Journal of Catholic Social Thought

Volume 19, Issue 2, Summer 2022

Charles E. Curran
Pages 181-203

Pope Francis’s Social Encyclicals and the Social Teaching of the Church

Pope Francis’s two encyclicals—Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti—belong to the tradition of Catholic social teaching that began in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum. There have been continuities and discontinuities within the tradition of Catholic social teaching, but there has been a tendency to downplay the discontinuities. Francis’s two encyclicals show both discontinuities and continuities with the earlier documents. The final section criticizes these two encyclicals as being too overly optimistic in their approach to solving the problems facing the environment and the social, political, and economic orders.