Catholic Social Thought: Encyclicals and Documents from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis. David J. O’Brien and Thomas A. Shannon, eds. Third Revised Edition, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2017. Pp. 687. $40.00. ISBN: 9781626981997. Reviewed by Walter SISTO.


David J. O’Brien and Thomas A. Shannon’s book, Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage (2010)is the standard collection of Catholic social documents for English readers. Their new book updates the previous edition with a preface and the inclusion of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This new edition, however, oddly drops section five from the previous edition entitled, The U.S. Bishops and Catholic Social Teaching. The editors explain that this was necessary to shorten the text and keep it from being too heavy. At a remarkable 685 pages, dropping an additional hundred page section is understandable. This was perhaps the reason why the authors changed the subtitle to Encyclicals and Documents from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis from The Documentary Heritage. With exception to Justice in the World (Synod of Bishops, 1971) and Gaudium et Spes (Second Vatican Council, 1965), the book contains only papal encyclicals.
Despite this shortcoming of not including the US bishop’s contribution to Catholic social teaching, this text is foundational for Catholic social teaching. For readers who have not read the previous editions of Catholic Social Thought, I highly recommend that they purchase this book. This text not only contains all of the major papal encyclicals on Catholic social teaching, but an introduction prefaces each chapter that not only situates the encyclical in its historical context but also demonstrates how the document develops previous statements, as well as provides the general framework for the document. For this reason, this book is well-suited for an introductory course on Catholic social teaching or scholars interested in learning more about the Catholic tradition of social justice.

However, for readers who have the previous edition, there is little new in this book to warrant a fresh purchase. The new edition is a carbon copy of the previous edition with only a few pages of new text. Besides dropping the section on the US Bishops’s contribution to Catholic social teaching, this text includes a new encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This encyclical is significant for many reasons including that it addresses one of the most underrepresented themes in the Catholic social teaching tradition, ecology. (589) One cannot fully appreciate the breadth of Catholic social teaching without considering this document. Perhaps this document alone justifies this new edition. However, the official English translation of Laudato Si’ is readily available online at no cost.