- Early ‘Social
Catholics’ include Felicite de Lamennais,
Frederic Ozanam, Philippe Bouchez (L’Avenir),
Franz von Baader, Bishop E. von Ketteler,
Cardinal Henry Manning.
- In 1891 Rerum
Novarum (Leo XIII) addresses the social
problem (the miserable conditions of the working
classes) caused by the Industrial Revolution. It
becomes the ‘Magna Carta’ for ‘Social
Catholicism’ and ‘Catholic Action’,
encouraging the development of pro-democratic
movements within the Church, and collaboration
with trades unions (but not strikes!). In
England the encyclical is anticipated,
interpreted and promoted by Cardinal Manning.
- In 1907 Leo’s
successor, Pope Pius X, initiates a campaign
against ‘Modernism’ (Catholic
liberalism), which casts a cloud of suspicion
over many lay-led democratic movements, such as
Marc Sangnier’s Le Sillon (The Furrow).
Catholic social thought continues to develop. France
and Belgium: Personalism and Young Christian
Workers. Germany: Centre Party and ‘Social
Realists’. America: John A. Ryan,
Catholic Worker, Southern Agrarians. Italy:
Christian Democrats. England: Catholic
Social Guild, Catholic Women’s League and
developments are taking place among the wider
Christian community in England, with the
Christendom Group, the Guild Socialists and
others, culminating in the work of J.H. Oldham,
John Macmurray, T.S. Eliot and Archbishop Temple
in the 1930s and 40s.
- In the 1920s and
30s, many of the more conservative-minded
Catholics are tempted to view Fascism
(Mussolini, Franco, Hitler) as a possible
alternative to Communism and Capitalism, because
it seems to be restoring order, opposing
individualism and big business. During the 1930s
a process of disillusionment sets in, as Fascism
begins to "show its teeth".
- In 1931 Pope Pius
XI condemns Socialism and Capitalism in Quadragesimo
Anno. This encyclical gives new
impetus to social Catholicism (trades unions,
family wage, subsidiarity). Fascism and racism
are similarly condemned in 1937.
- After the War,
Catholic thinkers are instrumental in laying the
foundations of the European Community and the
German Social Market economy - which, together
with the United Nations and NATO, are intended
to prevent the possibility of future World Wars.
- The Second Vatican
Council (1962-5) redefines the Catholic
understanding of the Church’s relationship
with the world, especially in Gaudium et Spes.
Gives new impetus to Christian democratic
movements, including Liberation Theology in
- The election of a
Polish Pope as John Paul II in 1978 precipitates
the collapse of Communism. He issues Centesimus
Annus (1991) as the culmination
of 100 years of Catholic Social teaching.
Following Paul VI (Evangelii Nuntiandi),
John Paul II incorporates Catholic Social
Teaching within a broader cultural critique (the
"culture of life") and pastoral
strategy (the "new evangelization").