In paragraph forty-three of Centesimus Annus, John Paul II promotes “the integral development of the human person through work” as a way to promote “greater productivity and efficiency of work itself” even though “it may weaken consolidated power structures.” The pontiff supports and encourages organized labor in the ongoing effort to humanize labor.
In unison with the tradition of Catholic social teaching stretching back to Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, John Paul II supports “ownership of the means of production” when it “serves useful work” but he calls it “illegitimate” when it used for profit gained as “the result of illicit exploitation, speculation or the breaking of solidarity among working people.” Such ownership, he explains, “has no justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.”
Economic policies, whether private or public, that systematically prohibit or prevent individuals from employment cannot be justified. Peace will not be obtained in a social order that fosters underemployment and unemployment. Peace will not be obtained in a social order that fails to create opportunities for individuals to work under conditions that promote their full human development.
With ownership comes great responsibility.
The pope concludes this paragraph by noting, “ownership morally justifies itself in the creation…of opportunities for work and human growth for all.”
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies