What is Rerum Novarum?

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What is Rerum Novarum?
Rerum Novarum is an encyclical or a memorandum sent to the church members of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo XIII. Released in 1891, this particular letter or circular emphasized the Roman Catholic Church’s stand on a variety of social issues particularly those experienced by the working class. It was entitled “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour” with Henry E. Manning and Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler lending their help in composing the said encyclical.

The main idea of the encyclical is to emphasize the protection of rights of individuals particularly in the employer-employee setup, and how labor conditions should be fair for everyone involved. The encyclical touches on old doctrines and relate them to present problems of the society, particularly the complaints and grievances of people that are classified under the “working class” group. It also emphasizes the Church’s stand on people’s rights to private ownership and its disagreements with Socialist theories. Through the encyclical, everyone is encouraged to cooperate as it is the only way to improve the social and labor conditions of a particular society. The Church would like to involve itself in this scenario because of its religious and moral obligation to the people. The State on the other hand should take care of promoting and bringing justice to the people and improve their social well-being. People are also encouraged to have mutual respect with their employers to avoid social conflicts. Concerns on labor conditions are expressed in detail through the encyclical to address the growing problems that came along with rapid industrialization.

With the threat of Socialization increasing, the Church opted to release the encyclical to guide the member churches in their teachings to the people. And even up to today, this particular encyclical is used and can be applied to present social conditions. In the labor sector for example, the encyclical gave the suggestion and idea of forming workers unions or trade unions to address grievances of the working class. It is also through the encyclical that the concept of collective bargaining is introduced as a remedy for labor concerns.

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