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.