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Catholic Labor History: The 119th Birthday Of Rerum Novarum

May 15, 2010

Today in 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum. This encyclical espoused the rights of labor, duties of capital, and the principle of economic and social subsidiarity. The last term was not explicitly used in the encyclical, but most commentators–philosophical, theological, and otherwise—date Catholic thinking on subsidiarity to Rerum Novarum. Subsidiarity is founded on the notion of the autonomy and dignity of the human person. Jacques Maritain, who helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, linked his thinking on that subject to points made explicit in Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno—also released on May 15, but in 1931 during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI. – TL

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