Posts tagged with: rerum novarum

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
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Makers FrontIn this week’s Acton Commentary I examine the foundations of what is today identified as the “preferential option for the poor” in writings that appeared 125 years ago, Pope Leo’s Rerum Novarum and Abraham Kuyper’s “The Social Question and the Christian Religion.” These two texts have appeared in an anniversary volume, Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought: Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper on the Social Question, now available from the Acton Book Shop.

In the introduction to that volume, I touch on important themes that arise from these foundational texts, such as subsidiarity, solidarity, sphere sovereignty, stewardship, and property. In today’s essay, “The Christian Preference for the Poor,” I examine another theme that runs throughout both texts: the overt concern for the marginalized that is required within the context of any social order.

As Leo and Kuyper both observe, the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful can fare well under any regime. They can help to shape or reform laws and policies in their favor. But the poor and the marginalized have little influence and are least able to draw on their own reserves, whether capital or otherwise, in times of need.
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Makers Front Cover 10_19_16This year marks the 125th anniversary of two key documents in the development of modern Christian social thought: the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII and the speech “The Social Question and the Christian Religion” by Abraham Kuyper. To mark this anniversary and to commend these works to readers today, Acton Institute has recently released Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought: Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper on the Social Question.

This volume consists of the texts of these two key sources, along with an introduction that provides some background on the social question in the nineteenth century as well as the thematic similarities and convergences between the two works. There is also some additional bibliography for further reading and research, making this volume an ideal resource for students and others interested exploring the foundations of modern Christian social thought in Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions.

One of the essential features of this edition is its inclusion of the full text of Kuyper’s published speech, complete with its extensive reference apparatus. Earlier editions have appeared in English and have served well to make Kuyper’s insights accessible and readable. These earlier versions sometimes omitted or elided Kuyper’s notes, however, which can obscure the depth and detail of Kuyper’s insights and his engagement with the literature of his time.
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Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought Cover Front DraftThe contrast between the treatments by David Bentley Hart and Dylan Pahman of the question of the intrinsic evil of “great personal wealth” this week pretty well established, I think, that in itself wealth is among the things neither forbidden nor absolutely required. In fact, as Pahman puts it at one point, perhaps “Christians should strive to have wealth from which to provide for others.”

But all this is to merely show that wealth isn’t absolutely forbidden. From this it does not follow that we can merely do whatever we want or simply seek to gain as much as we can. Riches do remain a temptation, however, and a powerful one at that.

In this week’s Acton Commentary, the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper expounds in some detail the power of money to corrupt us and turn us away from God. The temptation is unavoidable because of the way in which money can mimic God. As Kuyper puts it, “In money, there rules a power that closely approaches God’s omnipotence, at least insofar as the satisfaction of the needs and wants of one’s outer life is concerned.”

These warnings from Kuyper about the abuse of money and its power to enthrall us come from one of his later works, the first volume of Pro Rege, part of a three-volume series that focuses on restoring the Christian understanding of the lordship of Christ and its implications for all of life (these volumes are also part of the larger Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology).

One of Kuyper’s other works dealing with wealth, poverty, and economics is his earlier speech at the opening of the 1891 Christian Social Congress in Amsterdam. And earlier that same year Pope Leo XIII had promulgated the encyclical letter Rerum Novarum. Together these two texts usher in an era of modern Christian social thought and they sound very similar notes on the challenge represented by “the social question,” or the relationship between labor and capital.
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Following the recent Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time”, held in celebration of 125th anniversary of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on private property, the Industrial Revolution and the spread of Marxist ideology, Acton’s Samuel Gregg was interviewed by Shalom World TV.

Vatican journalist Ashley Noronha, who hosts the India-based religious news magazine Voice of the Vatican, asked Gregg what was the the connection between religious and economic freedom and how traditional Catholic social teaching is responding to contemporary threats such liberties.  This is what he had to say: (more…)

Feeling the Bern

Alvino-Mario Fantini, editor-in-chief of the The European Conservativeand Michael Severance, operations manager of Istituto Acton, co-wrote an op-ed for The Catholic World Report Are Pope Leo XIII and Pope Saint John Paul II “feeling the Bern”? The article was published yesterday as a concluding reflection on Acton’s April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“.

The op-ed  summarizes some of the main moral theological and anthropological points expressed last Wednesday — especially those made by the theologian of the papal household Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP. Fr. Giertych  reminded everyone present that Pope Leo XIII, the first pope in centuries not to have temporal power over the Papal States, did not have a state-centric approach to anthropology. Pope Leo, said Giertych, “insisted that by nature man precedes the state – and independently of it he has the right to provide for his own needs (RN, 7).” (more…)

20th April 2016, Rome, Centro Congressi Roma Eventi - Fontana di Trevi International Conference "Freedom with justice: Rerum Novarum and the new things of our time."

A capacity crowd of professors, students, and opinion makers attends the April 20 2016 Acton Conference in Rome “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of our Time”.

In an article published Friday by Zenit’s Rome correspondent, Deborah Lubov, we find an excellent summary of Acton’s recently concluded Rome conference: “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time.”

Lubov writes in here roundup article:

Pope Leo’s encyclical on ‘revolutionary things,’ many [speakers] noted, also had much to say about the demands for freedom and social justice in the late-nineteenth century as increasing numbers of people became focused upon what was called “the social question.” During the conference, many bishops and intellectuals from Europe and America addressed topics such as Pope Leo’s attempt to revive the thought of Aquinas, the continuing importance of religious, economic, and political freedom, the State’s role in a global economy, and socialism’s resurgence today.

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b-sandersWith the New York presidential primary only a few days away, most candidates are canvassing the state to drum up votes. But Bernie Sanders has taken a peculiar detour — to Rome. (Not Rome, NY. The one in Italy.)

Sanders is delivering a 10-minute speech this morning at a Vatican conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Sander’s will be speaking on economy and social justice.

In The Detroit News, Acton’s research director Samuel Gregg considers what Bernie might learn at the Vatican:
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