Appeared in Winter 1991, Vol. XVII, No. 4
Christian experience and Christian doctrine have always had a social dimension. As a consequence there has always been a Christian social teaching, being nothing else than the attempt of men to live the occurrences of their everyday life in the social and economic sphere according to Christian faith and morality.
Nevertheless it is perhaps not entirely correct to say that there has always been Christian Social Doctrine.
As you know, it is a widespread claim that Christian Social Doctrine began with the great encyclical of Leo XIII Rerum Novarum, whose centenary was celebrated by John Paul II with the new encyclical Centesimus Annus.
Christian Social Doctrine is not immediately the same as christian social teaching. the doctrine is rather a specific, scientific elaboration of the teaching. It is developed when the application of the teaching to a changing and more and more complicated reality becomes problematic. The foundations of Christian social teaching lay in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in Christian anthropology. They are rooted therefore in the very trinitarian life of God and are not subject to change.
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