Appeared in Winter 1991, Vol. XVII, No. 4

Professor’s Michael Novak’s analysis and discussion of Centesimus Annus in his writings has been a good one, by and large. Professor Novak understands well such crucial aspects of the encyclical as Pope John Paul II’s Christian anthropology – i.e., seeing man as a creator, fulfilled and dignified by his work, – his stress on the value of the market, his criticism of both totalitarianism and the Western-style welfare state, and his explication of the intrinsically flawed character of socialism. Nevertheless, there are some important particular points on which I judge Professor Novak’s understanding of the Pope to be questionable or erroneous or in need of clarification. I must also raise questions about the ease with which he tends to identify Church social teaching – especially John Paul II’s teaching – with liberal ideas and institutions; about the way he seems to regard a social encyclical; and about his belief about the “new” direction Centesimus Annus points to.

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