Catholic social teaching: a trickle-up response to poverty?

Patricia Kelly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, I offer a concise historical overview of the context in which Catholic Social Teaching developed. A necessarily brief account of nineteenth-century Social Catholics in France, Belgium, and the Rhineland demonstrates how three of the four principles of Catholic Social Teaching – solidarity, the common good, and human dignity – were already present in this endeavour. I then turn to the ideas of Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz, and his development of the concept of subsidiarity, which provides the fourth pillar of Catholic Social Teaching, differentiating it from broader Christian teachings to ‘do good’. Subsidiarity enables people and communities to pursue actions and policies which are best for them, thus providing a trickle-up response to poverty, environmental crises, and other socio-economic emergencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal for the Study of the Christian Church
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2023


  • Catholic social teaching
  • Social catholicism
  • Ketteler
  • Subsidiarity
  • Rerum Novarum
  • Cardijn


Dive into the research topics of 'Catholic social teaching: a trickle-up response to poverty?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this