Social Justice in Quadragesimo Anno II

Social Justice in Quadragesimo Anno II

By Dr. Paul Hwang –  Director of ALL Forum

Quardragesimo Anno on Labor Issues

I pointed out in the previous writing in the August newsletter, Pope Pius XI looked with concern at the working condition in which workers were treated as simple production tools in society at the time, youth and female workers were exposed to ethical risks, and even domestic life was threatened. After the Great Depression in 1929, the US and global economy had to confront the result in the mass production of unemployed people. The world’s working environment was getting worse due to the rise of unemployed people. The pope deplored the poor conditions of the workers.

Basically, Pius XI inherited the teachings of Leo XIII, and regarded it as an intrinsic right for workers to form a union, and the principle that they should form a union according to their occupation and work based on religion for the good of the union members. Also, although workers can form unions, the union was viewed as a voluntary organization because it was up to them to decide whether or not to join the union. This is different from the “union shop system”, which was popular at the time, when hired, had to join a labor union and if it lost its status as a union member, workers would be fired. Stimulated by the teachings of the church, Western countries legally approved trade unions or labor groups, and by granting them exclusive privileges in activities for workers, unions can

represent workers and sign labor contracts and trade agreements. Pius XI said regarding the union’s activities, “The new system of trade unions and labor organizations is overly bureaucratic and political. Rather than contributing to the reconstruction and improvement of the social order, there is a risk of being used for special political purposes 75) In fact, communists have turned workers into a tool for realizing their ideology by pushing them into class struggle.

Pius XI believed that the wages of workers should be determined in consideration of the livelihood of workers and their families, the circumstances of businesses and the request of common good.

 He identified it as a social justice obligation that wages must ensure livelihood. “We can never say that social justice has been met unless workers are paid enough to make a safe living for themselves and their families.”56) In order for social justice to be satisfied, wages must be sufficient to maintain a family’s livelihood and sufficient measures should be taken in cases of old age, disease, unemployment, etc.

Quardragesimo Anno and Pope John XXIII

After one generation later, Pope John XXIII summed up his teaching in the encyclical Mater et Magistra . He wrote the encyclical in 1961 in a way that continued Quadragesimo Anno (1931). The world had changed considerably in the previous 30 years both politically and economically. The Great Depression and World War II had ended, the cold war had begun, and technology allowed for increased productivity, but vast poverty remained across the globe.

Above all, John XXIII pointed out in the encyclical especially the paragraphs 38 to 42 that the supreme criterion in economic matters must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice. Also he said people’s aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good.

My Reflection on Laudato Si : Care for our common home

My Reflection on Laudato Si : Care for our common home

By Merry Adriana

Here I was, on my second session of the online course. Although I had to struggle with my internet connection, which always sent me out of the webinar many times. Beside that, I couldn’t open my video so I only followed the course by listening. But it’s all right, I tried my best to follow and to listen the course carefully. I think it’s good also for my eyes. By closing my eyes I listened and plunged  myself in the  encyclical letter Laudato Si, care for our common home.

The Holy Father in this encyclical reminds us to consider our Mother Earth, so that she may continue to sustain us.  When God created man and other creatures (Genesis 1:26-30) He saw that all were good and beautiful.  He gave man the responsibility to take good care of what is around us, so we may live peacefully on this beautiful earth,  as we are all connected with each other and with the whole nature,  But, instead of protecting her we have come to see ourselves as lords and masters, who entitled to plunder her without control or limit. It seems we have forgotten that there are future generations, who will also need Mother Earth’s care. Nature is like a magnificent book, in which God speaks to us and grant us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness. So, we have to pay attention  the message of the Holy Father and take good care of our common home, so that generations yet to come can experience that beauty which God was so proud of when He created this world and entrusted it to the care of man.

St. Francis of Assisi was very much aware of this. He wrote the Canticle of Creatures, so that every generation singing it, could be reminded of God’s beauty in every creature, big or small.  St. Francis also told us that if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, then our attitude will be like consumers and exploiters who are unable to set limits to our immediate needs. We become very greedy.  Actually we should  realize that when we hurt the Earth, we also hurt the poor, we cannot attend to the poor people without dealing with some of the root causes of poverty like the destruction of the environment.  Surely we can’t just stand and watch ourselves and other living things die if there is something we can do. We just all have to try to change our ways to help the environment and ourselves. Many people are now working out ways that are likely to help our environment. What differences are you and I making?

We should not think that our efforts – even our small gestures – don’t matter. We only need few courageous persons to take the initiative and the rest would see the sense and pick it up. We all need to have faith and strong belief that it is possible to bring about changes and arrest environmental destruction. Let us all be lovers of nature like St. Francis and let us give heed to the message of Pope Francis in his encyclical letter “ Laudato Si”  on care of our common home. Start small from the corner you are in and the change will be infectious.