success stories

Posted March 27, 2004

Book: Catholic Social Teaching: An Historical Perspective
Author: Roger Aubert
Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, WI, pp. 288

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

During the last ten years, many meetings, seminars, conferences, and books have been conducted and written to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum novarum”. We hope in this book to give the reader an historical background to this celebration. No other historian in Catholic circles enjoys the reputation of Canon Roger Aubert, Thus, we are presenting ten of his articles that have to do with Catholic social teaching.

These articles give very measured descriptions of the struggles, defeats, and successes that mark the birth of Catholic social teaching. Their reading should produce great wonder and awe at the stance taken by the Church over the last one hundred years. That they have not been adhered to and that they are called “our best kept secret” underlines the fact and the struggle that we all have to become truly Christian.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Catholic social teaching rest on two fundamental anthropological principles: the dignity or sacredness of the human person and the social nature of the person.

In Catholic thought, human dignity is God-given. All humans have the same fundamental dignity because all are created and redeemed by God. All human beings are equal inasmuch as they have the right to be respected as they are and not reduced by another to what the other might think they are. All human beings are different inasmuch as they are all in different stages of development and, therefore, are in need of others’ help. These ideas of equality and difference are well expressed in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas.

The present pope bases the dignity of humans on an anthropology that is directly theological in nature. Suppose one does not believe in Christian theology? How could you discuss with him or her human dignity? Are the rights of humans founded only on theology or on theology and human reason? What would the reason be? We remember what John XXIII said in Pacem in terris:

Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person; that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights and obligations are universal and inviolable, so they cannot in any way be surrendered.

If we look upon the dignity of the human person in light of divinely revealed truth, we cannot help but esteem it far more highly; for men are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, They are by grace children and friends of God and heirs of eternal glory.

. . . .the strongest part of Charles Curran’s book spells out the context in which he draws out the implications of Catholic social teaching for the United States. He engages himself in dialogue within the context of this society. He says:

This insistence on the fact that all human beings are sisters and brothers who are called to live and to work together in solidarity flies in the face of the rampart individualism in the United States that regards the individual as the be-all and end-all. The self-made person remains a strong mythic and iconic figure even in contemporary American culture. The self-made person is able to do whatever he or she wants if he or she works hard enough. Many commentators have pointed out the danger of individualism in American society. The anthropology developed in Catholic social teaching opposes an individualism that emphasizes the person as a self-made individual. None of us is self-made. We are obviously dependent on God but also on many other human beings – family, friends, teachers, various associations, and the political community.

Table of Contents:

Editor’s Preface
David A. Boileau

Charles E. Curran

Monsignor Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz and the Origins of Social Catholicism

Franco-Canadian Catholics Faced with the Social Question: An island of Catholic and French civilization in North America

Recent contributions to the history of social Catholicism

A history of Christian Democracy

On the origins of Catholic social doctrine

Social Christianity

The beginnings of social Catholicism

Development of the social teaching of the Church in Europe from Leo XIII to Pius XI

The Encyclical Rerum novarum: culmination of a slow maturation

The great themes of the social teachings of the Popes from Leo XIII to Paul VI

Some reflections on the historical perspectives of Catholic Social Teaching
David A. Boileau