Mater et Magistra Notable quotations

We must reaffirm most strongly that this Catholic social doctrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life. (#222)

Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher)

Individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution. That is necessarily so, for men are by nature social beings. This fact must be recognized, as also the fact that they are raised in the plan of Providence to an order of reality which is above nature. (#219)


Wherefore, whatever the progress in technology and economic life, there can be neither justice nor peace in the world, so long as men fail to realize how great is their dignity; for they have been created by God and are His children. (#215)


The economic prosperity of any people is to be assessed not so much from the sum total of goods and wealth possessed as from the distribution of goods according to norms of justice. (#74)


It is necessary that public authorities have a correct understanding of the common good. This embraces the sum total of those conditions of social living, whereby people are enabled more fully and more readily to achieve their own perfection. (#65)


One may not take as the ultimate criteria in economic life the interests of individuals or organized groups, nor unregulated competition, nor excessive power on the part of the wealthy, nor the vain honor of the nation or its desire for domination, nor anything of this sort. Rather, it is necessary that economic undertaking be governed by justice and charity as the principal laws of social life. (#38-39)


The remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfill their family obligations in a worthy manner. (#71)


… the principle laid down by our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, in the Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno, should be borne in mind: “It is totally false to ascribe to a single factor of production what is in fact produced by joint activity; and it is completely unjust for one factor to arrogate to itself what is produced, ignoring what has been contributed by other factors.” (#76)


There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice.

  • First, one reviews the concrete situation;
  • Secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles;
  • Thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles.These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: observe, judge, act. (#236)


If the organization and structure of economic life be such that the human dignity of workers is compromised, or their sense of responsibility is weakened, or their freedom of action is removed, then we judge such an economic order to be unjust, even though it produces a vast amount of goods, whose distribution conforms to the norms of justice and equity. (#83)

It is not enough merely to formulate a social doctrine. It must be translated into reality. And this is particularly true of the Church’s social doctrine, the light of which is Truth, Justice its objective, and Love its driving force. (#226)

It is therefore our urgent desire that this doctrine be studied more and more. First of all it should be taught as part of the daily curriculum in Catholic schools of every kind, particularly seminaries, …. We would also like to see it added to the religious instruction programs of parishes …. it must be spread by every modern means at our disposal: daily newspapers, periodicals, popular and scientific publications, radio and television. (#223)

We must reaffirm most strongly that this Catholic social doctrine is an integral part of the Christian conception of life. (#222)

As for the State, its whole raison d’être is the realization of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters. On the contrary, it must do all in its power to promote the production of a sufficient supply of material goods, “the use of which is necessary for the practice of virtue.” It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the workingman. (#20)

As regards taxation, assessment according to ability to pay is fundamental to a just and equitable system.) (#132)

It is especially desirable today that workers gradually come to share in the ownership of their company, by ways and in the manner that seem most suitable. For today, even more than in the time of Our Predecessor, “every effort must be made that at least in future a just share only of the fruits of production be permitted to accumulate in the hands of the wealthy, and that an ample sufficiency be supplied to the workers.” (#77)

The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist. (#157)

Our predecessors have always taught that in the right of private property there is rooted a social responsibility. (#119)

As Our Predecessor Pius XII so rightly affirmed: The dignity of the human person “normally demands the right to the use of the goods of the earth, to which corresponds the fundamental obligation of granting an opportunity to possess property to all if possible.” This demand arises from the moral dignity of work. It also guarantees “the conservation and perfection of a social order which makes possible a secure, even if modest, property to all classes of people.” (#114)

Certainly one of the principal characteristics which seem to be typical of our age is an increase in social relationships, in those mutual ties, that is, which grow daily more numerous and which have led to the introduction of many and varied forms of associations in the lives and activities of citizens, and to their acceptance within our legal framework. Scientific and technical progress, greater productive efficiency and a higher standard of living are among the many present-day factors which would seem to have contributed to this trend. (#59)

The Church today is faced with an immense task: to humanize and to Christianize this modern civilization of ours. The continued development of this civilization, indeed its very survival, demand and insist that the Church do her part in the world. … In conducting their human affairs to the best of their ability, the laity must recognize that they are doing a service to humanity, in intimate union with God through Christ, and to God’s greater glory. And St. Paul insisted: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (#256)

Differences of opinion in the application of principles can sometimes arise even among sincere Catholics. When this happens, they should be careful not to lose their respect and esteem for each other. Instead, they should strive to find points of agreement for effective and suitable action, and not wear themselves out in interminable arguments, and, under pretext of the better or the best, omit to do the good that is possible and therefore obligatory. (#238)

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