Given by His
Holiness Pope Pius XI
May 15, 1931
Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic
Forty years have passed since Leo XIII's peerless Encyclical, On the
Condition of Workers, first saw the light, and the whole Catholic
world, filled with grateful recollection, is undertaking to commemorate
it with befitting solemnity.
2. Other Encyclicals of Our Predecessor had in a way prepared the path
for that outstanding document and proof of pastoral care: namely, those
on the family and the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony as the source of
human society, on the origin of civil authority and its proper
relations with the Church, on the chief duties of Christian
citizens, against the tenets of Socialism against false teachings
on human liberty, and others of the same nature fully expressing the
mind of Leo XIII. Yet the Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers,
compared with the rest had this special distinction that at a time when
it was most opportune and actually necessary to do so, it laid down for
all mankind the surest rules to solve aright that difficult problem of
human relations called "the social question."
3. For toward the close of the nineteenth century, the new kind of
economic life that had arisen and the new developments of industry had
gone to the point in most countries that human society was clearly
becoming divided more and more into two classes. One class, very small
in number, was enjoying almost all the advantages which modern
inventions so abundantly provided; the other, embracing the huge
multitude of working people, oppressed by wretched poverty, was vainly
seeking escape from the straits wherein it stood.
4. Quite agreeable, of course, was this state of things to those who
thought it in their abundant riches the result of inevitable economic
laws and accordingly, as if it were for charity to veil the violation
of justice which lawmakers not only tolerated but at times sanctioned,
wanted the whole care of supporting the poor committed to charity
alone. The workers, on the other hand, crushed by their hard lot, were
barely enduring it and were refusing longer to bend their necks beneath
so galling a yoke; and some of them, carried away by the heat of evil
counsel, were seeking the overturn of everything, while others, whom
Christian training restrained from such evil designs, stood firm in the
judgment that much in this had to be wholly and speedily changed.
5. The same feeling those many Catholics, both priests and laymen,
shared, whom a truly wonderful charity had long spurred on to relieve
the unmerited poverty of the non-owning workers, and who could in no
way convince themselves that so enormous and unjust an in equality in
the distribution of this world's goods truly conforms to the designs of
the all-wise Creator.
6. Those men were without question sincerely seeking an immediate
remedy for this lamentable disorganization of States and a secure
safeguard against worse dangers. Yet such is the weakness of even the
best of human minds that, now rejected as dangerous innovators, now
hindered in the good work by their very associates advocating other
courses of action, and, uncertain in the face of various opinions, they
were at a loss which way to turn.
7. In such a sharp conflict of mind, therefore, while the question at
issue was being argued this way and that, nor always with calmness, all
eyes as often before turned to the Chair of Peter, to that sacred
depository of all truth whence words of salvation pour forth to all the
world. And to the feet of Christ's Vicar on earth were flocking in
unaccustomed numbers, men well versed in social questions, employers,
and workers themselves, begging him with one voice to point out,
finally, the safe road to them.
8. The wise Pontiff long weighed all this in his mind before God; he
summoned the most experienced and learned to counsel; he pondered the
issues carefully and from every angle. At last, admonished "by the
consciousness of His Apostolic Office" lest silence on his part
might be regarded as failure in his duty he decided, in virtue of
the Divine Teaching Office entrusted to him, to address not only the
whole Church of Christ but all mankind.
9. Therefore on the fifteenth day of May, 1891, that long awaited voice
thundered forth; neither daunted by the arduousness of the problem nor
weakened by age but with vigorous energy, it taught the whole human
family to strike out in the social question upon new paths.
10. You know, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, and understand
full well the wonderful teaching which has made the Encyclical, On the
Condition of Workers, illustrious forever. The Supreme Pastor in this
Letter, grieving that so large a portion of mankind should "live
undeservedly in miserable and wretched conditions," took it upon
himself with great courage to defend "the cause of the workers whom the
present age had handed over, each alone and defenseless, to the
inhumanity of employers and the unbridled greed of competitors." He
sought no help from either Liberalism or Socialism, for the one had
proved that it was utterly unable to solve the social problem aright,
and the other, proposing a remedy far worse than the evil itself, would
have plunged human society into great dangers.
11. Since a problem was being treated "for which no satisfactory
solution" is found "unless religion and the Church have been called
upon to aid," the Pope, clearly exercising his right and correctly
holding that the guardianship of religion and the stewardship over
those things that are closely bound up with it had been entrusted
especially to him and relying solely upon the unchangeable principles
drawn from the treasury of right reason and Divine Revelation,
confidently and as one having authority, declared and proclaimed
"the rights and duties within which the rich and the proletariat -
those who furnish material things and those who furnish work - ought to
be restricted in relation to each other," and what the Church,
heads of States and the people themselves directly concerned ought to
12. The Apostolic voice did not thunder forth in vain. On the contrary,
not only did the obedient children of the Church hearken to it with
marveling admiration and hail it with the greatest applause, but many
also who were wandering far from the truth, from the unity of the
faith, and nearly all who since then either in private study or in
enacting legislation have concerned themselves with the social and
13. Feeling themselves vindicated and defended by the Supreme Authority
on earth, Christian workers received this Encyclical with special joy.
So, too, did all those noble-hearted men who, long solicitous for the
improvement of the condition of the workers, had up to that time
encountered almost nothing but indifference from many, and even
rankling suspicion, if not open hostility, from some. Rightly,
therefore, have all these groups constantly held the Apostolic
Encyclical from that time in such high honor that to signify their
gratitude they are wont, in various places and in various ways, to
commemorate it every year.
14. However, in spite of such great agreement, there were some who were
not a little disturbed; and so it happened that the teaching of Leo
XIII, so noble and lofty and so utterly new to worldly ears, was held
suspect by some, even among Catholics, and to certain ones it even gave
offense. For it boldly attacked and overturned the idols of Liberalism,
ignored long-standing prejudices, and was in advance of its time beyond
all expectation, so that the slow of heart disdained to study this new
social philosophy and the timid feared to scale so lofty a height.
There were some also who stood, indeed, in awe at its splendor, but
regarded it as a kind of imaginary ideal of perfection more desirable
15. Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, as all everywhere and
especially Catholic workers who are pouring from all sides into this
Holy City, are celebrating with such enthusiasm the solemn
commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Encyclical On the
Condition of Workers, We deem it fitting on this occasion to recall the
great benefits this Encyclical has brought to the Catholic Church and
to all human society; to defend the illustrious Master's doctrine on
the social and economic question against certain doubts and to develop
it more fully as to some points; and lastly, summoning to court the
contemporary economic regime and passing judgment on Socialism, to lay
bare the root of the existing social confusion and at the same time
point the only way to sound restoration: namely, the Christian reform
of morals. All these matters which we undertake to treat will fall
under three main headings, and this entire Encyclical will be devoted
to their development.
16. To begin with the topic which we have proposed first to discuss, We
cannot refrain, following the counsel of St. Ambrose who says that
"no duty is more important than that of returning thanks," from
offering our fullest gratitude to Almighty God for the immense benefits
that have come through Leo's Encyclical to the Church and to human
society. If indeed We should wish to review these benefits even
cursorily, almost the whole history of the social question during the
last forty years would have to be recalled to mind. These benefits can
be reduced conveniently, however, to three main points, corresponding
to the three kinds of help which Our Predecessor ardently desired for
the accomplishment of his great work of restoration.
17. In the first place Leo himself clearly stated what ought to be
expected from the Church: "Manifestly it is the Church which draws
from the Gospel the teachings through which the struggle can be
composed entirely, or, after its bitterness is removed, can certainly
become more tempered. It is the Church, again, that strives not only to
instruct the mind, but to regulate by her precepts the life and morals
of individuals, and that ameliorates the condition of the workers
through her numerous and beneficent institutions "
18. The Church did not let these rich fountains lie quiescent in her
bosom, but from them drew copiously for the common good of the
longed-for peace. Leo himself and his Successors, showing paternal
charity and pastoral constancy always, in defense especially of the
poor and the weak, proclaimed and urged without ceasing again and
again by voice and pen the teaching on the social and economic question
which On the Condition of Workers presented, and adapted it fittingly
to the needs of time and of circumstance. And many bishops have done
the same, who in their continual and able interpretation of this same
teaching have illustrated it with commentaries and in accordance with
the mind and instructions of the Holy See provided for its application
to the conditions and institutions of diverse regions.
19. It is not surprising, therefore, that many scholars, both priests
and laymen, led especially by the desire that the unchanged and
unchangeable teaching of the Church should meet new demands and needs
more effectively, have zealously undertaken to develop, with the Church
as their guide and teacher, a social and economic science in accord
with the conditions of our time.
20. And so, with Leo's Encyclical pointing the way and furnishing the
light, a true Catholic social science has arisen, which is daily
fostered and enriched by the tireless efforts of those chosen men whom
We have termed auxiliaries of the Church. They do not, indeed, allow
their science to lie hidden behind learned walls. As the useful and
well attended courses instituted in Catholic universities, colleges,
and seminaries, the social congresses and "weeks" that are held at
frequent intervals with most successful results, the study groups that
are promoted, and finally the timely and sound publications that are
disseminated everywhere and in every possible way, clearly show, these
men bring their science out into the full light and stress of life.
21. Nor is the benefit that has poured forth from Leo's Encyclical
confined within these bounds; for the teaching which On the Condition
of Workers contains has gradually and imperceptibly worked its way into
the minds of those outside Catholic unity who do not recognize the
authority of the Church. Catholic principles on the social question
have as a result, passed little by little into the patrimony of all
human society, and We rejoice that the eternal truths which Our
Predecessor of glorious memory proclaimed so impressively have been
frequently invoked and defended not only in non-Catholic books and
journals but in legislative halls also courts of justice.
22. Furthermore, after the terrible war, when the statesmen of the
leading nations were attempting to restore peace on the basis of a
thorough reform of social conditions, did not they, among the norms
agreed upon to regulate in accordance with justice and equity the labor
of the workers, give sanction to many points that so remarkably
coincide with Leo's principles and instructions as to seem consciously
taken therefrom? The Encyclical On the Condition of Workers, without
question, has become a memorable document and rightly to it may be
applied the words of Isaias: "He shall set up a standard to the
23. Meanwhile, as Leo's teachings were being widely diffused in the
minds of men, with learned investigations leading the way, they have
come to be put into practice. In the first place, zealous efforts have
been made, with active good will, to lift up that class which on
account of the modern expansion of industry had increased to enormous
numbers but not yet had obtained its rightful place or rank in human
society and was, for that reason, all but neglected and despised - the
workers, We mean - to whose improvement, to the great advantage of
souls, the diocesan and regular clergy, though burdened with other
pastoral duties, have under the leadership of the Bishops devoted
themselves. This constant work, undertaken to fill the workers' souls
with the Christian spirit, helped much also to make them conscious of
their true dignity and render them capable, by placing clearly before
them the rights and duties of their class, of legitimately and happily
advancing and even of becoming leaders of their fellows.
24. From that time on, fuller means of livelihood have been more
securely obtained; for not only did works of beneficence and charity
begin to multiply at the urging of the Pontiff, but there have also
been established everywhere new and continuously expanding
organizations in which workers, draftsmen, farmers and employees of
every kind, with the counsel of the Church and frequently under the
leadership of her priests, give and receive mutual help and support.
25. With regard to civil authority, Leo XIII, boldly breaking through
the confines imposed by Liberalism, fearlessly taught that government
must not be thought a mere guardian of law and of good order, but
rather must put forth every effort so that "through the entire scheme
of laws and institutions . . . both public and individual well-being
may develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration
of the State." Just freedom of action must, of course, be left both
to individual citizens and to families, yet only on condition that the
common good be preserved and wrong to any individual be abolished. The
function of the rulers of the State, moreover, is to watch over the
community and its parts; but in protecting private individuals in their
rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor.
"For the nation, as it were, of the rich is guarded by its own defenses
and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering
multitude, without the means to protect itself relies especially on the
protection of the State. Wherefore, since wageworkers are numbered
among the great mass of the needy, the State must include them under
its special care and foresight."
26. We, of course, do not deny that even before the Encyclical of Leo,
some rulers of peoples have provided for certain of the more urgent
needs of the workers and curbed more flagrant acts of injustice
inflicted upon them. But after the Apostolic voice had sounded from the
Chair of Peter throughout the world, rulers of nations, more fully
alive at last to their duty, devoted their minds and attention to the
task of promoting a more comprehensive and fruitful social policy.
27. And while the principles of Liberalism were tottering, which had
long prevented effective action by those governing the State, the
Encyclical On the Condition of Workers in truth impelled peoples
themselves to promote a social policy on truer grounds and with greater
intensity, and so strongly encouraged good Catholics to furnish
valuable help to heads of States in this field that they often stood
forth as illustrious champions of this new policy even in legislatures.
Sacred ministers of the Church, thoroughly imbued with Leo's teaching,
have, in fact, often proposed to the votes of the peoples'
representatives the very social legislation that has been enacted in
recent years and have resolutely demanded and promoted its enforcement.
28. A new branch of law, wholly unknown to the earlier time, has arisen
from this continuous and unwearied labor to protect vigorously the
sacred rights of the workers that flow from their dignity as men and as
Christians. These laws undertake the protection of life, health,
strength, family, homes, workshops, wages and labor hazards, in fine,
everything which pertains to the condition of wage workers, with
special concern for women and children. Even though these laws do not
conform exactly everywhere and in all respects to Leo's
recommendations, still it is undeniable that much in them savors of the
Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, to which great credit must be
given for whatever improvement has been achieved in the workers'
29. Finally, the wise Pontiff showed that "employers and workers
themselves can accomplish much in this matter, manifestly through those
institutions by the help of which the poor are opportunely assisted and
the two classes of society are brought closer to each other." First
place among these institutions, he declares, must be assigned to
associations that embrace either workers alone or workers and employers
together. He goes into considerable detail in explaining and commending
these associations and expounds with a truly wonderful wisdom their
nature, purpose, timeliness, rights, duties, and regulations.
30. These teachings were issued indeed most opportunely. For at that
time in many nations those at the helm of State, plainly imbued with
Liberalism, were showing little favor to workers' associations of this
type; nay, rather they openly opposed them, and while going out of
their way to recognize similar organizations of other classes and show
favor to them, they were with criminal injustice denying the natural
right to form associations to those who needed it most to defend
themselves from ill treatment at the hands of the powerful. There were
even some Catholics who looked askance at the efforts of workers to
form associations of this type as if they smacked of a socialistic or
31. The rules, therefore, which Leo XIII issued in virtue of his
authority, deserve the greatest praise in that they have been able to
break down this hostility and dispel these suspicions; but they have
even a higher claim to distinction in that they encouraged Christian
workers to found mutual associations according to their various
occupations, taught them how to do so, and resolutely confirmed in the
path of duty a goodly number of those whom socialist organizations
strongly attracted by claiming to be the sole defenders and champions
of the lowly and oppressed.
32. With respect to the founding of these societies, the Encyclical On
the Condition of Workers most fittingly declared that "workers'
associations ought to be so constituted and so governed as to furnish
the most suitable and most convenient means to attain the object
proposed, which consists in this, that the individual members of the
association secure, so far as is possible, an increase in the goods of
body, of soul, and of property," yet it is clear that "moral and
religious perfection ought to be regarded as their principal goal, and
that their social organization as such ought above all to be directed
completely by this goal." For "when the regulations of associations
are founded upon religion, the way is easy toward establishing the
mutual relations of the members, so that peaceful living together and
prosperity will result."
33. To the founding of these associations the clergy and many of the
laity devoted themselves everywhere with truly praiseworthy zeal, eager
to bring Leo's program to full realization. Thus associations of this
kind have molded truly Christian workers who, in combining harmoniously
the diligent practice of their occupation with the salutary precepts of
religion, protect effectively and resolutely their own temporal
interests and rights, keeping a due respect for justice and a genuine
desire to work together with other classes of society for the Christian
renewal of all social life.
34. These counsels and instructions of Leo XIII were put into effect
differently in different places according to varied local conditions.
In some places one and the same association undertook to attain all the
ends laid down by the Pontiff; in others, because circumstances
suggested or required it, a division of work developed and separate
associations were formed. Of these, some devoted themselves to the
defense of the rights and legitimate interests of their members in the
labor market; others took over the work of providing mutual economic
aid; finally still others gave all their attention to the fulfillment
of religious and moral duties and other obligations of like nature.
35. This second method has especially been adopted where either the
laws of a country, or certain special economic institutions, or that
deplorable dissension of minds and hearts so widespread in contemporary
society and an urgent necessity of combating with united purpose and
strength the massed ranks of revolutionarists, have prevented Catholics
from founding purely Catholic labor unions. Under these conditions,
Catholics seem almost forced to join secular labor unions. These
unions, however, should always profess justice and equity and give
Catholic members full freedom to care for their own conscience and obey
the laws of the Church. It is clearly the office of bishops, when they
know that these associations are on account of circumstances necessary
and are not dangerous to religion, to approve of Catholic workers
joining them, keeping before their eyes, however, the principles and
precautions laid down by Our Predecessor, Pius X of holy memory.
Among these precautions the first and chief is this: Side by side with
these unions there should always be associations zealously engaged in
imbuing and forming their members in the teaching of religion and
morality so that they in turn may be able to permeate the unions with
that good spirit which should direct them in all their activity. As a
result, the religious associations will bear good fruit even beyond the
circle of their own membership.
36. To the Encyclical of Leo, therefore, must be given this credit,
that these associations of workers have so flourished everywhere that
while, alas, still surpassed in numbers by socialist and communist
organizations, they already embrace a vast multitude of workers and are
able, within the confines of each nation as well as in wider
assemblies, to maintain vigorously the rights and legitimate demands of
Catholic workers and insist also on the salutary Christian principles
37. Leo's learned treatment and vigorous defense of the natural right
to form associations began, furthermore, to find ready application to
other associations also and not alone to those of the workers. Hence no
small part of the credit must, it seems, be given to this same
Encyclical of Leo for the fact that among farmers and others of the
middle class most useful associations of this kind are seen flourishing
to a notable degree and increasing day by day, as well as other
institutions of a similar nature in which spiritual development and
economic benefit are happily combined.
38. But if this cannot be said of organizations which Our same
Predecessor intensely desired established among employers and managers
of industry - and We certainly regret that they are so few - the
condition is not wholly due to the will of men but to far graver
difficulties that hinder associations of this kind which We know well
and estimate at their full value. There is, however, strong hope that
these obstacles also will be removed soon, and even now We greet with
the deepest joy of Our soul, certain by no means insignificant attempts
in this direction, the rich fruits of which promise a still richer
harvest in the future.
39. All these benefits of Leo's Encyclical, Venerable Brethren and
Beloved Children, which We have outlined rather than fully described,
are so numerous and of such import as to show plainly that this
immortal document does not exhibit a merely fanciful, even if
beautiful, ideal of human society. Rather did our Predecessor draw from
the Gospel and, therefore, from an ever-living and life-giving
fountain, teachings capable of greatly mitigating, if not immediately
terminating that deadly internal struggle which is rending the family
of mankind. The rich fruits which the Church of Christ and the whole
human race have, by God's favor, reaped therefrom unto salvation prove
that some of this good seed, so lavishly sown forty years ago, fell on
good ground. On the basis of the long period of experience, it cannot
be rash to say that Leo's Encyclical has proved itself the Magna Charta
upon which all Christian activity in the social field ought to be
based, as on a foundation. And those who would seem to hold in little
esteem this Papal Encyclical and its commemoration either blaspheme
what they know not, or understand nothing of what they are only
superficially acquainted with, or if they do understand convict
themselves formally of injustice and ingratitude.
40. Yet since in the course of these same years, certain doubts have
arisen concerning either the correct meaning of some parts of Leo's
Encyclical or conclusions to be deduced therefrom, which doubts in turn
have even among Catholics given rise to controversies that are not
always peaceful; and since, furthermore, new needs and changed
conditions of our age have made necessary a more precise application of
Leo's teaching or even certain additions thereto, We most gladly seize
this fitting occasion, in accord with Our Apostolic Office through
which We are debtors to all, to answer, so far as in Us lies, these
doubts and these demands of the present day.
41. Yet before proceeding to explain these matters, that principle
which Leo XIII so clearly established must be laid down at the outset
here, namely, that there resides in Us the right and duty to pronounce
with supreme authority upon social and economic matters. Certainly
the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only
fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed"
the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in
these temporal concerns"; however, she can in no wise renounce the
duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in
matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor
endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral
law. For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to Us and
the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law,
and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject
to Our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic
42. Even though economics and moral science employs each its own
principles in its own sphere, it is, nevertheless, an error to say that
the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each
other that the former depends in no way on the latter. Certainly the
laws of economics, as they are termed, being based on the very nature
of material things and on the capacities of the human body and mind,
determine the limits of what productive human effort cannot, and of
what it can attain in the economic field and by what means. Yet it is
reason itself that clearly shows, on the basis of the individual and
social nature of things and of men, the purpose which God ordained for
all economic life.
43. But it is only the moral law which, just as it commands us to seek
our supreme and last end in the whole scheme of our activity, so
likewise commands us to seek directly in each kind of activity those
purposes which we know that nature, or rather God the Author of nature,
established for that kind of action, and in orderly relationship to
subordinate such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end. If we
faithfully observe this law, then it will follow that the particular
purposes, both individual and social, that are sought in the economic
field will fall in their proper place in the universal order of
purposes, and We, in ascending through them, as it were by steps, shall
attain the final end of all things, that is God, to Himself and to us,
the supreme and inexhaustible Good.
44. But to come down to particular points, We shall begin with
ownership or the right of property. Venerable Brethren and Beloved
Children, you know that Our Predecessor of happy memory strongly
defended the right of property against the tenets of the Socialists of
his time by showing that its abolition would result, not to the
advantage of the working class, but to their extreme harm. Yet since
there are some who calumniate the Supreme Pontiff, and the Church
herself, as if she had taken and were still taking the part of the rich
against the non-owning workers - certainly no accusation is more unjust
than that - and since Catholics are at variance with one another
concerning the true and exact mind of Leo, it has seemed best to
vindicate this, that is, the Catholic teaching on this matter from
calumnies and safeguard it from false interpretations.
45. First, then, let it be considered as certain and established that
neither Leo nor those theologians who have taught under the guidance
and authority of the Church have ever denied or questioned the twofold
character of ownership, called usually individual or social according
as it regards either separate persons or the common good. For they have
always unanimously maintained that nature, rather the Creator Himself,
has given man the right of private ownership not only that individuals
may be able to provide for themselves and their families but also that
the goods which the Creator destined for the entire family of mankind
may through this institution truly serve this purpose. All this can be
achieved in no wise except through the maintenance of a certain and
46. Accordingly, twin rocks of shipwreck must be carefully avoided.
For, as one is wrecked upon, or comes close to, what is known as
"individualism" by denying or minimizing the social and public
character of the right of property, so by rejecting or minimizing the
private and individual character of this same right, one inevitably
runs into "collectivism" or at least closely approaches its tenets.
Unless this is kept in mind, one is swept from his course upon the
shoals of that moral, juridical, and social modernism which We
denounced in the Encyclical issued at the beginning of Our
Pontificate. And, in particular, let those realize this who, in
their desire for innovation, do not scruple to reproach the Church with
infamous calumnies, as if she had allowed to creep into the teachings
of her theologians a pagan concept of ownership which must be
completely replaced by another that they with amazing ignorance call
47. In order to place definite limits on the controversies that have
arisen over ownership and its inherent duties there must be first laid
down as foundation a principle established by Leo XIII: The right of
property is distinct from its use. That justice called commutative
commands sacred respect for the division of possessions and forbids
invasion of others' rights through the exceeding of the limits of one's
own property; but the duty of owners to use their property only in a
right way does not come under this type of justice, but under other
virtues, obligations of which "cannot be enforced by legal action."
Therefore, they are in error who assert that ownership and its right
use are limited by the same boundaries; and it is much farther still
from the truth to hold that a right to property is destroyed or lost by
reason of abuse or non-use.
48. Those, therefore, are doing a work that is truly salutary and
worthy of all praise who, while preserving harmony among themselves and
the integrity of the traditional teaching of the Church, seek to define
the inner nature of these duties and their limits whereby either the
right of property itself or its use, that is, the exercise of
ownership, is circumscribed by the necessities of social living. On the
other hand, those who seek to restrict the individual character of
ownership to such a degree that in fact they destroy it are mistaken
and in error.
49. It follows from what We have termed the individual and at the same
time social character of ownership, that men must consider in this
matter not only their own advantage but also the common good. To define
these duties in detail when necessity requires and the natural law has
not done so, is the function of those in charge of the State.
Therefore, public authority, under the guiding light always of the
natural and divine law, can determine more accurately upon
consideration of the true requirements of the common good, what is
permitted and what is not permitted to owners in the use of their
property. Moreover, Leo XIII wisely taught "that God has left the
limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and
institutions of peoples." That history proves ownership, like other
elements of social life, to be not absolutely unchanging, We once
declared as follows: "What divers forms has property had, from that
primitive form among rude and savage peoples, which may be observed in
some places even in our time, to the form of possession in the
patriarchal age; and so further to the various forms under tyranny (We
are using the word tyranny in its classical sense); and then through
the feudal and monarchial forms down to the various types which are to
be found in more recent times." That the State is not permitted to
discharge its duty arbitrarily is, however, clear. The natural right
itself both of owning goods privately and of passing them on by
inheritance ought always to remain intact and inviolate, since this
indeed is a right that the State cannot take away: "For man is older
than the State," and also "domestic living together is prior both
in thought and in fact to uniting into a polity." Wherefore the
wise Pontiff declared that it is grossly unjust for a State to exhaust
private wealth through the weight of imposts and taxes. "For since the
right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man's
law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only
control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the common
weal." Yet when the State brings private ownership into harmony
with the needs of the common good, it does not commit a hostile act
against private owners but rather does them a friendly service; for it
thereby effectively prevents the private possession of goods, which the
Author of nature in His most wise providence ordained for the support
of human life, from causing intolerable evils and thus rushing to its
own destruction; it does not destroy private possessions, but
safeguards them; and it does not weaken private property rights, but
50. Furthermore, a person's superfluous income, that is, income which
he does not need to sustain life fittingly and with dignity, is not
left wholly to his own free determination. Rather the Sacred Scriptures
and the Fathers of the Church constantly declare in the most explicit
language that the rich are bound by a very grave precept to practice
almsgiving, beneficence, and munificence.
51. Expending larger incomes so that opportunity for gainful work may
be abundant, provided, however, that this work is applied to producing
really useful goods, ought to be considered, as We deduce from the
principles of the Angelic Doctor, an outstanding exemplification of
the virtue of munificence and one particularly suited to the needs of
52. That ownership is originally acquired both by occupancy of a thing
not owned by any one and by labor, or, as is said, by specification,
the tradition of all ages as well as the teaching of Our Predecessor
Leo clearly testifies. For, whatever some idly say to the contrary, no
injury is done to any person when a thing is occupied that is available
to all but belongs to no one; however, only that labor which a man
performs in his own name and by virtue of which a new form or increase
has been given to a thing grants him title to these fruits.
53. Far different is the nature of work that is hired out to others and
expended on the property of others. To this indeed especially applies
what Leo XIII says is "incontestible," namely, that "the wealth of
nations originates from no other source than from the labor of
workers." For is it not plain that the enormous volume of goods
that makes up human wealth is produced by and issues from the hands of
the workers that either toil unaided or have their efficiency
marvelously increased by being equipped with tools or machines? Every
one knows, too, that no nation has ever risen out of want and poverty
to a better and nobler condition save by the enormous and combined toil
of all the people, both those who manage work and those who carry out
directions. But it is no less evident that, had not God the Creator of
all things, in keeping with His goodness, first generously bestowed
natural riches and resources - the wealth and forces of nature - such
supreme efforts would have been idle and vain, indeed could never even
have begun. For what else is work but to use or exercise the energies
of mind and body on or through these very things? And in the
application of natural resources to human use the law of nature, or
rather God's will promulgated by it, demands that right order be
observed. This order consists in this: that each thing have its proper
owner. Hence it follows that unless a man is expending labor on his own
property, the labor of one person and the property of another must be
associated, for neither can produce anything without the other. Leo
XIII certainly had this in mind when he wrote: "Neither capital can do
without labor, nor labor without capital." Wherefore it is wholly
false to ascribe to property alone or to labor alone whatever has been
obtained through the combined effort of both, and it is wholly unjust
for either, denying the efficacy of the other, to arrogate to itself
whatever has been produced.
54. Property, that is, "capital," has undoubtedly long been able to
appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns
accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker
enough to restore and renew his strength. For the doctrine was preached
that all accumulation of capital falls by an absolutely insuperable
economic law to the rich, and that by the same law the workers are
given over and bound to perpetual want, to the scantiest of
livelihoods. It is true, indeed, that things have not always and
everywhere corresponded with this sort of teaching of the so-called
Manchesterian Liberals; yet it cannot be denied that economic social
institutions have moved steadily in that direction. That these false
ideas, these erroneous suppositions, have been vigorously assailed, and
not by those alone who through them were being deprived of their innate
right to obtain better conditions, will surprise no one.
55. And therefore, to the harassed workers there have come
"intellectuals," as they are called, setting up in opposition to a
fictitious law the equally fictitious moral principle that all products
and profits, save only enough to repair and renew capital, belong by
very right to the workers. This error, much more specious than that of
certain of the Socialists who hold that whatever serves to produce
goods ought to be transferred to the State, or, as they say
"socialized," is consequently all the more dangerous and the more apt
to deceive the unwary. It is an alluring poison which many have eagerly
drunk whom open Socialism had not been able to deceive.
56. Unquestionably, so as not to close against themselves the road to
justice and peace through these false tenets, both parties ought to
have been forewarned by the wise words of Our Predecessor: "However the
earth may be apportioned among private owners, it does not cease to
serve the common interests of all." This same doctrine We ourselves
also taught above in declaring that the division of goods which results
from private ownership was established by nature itself in order that
created things may serve the needs of mankind in fixed and stable
order. Lest one wander from the straight path of truth, this is
something that must be continually kept in mind.
57. But not every distribution among human beings of property and
wealth is of a character to attain either completely or to a
satisfactory degree of perfection the end which God intends. Therefore,
the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought
to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the
common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be
safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will
be kept inviolate. By this law of social justice, one class is
forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits. Hence the
class of the wealthy violates this law no less, when, as if free from
care on account of its wealth, it thinks it the right order of things
for it to get everything and the worker nothing, than does the
non-owning working class when, angered deeply at outraged justice and
too ready to assert wrongly the one right it is conscious of, it
demands for itself everything as if produced by its own hands, and
attacks and seeks to abolish, therefore, all property and returns or
incomes, of whatever kind they are or whatever the function they
perform in human society, that have not been obtained by labor, and for
no other reason save that they are of such a nature. And in this
connection We must not pass over the unwarranted and unmerited appeal
made by some to the Apostle when he said: "If any man will not work
neither let him eat." For the Apostle is passing judgment on those
who are unwilling to work, although they can and ought to, and he
admonishes us that we ought diligently to use our time and energies of
body, and mind and not be a burden to others when we can provide for
ourselves. But the Apostle in no wise teaches that labor is the sole
title to a living or an income.
58. To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the
distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows,
is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity
between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must
be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the
norms of the common good, that is, social justice.
59. The redemption of the non-owning workers - this is the goal that
Our Predecessor declared must necessarily be sought. And the point is
the more emphatically to be asserted and more insistently repeated
because the commands of the Pontiff, salutary as they are, have not
infrequently been consigned to oblivion either because they were
deliberately suppressed by silence or thought impracticable although
they both can and ought to be put into effect. And these commands have
not lost their force and wisdom for our time because that "pauperism"
which Leo XIII beheld in all its horror is less widespread. Certainly
the condition of the workers has been improved and made more equitable
especially in the more civilized and wealthy countries where the
workers can no longer be considered universally overwhelmed with misery
and lacking the necessities of life. But since manufacturing and
industry have so rapidly pervaded and occupied countless regions, not
only in the countries called new, but also in the realms of the Far
East that have been civilized from antiquity, the number of the
non-owning working poor has increased enormously and their groans cry
to God from the earth. Added to them is the huge army of rural wage
workers, pushed to the lowest level of existence and deprived of all
hope of ever acquiring "some property in land," and, therefore,
permanently bound to the status of non-owning worker unless suitable
and effective remedies are applied.
60. Yet while it is true that the status of non owning worker is to be
carefully distinguished from pauperism, nevertheless the immense
multitude of the non-owning workers on the one hand and the enormous
riches of certain very wealthy men on the other establish an
unanswerable argument that the riches which are so abundantly produced
in our age of "industrialism," as it is called, are not rightly
distributed and equitably made available to the various classes of the
61. Therefore, with all our strength and effort we must strive that at
least in the future the abundant fruits of production will accrue
equitably to those who are rich and will be distributed in ample
sufficiency among the workers - not that these may become remiss in
work, for man is born to labor as the bird to fly - but that they may
increase their property by thrift, that they may bear, by wise
management of this increase in property, the burdens of family life
with greater ease and security, and that, emerging from the insecure
lot in life in whose uncertainties non-owning workers are cast, they
may be able not only to endure the vicissitudes of earthly existence
but have also assurance that when their lives are ended they will
provide in some measure for those they leave after them.
62. All these things which Our Predecessor has not only suggested but
clearly and openly proclaimed, We emphasize with renewed insistence in
our present Encyclical; and unless utmost efforts are made without
delay to put them into effect, let no one persuade himself that public
order, peace, and the tranquillity of human society can be effectively
defended against agitators of revolution.
63. As We have already indicated, following in the footsteps of Our
Predecessor, it will be impossible to put these principles into
practice unless the non-owning workers through industry and thrift
advance to the state of possessing some little property. But except
from pay for work, from what source can a man who has nothing else but
work from which to obtain food and the necessaries of life set anything
aside for himself through practicing frugality? Let us, therefore,
explaining and developing wherever necessary Leo XIII's teachings and
precepts, take up this question of wages and salaries which he called
one "of very great importance."
64. First of all, those who declare that a contract of hiring and being
hired is unjust of its own nature, and hence a partnership-contract
must take its place, are certainly in error and gravely misrepresent
Our Predecessor whose Encyclical not only accepts working for wages or
salaries but deals at some length with it regulation in accordance with
the rules of justice.
65. We consider it more advisable, however, in the present condition of
human society that, so far as is possible, the work-contract be
somewhat modified by a partnership-contract, as is already being done
in various ways and with no small advantage to workers and owners.
Workers and other employees thus become sharers in ownership or
management or participate in some fashion in the profits received.
66. The just amount of pay, however, must be calculated not on a single
basis but on several, as Leo XIII already wisely declared in these
words: "To establish a rule of pay in accord with justice, many factors
must be taken into account."
67. By this statement he plainly condemned the shallowness of those who
think that this most difficult matter is easily solved by the
application of a single rule or measure - and one quite false.
68. For they are greatly in error who do not hesitate to spread the
principle that labor is worth and must be paid as much as its products
are worth, and that consequently the one who hires out his labor has
the right to demand all that is produced through his labor. How far
this is from the truth is evident from that We have already explained
in treating of property and labor.
69. It is obvious that, as in the case of ownership, so in the case of
work, especially work hired out to others, there is a social aspect
also to be considered in addition to the personal or individual aspect.
For man's productive effort cannot yield its fruits unless a truly
social and organic body exists, unless a social and juridical order
watches over the exercise of work, unless the various occupations,
being interdependent, cooperate with and mutually complete one another,
and, what is still more important, unless mind, material things, and
work combine and form as it were a single whole. Therefore, where the
social and individual nature of work is neglected, it will be
impossible to evaluate work justly and pay it according to justice.
70. Conclusions of the greatest importance follow from this twofold
character which nature has impressed on human work, and it is in
accordance with these that wages ought to be regulated and established.
71. In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to
support him and his family. That the rest of the family should also
contribute to the common support, according to the capacity of each, is
certainly right, as can be observed especially in the families of
farmers, but also in the families of many craftsmen and small
shopkeepers. But to abuse the years of childhood and the limited
strength of women is grossly wrong. Mothers, concentrating on household
duties, should work primarily in the home or in its immediate vicinity.
It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for
mothers on account of the father's low wage to be forced to engage in
gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper
cares and duties, especially the training of children. Every effort
must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large
enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot
always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands
that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will
be assured to every adult workingman. It will not be out of place here
to render merited praise to all, who with a wise and useful purpose,
have tried and tested various ways of adjusting the pay for work to
family burdens in such a way that, as these increase, the former may be
raised and indeed, if the contingency arises, there may be enough to
meet extraordinary needs.
72. In determining the amount of the wage, the condition of a business
and of the one carrying it on must also be taken into account; for it
would be unjust to demand excessive wages which a business cannot stand
without its ruin and consequent calamity to the workers. If, however, a
business makes too little money, because of lack of energy or lack of
initiative or because of indifference to technical and economic
progress, that must not be regarded a just reason for reducing the
compensation of the workers. But if the business in question is not
making enough money to pay the workers an equitable wage because it is
being crushed by unjust burdens or forced to sell its product at less
than a just price, those who are thus the cause of the injury are
guilty of grave wrong, for they deprive workers of their just wage and
force them under the pinch of necessity to accept a wage less than
73. Let, then, both workers and employers strive with united strength
and counsel to overcome the difficulties and obstacles and let a wise
provision on the part of public authority aid them in so salutary a
work. If, however, matters come to an extreme crisis, it must be
finally considered whether the business can continue or the workers are
to be cared for in some other way. In such a situation, certainly most
serious, a feeling of close relationship and a Christian concord of
minds ought to prevail and function effectively among employers and
74. Lastly, the amount of the pay must be adjusted to the public
economic good. We have shown above how much it helps the common good
for workers and other employees, by setting aside some part of their
income which remains after necessary expenditures, to attain gradually
to the possession of a moderate amount of wealth. But another point,
scarcely less important, and especially vital in our times, must not be
overlooked: namely, that the opportunity to work be provided to those
who are able and willing to work. This opportunity depends largely on
the wage and salary rate, which can help as long as it is kept within
proper limits, but which on the other hand can be an obstacle if it
exceeds these limits. For everyone knows that an excessive lowering of
wages, or their increase beyond due measure, causes unemployment. This
evil, indeed, especially as we see it prolonged and injuring so many
during the years of Our Pontificate, has plunged workers into misery
and temptations, ruined the prosperity of nations, and put in jeopardy
the public order, peace, and tranquillity of the whole world. Hence it
is contrary to social justice when, for the sake of personal gain and
without regard for the common good, wages and salaries are excessively
lowered or raised; and this same social justice demands that wages and
salaries be so managed, through agreement of plans and wills, in so far
as can be done, as to offer to the greatest possible number the
opportunity of getting work and obtaining suitable means of livelihood.
75. A right proportion among wages and salaries also contributes
directly to the same result; and with this is closely connected a right
proportion in the prices at which the goods are sold that are produced
by the various occupations, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and
others. If all these relations are properly maintained, the various
occupations will combine and coalesce into, as it were, a single body
and like members of the body mutually aid and complete one another. For
then only will the social economy be rightly established and attain its
purposes when all and each are supplied with all the goods that the
wealth and resources of nature, technical achievement, and the social
organization of economic life can furnish. And these goods ought indeed
to be enough both to meet the demands of necessity and decent comfort
and to advance people to that happier and fuller condition of life
which, when it is wisely cared for, is not only no hindrance to virtue
but helps it greatly.
76. What We have thus far stated regarding an equitable distribution of
property and regarding just wages concerns individual persons and only
indirectly touches social order, to the restoration of which according
to the principles of sound philosophy and to its perfection according
to the sublime precepts of the law of the Gospel, Our Predecessor, Leo
XIII, devoted all his thought and care.
77. Still, in order that what he so happily initiated may be solidly
established, that what remains to be done may be accomplished, and that
even more copious and richer benefits may accrue to the family of
mankind, two things are especially necessary: reform of institutions
and correction of morals.
78. When we speak of the reform of institutions, the State comes
chiefly to mind, not as if universal well-being were to be expected
from its activity, but because things have come to such a pass through
the evil of what we have termed "individualism" that, following upon
the overthrow and near extinction of that rich social life which was
once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there
remain virtually only individuals and the State. This is to the great
harm of the State itself; for, with a structure of social governance
lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked
associations once bore. the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by
almost infinite tasks and duties.
79. As history abundantly proves, it is true that on account of changed
conditions many things which were done by small associations in former
times cannot be done now save by large associations. Still, that most
weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed
and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take
from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and
industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and
at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign
to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate
organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very
nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never
destroy and absorb them.
80. The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let
subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance,
which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State
will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that
belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching,
urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands.
Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a
graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance
of the principle of "subsidiary function," the stronger social
authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the
condition of the State.
81. First and foremost, the State and every good citizen ought to look
to and strive toward this end: that the conflict between the hostile
classes be abolished and harmonious cooperation of the Industries and
Professions be encouraged and promoted.
82. The social policy of the State, therefore, must devote itself to
the re-establishment of the Industries and Professions. In actual fact,
human society now, for the reason that it is founded on classes with
divergent aims and hence opposed to one another and therefore inclined
to enmity and strife, continues to be in a violent condition and is
unstable and uncertain.
83. Labor, as Our Predecessor explained well in his Encyclical, is
not a mere commodity. On the contrary, the worker's human dignity in it
must be recognized. It therefore cannot be bought and sold like a
commodity. Nevertheless, as the situation now stands, hiring and
offering for hire in the so-called labor market separate men into two
divisions, as into battle lines, and the contest between these
divisions turns the labor market itself almost into a battlefield
where, face to face, the opposing lines struggle bitterly. Everyone
understands that this grave evil which is plunging all human society to
destruction must be remedied as soon as possible. But complete cure
will not come until this opposition has been abolished and well-ordered
members of the social body - Industries and Professions - are
constituted in which men may have their place, not according to the
position each has in the labor market but according to the respective
social functions which each performs. For under nature's guidance it
comes to pass that just as those who are joined together by nearness of
habitation establish towns, so those who follow the same industry or
profession - whether in the economic or other field - form guilds or
associations, so that many are wont to consider these self-governing
organizations, if not essential, at least natural to civil society.
84. Because order, as St. Thomas well explains, is unity arising
from the harmonious arrangement of many objects, a true, genuine social
order demands that the various members of a society be united together
by some strong bond. This unifying force is present not only in the
producing of goods or the rendering of services - in which the
employers and employees of an identical Industry or Profession
collaborate jointly - but also in that common good, to achieve which
all Industries and Professions together ought, each to the best of its
ability, to cooperate amicably. And this unity will be the stronger and
more effective, the more faithfully individuals and the Industries and
Professions themselves strive to do their work and excel in it.
85. It is easily deduced from what has been said that the interests
common to the whole Industry or Profession should hold first place in
these guilds. The most important among these interests is to promote
the cooperation in the highest degree of each industry and profession
for the sake of the common good of the country. Concerning matters,
however, in which particular points, involving advantage or detriment
to employers or workers, may require special care and protection, the
two parties, when these cases arise, can deliberate separately or as
the situation requires reach a decision separately.
86. The teaching of Leo XIII on the form of political government,
namely, that men are free to choose whatever form they please, provided
that proper regard is had for the requirements of justice and of the
common good, is equally applicable in due proportion, it is hardly
necessary to say, to the guilds of the various industries and
87. Moreover, just as inhabitants of a town are wont to found
associations with the widest diversity of purposes, which each is quite
free to join or not, so those engaged in the same industry or
profession will combine with one another into associations equally free
for purposes connected in some manner with the pursuit of the calling
itself. Since these free associations are clearly and lucidly explained
by Our Predecessor of illustrious memory, We consider it enough to
emphasize this one point: People are quite free not only to found such
associations, which are a matter of private order and private right,
but also in respect to them "freely to adopt the organization and the
rules which they judge most appropriate to achieve their purpose."
The same freedom must be asserted for founding associations that go
beyond the boundaries of individual callings. And may these free
organizations, now flourishing and rejoicing in their salutary fruits,
set before themselves the task of preparing the way, in conformity with
the mind of Christian social teaching, for those larger and more
important guilds, Industries and Professions, which We mentioned
before, and make every possible effort to bring them to realization.
88. Attention must be given also to another matter that is closely
connected with the foregoing. Just as the unity of human society cannot
be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of
economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from
this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all
the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through
forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic
life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as
altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in
the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a
principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than
would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition,
while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain
limits, clearly cannot direct economic life - a truth which the outcome
of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil
individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated.
Therefore, it is most necessary that economic life be again subjected
to and governed by a true and effective directing principle. This
function is one that the economic dictatorship which has recently
displaced free competition can still less perform, since it is a
headstrong power and a violent energy that, to benefit people, needs to
be strongly curbed and wisely ruled. But it cannot curb and rule
itself. Loftier and nobler principles - social justice and social
charity - must, therefore, be sought whereby this dictatorship may be
governed firmly and fully. Hence, the institutions themselves of
peoples and, particularly those of all social life, ought to be
penetrated with this justice, and it is most necessary that it be truly
effective, that is, establish a juridical and social order which will,
as it were, give form and shape to all economic life. Social charity,
moreover, ought to be as the soul of this order, an order which public
authority ought to be ever ready effectively to protect and defend. It
will be able to do this the more easily as it rids itself of those
burdens which, as We have stated above, are not properly its own.
89. Furthermore, since the various nations largely depend on one
another in economic matters and need one another's help, they should
strive with a united purpose and effort to promote by wisely conceived
pacts and institutions a prosperous and happy international cooperation
in economic life.
90. If the members of the body social are, as was said, reconstituted,
and if the directing principle of economic-social life is restored, it
will be possible to say in a certain sense even of this body what the
Apostle says of the mystical body of Christ: "The whole body (being
closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system
according to the functioning in due measure of each single part)
derives its increase to the building up of itself in love."
91. Recently, as all know, there has been inaugurated a special system
of syndicates and corporations of the various callings which in view of
the theme of this Encyclical it would seem necessary to describe here
briefly and comment upon appropriately.
92. The civil authority itself constitutes the syndicate as a juridical
personality in such a manner as to confer on it simultaneously a
certain monopoly-privilege, since only such a syndicate, when thus
approved, can maintain the rights (according to the type of syndicate)
of workers or employers, and since it alone can arrange for the
placement of labor and conclude so-termed labor agreements. Anyone is
free to join a syndicate or not, and only within these limits can this
kind of syndicate be called free; for syndical dues and special
assessments are exacted of absolutely all members of every specified
calling or profession, whether they are workers or employers; likewise
all are bound by the labor agreements made by the legally recognized
syndicate. Nevertheless, it has been officially stated that this
legally recognized syndicate does not prevent the existence, without
legal status, however, of other associations made up of persons
following the same calling.
93. The associations, or corporations, are composed of delegates from
the two syndicates (that is, of workers and employers) respectively of
the same industry or profession and, as true and proper organs and
institutions of the State, they direct the syndicates and coordinate
their activities in matters of common interest toward one and the same
94. Strikes and lock-outs are forbidden; if the parties cannot settle
their dispute, public authority intervenes.
95. Anyone who gives even slight attention to the matter will easily
see what are the obvious advantages in the system We have thus
summarily described: The various classes work together peacefully,
socialist organizations and their activities are repressed, and a
special magistracy exercises a governing authority. Yet lest We neglect
anything in a matter of such great importance and that all points
treated may be properly connected with the more general principles
which We mentioned above and with those which We intend shortly to add,
We are compelled to say that to Our certain knowledge there are not
wanting some who fear that the State, instead of confining itself as it
ought to the furnishing of necessary and adequate assistance, is
substituting itself for free activity; that the new syndical and
corporative order savors too much of an involved and political system
of administration; and that (in spite of those more general advantages
mentioned above, which are of course fully admitted) it rather serves
particular political ends than leads to the reconstruction and
promotion of a better social order.
96. To achieve this latter lofty aim, and in particular to promote the
common good truly and permanently, We hold it is first and above
everything wholly necessary that God bless it and, secondly, that all
men of good will work with united effort toward that end. We are
further convinced, as a necessary consequence, that this end will be
attained the more certainly the larger the number of those ready to
contribute toward it their technical, occupational, and social
knowledge and experience; and also, what is more important, the greater
the contribution made thereto of Catholic principles and their
application, not indeed by Catholic Action (which excludes strictly
syndical or political activities from its scope) but by those sons of
Ours whom Catholic Action imbues with Catholic principles and trains
for carrying on an apostolate under the leadership and teaching
guidance of the Church - of that Church which in this field also that
We have described, as in every other field where moral questions are
involved and discussed, can never forget or neglect through
indifference its divinely imposed mandate to be vigilant and to teach.
97. What We have taught about the reconstruction and perfection of
social order can surely in no wise be brought to realization without
reform of morality, the very record of history clearly shows. For there
was a social order once which, although indeed not perfect or in all
respects ideal, nevertheless, met in a certain measure the requirements
of right reason, considering the conditions and needs of the time. If
that order has long since perished, that surely did not happen because
the order could not have accommodated itself to changed conditions and
needs by development and by a certain expansion, but rather because
men, hardened by too much love of self, refused to open the order to
the increasing masses as they should have done, or because, deceived by
allurements of a false freedom and other errors, they became impatient
of every authority and sought to reject every form of control.
98. There remains to Us, after again calling to judgment the economic
system now in force and its most bitter accuser, Socialism, and passing
explicit and just sentence upon them, to search out more thoroughly the
root of these many evils and to point out that the first and most
necessary remedy is a reform of morals.
99. Important indeed have the changes been which both the economic
system and Socialism have undergone since Leo XIII's time.
100. That, in the first place, the whole aspect of economic life is
vastly altered, is plain to all. You know, Venerable Brethren and
Beloved Children, that the Encyclical of Our Predecessor of happy
memory had in view chiefly that economic system, wherein, generally,
some provide capital while others provide labor for a joint economic
activity. And in a happy phrase he described it thus: "Neither capital
can do without labor, nor labor without capital."
101. With all his energy Leo XIII sought to adjust this economic system
according to the norms of right order; hence, it is evident that this
system is not to be condemned in itself. And surely it is not of its
own nature vicious. But it does violate right order when capital hires
workers, that is, the non-owning working class, with a view to and
under such terms that it directs business and even the whole economic
system according to its own will and advantage, scorning the human
dignity of the workers, the social character of economic activity and
social justice itself, and the common good.
102. Even today this is not, it is true, the only economic system in
force everywhere; for there is another system also, which still
embraces a huge mass of humanity, significant in numbers and
importance, as for example, agriculture wherein the greater portion of
mankind honorably and honestly procures its livelihood. This group,
too, is being crushed with hardships and with difficulties, to which
Our Predecessor devotes attention in several places in his Encyclical
and which We Ourselves have touched upon more than once in Our present
103. But, with the diffusion of modern industry throughout the whole
world, the "capitalist" economic regime has spread everywhere to such a
degree, particularly since the publication of Leo XIII's Encyclical,
that it has invaded and pervaded the economic and social life of even
those outside its orbit and is unquestionably impressing on it its
advantages, disadvantages and vices, and, in a sense, is giving it its
own shape and form.
104. Accordingly, when directing Our special attention to the changes
which the capitalist economic system has undergone since Leo's time, We
have in mind the good not only of those who dwell in regions given over
to "capital" and industry, but of all mankind.
105. In the first place, it is obvious that not only is wealth
concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic
dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few, who often are not
owners but only the trustees and managing directors of invested funds
which they administer according to their own arbitrary will and
106. This dictatorship is being most forcibly exercised by those who,
since they hold the money and completely control it, control credit
also and rule the lending of money. Hence they regulate the flow, so to
speak, of the life-blood whereby the entire economic system lives, and
have so firmly in their grasp the soul, as it were, of economic life
that no one can breathe against their will.
107. This concentration of power and might, the characteristic mark, as
it were, of contemporary economic life, is the fruit that the unlimited
freedom of struggle among competitors has of its own nature produced,
and which lets only the strongest survive; and this is often the same
as saying, those who fight the most violently, those who give least
heed to their conscience.
108. This accumulation of might and of power generates in turn three
kinds of conflict. First, there is the struggle for economic supremacy
itself; then there is the bitter fight to gain supremacy over the State
in order to use in economic struggles its resources and authority;
finally there is conflict between States themselves, not only because
countries employ their power and shape their policies to promote every
economic advantage of their citizens, but also because they seek to
decide political controversies that arise among nations through the use
of their economic supremacy and strength.
109. The ultimate consequences of the individualist spirit in economic
life are those which you yourselves, Venerable Brethren and Beloved
Children, see and deplore: Free competition has destroyed itself;
economic dictatorship has supplanted the free market; unbridled
ambition for power has likewise succeeded greed for gain; all economic
life has become tragically hard, inexorable, and cruel. To these are to
be added the grave evils that have resulted from an intermingling and
shameful confusion of the functions and duties of public authority with
those of the economic sphere - such as, one of the worst, the virtual
degradation of the majesty of the State, which although it ought to sit
on high like a queen and supreme arbitress, free from all partiality
and intent upon the one common good and justice, is become a slave,
surrendered and delivered to the passions and greed of men. And as to
international relations, two different streams have issued from the one
fountain-head: On the one hand, economic nationalism or even economic
imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed
internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country
is where profit is.
110. In the second part of this Encyclical where We have presented Our
teaching, We have described the remedies for these great evils so
explicitly that We consider it sufficient at this point to recall them
briefly. Since the present system of economy is founded chiefly upon
ownership and labor, the principles of right reason, that is, of
Christian social philosophy, must be kept in mind regarding ownership
and labor and their association together, and must be put into actual
practice. First, so as to avoid the reefs of individualism and
collectivism. the twofold character, that is individual and social,
both of capital or ownership and of work or labor must be given due and
rightful weight. Relations of one to the other must be made to conform
to the laws of strictest justice - commutative justice, as it is called
- with the support, however, of Christian charity. Free competition,
kept within definite and due limits, and still more economic
dictatorship, must be effectively brought under public authority in
these matters which pertain to the latter's function. The public
institutions themselves, of peoples, moreover, ought to make all human
society conform to the needs of the common good; that is, to the norm
of social justice. If this is done, that most important division of
social life, namely, economic activity, cannot fail likewise to return
to right and sound order.
111. Socialism, against which Our Predecessor, Leo XIII, had especially
to inveigh, has since his time changed no less profoundly than the form
of economic life. For Socialism, which could then be termed almost a
single system and which maintained definite teachings reduced into one
body of doctrine, has since then split chiefly into two sections, often
opposing each other and even bitterly hostile, without either one
however abandoning a position fundamentally contrary to Christian truth
that was characteristic of Socialism.
112. One section of Socialism has undergone almost the same change that
the capitalistic economic system, as We have explained above, has
undergone. It has sunk into Communism. Communism teaches and seeks two
objectives: Unrelenting class warfare and absolute extermination of
private ownership. Not secretly or by hidden methods does it do this,
but publicly, openly, and by employing every and all means, even the
most violent. To achieve these objectives there is nothing which it
does not dare, nothing for which it has respect or reverence; and when
it has come to power, it is incredible and portentlike in its cruelty
and inhumanity. The horrible slaughter and destruction through which it
has laid waste vast regions of eastern Europe and Asia are the
evidence; how much an enemy and how openly hostile it is to Holy Church
and to God Himself is, alas, too well proved by facts and fully known
to all. Although We, therefore, deem it superfluous to warn upright and
faithful children of the Church regarding the impious and iniquitous
character of Communism, yet We cannot without deep sorrow contemplate
the heedlessness of those who apparently make light of these impending
dangers, and with sluggish inertia allow the widespread propagation of
doctrine which seeks by violence and slaughter to destroy society
altogether. All the more gravely to be condemned is the folly of those
who neglect to remove or change the conditions that inflame the minds
of peoples, and pave the way for the overthrow and destruction of
113. The other section, which has kept the name Socialism, is surely
more moderate. It not only professes the rejection of violence but
modifies and tempers to some degree, if it does not reject entirely,
the class struggle and the abolition of private ownership. One might
say that, terrified by its own principles and by the conclusions drawn
therefrom by Communism, Socialism inclines toward and in a certain
measure approaches the truths which Christian tradition has always held
sacred; for it cannot be denied that its demands at times come very
near those that Christian reformers of society justly insist upon.
114. For if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual
hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences
founded on a desire for justice, and if this is not that blessed social
peace which we all seek, it can and ought to be the point of departure
from which to move forward to the mutual cooperation of the Industries
and Professions. So also the war declared on private ownership, more
and more abated, is being so restricted that now, finally, not the
possession itself of the means of production is attacked but rather a
kind of sovereignty over society which ownership has, contrary to all
right, seized and usurped. For such sovereignty belongs in reality not
to owners but to the public authority. If the foregoing happens, it can
come even to the point that imperceptibly these ideas of the more
moderate socialism will no longer differ from the desires and demands
of those who are striving to remold human society on the basis of
Christian principles. For certain kinds of property, it is rightly
contended, ought to be reserved to the State since they carry with them
a dominating power so great that cannot without danger to the general
welfare be entrusted to private individuals.
115. Such just demands and desire have nothing in them now which is
inconsistent with Christian truth, and much less are they special to
Socialism. Those who work solely toward such ends have, therefore, no
reason to become socialists.
116. Yet let no one think that all the socialist groups or factions
that are not communist have, without exception, recovered their senses
to this extent either in fact or in name. For the most part they do not
reject the class struggle or the abolition of ownership, but only in
some degree modify them. Now if these false principles are modified and
to some extent erased from the program, the question arises, or rather
is raised without warrant by some, whether the principles of Christian
truth cannot perhaps be also modified to some degree and be tempered so
as to meet Socialism half-way and, as it were, by a middle course, come
to agreement with it. There are some allured by the foolish hope that
socialists in this way will be drawn to us. A vain hope! Those who want
to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole
and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way.
If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all
strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are
just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian
faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian
117. But what if Socialism has really been so tempered and modified as
to the class struggle and private ownership that there is in it no
longer anything to be censured on these points? Has it thereby
renounced its contradictory nature to the Christian religion? This is
the question that holds many minds in suspense. And numerous are the
Catholics who, although they clearly understand that Christian
principles can never be abandoned or diminished seem to turn their eyes
to the Holy See and earnestly beseech Us to decide whether this form of
Socialism has so far recovered from false doctrines that it can be
accepted without the sacrifice of any Christian principle and in a
certain sense be baptized. That We, in keeping with Our fatherly
solicitude, may answer their petitions, We make this pronouncement:
Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement,
Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to
truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be
reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its
concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.
118. For, according to Christian teaching, man, endowed with a social
nature, is placed on this earth so that by leading a life in society
and under an authority ordained of God he may fully cultivate and
develop all his faculties unto the praise and glory of his Creator; and
that by faithfully fulfilling the duties of his craft or other calling
he may obtain for himself temporal and at the same time eternal
happiness. Socialism, on the other hand, wholly ignoring and
indifferent to this sublime end of both man and society, affirms that
human association has been instituted for the sake of material
119. Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a
suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of
individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material
ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be
carried on socially. Because of this necessity, they hold that men are
obliged, with respect to the producing of goods, to surrender and
subject themselves entirely to society. Indeed, possession of the
greatest possible supply of things that serve the advantages of this
life is considered of such great importance that the higher goods of
man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be
sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods.
This damage to human dignity, undergone in the "socialized" process of
production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of
socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals
to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural
development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the
one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive
use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false,
since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests
not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone,
the Creator and last end of all things.
120. If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which,
moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based
nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and
irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian
socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a
good Catholic and a true socialist.
121. All these admonitions which have been renewed and confirmed by Our
solemn authority must likewise be applied to a certain new kind of
socialist activity, hitherto little known but now carried on among many
socialist groups. It devotes itself above all to the training of the
mind and character. Under the guise of affection it tries in particular
to attract children of tender age and win them to itself, although it
also embraces the whole population in its scope in order finally to
produce true socialists who would shape human society to the tenets of
122. Since in Our Encyclical, The Christian Education of Youth, We
have fully taught the principles that Christian education insists on
and the ends it pursues, the contradiction between these principles and
ends and the activities and aims of this socialism that is pervading
morality and culture is so clear and evident that no demonstration is
required here. But they seem to ignore or underestimate the grave
dangers that it carries with it who think it of no importance
courageously and zealously to resist them according to the gravity of
the situation. It belongs to Our Pastoral Office to warn these persons
of the grave and imminent evil: let all remember that Liberalism is the
father of this Socialism that is pervading morality and culture and
that Bolshevism will be its heir.
123. Accordingly, Venerable Brethren, you can well understand with what
great sorrow We observe that not a few of Our sons, in certain regions
especially, although We cannot be convinced that they have given up the
true faith and right will, have deserted the camp of the Church and
gone over to the ranks of Socialism, some to glory openly in the name
of socialist and to profess socialist doctrines, others through
thoughtlessness or even, almost against their wills to join
associations which are socialist by profession or in fact.
124. In the anxiety of Our paternal solicitude, We give Ourselves to
reflection and try to discover how it could happen that they should go
so far astray and We seem to hear what many of them answer and plead in
excuse: The Church and those proclaiming attachment to the Church favor
the rich, neglect the workers and have no concern for them; therefore,
to look after themselves they had to join the ranks of socialism .
125. It is certainly most lamentable, Venerable Brethren, that there
have been, nay, that even now there are men who, although professing to
be Catholics, are almost completely unmindful of that sublime law of
justice and charity that binds us not only to render to everyone what
is his but to succor brothers in need as Christ the Lord Himself,
and - what is worse - out of greed for gain do not scruple to exploit
the workers. Even more, there are men who abuse religion itself, and
under its name try to hide their unjust exactions in order to protect
themselves from the manifestly just demands of the workers. The conduct
of such We shall never cease to censure gravely. For they are the
reason why the Church could, even though undeservedly, have the
appearance of and be charged with taking the part of the rich and with
being quite unmoved by the necessities and hardships of those who have
been deprived, as it were, of their natural inheritance. The whole
history of the Church plainly demonstrates that such appearances are
unfounded and such charges unjust. The Encyclical itself, whose
anniversary we are celebrating, is clearest proof that it is the height
of injustice to hurl these calumnies and reproaches at the Church and
126. Although pained by the injustice and downcast in fatherly sorrow,
it is so far from Our thought to repulse or to disown children who have
been miserably deceived and have strayed so far from the truth and
salvation that We cannot but invite them with all possible solicitude
to return to the maternal bosom of the Church. May they lend ready ears
to Our voice, may they return whence they have left, to the home that
is truly their Father's, and may they stand firm there where their own
place is, in the ranks of those who, zealously following the
admonitions which Leo promulgated and We have solemnly repeated, are
striving to restore society according to the mind of the Church on the
firmly established basis of social justice and social charity. And let
them be convinced that nowhere, even on earth, can they find full
happiness save with Him who, being rich, became poor for our sakes that
through His poverty we might become rich, Who was poor and in
labors from His youth, Who invited to Himself all that labor and are
heavily burdened that He might refresh them fully in the love of His
heart, and Who, lastly, without any respect for persons will
require more of them to whom more has been given and "will render
to everyone according to his conduct."
127. Yet, if we look into the matter more carefully and more
thoroughly, we shall clearly perceive that, preceding this ardently
desired social restoration, there must be a renewal of the Christian
spirit, from which so many immersed in economic life have, far and
wide, unhappily fallen away, lest all our efforts be wasted and our
house be builded not on a rock but on shifting sand.
128. And so, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons, having surveyed the
present economic system, We have found it laboring under the gravest of
evils. We have also summoned Communism and Socialism again to judgment
and have found all their forms, even the most modified, to wander far
from the precepts of the Gospel.
129. "Wherefore," to use the words of Our Predecessor, "if human
society is to be healed, only a return to Christian life and
institutions will heal it." For this alone can provide effective
remedy for that excessive care for passing things that is the origin of
all vices; and this alone can draw away men's eyes, fascinated by and
wholly fixed on the changing things of the world, and raise them toward
Heaven. Who would deny that human society is in most urgent need of
this cure now?
130. Minds of all, it is true, are affected almost solely by temporal
upheavals, disasters, and calamities. But if we examine things
critically with Christian eyes, as we should, what are all these
compared with the loss of souls? Yet it is not rash by any means to say
that the whole scheme of social and economic life is now such as to put
in the way of vast numbers of mankind most serious obstacles which
prevent them from caring for the one thing necessary; namely, their
eternal salvation .
131. We, made Shepherd and Protector by the Prince of Shepherds, Who
Redeemed them by His Blood, of a truly innumerable flock, cannot hold
back Our tears when contemplating this greatest of their dangers. Nay
rather, fully mindful of Our pastoral office and with paternal
solicitude, We are continually meditating on how We can help them; and
We have summoned to Our aid the untiring zeal of others who are
concerned on grounds of justice or charity. For what will it profit men
to become expert in more wisely using their wealth, even to gaining the
whole world, if thereby they suffer the loss of their souls? What
will it profit to teach them sound principles of economic life if in
unbridled and sordid greed they let themselves be swept away by their
passion for property, so that "hearing the commandments of the Lord
they do all things contrary."
132. The root and font of this defection in economic and social life
from the Christian law, and of the consequent apostasy of great numbers
of workers from the Catholic faith, are the disordered passions of the
soul, the sad result of original sin which has so destroyed the
wonderful harmony of man's faculties that, easily led astray by his
evil desires, he is strongly incited to prefer the passing goods of
this world to the lasting goods of Heaven. Hence arises that
unquenchable thirst for riches and temporal goods, which has at all
times impelled men to break God's laws and trample upon the rights of
their neighbors, but which, on account of the present system of
economic life, is laying far more numerous snares for human frailty.
Since the instability of economic life, and especially of its
structure, exacts of those engaged in it most intense and unceasing
effort, some have become so hardened to the stings of conscience as to
hold that they are allowed, in any manner whatsoever, to increase their
profits and use means, fair or foul, to protect their hard-won wealth
against sudden changes of fortune. The easy gains that a market
unrestricted by any law opens to everybody attracts large numbers to
buying and selling goods, and they, their one aim being to make quick
profits with the least expenditure of work, raise or lower prices by
their uncontrolled business dealings so rapidly according to their own
caprice and greed that they nullify the wisest forecasts of producers.
The laws passed to promote corporate business, while dividing and
limiting the risk of business, have given occasion to the most sordid
license. For We observe that consciences are little affected by this
reduced obligation of accountability; that furthermore, by hiding under
the shelter of a joint name, the worst of injustices and frauds are
penetrated; and that, too, directors of business companies, forgetful
of their trust, betray the rights of those whose savings they have
undertaken to administer. Lastly, We must not omit to mention those
crafty men who, wholly unconcerned about any honest usefulness of their
work, do not scruple to stimulate the baser human desires and, when
they are aroused, use them for their own profit.
133. Strict and watchful moral restraint enforced vigorously by
governmental authority could have banished these enormous evils and
even forestalled them; this restraint, however, has too often been
sadly lacking. For since the seeds of a new form of economy were
bursting forth just when the principles of rationalism had been
implanted and rooted in many minds, there quickly developed a body of
economic teaching far removed from the true moral law, and, as a
result, completely free rein was given to human passions.
134. Thus it came to pass that many, much more than ever before, were
solely concerned with increasing their wealth by any means whatsoever,
and that in seeking their own selfish interests before everything else
they had no conscience about committing even the gravest of crimes
against others. Those first entering upon this broad way that leads to
destruction easily found numerous imitators of their iniquity by
the example of their manifest success, by their insolent display of
wealth, by their ridiculing the conscience of others, who, as they
said, were troubled by silly scruples, or lastly by crushing more
135. With the rulers of economic life abandoning the right road, it was
easy for the rank and file of workers everywhere to rush headlong also
into the same chasm; and all the more so, because very many managements
treated their workers like mere tools, with no concern at all for their
souls, without indeed even the least thought of spiritual things. Truly
the mind shudders at the thought of the grave dangers to which the
morals of workers (particularly younger workers) and the modesty of
girls and women are exposed in modern factories; when we recall how
often the present economic scheme, and particularly the shameful
housing conditions, create obstacles to the family bond and normal
family life; when we remember how many obstacles are put in the way of
the proper observance of Sundays and Holy Days; and when we reflect
upon the universal weakening of that truly Christian sense through
which even rude and unlettered men were wont to value higher things,
and upon its substitution by the single preoccupation of getting in any
way whatsoever one's daily bread. And thus bodily labor, which Divine
Providence decreed to be performed, even after original sin, for the
good at once of man's body and soul, is being everywhere changed into
an instrument of perversion; for dead matter comes forth from the
factory ennobled, while men there are corrupted and degraded.
136. No genuine cure can be furnished for this lamentable ruin of
souls, which, so long as it continues, will frustrate all efforts to
regenerate society, unless men return openly and sincerely to the
teaching of the Gospel, to the precepts of Him Who alone has the words
of everlasting life, words which will never pass away, even if
Heaven and earth will pass away. All experts in social problems are
seeking eagerly a structure so fashioned in accordance with the norms
of reason that it can lead economic life back to sound and right order.
But this order, which We Ourselves ardently long for and with all Our
efforts promote, will be wholly defective and incomplete unless all the
activities of men harmoniously unite to imitate and attain, in so far
as it lies within human strength, the marvelous unity of the Divine
plan. We mean that perfect order which the Church with great force and
power preaches and which right human reason itself demands, that all
things be directed to God as the first and supreme end of all created
activity, and that all created good under God be considered as mere
instruments to be used only in so far as they conduce to the attainment
of the supreme end. Nor is it to be thought that gainful occupations
are thereby belittled or judged less consonant with human dignity; on
the contrary, we are taught to recognize in them with reverence the
manifest will of the Divine Creator Who placed man upon the earth to
work it and use it in a multitude of ways for his needs. Those who are
engaged in producing goods, therefore, are not forbidden to increase
their fortune in a just and lawful manner; for it is only fair that he
who renders service to the community and makes it richer should also,
through the increased wealth of the community, be made richer himself
according to his position, provided that all these things be sought
with due respect for the laws of God and without impairing the rights
of others and that they be employed in accordance with faith and right
reason. If these principles are observed by everyone, everywhere, and
always, not only the production and acquisition of goods but also the
use of wealth, which now is seen to be so often contrary to right
order, will be brought back soon within the bounds of equity and just
distribution. The sordid love of wealth, which is the shame and great
sin of our age, will be opposed in actual fact by the gentle yet
effective law of Christian moderation which commands man to seek first
the Kingdom of God and His justice, with the assurance that, by virtue
of God's kindness and unfailing promise, temporal goods also, in so far
as he has need of them, shall be given him besides.
137. But in effecting all this, the law of charity, "which is the bond
of perfection," must always take a leading role. How completely
deceived, therefore, are those rash reformers who concern themselves
with the enforcement of justice alone - and this, commutative justice -
and in their pride reject the assistance of charity! Admittedly, no
vicarious charity can substitute for justice which is due as an
obligation and is wrongfully denied. Yet even supposing that everyone
should finally receive all that is due him, the widest field for
charity will always remain open. For justice alone can, if faithfully
observed, remove the causes of social conflict but can never bring
about union of minds and hearts. Indeed all the institutions for the
establishment of peace and the promotion of mutual help among men,
however perfect these may seem, have the principal foundation of their
stability in the mutual bond of minds and hearts whereby the members
are united with one another. If this bond is lacking, the best of
regulations come to naught, as we have learned by too frequent
experience. And so, then only will true cooperation be possible for a
single common good when the constituent parts of society deeply feel
themselves members of one great family and children of the same
Heavenly Father; nay, that they are one body in Christ, "but severally
members one of another," so that "if one member suffers anything,
all the members suffer with it." For then the rich and others in
positions of power will change their former indifference toward their
poorer brothers into a solicitous and active love, listen with
kindliness to their just demands, and freely forgive their possible
mistakes and faults. And the workers, sincerely putting aside every
feeling of hatred or envy which the promoters of social conflict so
cunningly exploit, will not only accept without rancor the place in
human society assigned them by Divine Providence, but rather will hold
it in esteem, knowing well that everyone according to his function and
duty is toiling usefully and honorably for the common good and is
following closely in the footsteps of Him Who, being in the form of
God, willed to be a carpenter among men and be known as the son of a
138. Therefore, out of this new diffusion throughout the world of the
spirit of the Gospel, which is the spirit of Christian moderation and
universal charity, We are confident there will come that longed-for and
full restoration of human society in Christ, and that "Peace of Christ
in the Kingdom of Christ," to accomplish which, from the very beginning
of Our Pontificate, We firmly determined and resolved within Our heart
to devote all Our care and all Our pastoral solicitude, and toward
this same highly important and most necessary end now, you also,
Venerable Brethren, who with Vs rule the Church of God under the
mandate of the Holy Ghost, are earnestly toiling with wholly
praiseworthy zeal in all parts of the world, even in the regions of the
holy missions to the infidels. Let well-merited acclamations of praise
be bestowed upon you and at the same time upon all those, both clergy
and laity, who We rejoice to see, are daily participating and valiantly
helping in this same great work, Our beloved sons engaged in Catholic
Action, who with a singular zeal are undertaking with Us the solution
of the social problems in so far as by virtue of her divine institution
this is proper to and devolves upon the Church. All these We urge in
the Lord, again and again, to spare no labors and let no difficulties
conquer them, but rather to become day by day more courageous and more
valiant. Arduous indeed is the task which We propose to them, for
We know well that on both sides, both among the upper and the lower
classes of society, there are many obstacles and barriers to be
overcome. Let them not, however, lose heart; to face bitter combats is
a mark of Christians, and to endure grave labors to the end is a mark
of them who, as good soldiers of Christ, follow Him closely.
139. Relying therefore solely on the all-powerful aid of Him "Who
wishes all men to be saved," let us strive with all our strength to
help those unhappy souls who have turned from God and, drawing them
away from the temporal cares in which they are too deeply immersed, let
us teach them to aspire with confidence to the things that are eternal.
Sometimes this will be achieved much more easily than seems possible at
first sight to expect. For if wonderful spiritual forces lie hidden,
like sparks beneath ashes, within the secret recesses of even the most
abandoned man - certain proof that his soul is naturally Christian -
how much the more in the hearts of those many upon many who have been
led into error rather through ignorance or environment.
140. Moreover, the ranks of the workers themselves are already giving
happy and promising signs of a social reconstruction. To Our soul's
great joy, We see in these ranks also the massed companies of young
workers, who are receiving the counsel of Divine Grace with willing
ears and striving with marvelous zeal to gain their comrades for
Christ. No less praise must be accorded to the leaders of workers'
organizations who, disregarding their own personal advantage and
concerned solely about the good of their fellow members, are striving
prudently to harmonize the just demands of their members with the
prosperity of their whole occupation and also to promote these demands,
and who do not let themselves be deterred from so noble a service by
any obstacle or suspicion. Also, as anyone may see, many young men, who
by reason of their talent or wealth will soon occupy high places among
the leaders of society, are studying social problems with deeper
interest, and they arouse the joyful hope that they will dedicate
themselves wholly to the restoration of society.
141. The present state of affairs, Venerable Brethren, clearly
indicates the way in which We ought to proceed. For We are now
confronted, as more than once before in the history of the Church, with
a world that in large part has almost fallen back into paganism. That
these whole classes of men may be brought back to Christ Whom they have
denied, we must recruit and train from among them, themselves,
auxiliary soldiers of the Church who know them well and their minds and
wishes, and can reach their hearts with a tender brotherly love. The
first and immediate apostles to the workers ought to be workers; the
apostles to those who follow industry and trade ought to be from among
142. It is chiefly your duty, Venerable Brethren, and of your clergy,
to search diligently for these lay apostles both of workers and of
employers, to select them with prudence, and to train and instruct them
properly. A difficult task, certainly, is thus imposed on priests, and
to meet it, all who are growing up as the hope of the Church, must be
duly prepared by an intensive study of the social question. Especially
is it necessary that those whom you intend to assign in particular to
this work should demonstrate that they are men possessed of the keenest
sense of justice, who will resist with true manly courage the dishonest
demands or the unjust acts of anyone, who will excel in the prudence
and judgment which avoids every extreme, and, above all, who will be
deeply permeated by the charity of Christ, which alone has the power to
subdue firmly but gently the hearts and wills of men to the laws of
justice and equity. Upon this road so often tried by happy experience,
there is no reason why we should hesitate to go forward with all speed.
143. These Our Beloved Sons who are chosen for so great a work, We
earnestly exhort in the Lord to give themselves wholly to the training
of the men committed to their care, and in the discharge of this
eminently priestly and apostolic duty to make proper use of the
resources of Christian education by teaching youth, forming Christian
organizations, and founding study groups guided by principles in
harmony with the Faith. But above all, let them hold in high esteem and
assiduously employ for the good of their disciples that most valuable
means of both personal and social restoration which, as We taught in
Our Encyclical, Mens Nostra, is to be found in the Spiritual
Exercises. In that Letter We expressly mentioned and warmly recommended
not only the Spiritual Exercises for all the laity, but also the highly
beneficial Workers' Retreats. For in that school of the spirit, not
only are the best of Christians developed but true apostles also are
trained for every condition of life and are enkindled with the fire of
the heart of Christ. From this school they will go forth as did the
Apostles from the Upper Room of Jerusalem, strong in faith, endowed
with an invincible steadfastness in persecution, burning with zeal,
interested solely in spreading everywhere the Kingdom of Christ.
144. Certainly there is the greatest need now of such valiant soldiers
of Christ who will work with all their strength to keep the human
family safe from the dire ruin into which it would be plunged were the
teachings of the Gospel to be flouted, and that order of things
permitted to prevail which tramples underfoot no less the laws of
nature than those of God. The Church of Christ, built upon an
unshakable rock, has nothing to fear for herself, as she knows for a
certainty that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.
Rather, she knows full well, through the experience of many centuries,
that she is wont to come forth from the most violent storms stronger
than ever and adorned with new triumphs. Yet her maternal heart cannot
but be moved by the countless evils with which so many thousands would
be afflicted during storms of this kind, and above all by the
consequent enormous injury to spiritual life which would work eternal
ruin to so many souls redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ.
145. To ward off such great evils from human society nothing,
therefore, is to be left untried; to this end may all our labors turn,
to this all our energies, to this our fervent and unremitting prayers
to God! For with the assistance of Divine Grace the fate of the human
family rests in our hands.
146. Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons, let us not permit the
children of this world to appear wiser in their generation than we who
by the Divine Goodness are the children of the light. We find them,
indeed, selecting and training with the greatest shrewdness alert and
resolute devotees who spread their errors ever wider day by day through
all classes of men and in every part of the world. And whenever they
undertake to attack the Church of Christ more violently, We see them
put aside their internal quarrels, assembling in fully harmony in a
single battle line with a completely united effort, and work to achieve
their common purpose.
147. Surely there is not one that does not know how many and how great
are the works that the tireless zeal of Catholics is striving
everywhere to carry out, both for social and economic welfare as well
as in the fields of education and religion. But this admirable and
unremitting activity not infrequently shows less effectiveness because
of the dispersion of its energies in too many different directions.
Therefore, let all men of good will stand united, all who under the
Shepherds of the Church wish to fight this good and peaceful battle of
Christ; and under the leadership and teaching guidance of the Church
let all strive according to the talent, powers, and position of each to
contribute something to the Christian reconstruction of human society
which Leo XIII inaugurated through his immortal Encyclical, On the
Condition of Workers, seeking not themselves and their own interests,
but those of Jesus Christ, not trying to press at all costs their
own counsels, but ready to sacrifice them, however excellent, if the
greater common good should seem to require it, so that in all and above
all Christ may reign, Christ may command to Whom be "honor and glory
and dominion forever and ever."
148. That this may happily come to pass, to all of you, Venerable
Brethren and Beloved Children, who are members of the vast Catholic
family entrusted to Us, but with the especial affection of Our heart to
workers and to all others engaged in manual occupations, committed to
us more urgently by Divine Providence, and to Christian employers and
managements, with paternal love We impart the Apostolic Benediction.
Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, the fifteenth day of May, in the year
1931, the tenth year of Our Pontificate.
1. Encyclical, Arcanum, Feb. 10, 1880.
2. Encyclical, Diuturnum, June 20, 1881.
3. Encyclical, Immortale Dei, Nov. 1, 1885.
4. Encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae, Jan. 10, 1890.
5. Encyclical, Quod Apostolici Muneris, Dec. 28, 1878.
6. Encyclical, Libertas, June 20, 1888.
7. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, May 15, 1891, 3.
8. Encyclical, On the Conditions of Workers, cf. 24.
9. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, cf. 15.
10. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, cf. 6.
11. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 24.
12. Cf. Matt. 7:29.
13. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 4.
14. St. Ambrose, De excessu fratris sui Satyri 1, 44.
15. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 25.
16. Let it be sufficient to mention some of these only: Leo XIII's
Apostolic Letter Praeclara, June 20, 1894, and Encyclical Graves de
Communi, Jan. 18, 1901; Pius X's Motu Proprio De Actione Populari
Christiana, Dec. 8, 1903; Benedict XV's Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, Nov.
1, 1914; Pius IX's Encyclical Ubi Arcano, Dec. 23, 1922, and Encyclical
Rite Expiatis, Apr. 30, 1926.
17. Cf. La Hierarchie catholique et le probleme social depuis
l'Encyclique "Rerum Novarum," 1891-1931, pp. XVI-335; ed. "Union
internationale d'Etudes sociales fondee a Malines, en 1920, sous la
presidence du Card. Mercier." Paris, Editions "Spes," 1931.
18. Isa. 11:12.
19. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 48.
20. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 54.
21. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 68.
22. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 77.
23. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 78.
24. Pius X, Encyclical, Singulari Ouadam, Sept. 24, 1912.
25. Cf. the Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council to the
Bishop of Lille, June 5, 1929.
26. Cf. Rom. 1:14.
27. Cf. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 24-25.
28. Pius XI, Encyclical, Ubi Arcano, Dec. 23, 1922.
29. Encyclical, Ubi Arcano, Dec. 23, 1922.
30. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 35.
31. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 36.
32. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 14.
33. Allocation to the Convention of Italian Catholic Action, May 16,
34. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 12.
35. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 20.
36. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 67.
37. Cf. St. Thomas, Summa theologica, II-II, Q. 134.
38. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 51.
39. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 28.
40. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 14.
41. II Thess. 3:10.
42. Cf. II Thess. 3:8-10.
43. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 66.
44. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 61.
45. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 31.
46. Cf. Encyclical, Casti Connubii, Dec. 31, 1930.
47. Cf. St. Thomas, De regimine principum I, 15; Encyclical, On the
Condition of Workers, 49-51.
48. Cf. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 31. Art. 2.
49. St. Thomas, Contra Gentiles, III, 71; cf. Summa theologica,
50. Encyclical, Immortale Dei, Nov. 1, 1885.
51. Cf Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 76.
52. Eph. 4:16.
53. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 28
54. Cf. Rom. 13:1.
55. Cf. Encyclical, Diuturnum illud, June 29, 1881.
56. Encyclical, Divini illius Magistri Dec 31 1929
57. Cf. Jas. 2.
58. II Cor. 8:9.
59. Matt. 11:28.
60. Cf. Luke 12:48.
61. Matt. 16:27.
62. Cf. Matt. 7:24ff.
63. Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, 41.
64. Cf. Matt. 16:26.
65. Cf. Judg. 2:17.
66. Cf. Matt. 7:13.
67. Cf. John 6:69.
68. Cf. Matt. 24:35.
69. Cf. Matt. 6:33.
70. Col. 3:14.
71. Rom. 12:5.
72. I Cor. 12:26.
73. Encyclical, Ubi Arcano, Dec. 23, 1922.
74. Cf. Act. 20:28.
75. Cf. Deut. 31:7.
76. Cf. II Tim. 2:3.
77. I Tim. 2:4.
78. Encyclical, Mens Nostra, Dec. 20, 1929.
79. Cf. Matt. 16:18.
80. Cf. Luke 16:8.
81. Cf. Phil. 2:21.
82. Apoc. 5:13