Contradictory or Complimentary?
Authors: Mari Marcel Thekaekara and Stan Thekaekara
Almost unbelievably, the term “social justice” was coined as far back in history as the 1840’s by Sicilian Jesuit Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio, based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and has always remained a prominent part of Catholic teaching. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical, Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of the Working Classes) rejecting both capitalism and socialism while defending labour unions and private property. He stated that society should be based on cooperation and not class conflict and competition. The encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On the restoration of Social Order) of 1931 by Pope Pius XI, promotes a living wage, subsidiarity, and teaches that social justice is a personal virtue: society can be just only if individuals are just.
It is somewhat disconcerting to note that even while Popes produced encyclicals on social justice as long ago as 1891, in reality, it was the charity approach that prevailed and flourished a la Dickensian workhouses. Society generally, viewed the poor as a lazy, ignorant lot. One might save one’s soul, or prepare one’s path to heaven, by doling out charity to them, but the reasons for their poverty or the question of social justice appears to have rarely surfaced except in theory and in academic circles.
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