In paragraph twenty-two of Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII once again affirms the right to private property. At the same time, he identifies the responsibilities that come with that right. Those who own property have a responsibility under divine law to make “right use” of their resources. He cites Thomas Aquinas to clarify “right use”:
“‘Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.'”
Abundance in material goods–beyond that which is needed for one’s own subsistance (and one’s family, etc.)–must be placed at the service of others. Leo XIII concludes the paragraph with a succinct summation:
“Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God’s providence, for the benefit of others.”
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Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies