It is not rash by any means to say that the whole scheme of social and economic life is now such as to put in the way of vast numbers of mankind most serious obstacles which prevent them from caring for the one thing necessary; namely, their eternal salvation..." With these words Pope Pius XI shone a light on a real, but often neglected, fact. Popular concerns about economic injustice are important, but only in focus of eternity.
His words appeared in an encyclical issued on May 15, 1931. Encyclicals take their names from the words with which they begin. Quadregismo anno "Forty years" was timed to mark the fortieth anniversary of an earlier encyclical On the Condition of Workers given by Leo XIII. The two popes encouraged labor unions and rejected both individualism and socialism.
No person can stand completely alone. We need each other. But at the same time, the popes pointed out that socialism is faulty, because it robs men of legitimate property which God has given them to support their families and help one another. This is especially true under Communism which showed itself an implacable foe of Christianity--and indeed of the workers it claimed to help.
At root, social ills are spiritual problems said the pope. But "no genuine cure can be furnished for this lamentable ruin of souls, which, so long as it continues, will frustrate all efforts to regenerate society, unless men return openly and sincerely to the teaching of the Gospel, to the precepts of Him Who alone has the words of everlasting life..."
"...There is the greatest need now of...valiant soldiers of Christ who will work with all their strength to keep the human family safe from the dire ruin into which it would be plunged were the teachings of the Gospel to be flouted, and that order of things permitted to prevail which tramples underfoot no less the laws of nature than those of God."
"Therefore, let all men of good will stand united, all who under the Shepherds of the Church wish to fight this good and peaceful battle of Christ; and under the leadership and teaching guidance of the Church let all strive according to the talent, powers, and position of each to contribute something to the Christian reconstruction of human society which Leo XIII inaugurated through his immortal Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, seeking not themselves and their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ, not trying to press at all costs their own counsels, but ready to sacrifice them, however excellent, if the greater common good should seem to require it, so that in all and above all Christ may reign, Christ may command to Whom be 'honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.' " So spoke Pope Pius on this date.
- Brusher, J. Popes Through the Ages. Princeton, New Jersey: Van Nostrand, 1964.
- Sugrue, Francis. Popes in the Modern World. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1961.
- The quotes from this Encyclical came from newadvent.org and were made available to the Net by Paul Halsall.