Solidarity: Pope John Paul II'S
Patrick J. Lynch, S.J.
POPE JOHN PAUL II HAS WRITTEN THREE MAJOR ENCYCLICALS ON ISSUES OF SOCIAL ETHICS: Laborem Exercens about work, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis about the development of peoples, and Centesimus Annus to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the first encyclical on modern social issues, Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum1 To study John Paul II's views on capitalism, democracy, or workers' rights in these texts would indicate the public policy issues that concern him and the positions that he has taken.
The motivation for these positions, however, is the more crucial issue. At this level the theological and scriptural positions that undergird his practical teaching and policy statements on public issues emerge. Furthermore, his very reasons for making such statements come more fully to light. This public theology, as I call it, thus provides a foundation and rationale for better understanding John Paul II's current teaching and should reveal the principles for the future development of his thought.
This paper will therefore discuss the major components of John Paul II's public theology in four major sections. The first will treat John Paul II's reasons for writing (and speaking) on such topics.
1 The text of Laborem Exercens may be found in Gregory Baum, The Priority of Labor: A Commentary on Laborem Exercens, Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 93–152; that of Sollicitudo Rei Socialis in Gregory Baum and Robert Ellsberg, eds., The Logic of Solidarity: Commentaries on Pope John Paul's Encyclical on Social Concern (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989), 1–62; and Centesimus Annus in Origins 21 (May 16, 1991): 1, 3–24.