Rerum novarum EN 25


25 It is beyond doubt, however, that to attain the purpose here in question, not only the Church but all human means must conspire. All who are concerned in the matter must be of one mind and must act together. As in the Providence which governs the world, so here results do not happen save where all the causes cooperate.

Let us, then, inquire what part the State should play in the work of remedy and relief. By the State We here understand, not the particular form of government which prevails in this or that nation, but the State as rightly understood; that is to say, any government conformable in its institutions to right reason and natural law, and to those dictates of the divine wisdom which We have expounded in the Encyclical on The Christian Constitution of the State.

26 The first duty, therefore, of the rulers of the State should be to make sure that the laws and institutions, the general character and administration of the commonwealth, shall be such as to produce of themselves public well-being and private prosperity. This is the proper office of wise statesmanship and the work of the heads of the State. Now, a State chiefly prospers and flourishes by morality, by well-regulated family life, by respect for religion and justice, by the moderation and equal distribution of public burdens, by the progress of the arts and of trade, by the abundant yield of the land - by everything, in brief, whose cultivation makes the citizens better and happier. Here, then, it is in the power of a ruler to benefit every order of the State, and amongst the rest to promote in the highest degree the interests of the poor. This he will do by virtue of his office, and without being exposed to any suspicion of undue interference; for it is the province of the commonwealth to consult the common good. And the more that is done for the working population by the general laws of the country, the less need will there be to seek for particular means to relieve them.

27 But there is another and a deeper consideration which must not be lost sight of. To the State the interests of all are equal whether high or low. The poor are members of the national community equally with the rich; they are real component parts, living parts, which make up, through the family, the living body; and it need hardly be said that they are by far the majority. It would be irrational to neglect one portion of the citizens and to favour another; and therefore the public administration must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working people, or else that law of justice will be violated which ordains that each shall have his due. To cite the wise words of St. Thomas of Aquin: "As the part and the whole are in a certain sense identical, the part may in some sense claim what belongs to the whole" (23) . Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for their people, the first and chief is to act with strict justice - with that justice which is called in the schools "distributive" - towards each and every class.

But although all citizens, without exception, can and ought to contribute to that common good in which individuals share so profitably to themselves, yet it is not to be supposed that all can contribute in the same way and to the same extent. No matter what changes may be made in forms of government, there will always be differences and inequalities of condition in the State. Society cannot exist or be conceived without them. Some there must be who dedicate themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws, who administer justice, whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in the foremost estimation, for their work touches most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community. Those who labour at a trade or calling do not promote the general welfare in such a fashion as this; but they do in the most important way benefit the nation, though less directly. We have insisted that, since it is the end of Society to make men better, the chief good that Society can be possessed of is virtue.

Nevertheless, in all well-constituted States it is by no means an unimportant matter to provide those bodily and external commodities, «the use of which is necessary to virtuous action" (24). And in the provision of material well-being, the labour of the poor - the exercise of their skill and the employment of their strength in the culture of the land and the workshops of trade - is most efficacious and altogether indispensable. Indeed, their co-operation in this respect is so important that it may be truly said that it is only by the labour of the workingman that States grow rich.

Justice, therefore, demands that the interests of the poorer population be carefully watched over by the Administration, so that they who contribute so largely to the advantage of the community may themselves share in the benefits they create - that being housed, clothed, and enabled to support life, they may find their existence less hard and more endurable. It follows that whatever shall appear to be conducive to the well-being of those who work, should receive favourable consideration. Let it not be feared that solicitude of this kind will injure any interest. On the contrary, it will be to the advantage of all; for it cannot but be good for the commonwealth to secure from misery those on whom it so largely depends.

II-II 61,1-2.
24. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum, I, Cap. 15.

28 We have said that the State must not absorb the individual or the family; both should be allowed free and untrammelled action as far as is consistent with the comon good and the interests of others. Nevertheless, rulers should anxiously safeguard the community and all its parts; the community, because the conservation of the community is so emphatically the business of the supreme power, that the safety of the commonwealth is not only the first law, but is a government's whole reason of existence; and the parts, because both philosophy and the Gospel agree in laying down that the object of the administration of the State should be not the advantage of the ruler, but the benefit of those over whom he rules. The gift of authority is from God, and is, as it were, a participation of the highest of all sovereignties. It should be exercised, therefore, as the power of God is exercised - with a fatherly solicitude which not only guides the whole but reaches to details as well. Whenever the general interest of any particular class suffers; or is threatened with evils which can in no other way be met, the public authority must step in to meet them.

29 Now, among the interests of the public, as of private individuals, are these: that peace and good order should be maintained; that family life should be carried on in accordance with God's laws and those of nature; that religion should be reverenced and obeyed; that a high standard of morality should prevail in public and private life; that the sanctity of justice should be respected, and that no one should injure another with impunity; that the members of the commonwealth should grow up to man's estate strong and robust, and capable, if need be, of guarding and defending their country. If by a strike, or other combination of workmen, there should be imminent danger of disturbance to the public peace; or if circumstances were such that among the labouring population the ties of family life were relaxed; if religion were found to suffer through the workmen not having time and opportunity to practise it; if in workshops and factories there were danger to morals through the mixing of the sexes or from any occasion of evil; or if employers laid burdens upon the workmen which were unjust, or degraded them with conditions that were repugnant to their dignity as human beings; finally, if health were endangered by excessive labour, or by work unsuited to sex or age - in these cases there can be no question that, within certain limits, it would be right to call in the help and authority of the law. The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law's intervention - the principle being this, that the law must not undertake more, nor go further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the danger.

Rights must be religiously respected wherever they are found; and it is the duty of the public authority to prevent and punish injury, and to protect each one in the possession of his own right. Still, when there is question of protecting the rights of individuals, the poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration. The richer population have many ways of protecting themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; those who are badly off have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly rely upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage-earners, who are, undoubtedly, among the weak and necessitous, should be specially cared for and protected by the commonwealth.

30 Here, however, it will be advisable to advert expressly to one or two of the more important details. It must be borne in mind that the chief thing to be secured is the safeguarding, by legal enactment and policy, of private property. Most of all it is essential, in these times of covetous greed, to keep the multitude within the line of duty; for if all may justly strive to better their condition, yet neither justice nor the common good allows any one to seize that which belongs to another, or, under the pretext of futile and ridiculous equality, to lay hands on other people's fortunes. It is most true that by far the larger part of the people who work prefer to improve themselves by honest labour rather than by doing wrong to others. But there are not a few who are imbued with bad principles and are anxious for revolutionary change, and whose great purpose it is to stir up tumult and bring about a policy of violence. The authority of the State should intervene to put restraint upon these disturbers, to save the workmen from their seditious arts, and to protect lawful owners from spoliation.

31 When workpeople have recourse to a strike, it is frequently because the hours of labour are too long, or the work too hard, or because they consider their wages insufficient. The grave inconvenience of this not uncommon occurrence should be obviated by public remedial measures; for such paralysis of labour not only affects the masters and their workpeople, but is extremely injurious to trade, and to the general interests of the public; moreover, on such occasions, violence and disorder are generally not far off, and thus it frequently happens that the public peace is threatened. The laws should be beforehand, and prevent these troubles from arising; they should lend their influence and authority to the removal in good time of the causes which lead to conflicts between masters and those whom they employ (25) .

32 But if the owners of property must be made secure, the workman, too, has property and possessions in which he must be protected; and, first of all, there are his spiritual and mental interests. Life on earth, however good and desirable in itself, is not the final purpose for which man is created; it is only the way and the means to that attainment of truth, and that practice of goodness in which the full life of the soul consists. It is the soul which is made after the image and likeness of God; it is in the soul that sovereignty resides, in virtue of which man is commanded to rule the creatures below him, and to use all the earth and ocean for his profit and advantage. "Fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures which move upon the earth" (Gn 1,28). In this respect all men are equal; there is no difference between rich and poor, master and servant, ruler and ruled, «for the same is Lord over all" (Rm 10,12). No man may outrage with impunity that human dignity which God Himself treats with reverence, nor stand in the way of that higher life which is the preparation for the eternal life of heaven. Nay, more; a man has here no power over himself. To consent to any treatment which is calculated to defeat the end and purpose of his being is beyond his right; he cannot give up his soul to servitude; for it is not man's own rights which are here in question, but the duties towards God, most sacred and inviolable.

From this follows the obligation of the cessation of work and labour on Sundays and certain festivals. This rest from labour is not to be understood as mere idleness; much less must it be an occasion of spending money and a vicious excess, as many would desire it to be; but it should be rest from labour consecrated by religion. Repose united with religious observance disposes man to forget for a while the business of this daily life, and to turn his thoughts to heavenly things and to the worship which he so strictly owes to the Eternal Deity. It is this, above all, which is the reason and motive for the Sunday rest; a rest sanctioned by God's great law of the ancient covenant, "Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day" (Exod. xx, 8), and taught to the world by His own mysterious "rest" after the creation of man, "He rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done" (Gn 2,2).

33 If we turn now to things exterior and corporal, the first concern of all is to save the poor workers from the cruelty of grasping men who use human beings as mere instruments for making money (26) . It is neither justice nor humanity so to grind men down with excessive labour as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies. Man's powers, like his general nature, are limited, and beyound 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 labour, therefore, must be so regulated that it may not be protracted during longer hours than strength admits. How extended the intervals of rest should be will depend upon the nature of the work, on circumstances of time and place, and on the health and strength of the workman (27) . Those who labour in mines and quarries, and in work within the bowels of the earth, should have shorter hours in proportion, as their labour is more severe and more trying to health. Then, again, the season of the year must be taken in account; for not unfrequently a kind of labour is easy at one time which at another is intolerable or very difficult.

Finally, work which is suitable for a strong man cannot reasonably be required from a woman or a child. And, in regard to children, great care should be taken not to place them in workshops and factories until their bodies and minds are sufficiently mature. For just as rough weather destroys the buds of spring, so too early an experience of life's hard work blights the young promise of a child's powers, and makes any real education impossible. Women, again, are not suited to certain trades; for a woman is by nature fitted for homework, and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty, and to promote the good bringing up of children and the well-being of the family.

As a general principle, it may be laid down, that a workman ought to have leisure and rest in proportion to the wear and tear of his strength; for the waste of strength must be repaired by the cessation of work. In every contract between masters and workpeople, the condition is always expressed or understood that proper rest for soul and body be allowed. To agree in any other sense would be against what is right and just; for it can never be right or just to require on the one side, or to promise on the other, the giving up of those duties which a man owes to his God and to himself.

34 We now approach a subject of very great importance and one on which right ideas are absolutely necessary lest one or other party be sinned against. Wages, we are told, are fixed by free consent; and, therefore, the employer when he pays what was agreed upon, has done his part, and is not called upon for anything further. The only way, it is said, in which injustice could happen, would be if the master refused to pay the whole of the wages, or the workman would not complete the work undertaken; when this happens the State should intervene to see that each obtains his own, but not under any other circumstances.

This mode of reasoning is by no means convincing to a fair-minded man, for there are important considerations which it leaves out of view altogether. To labour is to exert one's self for the sake of procuring what is necessary for the purposes of life, and most of all for self-preservation. "In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread" (
Gn 3,19). Therefore, a man's labour has two notes or characters. First of all, it is personal; for the exertion of individual power belongs to the individual who puts it forth, employing this power for that personal profit for which it was given. Secondly, a man's labour is necessary; for without the results of labour a man cannot live; and self-conservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey. Now, if we were to consider labour merely so far as it is personal, doubtless it would be within the workman's right to accept any rate of wages whatever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so he is free to accept a small remuneration or even none at all. But this is a mere abstract supposition; the labour of the workingman is not only his personal attribute, but it is necessary; and this makes all the difference. The preservation of life is the bounden duty of each and all, and to fail therein is a crime. It follows that each one has a right to procure what is required in order to live; and the poor can procure it in no other way than by work and wages.

Let it be granted, then, that, as a rule, workman and employer should make free agreements, and in particular should freely agree as to wages; nevertheless, there is a dictate of nature more imperious and more ancient than any bargain between man and man, that the remuneration must be enough to support the wage-earner in reasonable and frugal comfort (28). If through necessity or fear of a worse evil, the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will give him no better, he is the victim of force and injustice.

In order, however, to supersede undue interference on the part of the State in these and similar questions - such as, for example, the hours of labour in different trades, the sanitary precautions to be observed in factories and workshops, etc. - it is advisable, especially as circumstances, times, and localities differ so widely, that recourse be had to societies or boards such as We shall mention presently, or to some other method of safeguarding the interests of wage-earners. The State itself is to be asked for approval and protection in these matters.

35 If a workman's wages be sufficient to enable him to maintain himself, his wife, and his children in reasonable comfort, he will not find it difficult, if he is a sensible man, to study economy; and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by a little property: nature and reason would urge him to do this. We have seen that this great labour question cannot be solved except by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favour ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many people as possible to become owners (29) .

Many excellent results will follow from this; and first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For the effect of civil change and revolution has been to divide society into two widely different castes. On the one side there is the party which holds the power because it holds the wealth; which has in its grasp all labour and all trade, and so manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is powerfully represented in the councils of the State itself. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sore and suffering, always ready for disturbance.

If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the result will be that the gulf between vast wealth and deep poverty will be bridged over, and the two orders will be brought nearer together (30) . Another consequence will be the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which is their own; nay, they learn to love the very soil which yields in response to the labour of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of the good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. It is evident how such a spirit of willing labour would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community. A third advantage still would arise from the fact that men would cling to the country in which they were born; for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a tolerable and happy life.

These three important benefits, however, can only be expected on the condition that a man's means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is from nature, not from man; and the State has only the right to regulate its use in the interests of the public good, but by no means to abolish it altogether. The State is, therefore, unjust and cruel, if, in the name of taxation, it deprives the private owner of more than is just.


36 Finally, employers and workmen may themselves effect much in the matter of which We treat, by means of those institutions and organizations which afford opportune assistance to those in need, and which draw the two orders more closely together. Among these may be enumerated: societies for mutual help; various foundations established by private persons to provide for the workman and for his widow or his orphans, in sudden calamity, in sickness, and in the event of death; and what are called "patronages," or institutions for the care of boys and girls, for young people, and also for those of more mature age.

The most important of all are Workmen's Associations; for these virtually include all the rest. History attests what excellent results were affected by the artificer's guilds of a former day. They were the means not only of many advantages to the workmen, but in no small degree of the advancement of art, as numerous monuments remain to prove. Such associations should be adapted to the requirements of the age in which we live - an age of greater instruction, of different customs, and of more numerous requirements in daily life (31) . It is gratifying to know that there are actually in existence not a few societies of this nature, consisting either of workmen alone, or of workmen and employers together; but it were greatly to be desired that they should multiply and become more effective. We have sopken of them more than once; but it will be well to explain here how much they are needed, to make plain that they exist by their own right, and discuss their organization and their work.

37 The experience of his own weakness urges man to call in help from without. We read in the pages of Holy Writ: "It is better that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society. If one fall he shall be supported by the other. Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up" (Qo 4,9-12). And further: "A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city" (Pr 18,19). It is this natural impulse which unites men in civil society; and it is this also which makes them band themselves together in associations of citizen with citizen; associations which, it is true, cannot be called societies in the complete sense of the word, but which are real societies nevertheless.

These lesser societies and the society which constitutes the State differ in many things, because their immediate purpose and end is different. Civil society exists for the common good, and, therefore, is concerned with the interests of all in general, and with the individual interests in their due place and proportion. Hence, it is called public society, because by its means, as St. Thomas of Aquin says, "Men communicate with one another in the setting up of a commonwealth." But the societies which are formed in the bosom of the State are called private, and justly so, because their immediate purpose is the private advantage of the associates. "Now, a private society," says St. Thomas again, "is one which is formed for the purpose of carrying out private business; as when two or three enter into partnership with the view of trading in conjunction."

38 Particular societies, then, although they exist within the State, and are each a part of the State, nevertheless cannot be prohibited by the State absolutely and as such. For to enter into a "society" of this kind is the natural right of man. The State must protect natural rights, not destroy them. If it forbids its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence; for both they and it exist in virtue of the same principle, viz., the natural propensity of man to live in society.

There are times, no doubt, when it is right that the law should interpose to prevent association; as when men join together for purposes which are evidently bad, unjust, or dangerous to the State. In such cases the public authority may justly forbid the formation of associations, and may dissolve them when they already exist. But every precaution should be taken not to violate the rights of individuals, and not to make unreasonable regulations under the pretense of public benefit. For laws bind only then when they are in accordance with right reason, and therefore with the eternal law of God (32) .

32. St. Thomas says: "Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right and reason, and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. In so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law. In such case it is not law at all, but rather a species of violence" (
I-II 93,3).

39 And here we are reminded of the confraternities, societies, and religious orders which have arisen by the Church's authority and the piety of the Christian people. The annals of every nation down to our own times testify to what they have done for the human race. It is indisputable on grounds of reason alone, that such associations, being perfectly blameless in their objects, have the sanction of the law of nature. On their religious side, they rightly claim to be responsible to the Church alone. The administrators of the State, therefore, have no rights over them, nor can they claim any share in their management; on the contrary, it is rather the State's duty to respect and cherish them, and, if necessary, to defend them from attack.

It is notorious that a very different course has been followed, more especially in our own times. In many places the State has laid violent hands on these communities, and committed manifold injustice against them; it has placed them under the civil law, taken away their rights as corporate bodies, and robbed them of their property. In such property the Church had her rights; each member of the body had his or her rights; and there were also the rights of those who had founded or endowed them for a definite purpose, and of those for whose benefit and assistance they existed. Wherefore We cannot refrain from complaining of such spoliation as unjust and fraught with evil results; and this with the more reason because, at the very time when the law proclaims that association is free to all, We see that Catholic societies, however peaceable and useful, are hindered in every way, whilst the utmost freedom is given to men whose objects are at once hurtful to religion and dangerous to the State.

40 Associations of every kind, and especially those of workingmen, are now far more common than formerly. In regard to many of these there is no need at present to inquire whence they spring, what are their objects, or what means they use. But there is a good deal of evidence which goes to prove that many of these societies are in the hands of invisible leaders, and are managed on principles far from compatible with Christianity and the public well-being; and that they do their best to get into their hands the whole field of labour and to force workmen either to join them or to starve. Under these circumstances the Christian workmen must do one of two things: either join associations in which their religion will be exposed to peril or form associations among themselves - unite their forces and courageously shake off the yoke of an unjust and intolerable oppression. No one who does not which to expose man's chief good to extreme danger will hesitate to say that the second alternative must by all means be adopted (33) .

41 Those Catholics are worthy of all praise - and there are not a few - who, understanding what the times require, have, by various enterprises and experiments, endeavoured to better the conditions of the working people without any sacrifice of principle. They have taken up the cause of the workingman, and have striven to improve the status of both families and individuals; to infuse the spirit of justice into the mutual relations of employers and employed; to keep before the eyes of both classes the precepts of duty and the laws of the Gospel. For it is the Gospel which, by inculcating self-restraint, keeps men within the bounds of moderation, and tends to establish harmony among the divergent interests and various classes which compose the State. It is with such ends in view that We see men of eminence meeting together for discussion, for the promotion of united action, and for practical work.

Others, again, strive to unite working people of various kinds into associations, help them with their advice and their means, and enable them to obtain honest and profitable work. The bishops, on their part, bestow their ready goodwill and support; while many members of the clergy both secular and regular, with their approval and guidance labour assiduously on behalf of the spiritual and mental interest of the members of associations. And Catholics possessed of affluence are not wanting, who have, as it were, cast in their lot with the wage-earners, and have spent large sums in founding and widely propagationg benefit and insurance societies. By means of these the workingman may without difficulty acquire by his labour not only many present advantages, but also the certainty of honourable support in time to come. How much this multiplied and earnest activity has benefited the community at large is too well known to require of Us to dwell upon it. We find in it the grounds of the most cheering hope for the future; provided that the associations We have described continue to grow and spread, and are well and wisely administered. Let the State watch over these societies of citizens united together in the exercise of their right; but let it not thrust itself into their peculiar concerns and their organizations. For things move and live by the soul within them, and they may be killled by the grasp of a hand from without (34) .

42 In order that an association may be carried on with a unity of purpose and harmony of action, its organization and government must be firm and wise. All such societies are not merely free to exist, but have the further right to adopt such rules and organizations as may best conduce to the attainment of their objects. We do not deem it possible to enter into definite details on the subject of organization; this must depend on national character, on practice and experience, on the nature and scope of the work to be done, on the magnitude of the various trades and employments, and on other circumstances of fact and of time - all of which must be carefully weighed (35) . Speaking summarily, we may lay it down as a general and perpetual law, that workmen's associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining the end aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition so far as he can, in body, mind, and property.

It is clear that they must pay special and chief attention to piety and morality, and that their social discipline must be directed throughout by these considerations. Otherwise they entirely lose their specific character, and come to be very little better than societies which take no account of religion at all. What advantage can it be for a workman to obtain by means of a society all that he requires, and to endanger his soul for want of spiritual food? "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (
Mt 16,26.)

This, as our Lord teaches, is the note or character that distinguishes the Christian from the heathen. "After all these things do the heathens seek....Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt 6,32-33). Let our associations, then, look first and before all to God; let religious instruction have therein a foremost place, each one being carefully taught what is his duty to God, what he is to believe, what he is to hope for, and how he is to work out his salvation. Let all be warned and fortified with especial solicitude against wrong opinions and false teaching. Let the workingman be urged and led to the worship of God, to the earnest practice of religion, and among other things, to the sanctification of Sundays and festivals. Let him learn to reverence and love holy Church, the common mother of us all; and so to obey the precepts and frequent the Sacraments of the Church. In these Sacraments he will find the means ordained by God for obtaining forgiveness of sin and for leading a holy life (36).

43 With the foundations of the organization thus laid in religion, we next go on to determine the mutual relations of the members, in order that they may live together in concord and that their organization may develop prosperously and successfully. The offices and charges of the society should be distributed for the good of the association itself, and in such manner that difference in degree or position may not interfere with unanimity and goodwill. Office-bearers should be appointed with prudence and discretion, and each one's charge should be carefully defined so that no member may suffer wrong. Let the common funds be administered with strictest honesty, in such a way that a member receives assistance in proportion to his necessities. The rights and duties of employers, as compared with the rights and duties of the employed, should be made the subject of careful consideration. In case either a master or a workman deems himself injured, it will be most desirable to have in the organization a committee composed of honest and capable members whose duty it will be to decide the dispute according to the rules of the association.

One of the purposes of such a society should be the effort to arrange for a continuous supply of work at all times and seasons; and to create a fund from which the members may be helped in their necessities, not only in case of accident, but also in sickness, old age, and misfortune.

Such rules and regulations, if obeyed willingly by all, will sufficiently ensure the well-being of the less well to do. At the same time these mutual associations among Catholics are certain to be productive, in no small degree, of prosperity to the state. It is not rash to conjecture the future from the past. Age gives way to age, but the events of one century are wonderfully like those of another; for they are directed by the Providence of God, who overrules the course of history in accordance with His purpose in creating the race of man. We are told that it was made a matter of reproach against the Christians of the early ages of the Church, that the greater number of them had to live by begging or by labour. Yet, destitute as they were of wealth and influence, they ended by winning over to their side the favour of the rich and the goodwill of the powerful. They showed themselves industrious, laborious, and peaceful; men of justice, and, above all, men of brotherly love. In the presence of such a life and such an example, prejudice disappeared, the tongue of malevolence was silenced, and the lying traditions of ancient superstition yielded little by little to Christian truth.

44 At this moment the conditionf of the working population is the question of the hour; and nothing can be of higher interest to all classes of the State than that it should be rightly and reasonably decided. But it will be easy for Christian workingmen to decide it aright if they form associations, choose wise guides, and follow the same path which with so much advantage to themselves and the commonwealth was trod by their fathers before them. Prejudice, it is true, is mighty, and so is the love of money; but if the sense of what is just and right be not destroyed by depravity of heart, their fellow citizens are sure to be won over to a kindly feeling towards men whom they see to be so industrious and so modest, who so unmistakably prefer honesty to lucre, and the sacredness of duty to all other considerations.

Still another great advantage would result from the state of things We are describing. There would be, namely, so much more hope and possibility of recalling to a sense of their duty those workingmen who have either given up their faith altogether, or whose lives are at variance with its precepts. These men, in most cases, feel that they have been fooled by empty promises and deceived by false appearances. They cannot but perceive that their grasping employers too often treat them with the greatest inhumanity, and hardly care for them beyond the profit their labour brings. If they belong to an association, it is probably one in which there exists, in place of charity and love, that internal strife which always accompanies unresigned and irreligious poverty. How many of them, broken in spirit and worn down in body, would gladly free themselves from this galling slavery! But human respect, or the dread of starvation, makes them afraid to take the step. To such as these, Catholic associations are of incalculable service, helping them in their difficulties, inviting them to companionship, and receiving the repentant to a shelter in which they can securely trust.

45 We have now set forth for you, Venerable Brethren, by what persons and means this most difficult question must be solved. Every one must put his hand to the work which falls to his own share, and he must do this at once and immediately, lest the evil which is already so great may by delay become absolutely beyond remedy. They who rule the State must avail themselves of the law and the institutions of the land; employers and wealthy owners must remember their respective duty; and the poor, whose interests are at stake, must make every lawful and proper effort. But since religion alone, as We said at the beginning, can destroy the evil at its root, all men must be persuaded that the primary thing needful is to return to real Christianity, in the absence of which all the plans and devices of the wisest will be of little avail.

So far as the Church is concerned, her assistance will never be wanting, be the time or the occasion whatever it may. She will intervene with great effect in proportion as her liberty of action is the more unfettered. Let this in particular be carefully noted by those whose office it is to provide for the public welfare.

Every minister of holy Religion must throw into the conflict all the energy of his mind, and all the strength of his endurance. Armed with your authority, Venerable Brethren, and encouraged by your example, they must never cease to urge upon all men of every class the Gospel doctrines of Christian life. By every means in their power they must strive for the good of the people. And above all they must earnestly cherish in themselves, and try to arouse in others, whether highly placed or lowly - charity, the mistress and queen of virtues.

In fine, the happy results we all long for must be chiefly brought about by the plenteous outpouring of charity; of that true Christian charity which is the fulfilling of the whole Gospel law, which is always ready to sacrifice itself for the sake of others, and which is man's surest antidote against worldly pride and immoderate love of self; that charity whose office is described and whose Godlike features are drawn by the Apostle St. Paul in the words: "Charity is patient, is kind...seeketh not her own...suffereth all things...endureth all things" (
1Co 13,4-7).


1. A marvellously succinct and accurate history of the conditions that brought about the economic confusion of our day is given in this single paragraph. Every word is freighted with meaning and no essential element has been omitted. For a detailed explanation of each point stressed see chapters I, II, III of "The Christian Social Manifesto" (The Bruce Publishing Company).
2. As responsible for the economic distress of the masses, just two reasons are mentioned, which followed in the wake of the industrial revolution: (1) the destruction of the guilds, without their replacement by new workers' organizations based on Christian principles, and (2) the repudiation of the Church herself, a fact which rendered ineffective her insistence on the laws of justice and charity.
3. There is question not merely of the usury of the modern loan shark, but also, we may presume, of the exorbitant profits often taken by capital at the cost of labour and the public.
4. This is one of the most frequently quoted passages. But few may realize the courage required to make this statement at that early period when Liberalism was entirely in the saddle. In applying it, obviously, the proper circumspection is called for. Forty years later Pope Pius XI expressed in his own modified way his estimate of the conditions then prevalent: "The immense number of propertyless wage earners on the one hand, and the superabundant riches of the fortunate few on the other, is an unanswerable argument that the earthly goods so abundantly produced in this age of industrialism are far from rightfully distributed and equitably shared among the various classes of men."
5. The Pontiff is well aware of the Socialists' contention that they are concerned with private productive property only, but this is based on the same inalienable human rights as consumptive property, and therefore the Pontiff speaks of the right of property in general, while in the course of the Encyclical he deals almost exclusively with the rightful private possession of productive property, especially where there is question of the land. This is the prime form of productive property. On the other hand, Socialists do not confine themselves to robbing men of their productive property only, as every instance of Socialist revolution and tyranny bears ample witness.
6. While Socialism theoretically aims at the ultimate elimination of the State, it admits the necessity of the State in the primary stages of the Socialist Commonwealth. Thus in Russia the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat was a dictatorship over the proletariat, and over all other classes, by the Communist bureaucracy. In reality it quickly assumed the extreme form of an absolute autocratic monarchy, ruled by the one single despot who held in his hands the fate of the millions, not for better but for worse. Ruthless Autocracy was never more perfectly exemplified than in Lenin, nor Oriental Despotism than by Stalin.
7. The aim of legislation must not be to deprive all men of the exercise of their natural rights to productive property, as under Socialism; nor to limit it to a few, as under an economic regime of rationalistic capitalism; but to make feasible its free application to as many as possible of the masses of the people. Its purpose is that as many as possible may become owners of property which is not consumed in the use. This is the desire of all men, and only despair or misunderstanding can drive them into the arms of Socialism.
8. Here we have the clear distinction between privately owned consumptive and privately owned productive property. Both rights are triumphantly vindicated for the workingman by the Holy Father.
9. All men have an indefinite right to the earth, which must be made definite by industry (as when one settles on an unowned piece of land, and by tilling it makes it his own), or else by law.
10. Our food, our dwellings, our clothing - in short, everything we consume or use, has in some way come to us from the earth, from its mines or forests, its teeming fields or pleasant pastures. It is God's gift through nature.
11. It is the prevalent falsehood of modern philosophy, long taught in secular schools, that the individual and family exist for the State, and receive from the State all their rights. On this Naziism, Fascism, Communism are based. Remove God from your mind and the State must take His place. The falsehood underlying all these doctrines, or ideologies as we call them today, has long enough been taught in English and American schools of thought. Fighting dictators is useless; we must strike home at the fundamental errors of our age, else for every head we lop off others, perhaps still more venomous, will crop forth.
12. We may note here, as a very interesting fact, that all through history every attack on property has been sooner or later coupled with an attack on the family.
13. Allusion is made to the Socialist doctrine of the class struggle. That such a struggle exists the Church is the first to affirm. The Socialist error consists, not in the affirmation of it, but in holding that it is inevitable, and hence that it must necessarily continue until every class except that of labour has been annihilated. The Catholic doctrine on the subject is set forth in the subsequent paragraphs.
17. Catholic ethics holds that a man of wealth has the right to provide decently for himself and his family, in a manner becoming his station in life. In regard to what he possesses over and above that, he has a duty to consult the common good. This does not imply that it must all be rendered up in alms. Excellent use, for instance, can be made of it by providing opportunities of work for many at good wages, under satisfactory working conditions, and in whatever way is conformable to the mind of the Church. The workingman, too, is under obligation to exercise a truly Christian social sense in his individual labour and no less in his union activities.
21. State relief, on a vast scale, was in a measure necessitated by the great depressions which clutched the civilized world - depressions which in turn were due to the world's serene neglect of the warnings and teachings of the Church. Yet, while a necessary measure of State relief is not objected to, State agencies must not be permitted to destroy the system of private agencies, nor will opportunities ever be wanting to practise individual charities. Particularly is this true of the help which often must be given within the immediate family circle and to those nearly related.
22. Charity can today be notably practised by the laity in properly preparing themselves for professional social work. To make this possible the necessary graduate training is required to fit them for the many specialized problems in their respective fields, whether of family case work, child welfare, medical social work, probation and parole, or perhaps psychiatric social work. There is no question here of the mere doling out of relief. In each of these fields are countless men, women, youths, children, and entire families to be saved from physical, moral, and spiritual ills, and thereafter, perhaps, to be rehabilitated that they may carry on anew, with confidence and good grace, their functions in life. Modern conditions must be met by modern means. And it must be understood that the physician and the trained, professional social worker, who alike give their lives to the service of others and require years of preparation, are as worthy of their hire as the priest. They have the same right as any other highly trained professional person to live decently and respectably by their earnings.
25. The following conditions are required to justify a strike: (1) a just cause; (2) the fruitlessness of peaceful means, such as conciliation, arbitration, etc., which must be resorted to as a first recourse, so far as possible; (3) a reasonable proportion between the injuries inflicted and the good to be secured; (4) a solid hope of success to be achieved ultimately, at least, by the workers. A just contract, observed by employer, may not be violated.
26. Referring to the moral hazards to which the young are at times exposed in factories, and to the shameful housing conditions of workers injurious to family life, Pope Pius XI, forty years later, concluded his observations with the terrible words: "Dead matter leaves the factory ennobled and transformed, where men are corrupted and degraded." That is a just denunciation of the class of employers here described.
27. For tactical reasons labour fought at first for a universal ten-hour day, and later for the eight-hour day, not to mention more recent developments. We can, of course, understand the propaganda significance of this unified demand. Moreover, the majority of industrial workers can presumably be roughly considered as requiring a more or less similar period of rest and relaxation. On the other hand no one can question the tremendous difference in the amount of fatigue involved in two such tasks as minding a door or digging coal at the bottom of a shaft. Attention to the Pope's regulation is of the highest importance because it aims at securing special consideration for all those who because of age, sex, difficult or dangerous working conditions might else suffer physical harm.
28. A minimum wage only is under consideration in this passage. The Pope has no intention unduly to limit the labourer's demand where sufficient reason exists for higher wages. The wage in view here is merely the minimum normally required in the name of justice. For a full discussion of the different kinds of wages as warranted by Christian ethics, see Chapters XXV and XXVI of The Christian Social Manifesto.
29. In this short passage the pontiff envisions the goal of his Encyclical and of the entire system of Catholic socio-economic thought. Distributism, in turn, derives its name from it. The American Bishop's Reconstruction Program, as issued after the World War, expresses the same idea in the words: "The majority must somehow become owners, or at least in part, of the means of production." That is the Catholic solution. For the working out of it Pope Pius XI proposed the Occupational Group System in his "Forty Years After," the Quadragesimo Anno .
30. What holds true of the working people on the land is equally true of the labourers in the factories. The latter cannot indivudually own the plants in which they toil, as the farmer can own the land he tills, but they can possess the equivalent in profit-bearing stocks or interest-bearing bonds, whether in their own factories or in other undertakings, or they may have their earnings invested in whatever other form of productive property they consider most feasible. So can be realized Pope Leo's ideal that "as many people as possible...become owners."
31. It is clear that the guilds cannot be reproduced today precisely as they existed in the Middle Ages. One sufficient reason is that they belonged to a period of small-scale industry. What we can and must copy is their spirit and motivation. They were based on sound Christian principles and sought to make just provision alike for consumer and producer. The producer was the workingman himself who had passed successfully through his preparatory stages as apprentice and journeyman, and now could uphold the honour of his trade. For himself and his fellow master guildsmen, however, he prevented by the strictest regulations the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few to the detriment of the many. In this he was true to his Catholic tradition. In what he produced he was concerned about quality first and last. The price, in turn, was to be no more than a fair remuneration for his own labour and that of the one or two apprentices and journeymen the guild allowed him to employ. These were respectively treated by him as son or younger brother, while he was to look in all things to the due observance of morality and religion in his household. Individual or particular guilds at times fell short of these ideals. That was but human. Yet the spirit of the guilds lived on through the Ages of Faith as the Christian ideal. That spirit can be recaptured in large-scale industry as well.
33. The fact that European labour unions were usually socialistically dominated made it imperative to establish either Catholic or at least Christian labour unions in which Christian principles could be maintained and applied. Naturally they have been maligned by critics who favoured the Red regime, or who had been influenced by it without first-hand knowledge of their subject.
34. This is an emphatic warning against the policy which reached its full expression in the totalitarian State. It is the Church that truly defends the liberty of the masses. States and municipalities are safe if they heed her voice in time.
35. In other words, the Church does not enter into technical questions. These she leaves to experts in the field.
36. Needless to say, the labour unions to which Catholic workingmen in the United States belong do not partake of the religious aspects insisted upon as of first importance in the establishment of labour unions after the mind of the Church. On the other hand, it has been recognized by Catholic leaders, whether lay or clerical, that the founding of Catholic labour unions in the United States has not been advisable. Besides, the same urgency did not exist as in European countries, where the only other alternative for the Catholic worker might be entrance into a Socialist-controlled organization. Non-Socialist unions may be Catholic, Christian (i.e., including also Christians of other denominations as well as Catholics), or "neutral". The latter can be described as being neither positively religious nor yet opposed to Christianity and to Catholic principles in their attempted solution of the labour problems. American labour unions were interpreted as sufficiently conforming to the last-named class, whatever their deficiencies were. Catholic labourers, therefore, could join neutral unions in the United States, while strictly Catholic unions were formed in Canada to offset the Socialist danger existing there to the labourer's most precious heritage, his Catholic faith. But the mind of the Church is that Catholic workingmen who enter neutral unions, or even merely Christian unions, should also join a Catholic organization which will give to them the necessary training in Catholic social principles. Without this they cannot perform their duty of insisting convincingly on the non-violation of such principles by their own neutral or Christian union. In his Encyclical Letter to the German Hierarchy, September 24, 1912, Pope Pius X definitely prescribed membership in the Catholic Arbeitervereine (workingmen's associations) for every German workingman who entered not a Catholic, but a Christian labour union. The reason is not merely that he may have instruction in right social principles and practices, but also that he may enjoy the other benefits to be derived from Catholic associations, so vividly described in this last portion of the great Leonine Labor Encyclical.

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