Social teachings of Pope Pius XII

Social teachings of Pope Pius XII

Social teachings of Pope Pius XII refers to encyclicals, apostolic constitutions and speeches by Pope Pius XII on non-theological issues involving medicine, science, education, social justice, family and sexuality and occupations.

ocial teachings

Medical theology

Pius XII delivered numerous speeches to medical professionals and researchers. Pio XII, "Discorsi Ai Medici" compiles 700 pages of specific addresses. Pope Pius XII addressed doctors, nurses, midwives, to detail all aspects of rights and dignity of patients, medical responsibilities, moral implications of psychological illnesses and the uses of psycho pharmaca, but also issues of uses of medicine in terminally ill persons, medical lies in face of grave illness, and the rights of family members to make decisions against expert medical advice. Pope Pius XII went often new ways, thus he was first to determine that the use of pain medicine in terminally ill patients is justified, even if this may shorten the life of the patient, as long as life shortening is not the objective itself. [ [ Pope Pius XII, The Moral Limits of Medical Research and Treatment] .]

Other topics were the behaviour of medical doctors, facing pain and death, sterilisation, genetics, artificial insemination, painless child birth, the multiple moral aspects of developing medical technologies, morality in applied psychology, moral limits to medical research and treatment, and cancer treatment of children, and more.

exuality and conscience

Pope Pius XII fully accepted the rhythm method as a moral form of family planning, although only limited circumstances, within the context of family.Two speeches on October 29 1951, and November 26 1951: "Moral Questions Affecting Married Life": Addresses given to the Italian Catholic Union of midwives October 29 1951, and November 26 1951 to the National Congress of the Family Front and the Association of Large Families, National Catholic Welfare Conference, Washington, DC. Text of the speeches available from [ EWTN] or [] ] Some Catholics interpreted the 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI to allow moral use of the rhythm method,cite book | first=John | last=Kippley | coauthors=Sheila Kippley | year=1996 | title=The Art of Natural Family Planning | edition=4th Edition | publisher=The Couple to Couple League | location=Cincinnati, OH | id=ISBN 0-926412-13-2 | pages=231 ] and internal rulings of the Catholic Church in 1853 and 1880 [cite web | last = Pivarunas | first = Mark. A. | title = On the Question of Natural Family Planning | publisher = Religious Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI) | date = 2002-02-18 | url = | accessdate = 2007-06-03
cite journal | last = Harrison | first = Brian W. | title = Is Natural Family Planning a 'Heresy'? | journal = Living Tradition | issue = 103 | publisher = Roman Theological Forum | date = January 2003 | url =| accessdate = 2007-06-03
] stated that periodic abstinence was a moral way to avoid pregnancy. Some historians consider these two speeches by Pius XII to be the first explicit Church acceptance of the method.cite book | first=Marilyn | last=Shannon | year=2001 | title=A History of the Wife | edition=First edition | pages=p.307 | publisher=HarperCollins | location=New York | id=ISBN 0-06-019338-7 ]

In his speech to mid-wives, Pope Pius XII offered this understanding of sexual pleasures: "The Creator himself... established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation."

To Pius XII, "The conscience is the innermost and most secret nucleus of man. There he withdraws with his intellectual capacities into complete separation, alone with himself or better, alone with God, whose voice echoes in his conscience. There he decides over good or bad. There chooses between victory or defeat. The conscience is therefore, to use an old, venerable picture, a sanctuary, on whose entrance all must stop." [Radiomessaggio, La Coscienza Cristiana come oggetto della educazione, in Pio XII, Discorsi, Vol XIV, p. 20.] This respect applies to children and even more to adults: "It is correctly argued, that the true meaning of adult independence is not to be led like a little Child."

Vatican II picked up this quote on conscience from Pius XII verbatim in Lumen Gentium, and concluded: "By conscience, in a wonderful way, that law is recognized, which is fulfilled in the love of God and neighbour." [Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 16.] Since 1993, the Magisterium of the Church explicitly highlights this particular view of Pope Pius XII, quoting it as an element of the official Catholic Catechism. [cite web | year = 2000 | url= | title =#2362 | work =Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition | pages =Article 6: The Sixth Commandment | publisher =United States Catholic Conference | accessdate = 2008-02-10]

The Catholic Church's modern view on family planning was further developed in the 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" by Pope Paul VI [Pope Paul VI. (1968). "Humanae Vitae".] and in Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. [cite book | last = Pope John Paul II | title = Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body | publisher = Pauline Books and Media | date = September 2006 | id = ISBN 0-8198-7421-3 ]

Theology and Science

To Pius XII, science and religion were heavenly sisters, different manifestations of divine exactness, who could not possibly contradict each other over the long term [Discorsi E Radiomessaggi di sua Santita Pio XII, Vatican City, 1940, p407; Discorsi E Radiomessaggi di sua Santita Pio XII, Vatican City, 1942, p.52; Discorsi E Radiomessaggi di sua Santita Pio XII, Vatican City, 1946,p.89Discorsi E Radiomessaggi di sua Santita Pio XII, Vatican City, 1951, p.28.221.413.574 ] Regarding their relation, his advisor Professor Robert Leiber wrote: “"Pius XII was very careful not to close any doors prematurely. He was energetic on this point and regretted that in the case of Galileo.”" [Robert Leiber, Pius XII Stimmen der Zeit, November 1958 in Pius XII. Sagt, Frankfurt 1959, p.411 ] Preceding similar praises from Pope John Paul II in 1992, Pope Pius XII listed Galileo 1939 in his first speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to be among "“most audacious heroes of research…not afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way, nor fearful of the funereal monuments”" [Discourse of His Holiness Pope Pius XII given on 3rd December 1939 at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session of the Academy, Discourses of the Popes from Pius XI to John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences 1939-1986, Vatican City, p.34]

Pius commenting on “the state and nature of original matter” acknowledges that science declares this to be an “insoluble enigma” but continues, that “it seems that science of today, by going back in one leap millions of centuries, has succeeded in being witness to that primordial "Fiat Lux" when, out of nothing, there burst forth with matter a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and reunited in million of galaxies” ” [Discourse of His Holiness Pope Pius XII given on 3rd December 1939 at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session of the Academy, Discourses of the Popes from Pius XI to John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences 1939-1986, Vatican City, p.82.] Pius continued, that these facts need further investigation, and theories founded upon them need “new developments and proofs in order to offer a secure basis for reasoning”. [Discourse of His Holiness Pope Pius XII given on 3rd December 1939 at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session of the Academy, Discourses of the Popes from Pius XI to John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences 1939-1986, Vatican City, p.82]


In 1950, Pius XII promulgated "Humani Generis" which acknowledged that evolution might accurately describe the biological origins of human life, but at the same time criticized those who use it as a religion, who "imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution... explains the origin of all things". While "Humani Generis" was significant as the first occasion on which a pope explicitly addressed the topic of evolution at length, it did not represent a change in doctrine for the Roman Catholic Church. As early as 1868, Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, "the theory of Darwin, true or not, is not necessarily atheistic; on the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of divine providence and skill." [ [] Catholic Online] The encyclical issues a clear no to another scientific opinion popular at the time, polygenism," the scientific hypothesis that mankind descended from a group of original humans. [Pius XII, Enc.Humani Generis, 37]


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