Rerum Novarum Question

That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising. The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvellous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses; the increased self reliance and closer mutual combination of the working classes; as also, finally, in the prevailing moral degeneracy. The momentous gravity of the state of things now obtaining fills every mind with painful apprehension; wise men are discussing it; practical men are proposing schemes; popular meetings, legislatures, and rulers of nations are all busied with it - actually there is no question which has taken deeper hold on the public mind. …

To remedy these wrongs the socialists,…

Does anybody know which parts of the world and where his main focus may have been…Europe? Which countries, which socialist? America? Russia? …Where was this happening the most…which countries were transforming either towards socilism or away from it…Was their a paricular big socialist at the time?

I know it was signed in 1891.

Most likely he was talking about events in Europe. Socialism as a political force was growing in tandem with the Industrial Revolution. No country had become socialist but the intelligentsia were discussing and forming their ideas for a “new world order”. I use the phrase in quotes because it is a concept that changes with time.

Interestingly, the pope tackled the wealthy as well. he pointed out that wealth was not the same as private property, but rather that the wealthy were guardians of their riches which were to be used to help their fellow man as need be.

But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? - the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor (St. Thomas Aquinas): “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the Apostle with, ‘Command the rich of this world… to offer with no stint, to apportion largely.’”


I wonder if any countries fell into that type or communsit or dictator type governments back at that time? Such as Russia, or China or any others…I tried to look that kind of stuff up and it got kind of complicated.

A lot of the countries in Europe were ruled by royalty going back generations. There were parliaments alright but only landowners, or minor royalty could vote in most of them.

Sure it’s complicated, that’s why I find it so interesting.:slight_smile: Before the Industrial Revolution almost every economic endevour was linked to land. Those that owned it became very rich and employed hundreds of people to farm the land and cater for their needs. Cities, such as Paris, Moscow, Rome etc., grew as centres where the wealthy could get together and discuss the issues of the day. The ordinary citizen was again there to keep the wealthy folk happy. So long as the ordinary person was treated with respect this seemed to work.

Industrialisation brought about a huge change, it broke the link to the land and a new middle class developed. As towns and cities grew not to service the royals but to serve the new wealthy, people like Pierre Leroux in France or Robert Owen in Britain, began to call for a new society based not on ownership but on a value being placed on work done by individuals. The problem with that was whose values were to be used. They quickly saw that for their system to work the state would have to take ownership of the means of wealth production. This only happened in 1917 with the Russian Revolution, but the groundwork was being laid for decades before that.

That Pope Leo was able to see through the hype is amazing. Rerum Novarum certainly warned against socialism with a clarity that even today it’s worth reading.

Thank you. That’s very interesting and I agree, that it is amazing how the Church sees Things ahead of time.

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