In Rerum Novarum (1891), considered by many to be the first modern social encyclical, Pope Leo XIII insists that employers acknowledge and respect the humanity inherent in their employees. They are not mere instruments or tools to be utilized for gain. Rather, the dignity of the human person precedes physical strength and intellectual ability. This dignity must be respected. Sufficient rest and reasonable working hours must prevail so that individuals and families can grow holistically.
“If we turn not to things external and material, the first thing of all to secure is to save unfortunate working people from the cruelty of men of greed, who use human beings as mere instruments for money-making. It is neither just nor human so to grind men down with excessive labor as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies. Man’s powers, like his general nature, are limited, and beyond these limits he cannot go. His strength is developed and increased by use and exercise, but only on condition of due intermission and proper rest. Daily labor, therefore, should be so regulated as not to be protracted over longer hours than strength admits” (#42). For the full text, click here.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies