Prophet of the Christian Social Manifesto: Joseph Husslein, S.J., His Life, Work & Social Thought

Prophet of the Christian Social Manifesto: Joseph Husslein, S.J., His Life, Work & Social Thought

Prophet of the Christian Social Manifesto: Joseph Husslein, S.J., His Life, Work & Social Thought

Prophet of the Christian Social Manifesto: Joseph Husslein, S.J., His Life, Work & Social Thought

Excerpt

Joseph Husslein lived at his desk. He spent most of his waking hours with his pencils, carbon paper, and typewriter. Yet this quiet man, with no close friends, was driven by a vision that only the teachings of Christ could bring justice to humanity. From behind his desk, as he labored to explain, promote, and develop Christian teaching, Joseph Husslein tried to change the world.

Husslein saw the teachings of Christ as the only solution to the world's problems. As a Jesuit priest in the 1900s, he believed the Roman Catholic Church to be the true interpreter of the Christian message. Gifted with a German penchant for work, Husslein struggled by writing, editing, and organizing to spread the message of Roman Catholicism as the only antidote to the world's injustice .

Husslein lived at the convergence of several important developments for Roman Catholics. First, Pope Leo XIII made social justice a Catholic issue. In his 1891 encyclical letter, Rerum novarum, Leo XIII provided the catalyst, foundation, and approval for the development of modern Catholic social teaching. Prior to Rerum novarum social justice had been a peripheral issue for the Catholic Church.

Second, in the United States the Catholic population grew tremendously due to immigration. Many immigrants suffered under the social and economic injustices of the time. The American Church took up social issues in a sincere desire to help these Catholic immigrants and to keep them from leaving the Church to join socialist and radical groups. Third, in the early 1900s the Church emerged from its status as a beleaguered “un-American” minority. In particular, support for the First World War proved the patriotism of American Catholics. As anti-Catholic nativism waned Catholic thinkers felt freer to criticize American institutions. Husslein began his work just at the moment when American Catholic social thinking became possible.

Husslein was not alone in this effort . His contemporaries included John A. Ryan, Peter Dietz, Frederick Kenkel and his fellow Jesuits on the staff at America. The fame of John Ryan eclipsed the others, including Joseph Husslein. Yet Husslein's social teaching was unique.

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