For a better understanding of the contents of this small summa of papal social teachings it is necessary to recall certain truths taught by the Catholic Church. These truths, which Catholics readily accept, must be at least hypothetically presupposed by all others if a proper understanding of this book is to be attained by them.
These are the postulates:
1) The existence of a Supreme Being, Creator of all things, who directly and indirectly ordained and does ordain them.
2) All created things have, of necessity, the glory of God as their proper end. Living and intelligent creatures (men) attain it by knowing, loving and serving God in this life and sharing His happiness in the next. Non-intelligent living creatures (animals and plants) and inanimate creatures (elements and composites) attain it by a) passively obeying the laws of creation; b) testifying by their existence to the power of their Creator; c) serving as means to the living intelligent creatures.
3) The knowledge of the existence of God and of some laws (natural laws) given by Him is attainable by reason; since his creation, man has possessed such knowledge in sufficient degree.
4) A deeper knowledge of God is obtained through revelation, by which the essence and the attributes of God and divine positive laws were made known. God Himself disclosed such truths to Adam in Paradise and then to the patriarchs and Moses; later, through special messengers-the Prophets, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Apostles-revelation came first to the Jews and then to the whole of humanity.
5) Man was endowed by God with a multiplicity of preternatural and natural gifts. But in punishment for his disobedience to a divine command, he was deprived by God of the preternatural gifts of physical immortality and lost full control over his faculties.
In a state of degradation as the result of a weakened will and a consequent loosening of his inordinate tendencies, man awaited for thousands of years the coming of a Mediator who would restore him to his Creator’s friendship.
6) God the Father permitted His Son, Jesus Christ, to assume human flesh and come into the world (around the middle of the eighth century of Rome), a) to complete the revelation of the essence, attributes, and laws of God; b) to redeem man from sin, through His sacrifice on the Cross; c) to announce and prepare the coming of the Holy Spirit; d) to sanctify man by the institution of the sacraments and the Church.
7) Jesus Christ preached a particular type of doctrine, essentially contained in the books of the New Testament, which completed and sublimated the natural law and the divine positive laws of the Old Testament.
8) Jesus Christ instituted the Church to administer the sacraments, to propagate and preserve His doctrine and to lead all men to heaven.
9) Jesus Christ gave the Church a head in the person of Peter and his lawful successors, and endowed them with the faculty of guiding it in an infallible way and of moderating all its activities.
10) Christians must acknowledge revelation and its custodians; they must conform their entire lives to revealed truths and keep their activities within the limits indicated by such truths.
11) The Church, the pope, the hierarchy, have no particular political or economic program of their own to propose. It is their right and duty, however, to point out and warn the people against certain political and economic activities which hinder man from achieving his ultimate end because contrary to moral and religious principles.
It is in view of this that the Church and the popes must also concern themselves with political and social questions. And, insofar as they do it to safeguard religion and morals, Catholics have the obligation to accept, observe and defend the Church’s teachings.
Heading One: Man And Society
Chapter I. Origin, Nature and Rights of Man
1) What is the origin and nature of man?
Man is a being created by God. He is composed of a body which is material and mortal, and of a soul which is spiritual and immortal. He is endowed with intelligence and free will. Through sanctifying grace he is elevated to the dignity of a child of God.
Pius XI: Man has a spiritual and immortal soul. He is a person, marvelously endowed by his Creator with gifts of body and mind. [Divini Redemptoris, §27]
Pius XI: Only man, the human person...is endowed with reason and a morally free will. [Divini Redemptoris, §29]
Leo XIII: Liberty, nature's most exalted gift, the endowment of intellectual and rational beings only, confers on man the dignity of abiding "in the hand of his counsel," of having power over his own actions. [Libertas, §1] Plus XI: [Man] by sanctifying grace is raised to the dignity of a son of God, and incorporated into the kingdom of God in the Mystical Body of Christ. [Divini Redemptoris, §27]
2) What is the ultimate end of man?
Man has an earthly life during which he must give glory to his Creator; but there is also a super-terrestrial life in which he will enjoy for eternity, if he will have deserved it, the beatific vision of God. The ultimate end of man is the glory of his Creator.
Pius XI: God alone is [man's] last end, in this life and the next. [Divini Redemptoris, §27]
3) In what does the superior dignity of man consist?
As an intelligent being, free and endowed with an immortal soul, man surpasses in dignity all non-intelligent beings and all inanimate things, which he must use as means of attaining his end.
Pius XI: Man is a true 'microcosm,' as the ancients said, a world in miniature, with a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos. [Divini Redemptoris, §27]
Leo XIII: It is the soul which is made after the image and likeness of God; it is in the soul that sovereignty resides, in virtue of which man is commanded to rule the creatures below him, and to use all the earth and the ocean for his profit and advantage. [Rerum Novarum, §32]
Pius XI: For man surpasses all other visible creatures by the superiority of his rational nature alone. [Casti Connubii, § 13]us XI: It is therefore according to the dictates of reason that ultimately all material things should be ordained to man as a person, that through his mediation they may find their way to the Creator. [Divini Redemptoris, §30]
Leo XIII: [Man has it within] his power to exercise his choice not only on things which regard his present welfare, but also those which will be for his advantage in time to come. [Rerum Novarum]
4) What rights were bestowed upon man by his Creator?
Man possesses certain rights bestowed upon him by God at the moment of his creation. They flow from the very nature and end of man. The principal rights are the right to life and to tend to his ultimate end, the right of association, to possess and to use worldly goods, to contract marriage and enjoy the use of it.
Pius XI: Man has been endowed by God with many and varied prerogatives: the right to life, to bodily integrity, to the necessary means of existence; the right to tend toward his ultimate goal in the path marked out for him by God; the right of association and the right to possess and use property....Matrimony and the right to its natural use are of divine origin. [Divini Redemptoris, §§27,28]
Pius XII: ...fundamental personal rights: the right to maintain and develop one's corporal, intellectual and moral life, and especially the right to religious formation and education; the right to worship God in private and public and to carry on religious works of charity; the right to marry and to achieve the aim of married life; the right to conjugal and domestic society; the right to work, as the indispensable means towards the maintenance of family life; the right to free choice of a state of life, and hence, too, of the priesthood or religious life; the right to the use of material goods in keeping with his duties and social limitations. [Christmas Message, 1942]
5 Why has man a right to life, and in what does this right consist?
In creating man, God conferred upon him the right to life. This becomes a concrete reality in the right to his physical integrity and to a physical, intellectual and moral development, and also in the right to obtain normally through his work the means necessary to such development. In the absence of such means his right to life would be a mere theoretical concession.
Pius XI: Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body....Private individuals have no other power over the members of their bodies than that which pertains to their natural ends; and they are not free to destroy or mutilate their members, or in any other way render themselves unfit for their natural functions, except when no other provision can be made for the good of the whole body. [Casti Connubii, §§70-71]
Pius XII: To the personal duty to labor imposed by nature corresponds and follows the natural right of each individual to make of labor the means to provide for his own life and that of his children. [Address on Pentecost, 1941]
Pius XII: [Man has] the right to maintain and develop his corporal, intellectual, and moral life and especially the right to religious formation and education. [ Christmas Message, 1942]
6) Why does man have a right to achieve his ultimate end, and how can he achieve it?
Having assigned to him an ultimate end, God has conferred upon him also the right to tend toward it, using the means necessary to its achievement, and practicing freely public and private worship.
Leo XIII: To contemplate God and to tend to Him is the supreme law of the life of man. [Sapientiae Christianae, §1]
Pius X: No matter what the Christian does, even in the realm of temporal goods, he cannot ignore the super¬natural good. Rather, according to the dictates of Christian philosophy, he must order all things to the ultimate end, namely, the Highest Good. [Singulari Quadam]
Pius XI: The true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ and display it in all his actions. [Divini Illius Magistri]
Leo XIII: Every man in the State may follow the will of God and, from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle...This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God. [Libertas, §21]
7) Why does man have a right to propagate himself, and how can he do this?
Having given to man the capacity to propagate himself and the task to perpetuate the human species, God gave him the right to join in marriage and to use it according to the law of nature.
Leo XIII: No human law can abolish the natural and primitive right of marriage, or in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage, ordained by God's authority from the beginning: "Increase and multiply." [Rerum Novarum, §9]
Pius XI: [There exists] the natural and primeval right of marriage....The Creator of the human race Himself... in His goodness wished to use men as His helpers in the propagation of life....Christian parents must also understand that they are destined...to propagate and preserve the human race on earth. [Casti Connubii, §§9,12,14]
It is wrong to brand men with the stigma of crime because they contract marriage, on the ground that, despite the fact that they are in every respect capable of matrimony, they will give birth only to defective children, even though they use all care and diligence. [Casti Connubii, §69]
8) Why has man the right to possess and to use worldly goods?
In giving to man the capacity to produce new things, useful in the achievement of his ultimate end, God gave him the right to possess and to use such things.
Leo XIII: When man thus spends the industry of his mind and the strength of his body in procuring the fruits of nature, by that act he makes his own that portion of nature's field which he cultivates-that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his own personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his own, and should have a right to keep it without molestation. [Rerum Novarum, §7]
Pius XI: The right to own private property has been given to man by nature, or rather by the Creator Himself. By means of it, the goods which the Creator has destined for the human race may truly serve this purpose. [Quadragesima Anno, §45]
Pius XI: The only form of labor, however, which gives the workingman a title to its fruits is that which a man exercises as his own master, and by which some new form or new value is produced. [Quadragesima Anno, §52]
Pius XII: The dignity of the human person, then, requires normally as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must prevent the worker, who is or will be a father of a family, from being condemned to an economic dependence and slavery which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. Whether this slavery arises from the exploitation of private capital or from the power of the State, the result is the same. [Christmas Message, 1942]
8) Why does man have the right of association?
In creating man in need of other men's help, God gave him the right to associate with them, in order to integrate his own inadequacies with others and reach his own perfection.
Leo XIII: Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society. Isolated, he cannot provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. It is, therefore, divinely ordained that he should lead his life-be it domestic, social, or civil-in contact with his fellow men. [Immortale Dei, §2]
Leo XIII: The experience of his own weakness urges man to call in help from without....It is this natural impulse which unites men in civil society; and it is this also which makes them band themselves together in associations of citizen with citizen; associations which, it is true, cannot be called societies in the complete sense of the word, but which are real societies nevertheless. Particular societies, then, although they exist within the State, and are each a part of the State, nevertheless cannot be prohibited by the State absolutely and as such. For to enter into a 'society' of this kind is the natural right of man. The State must protect natural rights, not destroy them. If it forbids its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence; for both they and it exist in virtue of the same principle; viz., the natural propensity of man to live in society. There are times, no doubt, when it is right that the law should interpose to prevent association; as when men join together for purposes which are evidently bad, unjust, or dangerous to the State. In such cases the public authority may justly forbid the formation of associations, and may dissolve them when they already exist. But every precaution should be taken not to violate the rights of individuals, and not to make unreasonable regulations under the pretense of public benefit. [Rerum Novarum, §§37,38]
All such societies are not merely free to exist, but have the further right to adopt such rules and organizations as may best conduce to the attainment of their objects. [Rerum Novarum, §42]
10) In regard to whom are the rights of man inalienable?
All the rights given to man by God are inalienable with regard to other men, whether taken individually or united in a group, and nobody has the right to take them away from him.
Leo XIII: The fact is that in the projects and enactments of men there exists no power that can change the character and tendency given to things by nature. [Arcanum, §18]
Leo XIII: The State must protect natural rights, not destroy them. [Rerum Novarum, §38]
Leo XIII: "The liberty of those who are in authority does not consist in the power to lay unreasonable and capricious commands upon their subjects...but instead the binding force of human laws lies in the fact that they are to be regarded as applications of the eternal law. [Libertas, §7]
Pius XI: Society...cannot defraud man of his God-granted rights...nor...by making their use impossible. [Divini Redemptoris, §30]
Pius XII: Before the State everyone has the right to live honorably his own personal life in the place and under the conditions in which the designs and dispositions of Providence placed him. [Christmas Message, 1944]
11) Can man renounce the exercise of the rights given to him by God?
Only in view of a higher perfection, man can renounce the exercise of those natural rights which do not constitute at the same time a duty for him. For instance, for the love of God, he may renounce marriage and the enjoyment of material goods, but he cannot renounce the duty to pursue his ultimate end.
Leo XIII: No man may outrage with impunity that human dignity which God Himself treats with reverence, nor stand in the way of that higher life which is the preparation for the eternal life of heaven. Nay, more; a man has here no power over himself. To consent to any treatment which is calculated to defeat the end and purpose of his being is beyond his right; he cannot give up his soul to servitude; for it is not man's own rights which are here in question, but the duties towards God, most sacred and inviolable. [Rerum Novarum, §32]
Leo XIII: It is a sin to disobey God for the sake of pleasing men. [Sapientiae Christianae, §3]
Leo XIII: In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty either to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to virginity, or to enter into the bonds of marriage. [Rerum Novarum, §9]
Leo XIII: The preservation of life is the bounden duty of each and all, and to fail therein is a crime. [Rerum Novarum, §34]
12) What advantages does man obtain from the full fruition of the rights given to him by God?
Full fruition of the rights given to man by God permits him to use integrally all his faculties, to exploit fully to his own advantage and that of society all the talents received, thus achieving his own end and giving God a more perfect glory.
Leo XIII: It was divinely ordained that things instituted by God and by nature should be proved by us to be the more profitable and salutary the more they remain unchanged in their full integrity. [Arcanum, § 13]
Pius XI: For according to Christian doctrine, man, endowed with a social nature, is placed here on earth in order that, spending his life in society and under an authority ordained by God, he may develop and evolve to the full all his faculties to the praise and glory of his Creator; and that, by fulfilling faithfully the duties of his station, he may attain to temporal and eternal happiness. [Quadragesima Anno, §118]
Taken from Amintore Fanfani, Catechism of Catholic Social Teaching (The Newman Press. 1960), pp.ix-13.