5.2.1 MM chapter I: principles of CST

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Unit 5 Contents

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In this part of Unit 5, we shall read some extracts from Mater et Magistra (MM), amounting to about one third of the encyclical.

The two short readings on this screen draw attention to two important elements of CST to which we have not given much attention in the module until now.   These are the principles of ‘solidarity’ and ‘social justice’.  We shall then look at these more closely on the following two screens, before other readings from MM.

Pope John XXIII begins MM by recalling the context and content of Rerum Novarum (RN). This forms the first reading.  Within this, ##17-24 give a fairly straightforward summary of some of the main principles articulated in RN.  Pope John describes these as “the basic economic and social principles for the reconstruction of human society” (#17). The word ‘reconstruction’ recalled its use in the title of Quadragesimo Anno (1931), which was presented as On the Reconstruction of the Social Order, as well as, no doubt, the recent memory in the early 1960s of World War II and the vast reconstruction required in its aftermath.

After the reading you will be asked to do an Exercise in which you simply list the principles presented in it.

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Reading (4pp)

Mater et Magistra, ##10-26

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EXERCISE

Make a list of what the reading presents as “the basic principles upon which a genuine social and economic order must be built” (#24).

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE

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John XXIII intends this list to be of principles found in Rerum Novarum, and, in the Response, I refer to the parts of RN which do present some of those points quite explicitly.  But note two points about the list:

*  It is hard to find in RN an explicit statement of the first principle listed, namely that work is “a specifically human activity”, that is, inherently important in human living. However, in RN’s rejection of economic liberalism’s reduction of workers to instruments of production, that point is clearly there under the surface, needing overt expression. Later, Pope John Paul II developed it at length, in Laborem Exercens (1981).  (Module A, Unit 4, gives the opportunity to study this encyclical in detail; see 4.3.)

*  Of the five principles Pope John lists, the last one, “the principle of human solidarity and Christian brotherhood” is interesting in a very specific way. The term ‘solidarity’ is not present in RN, or indeed in Quadragesimo Anno.  Rather, here in MM we have the first time that ‘solidarity’ is used in any encyclical that is now generally seen as part of the Church’s social teaching.

Yet John XXIII had introduced these principles as ones that Catholic people “know well enough” (#17).

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Reflection

How can John XXIII describe as ‘well known’ a principle that is not actually referred to in either of the two major encyclicals in modern CST before MM?

Recalling study you have done earlier in the module, especially of Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno in Unit 3, do you think that the concept of ‘human solidarity’ was already implicit in those documents, or does it seem really new here in MM?

This may not be an easy question to answer (as you were not asked to read the whole of those documents).  But what does your study so far suggest?

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The idea of ‘solidarity’ demands more investigation, which we give it on the next screen.

Before that, you have the second reading from MM chapter I.  Having reflected briefly on RN, John XXIII goes on to consider Quadragesimo Anno (QA).

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Reading (3pp)

Mater et Magistra, ##27-40

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This reading might remind you of study of QA in Unit 3, including of its structure (3.2.1) and its discussion of socialism (3.4.2).  As we saw there, QA both engaged with socialism sympathetically and rejected it quite clearly, as John XXIII reiterates (#34).  Apart from this, it is impossible not to be struck by the strength of language in the denunciation of the form of capitalism that prevailed at the time QA was written, one characterised by monopolistic power rather than widespread competition: see MM #36.  By quoting this, John XXIII in effect put down a marker for future debate about capitalism, not least within the Church.  We shall give attention to how CST sees this later, especially in Unit 6.

Just before the end of this reading, Pope John twice uses a term that may be very familiar to you, but is, in the context of studying this module, new: social justice.  “[A]ll forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.” (#39)

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Reflection

What do you think ‘social justice’ means?

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Unlike ‘solidarity’, which was not used in either RN or QA, ‘social justice’ was used several times in QA.  Like ‘solidarity’, exactly what it means needs careful examination.  We shall do this in 5.2.3.

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End of 5.2.1

Go to 5.2.2 The principle of solidarity

 

Module B outline

 

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