Third Report on the Social Doctrine of the Church in the World.


Publisher: Cantagalli

Third Report

on the Social Doctrine of the Church in the World

Edizioni Cantagalli, Siena 2011



The Institutional promoters of the Report

The 2011 Report was drafted by the International Observatory Cardinal Van Thuân on the Social Doctrine of the Church in collaboration with the Centro de Pensamiento Social Católico of the University San  Pablo of Arequipa (Peru), the Fundación Pablo VI of Madrid and the Fondation de Service Politique in Paris. These institutions work together not only in drafting the Report, but likewise in its publication and diffusion.

Structure of the Report

This Third Report on the Social Doctrine of the Church in the World is the 2011 Report, but refers to 2010 and reviews the production, diffusion, reasearch and practical concretization of the Social Doctrine of the Church all over the world. The Report’s structure is articulated on purpose. First of all there is the ‘introductory Synthesis’, which is intended to be a sort of ‘taking stock’ of where we stand. This is an evaluation of how things went during the year under review (2010 in this case), what proved to be the strong points, what progress was made, as well as which difficulties had arisen and if there had been any cases of regression. This year’s introductory synthesis is entitled: “The Social Doctrine of the Church cannot be chained up. Witness, holiness and martyrdom”. This is followed by an analysis of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI signed by Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the president of the Observatory, and then comes the part of the report providing information about events and developments on all five continents, which constitutes the heftiest part of the document. The Report then pinpoints “the problem of the year” and examines it in detail. Chosen this year was the problem or issue of development in the light of Caritas in Veritate, and it was addressed in a lengthy interview with Prof. Simona Beretta. The Report ends with a chronology of main events, which proves useful in order to have an overview of the essential richness of what is done in the world, and can also serve as a research tool at a later stage.

The Report’s core theses: the Social Doctrine of the Church is to be freed of its chains

During his apostolic visit to Portugal Benedict XVI voiced words we have adopted as the guiding thrust for this introductory Synthesis: “The word of God cannot be chained up! (2 Tm 2:9). The Social Doctrine of the Church is not the Word of God in an immediate sense, and yet it is based on the Word of God and is both proclaimed and lived in the Church. We can therefore say this evocation also applies for the Social Doctrine of the Church: it cannot be chained up.

Looking back to 2010, the year to which this Report is dedicated, we realize that many are the chains that would keep the Social Doctrine of the Church in a sort of bondage. These are external chains and internal chains.

External changes can be seen in: the aggressive laicist culture that this year as well has most violently deployed efforts for the secularization of society not only from religion as such, but also from ethics and even ordinary common sense; the forces on the international level launching a brutal and ongoing attack against life and the family, fielding extensive means and resources so all countries would frame laws facilitating abortion and destroying the family; the cultural agencies that impose a single line of thought on themes such as individual liberty, relations between the sexes and the vision of procreation; the major economic interests and the limited Christian and ethical sensitivity evident in the management of corporations and finance, which perpetuate situations of poverty and sufferance. Described in the Report with great clarity and detail are many of these phenomena.   

There are also internal chains that prevent the Church and Catholics themselves from digesting the Church’s social doctrine in full and making it become a personal and community commitment. Internal chains, for example, are: the lack of attention to the Magisterium of the pope, which, with culpable negligence, is understood as but one possibility among others, with the ensuing risk that the light of truth being shined by Benedict XVI not nourish the workings of the faithful in the concreteness of daily life; the non-application to the Social Doctrine of the Church of the hermeneutic criterion suggested by Benedict XVI with respect to Vatican Council II, and hence the fact the people continue talking about two social doctrines, one pre-Conciliar and one post-Conciliar, thereby preventing the faithful from drawing upon a Social Doctrine of the Church seen in its completeness and entirely within the mainstream of tradition; the weakness and extemporaneous way people dedicate themselves to the Social Doctrine of the Church, which experiences periods of revival and others of abandonment; the secularization of the Social Doctrine of the Church which, with the excuse of turning it into a secular instrument of constructive discussion with one and all, is often presented as a human moral code and wisdom of this world, with the ensuing loss of its true reason for existing, which is the glory of God; the intellectualization of the Social Doctrine of the Church reduced to being the theme for debate at meetings and encounters among experts and not transmitted to the grassroots of the ecclesial community in a systematic manner, a manner vitally connected with itineraries of formation and Christian witness.