Catholic Social Teaching: An Historical Perspective

Catholic Social Teaching: An Historical Perspective

Catholic Social Teaching: An Historical Perspective

Catholic Social Teaching: An Historical Perspective

Synopsis

"During the last years, many meetings, seminars, conferences, and books have been conducted and written to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum (May 15, 1891). We hope in this book to give the reader an historical background to this celebration. No other historian in Catholic circles enjoys the reputation of Canon Roger Aubert. Thus, we are presenting ten of his articles that have to do with Catholic social teaching. These articles give very measured descriptions of the struggles, defeats, and successes that mark the birth of Catholic social teaching. Their reading should produce great wonder and awe at the stance taken by the Church over the last hundred years. That they have not been adhered to and that they are called "our best kept secret" underlines the fact and the struggle that we all have to become truly Christian." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Catholic social teaching refers to the documents of the hierarchical magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church dealing with social issues. The tradition began with the original encyclical of Leo XIII in 1891, Rerum novarum, and many subsequent papal documents were written on the occasions of the anniversaries of Rerum novarum. There is no canonical or official list of the documents belonging to Catholic social teaching, but commentators generally include, in addition to the encyclicals and documents from the popes on the social question, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, of Vatican II, and the 1971 document from the International Synod of Bishops.

These documents have developed considerably over the years. In 1891, Rerum novarum dealt with the grave problems arising from the Industrial Revolution and the plight of the worker. In this context, Leo XIII called for limited state intervention to protect the rights of workers and supported the need for unions. Quadragesimo anno, Pope Pius XI's encyclical in 1931, continued to address the problems of an industrial society but now in the context of a worldwide depression. Pope John XXIII and his successors broadened the topic of Catholic social teaching to include the whole world and the question of social justice for all. The later documents of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have also incorporated some of the significant methodological shifts initiated by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) such as greater use of Scripture and growing recognition of a more historically conscious methodology. In the course of the development of these documents, the Catholic Church also changed its appreciation of democracy and the importance of freedom, equality, and participation. Leo XIII proposed an authoritative, or at best a paternalistic state in which the ruler instructed the ignorant multitude how they should act. In the late 1940s, Pope Pius XII cracked open the door to a greater appreciation of democracy, while John Paul II has strongly supported democracy throughout the world but with certain critical comments. Thus, the documents of Catholic social teaching contain . . .

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