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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 914

Rerum Novarum, or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, outlines the Catholic Church's stance on working-class conflicts and rights in a time where concepts such as socialism was gaining popularity. It is difficult to point out a few main quotes, because every section of Rerum Novarum addresses a different idea, problem, or suggestion for the Church, the State, and all classes of society. It is also full of run-on sentences. However, here are a few selections that outline the main points of Rerum Novarum:

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On the state of the working class at the time of Rerum Novarum:

. . . the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition.

Rerum Novarum insists that socialism's attempt to disallow private property is against the laws of nature and would make society more divided:

Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.

. . . every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own . . .

. . . on this very account—that man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason—it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession . . .

. . . no part of [earth] was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man's own industry, and by the laws of individual races . . .

. . . their co-operation is in this respect so important that it may be truly said that it is only by the labor of working men that States grow rich . . .

Rerum Novarum discourages the involvement of the State, unless one is in desperate need of aid:

There is no need to bring in the State. Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body . . .

. . . it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth . . .

. . . people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community . . .

The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage- earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.

Several suggested rules and regulations involving working conditions are outlined:

. . . the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected . . .

The foremost duty, therefore, of the rulers of the...

(The entire section contains 914 words.)

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