500 Words Please review attached document and add a 500 word reflection of the document and the relevance of the main topic to today’s society. Rerum Novar

500 Words Please review attached document and add a 500 word reflection of the document and the relevance of the main topic to today’s society. Rerum Novar

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Please review attached document and add a 500 word reflection of the document and the relevance of the main topic to today’s society. 

Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII

The Industrial Revolution, in modern history, is the process of change from an agrarian
and handicraft economy to an economy dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. With
the rise of industrialization came the transition from ‘Feudalism’ to ‘Capitalism’ and development
of the latter. Rerum Novarum is an encyclical written in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII to condemn the
abuses of both Marxist Socialism and unbridled capitalism. Pope Leo XIII saw tremendous
dangers for the dignity of people concerning these two things. In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo
XIII uses the rejection of Socialism as a solution to the poverty of workers. Pope Leo XIII then
proposes a three-fold solution to the social problem of the workers by outlining the role of: the
Church, the state, and the employers, workers and unions.

According to Pope Leo XIII humans find their meaning and value through God, because
they are made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God they have the mark of
goodness that gives them dignity. Pope Leo XIII proposes that it will be through recognizing the
dignity of each human being, the employer recognizing the dignity of the employee and the
employee recognizing the dignity of the employer that the social issues from the industrial
revolution can be resolved. Pope Leo XIII talks about the duties of the laborer for example to do
a good day’s work for a good day’s pay and to not do violence to the employer. “The following
duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their
bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character.
They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain
is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to
misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their
physical powers – that is truly shameful and inhuman” (RN no. 20). He talks particularly about
the duties of the employer to the employee. It is the duty of the employer to not misuse men as
though they were objects in the pursuit of gain. Human beings are not machines, they have
dignity and were made in the image and likeness of God, therefore they should be treated with
dignity. Pope Leo XIII saw this dignity coming to be recognized through labor unions and other
associations. He had the hope that other than unions, associations would help widows or children
of those who died from working at a business. Besides this they would also provide a way for
employees and employers to work together and get to know each other. They would build a sort
of friendship where they develop a deeper love and respect for one another. Unions would allow
working men to stand up for themselves with authority by standing together and advocating for
their rights. With this authority employees could work together to achieve their ends, achieve a
living wage. Pope Leo XIII defines a living wage as a worker is paid enough to support
themselves and their family. A wage on which they can raise a family and have enough
disposable income for cultural and spiritual well-being. He did not believe that states had the
right to forbid people from forming associations. According to Pope Leo XIII forming
associations is a right of human beings. However, Pope Leo XIII argues that there are times
when the state should step in to fight injustices.

Governments and business organizations saw an increasing problem with the conditions
of workers in the newly industrialized nations of Europe and were unsure how to proceed.
Should the government step in or were businesses left to do as they saw fit? The Pope came up
with the middle ground. Based on the principle of subsidiarity, the government only steps in
when needed and intermediate organizations (labor unions and associations) should be the
primary watchdog for workers rights. Pope Leo XIII believed that the state should look for
injustices, where people are being treated unfairly or are working in unsafe conditions. He was
not a fan of unchecked capitalism if people were being injured. If there is not adequate virtue
among employers to ensure that employees are given a working wage, safe conditions, and
giving decent working hours then the state should step in to regulate. It also declares that it is the
rightful place of the state to regulate the markets so as to protect the working class from spiritual
and material exploitation. The encyclical also states that it is more important not to violate this
right than to allow profits to fall due to economics–that the employer has a duty to his workers to
ensure that they are well-off before he can start increasing his own profit margins.

Furthermore, the encyclical condemns the Marxist idea of inevitable class struggle as the
engine of history, insists on private property as a natural right, and states that loyalty to family
must come before loyalty to state or class. Pope Leo XIII declares that humans have the right to
own private property, by saying that by taking away private property the worker is deprived of
the chief purpose of his labor which is to provide for himself and his family. Pope Leo XIII also
notes that if someone saves up from their earnings they may be able to buy a piece of land that is
going to enable them to grow food and give some security towards their future. The person and
the family are considered by Pope Leo XIII to exist prior to the state. In other words the state
exists for the benefit of the person and their family. Therefore, the state does not have the
authority to take away private property. Pope Leo XIII supports this idea by explaining how
private property comes to be. The way private property came about is by human beings taking
what they have, their body, energy, their knowledge, their reason and investing all of that into the
earth. For example, a farmer plowing the field and growing food. By investing their labor into
something they have a natural right to it. The person’s creativity and effort are now a part of what
he has worked on, “the impress of his personality” (RN no. 9). Pope Leo XIII notes that without
private property people would not work hard, no one would have any interest in exerting his
talents or his industry” (RN no. 15).” Humans will work harder on something that belongs to
them, if you take that away their labor no longer advances their own interest in something and
they lose their purpose to work hard and leads to a cultural laziness.

After discussing the importance of private property to family life, Pope Leo XIII reveals
the role the Church should take in the matter of social justice. The Church promotes social
harmony, can provide a moral leavening in society, and expresses a concern for the poor. “It is
We who are the chief guardian of religion and the chief dispenser of what pertains to the Church;
and by keeping silence we would seem to neglect the duty incumbent on us”(RN no. 16), the
Church has a duty to intervene in social matters. The Church organizes to meet the needs of

human beings through many organizations thus has the duty to mediate any issue or concerns on
their behalf.

According to Pope Leo XIII the Church’s teachings keeps the rich and the working
classes from declining into a relationship of strictly exchanging of labor and pay. “Justice
demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in
mind. Hence the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that
he not be exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be led not away
to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must
never tax his work people beyond their strength or employ them in work unsuited to their sex
and age,”(RN no. 20) the employer has a responsibility to the spiritual well being of his
employee. The teachings of the Church reminds employers that they have more of an obligation
to their employees than just providing a paycheck. Pope Leo XIII reminds readers that their place
on Earth is not forever and there is a greater purpose to look forward to; “the things of earth
cannot be understood or valued aright without taking into consideration the life to come, the life
that will know no death” (RN no. 21). The encyclical is implying that it is the duty of the Church
to remind humans that eternal happiness is not connected to material possessions of the Earth. In
other words, wealth does not grant you eternal happiness. Pope Leo XIII uses this teaching as an
opportunity to remind readers that they must follow the law of Christ and practice virtue in order
to receive eternal life.

Rerum Novarum helped solidify the concept of “Catholic Social Teaching.” This concept
involves recognizing the Church’s primary role as striving to provide for the spiritual salvation of
all humankind, while still recognizing that humans live in the material world, and are subject to
the afflictions offered by the material world. Today the United States has one of the widest wage
and wealth gaps in the world. This has been highlighted even more so by the present COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused governments to step in and impose policies that
limit social contact outside the home. These policies resulted in a large amount of the workforce
either working remotely from home or not working. However, many essential jobs and services,
such as healthcare and retail, left many workers not subject to these policies. These essential
workers were now not only subjected to the risk of contracting COVID-19 because of their job
but the risk of infecting their families as well. Essential workers were faced with a great
dilemma: do they quit their jobs for their safety and hope they have savings to hold them over or
continue to work in unsafe environments? Many essential workers chose to keep working out of
necessity, because the majority are low wage workers facing poverty. Essential workers are now
advocating for pandemic hazard pay. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical would advocate for this as well,
ensuring that essential workers can do their jobs safely and receive adequate pay. Caring for the
poor and promoting the rights of the workers are at the heart of Pope Leo XIII’s teaching in
Rerum Novarum.

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