Catholicism`s Developing Social Teaching

Reflections on Rerum Novarum and Centesimus Annus

Автор(и) : Robert A. Sirico

Издател : Action Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

Място на издаване : New York, USA

Година на издаване : 1992

ISBN : 1-880595-21-4

Брой страници : 47

Език : английски


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The latter part of the 19th century saw momentous changes brought on by the industrial Revolution. In an attempt to bring to bear the insights of transcendent faith on real-world matters, Pope Leo XIII, who reigned from 1878 to 1903, penned an encyclical letter that would become known as the Magna Carta of Catholic social teaching. The revolutionary changes Leo witnessed had transformed the social and technological patterns of European life and were the immediate occasion for his letter Rerum Novarum in May 1891.
Rerum Novarum was the first of the modern social encyclicals. While certain foundational moral teachings are expressed in these documents, much of what they deal with are matters of a contingent and prudential nature.
The student of Catholic social teaching will therefore note that it is dynamic and always subject to development. In honor of the centenary of Leo’s encyclical, Pope John Paul II declared 1991 a Year of Church Social Teaching and issued a ground-breaking new encyclical, Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year), which represents a dramatic development in the encyclical tradition in favor of the free economy.
I set out to examine Rerum Novarum with a somewhat focused intention, in order to provide a backdrop for understanding how momentous the appearance of Centesimus Annus is. It is not so much my goal to write here as a theologian, but rather as a student of what Ludwig von Mises called “the forces that bring society into existence,” namely the activities of the free market. There will, of course, be a theological dimension to these remarks, and to that extent I write with an awareness of the ecumenical setting of today’s religious dialogue, and the desire of all people of goodwill to learn how to build a society that is just, free, and prosperous.

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