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

Let me preface my remarks about Centesimus Annus with a brief discussion of the famous document whose centenary it commemorates, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, the grandfather of the great social encyclicals of our century and the one that singlehandedly created a new theological discipline now commonly referred to as the “social doctrine” or “social teaching” of the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt, the older Christian tradition had much to say about justice as a social virtue and the proper uses of wealth, but not until the moral problems spawned by the industrial revolution became acute during the latter part of the nineteenth century was the need felt to bring this body of knowledge to full development and give it its present form.

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