While the term “social justice” means different things to different Christian and other religious organizations, an historic use of the concept in theological ethics was conjoined to a discussion of the common good that sought to explain the importance of private property, free enterprise, and the threat of big government.

On May 15, 1931, Pope Pius XI issued Quadragesimo anno (QA) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. As explained by Christine Fiber Hinze in a commentary of QA, Pope Pius XI has been credited with introducing the term “social justice” into the lexicon of Christian ethics. When Protestants started using the term will require more research, but the Catholic usage was fairly easy to trace.

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