At the conclusion of Centesimus Annus, in paragraph sixty-one, John Paul II recounts the one hundred year history spanning his 1991 encyclical back to Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. These papal encyclicals on the social question have provided guidance during trying times. He wrote:
Over the past hundred years the Church has remained faithful to this duty. Indeed, she intervened in the turbulent period of class struggle after the First World War in order to defend man from economic exploitation and from the tyranny of the totalitarian systems. After the Second World War, she put the dignity of the person at the centre of her social messages, insisting that material goods were meant for all, and that the social order ought to be free of oppression and based on a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.
At the dawn of a new millennium, John Paul II acknowledged the poverty in developing countries, describing it as a “yoke little better than that of slavery itself.” Material goods along with “spiritual and religious values” are important for full human flourishing. John Paul II recommits the Church to denouncing the injustice that leads to those conditions and to joining with “all people of good will” to foster a more just world.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies