Pope Leo XIII and the “Rerum Novarum”

AUTHOR- Pope Leo XIII, who served from 1878 to 1903

CONTEXT- toward the end of the second Industrial Revolution; this was when Communism began to gain momentum as a viable alternative to capitalism, which led to Leo’s response in the Rerum Novarum

LANGUAGE- instructive, meant to explain how Communism infringes on justice and freedom as the Catholic Church describes it; points out that it can be sinful

AUDIENCE- members of the Church, whom he addresses at the beginning of the document

INTENT- to prevent the spread of Communism, because it goes against human nature by eliminating the concept of private property and privacy

MESSAGE- Communism is harmful to the human nature because a human must be able to own (or invest in) property in order to make a living, to survive. He argues that when all property is controlled and distributed by the state, it harms the nature of humans in a number of ways, including destroying structure of the home (by eradicating parental authority) and controlling many aspects of a person’s life. He says that humans predate the idea of the state, and as such can survive naturally without state intervention. As a species, humans have always found necessary the idea of private property in order to survive. Communism, in this way, violates human nature.

One thought on “Pope Leo XIII and the “Rerum Novarum”

  1. Pope Leo argued that both capitalism and communism are flawed policies. In “Rerum Novarum” he addresses social inequality and social justice issues and focuses on the importance of individual ownership in order to survive and be in control of their life, rather than being controlled by a central authority.

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