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The Great Coherency: Leonine Social Teaching

A day-long intellectual retreat on the four encyclicals by Leo XIII and his student Pius XI with Russell Hittinger (University of Tulsa)

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The Great Coherency: Leonine Social Teaching
The Great Coherency: Leonine Social Teaching

Time & Location

Apr 23, 2022, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM PDT

Sheraton Palo Alto, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301, USA

About the Event

Anyone seeking to find a meaningful career and benefit society through their work and family life must first ask fundamental questions about what constitutes the good for a community. To that end the Catholic Church has issued multiple encyclicals on social doctrine over the last two centuries. Yet as these encyclicals have increased the breadth of topics they cover, it has become difficult to grasp their practical import. Some theologians have speculated that the encyclical format is now exhausted and even gone so far as to argue that Catholic social doctrine has become inconsistent or incoherent. Yet a closer look at earlier encyclicals can elucidate their cogent vision and practical teaching.

The Leonine era of social teaching has been called “the great coherency.”  Pope Leo XIII was born in 1810 and died in 1903.  Six popes came of age or were born during his pontificate:  Pius X (b. 1835), Benedict XIV (b. 1854), Pius XI (b. 1857), Pius XII (b. 1876), John XXIII (b. 1881), Paul VI (b. 1897).  During this period, the tradition of social teaching was carried over very successfully.  Except for Paul VI, who was a small child in 1897, these men knew Pope Leo. They shared a neo-scholastic approach to philosophy and theology. Moreover, all of them understood first-hand the social disorders that followed upon revolutions and wars.

For our day-long intellectual retreat, we will read four encyclicals by Leo XIII and his student Pius XI.  Each wrote a letter on the social order of marriage and family, and each wrote encyclicals on the duties of the civil society to the marriage, family, and the church.

Russell Hittinger is Professor Emeritus of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa and a Visiting Professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley). He has been a member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas since 2002, and was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science from 2010-2020.


  • Russell Hittinger, 'The Three Necessary Societies'
  • Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae
  • Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae
  • Pius XI, Casti Connubii
  • Pius XI, Divini redemptoris

Participants can download all the required readings HERE.

This seminar is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students. It is also open to professionals working in fields related to the seminar's topic.

Fees: To secure your place, please send a $20 nonrefundable deposit to the Zephyr Institute, via PayPal or check.

The deadline for registration is April 19th.

Image from here.

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