An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching



There is massive poverty in the world (see, but poverty is only one of a range of urgent social issues we must all be aware of, which include war and refugees, terrorism, water supply, health, the sex and drugs trade and environmental conservation. The list is daunting, but we do not need to despair. The situation is one that we can help to improve. This goes not only for the global picture, but even more for the local one. However, we can only make a contribution, whether at the local or at the global level, if we are prepared to do three things: (1) we must commit ourselves to making a difference; (2) we must analyse the situation as intelligently as we can; and (3) we must work together.

Why should non-Christians be interested in this course? Christians have developed a rich understanding of the human person, and of the central importance of love in the world, which many outside the Church find illuminating and helpful. In fact, the beauty of this teaching, when it is properly understood and applied, has attracted many people to Christianity. But you may find that you can agree with what Christianity says about human nature even if you are not prepared to accept its source as divine.


The Image of God, and Human Rights

Christianity says that each of us is made in the image of God, and is called to become God’s likeness: "My dear people, we are already the children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is" (1 John 3:1-2). Being an image of God, a child of God, each of us is loved by him. However far we stray, God wants us to return to him. Each of us has a destiny in God.

This means that every human being has equal dignity with every other, for each individual human life is directly related to God, as its source and cause, its end and destiny, regardless of the outward appearances of strength, beauty and intelligence. It was this valuation of all men and women as equally precious in the eyes of God that led – too slowly, no doubt – to the abolition of slavery in Europe, and eventually to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is hard to see how a claim to fundamental equality of all people could even be sustained without this belief, or something like it; for in every other way human beings are so very different from each other.

The Christian understanding of human existence is illuminated by the belief that God is a Trinity. God is one, and yet there are three "ways of being God", three divine "persons". This idea of "person" was originally derived from the theatre, where the persona was a mask that the actor wore to define his role on stage. Once it had been applied to God, it could also be developed in relation to human beings, who also exist as "actors" in a "drama", defined by their relationships with each other and to God, and by the actions which define their characters.

To be made in the image of God is to be not an actor but a character. It is to have freedom. The God in whose image we are made is love, because to say "Trinity" is to say love. The loving relationship of Father to Son and Son to Father, of Self to Other and Other to Self, is intrinsic to the divine nature. As spiritual beings, we know that only love can make our lives meaningful. We are called to a love which partakes in this perfect love of God, but love can always only be given freely: it can never be forced or programmed into us if it is to remain love. Thus we have to be free.

Being free we have responsibilities. We have duties, and we also have rights, starting with the right to life. Each of our rights corresponds to a duty: my duty to respect you is the same as your right to be respected by me.

Now none of the statements made above can be proved or disproved by science. Religious faith has often been held to conflict with reason. It should not. Truth is one, and there can be no conflict between scientific and religious truth, if both are true. Like reason, like philosophy, like science, faith is an attempt to conform oneself to reality, to what really is. This is what makes possible a genuine dialogue between theology and the social sciences.


Modern Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic social teaching is rooted in the Christian scriptures, developed in the light of experiences in many different cultures, and employs the insights of human wisdom and the sciences. Its content is summed up in the teaching of the Bishops and Popes, for example in a series of papal letters we call encyclicals ("circulars"), which are normally referred to by their Latin titles, based on the first few words of the text itself.

The most important of these in modern times, because it launched the development of modern Catholic social teaching, is called Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things"). Published by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, it is also sometimes known as "The Worker’s Charter". Later social encyclicals were often published to mark the various anniversaries of this document, right up to Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus ("One Hundred Years") in 1991.

The Church does not aim in these encyclicals to provide a model economic system for everyone to adopt, and it does not propose an "ideology". The Church’s social teaching belongs "to the field of theology, and particularly of moral theology" (John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis 41, Centesimus Annus 55 and Veritatis Splendor 99). What it does is give guidelines - in the sense of moral and philosophical principles, concerning, for example, the nature of justice, human fulfilment, good and evil, and virtuous living - that can help us to develop a social system more in accordance with God’s will.

As the Pope says: "The Church has no models to present; models that are real and effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with each other. For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation... towards the common good" (Centesimus Annus 43). "Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing socio-political realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect" (Centesimus Annus 46).

Rerum Novarum was issued by the Pope of the time in response to the crisis of capitalism in the nineteenth century. The terrible injustices and poverty resulting from the Industrial Revolution in Britain and Northern Europe provoked 19th-century thinkers such as Marx and Engels to promote a materialistic ideology known as communism, or socialism. Rerum Novarum, by contrast, condemned the injustices of early capitalism in the name of the Christian Gospel, and drew upon the Catholic tradition of social concern to provide the inspiration for a just social order in the modern world. It sought to understand human nature in the light of the Christian faith. As the Second Vatican Council was to proclaim roughly seventy years afterwards: "Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling" (Gaudium et Spes 22).

Today social conditions are very different from those in 1891, and we face a new set of challenges. The Church has tried to keep up to date in responding to them, but Catholics, like all those who want to help improve the world we live in, have a duty not to wait around passively expecting to be told what to do, but rather to take the best guidance they have been given and do something with it. It is up to us – not the Pope or the Bishops - to develop the ideas, the structures and organizations, the new legislation, the communities, the aid programmes or the businesses that will put these social principles into practice.


The Universal Basis of Morality

One thing that the Christian revelation confirms is what every religion and every human conscience speaks of in its own way, though they may disagree about details: a ‘Natural Law’ or pattern of good and evil that is built into our nature.

It was this pattern that Moses confirmed and codified in the form of the Ten Commandments for the Jewish people, and which Jesus expressed perfectly in his own life, showing us how to live the Commandments more successfully with the help of grace – as the saints have tried to do ever since. (The Sermon on the Mount can be read as Christ’s commentary on the Ten Commandments. We will explore this idea in Part Two.)

Conscience is the inner faculty by which we each try to judge between good and evil actions: it is not always correct, but it is the only path we can walk towards our best and truest self. That does not mean we can do just what we "feel" like doing. Part of what it means to follow our conscience is to educate this faculty by reading, praying, discerning - and by learning from our experience of making mistakes! (See Catechism, paras 1776-1802.)

One of the most interesting non-Christian approaches to the phenomenon of conscience is offered by the psychotherapist Viktor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (Perseus Publishing, 2000). There he writes: "What is disclosed to consciousness is something that is; however, what is revealed to conscience is not anything that is but, rather, something that ought to be" (p. 40). This "ought to be" is something concrete, something here-and-now, and conscience challenges us to make it real. Frankl also argues that, while it may not be tied to a particular form of religion, conscience is essentially a spiritual phenomenon: "it can only be fully understood as a phenomenon pointing to its own transcendent origin", a "transhuman dimension" (p. 61).

In his wonderful little book, The Abolition of Man (Fount paperbacks), C.S. Lewis shows how all the great world religions agree on the existence of this faculty, and even share many of the same moral precepts which are derived from it, although they give it different names – such as Rta in Hinduism and the Tao in Chinese philosophy ("the Way"):

"This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There never has been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world."

This is from the second chapter of The Abolition of Man. If you want to see how Lewis establishes this conclusion, read the book. For an online introduction to it see the following web-site: See also Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius/Family, 1999).


Freedom for Love

The question of conscience is closely related to that of freedom – which, as we saw, is an intrinsic part of our humanity. The modern world is often confused about "freedom", which has been turned into an absolute since the French Revolution. We all know that human freedom is in reality extremely limited. We do have a limited ability to choose between the alternative courses of action that our imagination presents to us, but when Christianity talks about freedom it generally means something much deeper than that: not simply the power to choose between two things, but the power to choose the right thing.

Normally we find it easy to choose the thing which will serve our own pleasure, but we find it hard or even impossible to choose something that may be better for others, or for the world as a whole, than for us. In a sense, then, no matter how many "consumer choices" we may be offered, we remain slaves to our desires. True freedom, which can be restored gradually with God’s help, after real inner struggle, is liberation from that slavery. This gives us a new power of being what we really want to become: better people, people worthy of love, worthy of the love that God has already given us. (On the two kinds of freedom, study the Catechism, paras 1730-1761. Also highly recommended is Servais Pinckaers OP, Morality: The Catholic View, St Augustine’s/St Austin Press, 2001.)

The Church tells us that there is an absolute; but it is not freedom. In fact freedom only exists for the sake of love: to make love possible. That is why Paul VI talked about building a "civilization of love". He did not mean a world in which everyone always loves one another: that would be an impossible task. He meant a world organized on the basis of the idea that freedom exists for the sake of love, instead of being organized by a consumerist idea of freedom. That is a much more manageable task, even if it is still very difficult.

We keep coming back to "love". But the word has been devalued by a million pop songs. What on earth does it really mean? For Christians, love is not to be defined mainly in words, but rather by pointing to the person and life of Christ. It means the giving of oneself to another, for the other’s sake. This is what lies at the heart of all the virtues that define what it is to live a good life, and live it well.

For a virtuous person, the other is never a "means to an end" (see Catechism, paras 1887-9.) We are so made, each of us and together, that our self-fulfilment and our happiness can only be achieved through some form of self-sacrifice. The Church refers to people who achieve this state as "saints". There is a task here for the academic disciplines. How are they going to define love, freedom and human purpose? Will they ignore them, or devalue them, or will they give them the central place they deserve?


Human Society

To be a person, to be called to love, implies that we are also part of a society. Persons do not exist in isolation. Not even God exists in isolation, because God is a Trinity of divine Persons. God is love because the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

If a civilization is what people make together, and culture is what they do together, society is how they are together – the way they organize themselves, the structures that channel their behaviour, the commitments they feel to each other, the traditions and groups they belong to. It is people in society that generate culture and make a civilization (although they may sometimes have to withdraw from society for a while to do it). They do so according to the values and beliefs that they possess and share.

Civil society is made up of a whole host of interpersonal relationships: friendships, free associations and groups with a common purpose. Political society is the way we maintain order among ourselves, through authorities, laws and so forth. Economic society is the way we organize our transactions - the exchange of goods within that society. The three domains are distinct, yet overlapping. All three are expressions of culture, just as much as the various works of art, buildings and scientific achievements that likewise manifest the values and core beliefs of the members of that society.

One social structure precedes all others: the family – of which the clan or tribe is an extension. Here we see the basis of civil society, because the first of all social units is that of mother and child, with the father in some kind of supporting or defending role. The rules governing these core relationships are among the most central in the way a society constitutes its identity, and any change in them has enormous repercussions.

Some modern philosophers (from Rousseau to Hobbes and Rawls) have tried to argue that society is based on an implicit contract by which human beings agree to live together in an ordered way for the sake of mutual advantage. Chaos would benefit no one for very long. But in fact we are born into a society, with very little freedom to do otherwise. There is no evidence that our society originated in a detached, rational agreement. The social tradition we belong to seems more appropriately described in terms of covenant.

A "covenant" is a mutual commitment that creates a unity of persons so close that it amounts to the constitution of a family. In a contract, each side agrees to do a certain thing, and when those promises are discharged the contract ceases. In a covenant, on the other hand, each side places his soul in the other’s power. A marriage vow, for example, is a covenant by which two people become one flesh. God is described in the OT of having "betrothed" himself to Israel. In the NT, that betrothal was consummated in the person of Christ, who was in his own Person the "marriage" of man and God, human and divine. The covenantal nature of human society is what makes us feel we "belong to" or "identify with" our people or our nation.

See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 2 (and para 2411)


The Common Good and Justice

To be made in the image of God is to made for a loving relationship with others. To love others is to serve them, to do them good. And because of the way we are made, to do good to others is often the best way of doing good to ourselves. So what we are doing is co-operating and working together to create something good for all of us, a society that we all enjoy living in, a common good. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church on community in paragraphs 1877 to 1948.)

The common good is that which is good for all, namely a set of social conditions that maximize the possibility of human fulfilment, both short- and long-term, bearing in mind what we believe about human beings, their equality and dignity, and the natural environment. Human fulfilment requires health, work, education, access, leisure, resources, security and many other things, which we define as human rights – starting with the right to life and to freedom of worship.

Through the enactment of laws these rights are enshrined and protected. But human laws, like the organization of society in general, may be just or unjust, fair or unfair. "Justice" is that state of social harmony in which the actions of each person best serve the common good. It concerns what is "owed": commutative justice is what each owes to others, legal what each owes the community, and distributive what the community owes to each, so that their human needs may be met.

Catholic social teaching is largely concerned with the question of justice. But justice is achieved by finding the right balance of solidarity (social charity, participation, mutual support) and subsidiarity (devolution of responsibility and authority). The "horizontal" social principle must be married with the "vertical".

The friendship, love or self-giving that unites a society cannot be based on domination and control. We want (and need) others to be themselves, not to be forced to receive whatever we intend to give them, as in a communist or fascist state. As we have already seen, love is a process of setting free, of creating the space for the other to be fully himself or herself.

Subsidiarity means that the effective power within a society must be exercised at the lowest and most local level compatible with the common good, so that each human being is rendered as free as possible to own his or her actions, or to take responsibility for what is done and not done. The common good requires, however, that decisions which affect many people are sometimes taken at a higher level. It is not always easy to judge which is the most suitable level or forum for such a decision.

The control on this is provided by solidarity, the spirit of unity that makes us respect and help one another, especially the poorest and the weakest (the "preferential option for the poor"). Once that spirit is lost, the balance between the vertical and horizontal is damaged: justice and the common good will falter and fail.

We can never build a "Utopia" that will ensure justice for all. We will always be in need of prophetic voices to denounce the evils that they see, and which call for urgent reform. And if we keep in mind the fundamental principles of social harmony, we can create checks and safeguards within the social structure that will help to minimize the possibility of corruption.


"Structures of Sin"

Christianity is not solely about peace, justice and the reform of society. It is about God’s glory and our salvation. Nevertheless, we are cut off from eternal life by what Christianity (in common with many religions) calls "sin", meaning by this an act or desire contrary to reason, truth and right conscience – that is, against both the eternal law of divine wisdom and the ultimate purpose of our existence (Catechism, para 1849). Sin is not, however, a purely individual matter: it has a social dimension (para 1869). It is that dimension which mainly concerns us in this course.

Pope John Paul II gave a profound "theological reading of modern problems" in the fifth chapter of his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987). In this he traced the relationship between personal sin and "social sin": the latter being the collective behaviour of social groups, including classes, nations or groups of nations, that together maintain a situation of injustice in existence. The precise responsibility for the injustice may be hard to identify, because in a sense it is shared or spread out among many individuals, none of whom may be aware of their role in maintaining the situation. None the less, it is important to remember that social groups and institutions per se cannot commit sin: social sin is rooted in the actions and decisions of individuals – including their refusal to act, perhaps through a sense of powerlessness, if not actual indifference.

These "structures of sin" created by a multitude of individual acts and decisions need to be identified and confronted. They need to be brought into the field of consciousness, before they can be changed or healed. Two forces in particular often lie behind them, the Pope says: the desire for profit and the desire for power. Profit and power are not bad in themselves, but the desire for them is disordered by the selfishness of sin. Christianity is not concerned here merely with the breaking of moral rules, but with something much deeper: with "the spiritual attitudes which define each individual’s relationship with self, with neighbour, with even the remotest human communities, and with nature itself" (SRS 38).

The mention of "nature" here is significant, for one of the ways in which we sin, often without realizing it, is by abusing our collective dominion over the rest of the natural world (SRS 29, 30), as though we had created it instead of simply being entrusted with it for the benefit of all – including future generations. We sin by polluting and despoiling the environment, by wasting natural resources, by cruelty to animals, and even by destroying whole species in our arrogant disregard.

With this in the background, the Pope calls for collective repentance and a radical change in behaviour: including the reform of the international trade system and the world monetary and financial system, of technology transfer and international organizations (SRS 43). According to the Catechism, unjust structures result from an "inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only the means for attaining it, or in viewing persons [whether the persons next door or persons in the developing world] as mere means to that end" (para 1887). The Pope and the Catholic Church are therefore calling us to inner and outer conversion, which includes an attack on the "structures of sin" at their very root, deep in the human soul.


The Commandments

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are seldom studied today. But the Catholic Catechism insists that they are the very foundation of Catholic social teaching. Why is this? In essence, it is because they are not merely an arbitrary set of rules, of do’s and don’ts, delivered to the ancient Jews by a jealous God. They correspond to the Natural Law that is the law by which we are made, and so they are valid for all time. They describe the patterns by which we should try build our society, if we want it to last and be happy.

You can think of the Commandments as like the structure of a building. The roof of this building, which shelters and protects it, and holds it together against the wild elements, is religion, and is described in the first three Commandments: love God before all else, worship him, and build your society around him. They correspond to the first of the two "Great Commandments" (Matthew 22:37-9): Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.

The other seven Commandments correspond to the second Great Commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself. They are like the pillars and walls that support the roof. You can’t truly be said to love the God you can’t see if you don’t love your neighbour that you can see. You have to love your neighbour as yourself. You have to serve the common good of all. These Commandments describe the different ways in which we need to serve the common good if we are to live together in harmony, to our mutual benefit.

The first of these seven "human" commandments is like the central pillar - or maybe the doorway - of the building. It is the respect we give to our parents and our tradition or our people. This is what preserves the "land", the nation, to which we belong. This is the way we enter the building and dwell in it. We receive the world in trust from our parents’ generation, and we must hand it on intact (or improved) to our children’s.

The next two Commandments describe the sacredness of life and marriage, the two after that the sacredness of property and truth. The final two Commandments reinforce these four by emphasizing the need to be content with what you have: in other words, to keep your own desires under control, so that envy and greed and resentment do not spring up like weeds in the house and destroy it.

Without religion, without worship of the divine principle enshrined in the first three Commandments, and the other seven that depend upon these, the likely result is that we will close in upon ourselves and look out for Number One. The Commandments are telling us that the real "Number One" is God, and only by putting him first will human beings find fulfilment and happiness.


The New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount

We all know, though, that living the Commandments is very difficult, if not impossible. We need divine help – which the theologians call "grace". Grace comes through Jesus Christ. He is at one and the same time the God we must love with all our heart and soul and mind, and the neighbour we must love as ourselves. Jesus lives the Commandments. In fact he is the only one who can live them perfectly. We can live them only by living in him, or by letting him live in us, as the saints try to do.

The "Decalogue" (Ten Commandments) represents the rules by which we are made. If it were not for them, we would not exist. They are revealed in this particular form in order to reorient or redirect us to our true end. The order of the Commandments corresponds to the necessary order of this reorientation, the order of charity. But the "New Law" of the Sermon on the Mount reveals the pattern of beatitude, the goal of human nature implicit in the Commandments, which is also the form of holiness. This crowns the Commandments and reveals the fulfilment for which they exist.

The Sermon on the Mount has been called a "self-portrait" of Jesus, in the sense that the pattern of holiness which it gives us is exemplified primarily in Jesus himself. Jesus himself is the Meek One, the Pure of Heart, the One who Mourns over Israel, the One who Hungers and Thirsts for Righteousness, and so on. Most preachers are in some degree hypocritical. They do not practice what they preach. Jesus is the exception.

As the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus is also the Law incarnate. He is in his own Person the goal of human existence. Theologians say that grace does not supplant or destroy the natural order, but rather integrates and assumes it. In the case of the natural law codified in the Commandments we can see this very well. Jesus brings a supernatural fulfilment of our natural yearnings for life and friendship and community and peace.

Those yearnings are reflected in the Decalogue but cannot be satisfied except in the life which is described in the Beatitudes. (Remember that "beatitude" means happiness.) Catholics believe that that life, which is both divine and human, natural and supernatural, is opened to us through the sacraments of the Church, which implant within us a receptivity adequate to the infinity of the gift.



The relevant papal encyclicals from Rerum Novarum to Centesimus Annus are referred to throughout this book, and many of them are summarized in the Appendices. (Some abbreviations are used: see footnote in Chapter 1.) The encyclicals are available from the Catholic Truth Society in London, and are also available on the Web (see below).

The other standard source of Catholic teaching is the revised edition of The Catechism of the Catholic Church (London: Geoffrey Chapman/Continuum, 1999). The sections most directly about CST will be found in Part Three. NB. A "Social Catechism" is in preparation and will be issued by the Holy See in the near future.

Other important documents include the teaching documents of the various Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, including the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, such as The Common Good (1996) and Vote for the Common Good (2001), as well as A Spirituality of Work (2001) from the Committee for the World of Work.


Anthologies of CST documents include:

M. Walsh and B. Davies, Proclaiming Justice and Peace: Papal Documents from Rerum Novarum through Centesimus Annus (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1991).

D.J. O’Brien and T.A. Shannon, Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992).

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, The Social Agenda: A Collection of Magisterial Texts (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000).



The most complete and rigorous studies of Catholic social teaching have been made by the Jesuit scholar, Fr Rodger Charles SJ. These provide the historical context for understanding the development of social doctrine:

Rodger Charles SJ, Christian Social Witness and Teaching, 2 vols (Gracewing)

Rodger Charles SJ, An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching and Study Guide (Family/Ignatius)

Rodger Charles SJ, The Social Teaching of Vatican II (Ignatius)



Rodger Charles SJ, An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching: A Study Guide (Family/Ignatius)

David Albert Jones OP, Living Life to the Full: An Introduction to the Moral and Social Teaching of the Catholic Church (Family/Ignatius)

Stratford Caldecott, Catholic Social Teaching: A Way In (CTS)


Some World Wide Web Resources

For the official Vatican website, containing all the recent documents:

The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Summa of St Thomas, and many other useful resources can be found at:

An impressive web-site produced by the Office for Social Justice of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis:

Busy Christian’s Guide to Catholic Social Teaching:

A site linked to the Catholic Worker Movement:

The home page of CAFOD, the Catholic charity for international aid:

A collection of interesting articles gathered by Michel Schooyans (University of Leuven) may be found at:

A web-site on the Common Good with a strongly interfaith flavour:


Further Study and Reflection

Carlo Caffara, Living in Christ: Fundamental Principles of Catholic Moral Teaching (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987) – esp. Chapter 5 on the Commandments.

Bruce Duncan, The Church’s Social Teaching: From Rerum Novarum to 1931 (N. Blackburn, Victoria: CollinsDove, 1991).

Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (Yale University Press, 1993).

Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Hymn of Freedom: Celebrating and Living the Eucharist (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997).

John Gray, Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment (London and New York: Routledge, 1993).

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (London: HarperCollins/Fount Paperbacks, 1st published 1943).

Kamran Mofid, Globalization for the Common Good (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 2001).

Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture (South Bend, IN: St Augustine’s Press, 1998).

Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance (University of Notre Dame Press, 1966).

Servais Pinckaers OP, The Sources of Christian Ethics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995) - see especially Chapter 6 on the Sermon on the Mount.

Servais Pinckaers OP, Morality: The Catholic View (South Bend, IN: St Augustine’s Press, 2001)

Patrick Riley, Civilizing Sex: Chastity and the Common Good (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000).

David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

E.F. Schumacher, Good Work (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979).

Mary Shivanandan, Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999).

Kenneth D. Whitehead (ed.), Marriage and the Common Good (South Bend: St Augustine’s Press, 2001)

Further reading on the Web concerning Civil Society in particular:

  1. For a liberal-democratic and secular point of view on the philosophical issues around civil or civic society, see For more on John Rawls particularly, see
  2. For a Catholic perspective on civil society, see the following online book from the American ‘Council for Research in Values and Philosophy’:
  3. For other useful articles on civil society family, law, etc., see the Discussion Papers of the ‘Canadian ‘Centre for Cultural Renewal’:
  4. Here is an informative article from New Zealand about marriage, civil society and the Common Good:
  5. Allan Carlson is the President of the ‘Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society’ ( Here is a useful article by him on the family as the basic unit of human society:


Additional Resources

One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Teaching


Outlines of Encyclicals

The Common Good