Info

for the pope to speak, thus echoing the expectation of the Union of Fribourg in 1888, which had said to Leo, 'Everyone is now looking to the Vatican for a word.'14

Meanwhile, Vatican circles were agitated about the teachings of the American populist Henry George on the private ownership of land. His ideas had been praised and disseminated by Edward McGlynn, a Roman-trained priest based in New York. McGlynn was more forthright than George and asserted that 'land is legitimately the property of the people in general and its private ownership is contrary to natural justice'. Cardinal Camillo Mazella, having read George's works, recommended that a pontifical document should address the 'censurable teachings' of George and 'others like them'.15 McGlynn was excommunicated and George's works put on the Index of Prohibited Books, despite the appeal for prudence by Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore. In the event, their opposition to land ownership was as much at the basis of the papal teaching on private property as anything that socialists taught.

Listening to the diverse pleas addressed to him, Leo concluded that so pressing a problem required a pithy title, 'The Worker Question', and on 1 May 1891 issued his lapidary encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum. The encyclical was composed entirely in the Vatican by Jesuit and Dominican scholars working under the constant supervision of the pope. The principal author, an elderly Jesuit, Matteo Liberatore, had lectured and published in Rome extensively on economics and social principles. Rerum Novarum began with the proposition that the 'Worker Question' was of such importance that beside it stood 'no other question of greater moment in the world today' and that it was 'one of great concern to the well-being of the State'.16

After eight laborious drafts and various translations from Italian into Latin, the encyclical was published on 15 May 1891. The first sentence, beginning with the words 'Rerum Novarum', was capable of a grave misunderstanding in translation and was rendered into English as 'the spirit of revolutionary change which has long been disturbing the nations of the world'.17 Students of the late

14 See H. E. Manning, A pope on capital and labour: the significance of the encyclical Rerum Novarum, new edn (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1931), pp. 21-37; De Gasperi, I tempi, pp. 83-105; Molony, The worker question, p. 48.

15 Molony, The worker question, pp. 54-8.

16 Ibid., pp. 165, 201. (The author's translation of the encyclical is used here and throughout.) For the drafts of Rerum Novarum in Italian and Latin, see Antonazzi, L'enciclica Rerum Novarum; Molony, 'The making of Rerum Novarum', pp. 27-39.

17 See the sentence in Fremantle (ed.), The papal encyclicals, p. 166; Molony, The worker question, pp. 101-3.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment