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

The widespread positive reception, and even the criticisms of the encyclical Centesimus annus are an indication of the seriousness of both the encyclical and the issues it addresses. On the face of it, the question seems to be “what next?” Now that the Soviet Union can not even pretend to serve as exemplar of a successful economic system, has capitalism been vindicated? Or is there another alternative, a third way? Would the Catholic Church propose such a way? One might claim that prior to the issuing of the encyclical, this question was still legitimate. since its appearance, one might claim, all ambiguities have been resolved. Roma locuta est. The church has given its stamp of approval to capitalism, even as its drew attention to shortcomings and needed correctives in practice.

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