Rerum Novarum

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Rerum Novarum (1891)
Stone Lectures (Princeton 1898)
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Quadragesimo Anno (1931)
Laborem Exercens (1981)
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Rerum Novarum (Translation: Of New Things) is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891.

Contents

[edit] Overview

Rerum Novarum was an open letter, passed to all bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes. Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler and Henry Edward Cardinal Manning were influential in its composition.

It discussed the relationships between government, business, labor, and the church. It supported the rights of labor to form unions, rejected socialism and affirmed private property rights.

Many of the positions in Rerum Novarum were supplemented by later encyclicals, in particular Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno (1931), John XXIII's Mater et Magistra (1961), and John Paul II's Centesimus Annus (1991).

[edit] Impact and legacy

  • The encyclical complemented Leo's other work during his papacy to modernize the Catholic Church and its hierarchy.
  • The encyclical is generally accepted to be the founding document of Christian Democracy.
  • In Belgium, it is commemorated annually on the Catholic liturgical feast of the Ascension (also a public Holiday there) by the Christian Labour Movement (which has a traditional link with the Christian Democrat parties), especially syndicalism, as a kind of counterpart to the mainly Socialist syndicalist Labour Day (also a public holiday in Belgium) on May 1.
  • The encyclical contains concepts that were later admired by and used by fascists[citation needed].

[edit] Highlights of the encyclical

Paragraph 19: The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.[1]

Paragraph 20:Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers - that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this - that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one's profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. "Behold, the hire of the laborers... which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?[2]


[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Catholic Social Teaching by Anthony Cooney, John, C. Medaille, Patrick Harrington (Editor). ISBN 0-9535077-6-9

[edit] External links

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Rerum Novarum

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