Catholic social teaching has been the subject of debate among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for over a century. Some laissez-faire-oriented economists find that ideas found in the papal social encyclicals are at times in tension with economic laws. This article analyzes the development of economic understanding in the social encyclicals as it pertains to labor concerns. Specifically, it seeks to demonstrate that the encyclicals shift from a one-sided emphasis on employers’ responsibilities in providing just economic outcomes (supply side) to a greater emphasis on the role of consumers (demand side) in more recent encyclicals. This development in economic understanding has helped to relieve some of the friction between the encyclicals and economic law. Indeed, future encyclicals could further mitigate tensions by explicitly acknowledging how both supply and demand factors must be taken into account if socioeconomic goals are to be achieved.
Stephen P. Barrows, "Labor Economics and the Development of Papal Social Encyclicals," Journal of Markets & Morality 14, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 7-22