Rorate Caeli

Catholic Social Teaching Did Not Begin Yesterday

Considerations of Catholic Social Teaching often seem to give the impression that it began with The Second Vatican Council, or at the very earliest with Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. 

No mention is made of the fact that Pope Leo XIII himself published several encyclicals on social matters before Rerum Novarum; perhaps because of a certain embarrassment with the model of Church-state relations in such encyclicals as Diuturnum and Immortale Dei. Much greater is the embarassment with the teachings of the popes of the High Middle Ages such as St. Gregory VII or Boniface VIII on the subordination of earthly power to the Church. All the more are we pleased to see that the recently founded website The Josias is an exception in this regard. Their latest reflection Can Catholics Accept the “Marriage Pledge”? refers to Popes St. Gelasius I, St. Gregory VII, Boniface VIII, St. Pius V, and Gregory XVI,  as well as more recent teachings, and applies them to a current question. The Church has indeed always taught on social matters, and it is necessary to draw on the whole breadth of her teachings in order to avoid a distorted understanding.