...
  • March 10, 1937
    Mit Brennender Sorge denounces the government of National Socialism in Germany and was published just days before Divini Redemptoris, a similar condemnation of communism in Russia. In 1933, Pope Pius XI had negotiated a concordat with Germany, but Hitler failed to honor his commitments, so the pope's criticisms grew increasingly severe over the ensuing years, leading to the outright censure of the government. Pius XI argues that National Socialism is to be rejected both for its...
  • April 25, 1933
    This letter by the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC, the precursor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) was published during the heart of the Great Depression and addresses the socio-economic turmoil that had rocked the global community since World War I. It begins with a sober assessment of the causes and conditions of contemporary problems and discusses suspect social philosophies, such as modern individualism, which have fostered the rise of communism. The NCWC pays...
  • May 15, 1931
    Quadragesimo Anno, promulgated on the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum, seeks to clarify and expand upon the principles outlined in the latter, which it credits for the spread of regulation securing the rights of workers and the emergence of Catholic labor unions, among many other benefits. Writing amid the economic woes of the Great Depression, Pope Pius XI develops a doctrine that navigates a middle path between unregulated capitalism and socialist collectivism. He defends private...
  • December 12, 1930
    Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) by Pope Pius XI addresses Catholic teaching on marriage and procreation. The pope declares that marriage is a divine institution and uniquely suited to raising children.The encyclical also stresses the indissolubility and stability of marriage. Birth control is forbidden, for anything which "deliberately frustrate[s]" the procreative aspect of marital sex is unnatural and immoral; married couples who for "natural reasons either of time or of certain...
  • December 24, 1902
    Dum Multa (On Marriage Legislation) is a short encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on marriage legislation addressed to the Church in Ecuador but presenting a more universal argument able to be applied globally. The pope promotes the importance and sanctity of Christian marriage and condemns attempts to regulate and manage marriage by the civil authorities of the state. He also encourages Church officials and Catholics to continue to resist with zeal the encroachment of civil and secular authorities...
  • May 15, 1891
    Rerum Novarum is a foundational text in the history of Catholic social thought, establishing the position of the Church on issues pertaining to the proper relationship between capital and labor. The vision expounded by the encyclical emphasizes the duties and obligations that bind owners of capital and workers to each other. Throughout the encyclical, Pope Leo XIII articulates the inherent dignity of both labor and laborer, themes which will be taken up by successive popes in later...
  • December 7, 1884
    This pastoral is a general letter addressed to the American Catholic Church on occasion of the third assembly of US bishops and archbishops; it takes inventory of the Church’s growth in the United States and notes that this growth demands an expansion of Catholic infrastructure to minister to the needs of the community. Education is a primary concern, and the bishops show great concern about the influence of secularism, which threatens to remove religion from schools. The pastoral letter...
  • April 20, 1884
    Humanum Genus (Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry) condemns the secret society of Freemasons. It begins with a review of Augustine's "Two Cities" theology, arguing that the Freemasons are leading the earthly kingdom in a brazen attack against God and his Church. Leo then commends previous popes for warning about the threat of Freemasonry, for he claims the society is attempting "the utter overthrow of [the] whole religious and political order of the world" in favor of a system based...
  • June 29, 1881
    Diuturnum (On the Origin of Civil Power) outlines the "mutual rights and duties" of governments and citizens as understood in Catholic thought. The encyclical begins by establishing that God is the source of political authority, which citizens are called to obey. Concurrently, rulers must exercise their authority for the benefit of all, rather than solely for personal gain. Pope Leo XIII denounces the Reformation for creating civil-political chaos and creating space for the development of...
  • February 10, 1880
    Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) is an encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on the institution of marriage in the modern world, foreshadowing future encyclicals such as Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. The pope speaks of the historical and theological origins of marriage as well as detailing its corruption that led to divorce and remarriage. Defining the institution as that between two people, one man and one woman, he goes on to address the individual and social ills that occur when marriage is...
  • December 8, 1864
    Quanta Cura condemns what Pope Pius IX identified as the fundamental errors plaguing the modern age, particularly the shifting allegiance to secular rather than ecclesial authority. It denounces the separation of church and state, repudiates freedom of religious worship, and decries freedom of expression and the press as false and pernicious ideas. Pius IX warns that the spread of erroneous doctrines not only injures the faith of individual believers, but also leads to social disorder. The...
  • December 3, 1839
    In Supremo Apostolatus (Apostolic Letter condemning the slave trade), Pope Gregory XVI condemns the slave trade and the very institution of slavery. Gregory first outlines biblical injunctions concerning the master/slave relationship before declaring that true Christian charity demands the freeing of all in bondage. The encyclical then describes past papal denunciation of slavery, citing the writings of Pius II, Paul III, Benedict XIV, and Pius VII. It closes by again warning Christians to...
  • May 24, 1829
    The only encyclical of Pope Pius VIII, Traditi Humiliati focuses on reasserting the spiritual authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and highlighting heresies and threats to the Church. Pius condemns those who consider all religions equally efficacious, arguing that when religions disagree, they cannot all be true. Consequently, Church leaders must redouble their efforts to teach the "uniquely true" Catholic faith; Protestant attempts to disseminate new Bible translations are a dangerous...