ELEISON COMMENTS DCCLXXVIII (June 11, 2022) : RERUM NOVARUM – II
Since in Rerum Novarum, his famous Encyclical Letter to Catholic Bishops of 1891, Pope Leo XIII castigated Socialism as being radically opposed to man’s God-given nature (see these “Comments” of last week), it might be thought that he was no friend of the working classes whose interests Socialism pretended to protect. On the contrary. There is a whole second part of the Encyclical in which he lays out the true solution of the real problems of the late 19th century, for which Socialism was the false solution.
Since in the 21st century our godless world continues to be tempted by the Socialism and Communism of the Globalists in their same war on God, let us take a look, however briefly, at Leo’s true solution.
He says it must come from three sources. First and foremost, from the Catholic Church. Secondly, from the public State, which he called upon to play a special part in protecting the workers. And thirdly from private associations of employers and employees, which he said had also a precious part to play. But he began by dismissing for social problems all unreal solutions which seek to eliminate either the natural inequalities obviously inherent in all men, or the unnatural hardships in this “valley of tears”, due to sin. Catholics know that inequalities are natural to Creation, in order to reflect the infinite variety of the Creator, and that suffering, death and concupiscence only broke into that Creation by men’s original sin.
Therefore Communism’s promoting of class warfare and revolution against all authority are not natural, but unnatural, and the Church will be first in creating class harmony and respect for authority by its own means of natural justice and supernatural charity. In justice, workers must work and respect their employers, employers must respect their workers and look after their spiritual and physical welfare, in particular by paying a just wage to be determined not just by what the employer can get away with. In charity’s view of eternity, wealth is rather a hindrance than a help to salvation, so the rich must share with the poor, and the poor need not envy the rich. Thus the Faith undermines both opposed errors, Socialism and harsh capitalism, by moderating men’s excessive desire for riches.
As for the State (RN 46), its prime function is to safeguard the common good of all its members, not just the rich. In fact, since the rich can often look after themselves, whereas the poor can be in special need of the government’s protection, then the wretched condition of the working classes in 1891 meant that the State must intervene on their behalf. The law of the land must protect their morals, dignity and working conditions, with special protection for women and children, and with help to own property. Here was the Catholic Church virtually launching the modern Welfare State. Leo XIII was even widely misunderstood in his own day, but 40 years later Pius XI saluted the good done by Rerum Novarum.
And thirdly, Pope Leo called on all kinds of private associations, like the medieval guilds, to be adopted and fostered, where men can join together not so much horizontally in the same class, but vertically by all classes in the same occupation, to head off class warfare. Christian associations of this kind have been of special benefit, but instead of helping them anti-religious States have hindered them. Let the workers’ religious welfare be especially cared for, but let provision be made also against their unemployment, sickness, old age, misfortune. Let Catholics’ example convert the Socialists !
By this doctrine of Church, State and associations coming to the aid of the workers, the Pope proved that he was condemning not only Socialism but also that liberal capitalism which by putting the pursuit of money above the concern for human beings, had reduced the workers to such conditions of misery. But the Globalists are back to the same grave error. Can they learn from Pope Leo ? One may doubt it.
You want to look after men ? No need to search.
The God Who makes them also made the Church.