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Catholic Social Teaching and the Economic Situation

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image of Journal of Empirical Theology

Official Catholic Social Teaching beginning with the Papal document Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) has come to recognize the methodological necessity of interdisciplinary cooperation in the effort to achieve economic justice. Catholic Social Teaching together with the empirical sciences can make valuable contributions in this effort. In this article I suggest a way in which Catholic Social Teaching might be informed in an interdisciplinary dialogue so that it can address the actual situation faced by market economies with greater precision. I argue that statistical evidence taken from the United States does not support the thesis found in some Papal documents that the primary cause of economic misery is the domination of capital over labor. An analysis of modern economic power must first include a discussion of labor income. Labor receives the bulk of all income, and the distribution of this income varies quite significantly. Theological constructs developed to meet the needs of industrialized society must demonstrate awareness of this if they are to be as helpful as possible in the effort to achieve economic justice. The most recent document examined here, Centesimus Annus (John Paul II, 1991), shows significant congruity with the statistical evidence and argument developed in the paper.


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