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Posted July 15, 2012

Book: 100 Years of Catholic Social Teaching Defending Workers and Their Unions: Summaries and Commentaries for Five Landmark Papal Encyclicals
Author: Joe Holland
Pacem in Terris Press. Washington, DC. 2012. pp. 171

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Today some middle and upper class Catholic leaders in the United States and elsewhere --- including some bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders --- have succumbed (perhaps unconsciously) to the late modern global bourgeois class prejudice against workers and against workers' unions. Succumbing to this prejudice (again, perhaps unconsciously) they deny the human-right of workers to organize themselves into unions, and they thereby deny the full humanity of workers. This prejudice tempts such leaders wrongly to treat workers as business commodities, as less than full human beings made in the image of God, and as able to be controlled and manipulated unilaterally by 'rational' senior managers. In addition, this bourgeois class prejudice violates fundamental teachings about human dignity found in the Gospel message of Jesus and in the entire biblical tradition.

This book makes clear that defense of workers and workers' unions is an essential and core element of contemporary Catholic Social Teaching. That teaching has been repeated by the Church's Social Magisterium over 100 years in five major papal encyclicals written especially about workers: Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum; Pius XI's 1031 Quadragesimo Anno; John XXIII's 1961 Mater Et Magistra; and John Paul II's 1981 Laborem Exercens and 1991 Centesimus Annus.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Benefits of Rerum Novarum

In describing the benefits of Leo XIII's social encyclical, Pius identified three areas that had been helped: 1) the Church; 2) the State; 3) the production system of employer and workers.

The Church

Pius claimed that the encyclical had aided the popes in their "defense especially of the poor and the weak," and that thanks to the document "scholars, both priests and laymen," had developed "a social and economic Science in accord with the conditions of our times." He recommended "courses instituted at Catholic universities, colleges and seminaries," as well as "social congresses and (social study) weeks." As a result, he boasted, "Catholic principles on the social question have . . . passed into the patrimony of all human society," such that "after the terrible war," the "leading nations" attempted to "restore peace on the basis of a thorough reform of social conditions, (based on) the norms agreed upon to regulate in accordance with justice and equity the labor of workers." The pope also argued that Leo's teachings had been "widely diffused," that the "souls of workers" had been filled with the "Christian spirit," and that "new organizations" of "workers, draftsmen, farmers, and employees of every kind" had been founded "frequently under the leadership of priests."

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum;

3. Pius XI's 1931 Quadragesimo Anno;

4. John XXIII's 1961 Mater Et Magistra

5. John Paul II's 1981 Laborem Exercens

6. 1991 Centesimus Annus