The development of the principle of the just wage in official Catholic social teaching

William Jeffrey Fellows, Marquette University

Abstract

The goal of this work is the presentation and evaluation of the principle of the just wage in official Catholic social teaching from Rerum Novarum to the modern period. The theme of the universal destination of the goods of creation, articulated in the fourth century by St. Ambrose, is treated as a primary norm in tracing the development of this particular economic right and moral principle. The notion of the universal participation in the goods of creation is a particularly important theme since church teaching on wages from Pope Leo XIII to the present has criticized economic systems and practices for the gross inequity in the distribution of the world's resources and material goods. The dissertation shows the continuity in church teaching on wages in papal encyclicals and statements of bishops' conferences throughout the world. The work demonstrates how the Catholic social tradition has also evolved. An example cited of this evolution is the principle of the preferential option for the poor that the Latin American Bishops first proclaimed at their 1968 Medellin Conference. The needs of the poor are now treated consistently as a priority in Catholic teaching on economic matters. The author holds that official teaching on wages can be judged for the degree to which the solutions offered by the church actually help solve the problems they address. He contends the church itself bears responsibility for implementing its teaching and suggests church teaching on wages has been limited because the church as an institution chooses to define itself as a teacher of moral principles rather than an active participant in socioeconomic change.

Recommended Citation

William Jeffrey Fellows, "The development of the principle of the just wage in official Catholic social teaching" (January 1, 2003). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3093141.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3093141

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