Modern Encyclicals

  Jesus Heals

Part of the following is adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

RERUM NOVARUM. The encyclical issued by Leo XIII on 15 May 1891 De Conditione Opificum. Its purpose was to apply to the new conditions created by the Industrial Revolution the traditional Catholic teaching on the relationship of a man to his work, profit, masters, and servants. On the ground that society originated in the family, it 

proclaimed private property a natural right and

   condemned ‘socialism’ as infringing it.

It upheld wage-settlements by free agreement,

the rightfulness of combinations of workers or employers,

and above all the ideal of a just wage, defined as ‘enough to support the wage-earner in reasonable and frugal comfort’ with a family.

It maintained that the natural place of women was in the home.

It also emphasized the duty of the State to preserve justice and the responsibility of the Church in the moral aspects of employment.

This new concern of the Church for the condition of the workers was heralded as revolutionary and subversive of the established order; but the encyclical has since been widely acclaimed as among the most important modern pronouncements on social justice and has exercised wide influence. On 15 May 1931 Quadragesimo Anno (q.v.) was issued by Pius XI to mark its fortieth anniversary, and on 1 May 1991 John Paul II marked its hundredth anniversary with Centesimus Annus, which attacked the evils of both capitalism and Marxism.

Text in Acta Leonis XIII, 4 (1894), pp. 177–209. L’Enciclica Rerum Novarum: Testo autentico e redazioni preparatorie dai documenti originali, ed. G. Antonazzi (1957). Eng. tr. of text, with notes by J. Kirwan, pub. by the Catholic Truth Society (1983). Eng. tr. also conveniently pr. in D. J. O’Brien and T. A. Shannon (eds.), Catholic Social Thought (Maryknoll, NY, 1992), pp. 14–39. Text of ‘Centesimus Annus’ in AAS 83 (1991), pp. 793–867; Eng. tr. in D. J. O’Brien and T. A. Shannon, op. cit., pp. 439–88. A. Luciani (ed.), La ‘Rerum Novarum’ e il Problemi Sociali Oggi (Milan, 1991). P. Furlong and D. Curtis (eds.), The Church Faces the Modern World: Rerum Novarum and its Impact ([Scunthorpe] 1994).

QUADRAGESIMO ANNO. The encyclical letter of Pius XI, dated 15 May 1931, confirming and elaborating the theses of Rerum Novarum . Points especially stressed are:

the evil results of free competition and administrative centralization;

the incompatibility of strict Socialism with Catholicism;

and the need for a reorganization of society on the model of the ‘guild’ system.

Text in AAS 23 (1931), pp. 177–228. An Eng. tr. was pub. by the Catholic Truth Society under the title The Social Order [1931]; also in D. J. O’Brien and T. A. Shannon (eds.), Catholic Social Thought (Maryknoll, NY [1992]), pp. 42–79, with introd. pp. 40 f.


MATER et MAGISTRA (Mother and Teacher) -- Pope John XXIII, 1961
Applying the teachings of his predecessors to modern problems, and affirming the role of the Church as a teacher, and as a nurturing guardian of the poor and oppressed, John XXIII calls for

a greater awareness of the need for all peoples to live as one community with a common good.

Special attention is focused on the plight of the farmers and farm workers in depressed rural, agricultural economies.

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