The Purpose of the Social Teaching of The Church
Fragment of the document produced by the Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It belongs to article one: The nature of the social teaching of the Church of the Compendium of Social Doctrine.

Author: François-Xavier Nguyên Cardinal Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace | Source:

25. The Church has no models to propose. Real and truly effective models can be born only from the various historical situations, thanks to the efforts of all those responsible to face the specific problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects that are relate to each other (cf. GS, N. 36; Octogesima Adveniens, nn. 2-5). For this purpose, the Church offers, as an ideal and indispensable orientation, the social doctrine itself, which, as it is said, recognizes the positivity of the market and the company, but at the same time indicates that they must be oriented towards the common good. 

(Centesimus Annus, N. 43) 


26. The Church's social teaching contains a body of doctrine articulated as the Church interprets events throughout history, in light of the word revealed by Jesus Christ and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (SRS, N. 1). This teaching will be all the more acceptable to men of goodwill the more the behavior of the faithful inspires. 

(CIC, N. 2422) 


27. It may, however, sometimes occur that, when it comes to applying the principles, divergences still arise between Catholics of sincere intent. When this happens, try to observe and witness mutual esteem and reciprocal respect, and at the same time examine the points of coincidence to which all can arrive, in order to carry out in a timely manner whatever needs are requested. They must also be careful not to squander their energies in endless discussions, and, on the pretext of the best, do not neglect to carry out the good that is possible and therefore obligatory. 

(Mater et Magista, N. 238) 


28. The Church does not propose a philosophy of its own or canonize a particular philosophy with the detriment of others. The profound reason for this caution lies in the fact that philosophy, even when it relates to theology, must proceed according to its methods and its rules; otherwise, there would be no guarantee that it would remain truth oriented, tending to it with a rationally controllable procedure. Of little help would be a philosophy that did not appropriate in the light of reason according to its own specific principles and methodologies. Basically, the root of the autonomy enjoyed by philosophy lies in the fact that reason is by nature oriented towards truth and counts in itself with the means necessary to achieve it. A conscious philosophy of this "constitutive statute" also necessarily respects the demands and evidences of the revealed truth. 

(Fides et Ratio, N. 49) 


29. The social doctrine of the Church was developed during the nineteenth century, when there was a meeting between the Gospel and modern industrial society, with its new structures for the production of consumer goods, its new conception of society, the State and authority, its new forms of work and property. The development of the Church's doctrine in economic and social matters testifies to the permanent value of the teaching of the Church, at the same time, it gives the true meaning of its always alive and active Tradition (cf. CA, N. 3). 

(CIC, N. 2421) 


30. The social doctrine of the Church is therefore not a "third way" between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, and not even a possible alternative to other solutions that are less radically counter posed, but which has its own category. It is not an ideology either, but the careful formulation of the result of a thoughtful reflection on the complex realities of man's life in society and in the international context, in the light of faith and the ecclesial tradition. Its main objective is to interpret these realities, examining their conformity or difference with what the Gospel teaches about man and his earthly and, at the same time, transcendent vocation to orient Christian behavior accordingly. Therefore, it does not belong to the realm of ideology, but to theology and especially moral theology. 

(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, N. 41)


31. It is true that the Church was not obliged to direct men to happiness exclusively outdated and temporal, but to eternal; Moreover, "the Church considers improper to interfere without reason in these land matters" (Ubi Arcane Dei Council, N. 65). But it cannot in any way renounce to the task, to her entrusted by God, to bring her authority, not certainly in technical matters, for which it does not have the appropriate means nor its task, but in all those that refer to the moral. With regard to these things, the deposit of the truth, to us entrusted by God, and the very serious duty to divulge, to interpret and even to urge opportunely and unobtrusively all the moral law, submits and subject to our supreme judgment both the order of the social things how much of the same economic things. 

(Quadragesimo Anno, N. 41) 


32. The social doctrine, especially nowadays, looks at man, inserted in the complex plot of relations of modern society. The human sciences and philosophy help to interpret the centrality of man in society and to make him able to understand himself better, as a "social being". However, only faith fully reveals his true identity, and it is precisely from her that the doctrine begins. 

(Centesimus Annus, N. 54) 



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