Special Issue "Social Welfare and Catholic Social Teaching"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 September 2022 | Viewed by 1098

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Miguel Glatzer
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Political Science, La Salle University, 1900 West Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19141, USA
Interests: social welfare; religion and politics; immigration politics
Prof. Dr. Paul Christopher Manuel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Government, School of Public Affairs, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Interests: religion and politics; transnational relations; Catholic Church; democratization

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle depicts the inhumanity faced by immigrants in many American cities, with a focus on the meat industry in Chicago. In gripping detail, Sinclair decries the harsh conditions, destitute conditions and lack of hope faced by immigrants. One direct result of this work was the 1906 passage of the Meat Inspection Act, designed to clean up the meat packing industry. 

Fifteen years prior to the Jungle, Pope Leo XIII encouraged Roman Catholics and all people of good will to think about the suffering of the working poor in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (Of New Things).  In the face of the many dehumanizing effects of industrialization, Pope Leo XIII, for the first time, linked moral theology to economic conditions, eventually leading to the Catholic notion of structural sin. 

Now considered the founding document of Catholic Social Teaching, subsequent popes further deepened the theological moral thinking and practical applications of Rerum Novarum. Landmark documents include Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (1931), John XXIII's Mater et Magistra (1961) and John Paul II's Centesimus Annus (1991). 

Combined, the 120 year development of this social and moral teaching, as detailed in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, holds that; 

301. The rights of workers, like all other rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity. The Church's social Magisterium has seen fit to list some of these rights, in the hope that they will be recognized in juridical systems: the right to a just wage; [651] the right to rest; [652] the right “to a working environment and to manufacturing processes which are not harmful to the workers' physical health or to their moral integrity”; [653] the right that one's personality in the workplace should be safeguarded “without suffering any affront to one's conscience or personal dignity”; [654] the right to appropriate subsidies that are necessary for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families; [655] the right to a pension and to insurance for old age, sickness, and in case of work-related accidents; [656] the right to social security connected with maternity; [657] the right to assemble and form associations. [658] These rights are often infringed, as is confirmed by the sad fact of workers who are underpaid and without protection or adequate representation. It often happens that work conditions for men, women and children, especially in developing countries, are so inhumane that they are an offence to their dignity and compromise their health.

And yet, the actual application of this moral and social teaching has been uneven, inconsistent, and contradictory over the past 120 years.  This contradiction can be clearly seen in the United States during the Great Depression: whereas Dorothy Day built her workers movement around Catholic social teaching, conservative anti-New deal Catholic preachers like Father Charles Coughlin railed against the New Deal on the radio.  Likewise, the Catholic Church in Europe and in Latin America, under the guise of anti-communism, often allied itself with anti-democratic regimes that restricted trade unions, sided with economic elites and did little to promote redistribution or the betterment of the poor and working class. The development of the so-called “third way” of corporatism (with capitalism and communism as the other ways) in Iberia and Latin America was a failure from the point of view of social rights and equity and left a large percentage of the population unprotected. 

Although corporal acts of mercy are integral to the Catholic faith, Catholic social teaching has a mixed and contradictory practical record since the articulation of Rerum Novarum.

For this Special Issue of Religions, we are soliciting submissions that will individually address specific practical aspects of Church teaching on the need to provide for the poor.  We wonder what actual policy differences this teaching has made. What have been the successes and the failures? What are the long-term perspectives for this teaching?  We are particularly interested in (1) a mix of country or regional articles (the Catholic Church and social welfare in Communist Eastern Europe; the Catholic Church and social welfare in the US; in Latin America, etc.); (2) thematic articles on topics like the Catholic Church and old age, disability, unemployment, inequality, dignity at work; (3) examinations of movements such as ecclesial base communities (comunidades eclesiales de base) and liberation theology; and (4) articles that examine tensions within the church regarding the development of Catholic social teaching and its prominence among other church goals, and interactions with the secular welfare state.


Glatzer, Miguel and Paul Manuel. 2020. Faith-Based Institutions and Social Welfare in Eastern Europe. New York: Palgrave.

Manuel, Paul, and Miguel Glatzer. 2019. Faith-Based Institutions and Social Welfare in Western Europe. New York: Palgrave.

Prof. Dr. Miguel Glatzer
Prof. Dr. Paul Christopher Manuel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • social welfare
  • Catholic Social Teaching
  • church and state

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Social Welfare and Catholic Social Teaching: Foundational Theological Principles for Case Studies
Religions 2021, 12(5), 288; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050288 - 21 Apr 2021
Viewed by 604
For well over a century, Catholic social teaching has advocated for generous social welfare policies that assist members of poor and marginalized communities. Efforts to understand and describe the shape and influence of these advocacy endeavors, naturally conducted primarily by social scientists and [...] Read more.
For well over a century, Catholic social teaching has advocated for generous social welfare policies that assist members of poor and marginalized communities. Efforts to understand and describe the shape and influence of these advocacy endeavors, naturally conducted primarily by social scientists and historians of policy, must be grounded in foundational theological considerations, as well as an appreciation of recent church history. Among the topics of central relevance are the tensions within these teachings between: (1) engagement and intervention; (2) key contending metaphors, such as “blueprint” and “yardstick”; and (3) the interplay between universal principles and local applications. Only by first appreciating these tensions in their historical and theological dimensions may a fully adequate portrayal of the purpose and influence of Catholic social teaching emerge, even if a significant share of these tensions remains ultimately unresolved. Clarifying these key issues in the developing self-awareness of Catholic social teaching enhances our ability to chart a course forward regarding the prospect of fostering social change, even within highly challenging pluralistic contexts. Adhering to hard-won lessons from past social involvements will allow Catholicism to retain its constructive influence on future social welfare policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Welfare and Catholic Social Teaching)
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