Quadragesimo anno

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Quadragesimo anno
(Latin: In the 40th Year)
Encyclical letter of Pope Pius XI
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Date 15 May 1931
Argument On the reconstruction of the social order
Encyclical number 19 of 31 of the pontificate
Text in Latin
in English
Social Teaching
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Pope Leo XIII
Quod apostolici muneris
Rerum novarum

Pope Pius XI
Quadragesimo anno

Pope Pius XII
Social teachings

Pope John XXIII
Mater et magistra
Pacem in terris

Vatican II
Dignitatis humanae
Gaudium et spes

Pope Paul VI
Populorum progressio

Pope John Paul II
Laborem exercens
Sollicitudo rei socialis
Centesimus annus
Evangelium vitae

Pope Benedict XVI
Deus caritas est
Caritas in veritate

Pope Francis
Lumen fidei
Laudato si'

Social teachings of the Popes
Tranquillitas Ordinis

Notable figures
Gaspard Mermillod
René de La Tour du Pin
Heinrich Pesch
Dorothy Day
Óscar Romero
Joseph Bernardin
Hilaire Belloc
G. K. Chesterton
Thomas Woods

Quadragesimo anno (Latin for “In the 40th Year”) is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on 15 May 1931, 40 years after Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum. Unlike Leo XIII, who addressed the condition of workers, Pius XI discusses the ethical implications of the social and economic order. He describes the major dangers for human freedom and dignity arising from unrestrained capitalism and totalitarian socialism/communism. He also calls for the reconstruction of the social order based on the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity.

Essential contributors to the formulation of the encyclical Quadragesimo anno were the German Jesuits, Roman Catholic theologians and social philosophers Gustav Gundlach and the Königswinterer Kreis through one of its main authors Oswald von Nell-Breuning.

Changes since Rerum novarum

Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical exactly forty years after Rerum novarum. In the interim there were other papal statements from Leo XIII, and also the encyclical Singulari Quadam of Pope Pius X. Pius XI subtitled his encyclical Reconstruction of the Social Order. In the first part he reviews and applauds the encyclical of his predecessor. The Church can be credited with participating in the progress made and contributing to it. It developed a new social conscience.[1]

Private property

The Church has a role in discussing these issues. Social and economic issues are vital to her not from a technical point of view but in terms of moral and ethical issues involved. Ethical considerations include the nature of private property[2] concerning which, within the Catholic Church, several conflicting views had developed. Pope Pius XI proclaims private property to be essential for the development and freedom of the individual. Those who deny private property deny personal freedom and development. But, says Pius, private property has a social function as well. Private property loses its morality if it is not subordinated to the common good. Therefore governments have a right to pursue redistribution policies. In extreme cases, the Pope recognises that the State has a right to expropriate private property.[3]

Capital and labour

A related issue, says Pius, is the relation between capital and labour and the determination of fair wages.[4] Pius develops the following ethical mandate: The Church considers it a perversion of industrial society, to have developed sharp opposite camps based on income. He welcomes all attempts to alleviate these cross differences. Three elements determine a fair wage: The worker's family responsibilities, the economic condition of the enterprise and the economy as a whole. The family has an innate right to development, but this is only possible within the framework of a functioning economy and sound enterprises. For this, Pope Pius concludes that solidarity not conflict is a necessary condition, given the mutual interdependence of the parties involved.[4]

Social order

Industrialization, says Pius XI, resulted in less freedom at the individual and communal level, because numerous free social entities got absorbed by larger ones. A society of individuals became a mass and class society. People are much less interdependent than in ancient times and become egoistic or class-conscious in order to save some freedom for themselves. The pope demands more solidarity, especially between employers and employees through new forms of cooperation and communication. Pius draws a negative view of Capitalism, especially of the anonymous international finance markets.[5] He identifies here problems: dangers for small and medium-size enterprises who have insufficient access to capital markets and are squeezed or destroyed by the larger ones. He warns that capital interests can become a danger for states, who would be reduced to be "chained slaves of individual interests".[6] The encyclical has been an important inspiration to modern Distributist thought on seeking greater solidarity and subsidiarity than present capitalism.

Communism and socialism

Regarding communism and socialism, Pope Pius noted increasing differences. He condemns communism but also the social conditions which nourish it. He wants moderate socialism to distance itself from totalitarian communism as a matter of convenience and also as a matter of principle, in light of the dignity of the human person.[7] Dignity and human freedom are ethical considerations, which cannot be solved from a hostile class confrontation. Ethics are based on religion and, declares the Pope, this is the realm where the Church meets industrial society.[8]

117 "Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth."[9]

118 "Socialism, on the other hand, wholly ignoring and indifferent to this sublime end of both man and society, affirms that human association has been instituted for the sake of material advantage alone."[9]

Tripartist corporatism

The encyclical describes in considerable detail a desired tripartist corporatist social structure in which government, industry, and labor work together in concert as part of a third way between capitalism and communism. Corporatism was widely adopted in the fascist nations of Catholic Europe, including the regimes of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain, and Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria. The Communist left regarded the encyclical as a partisan document, in which the Pope gave his blessing to the Fascist regimes.[10] Franklin D. Roosevelt also had high praise for the encyclical and quoted it extensively on the evils of concentrated economic power.[11]

After the Second World War, Christian Democratic political groups, many of them strongly influenced by Catholic social teaching, worked to institute tripartist "neo-corporatist" or "social corporatist" systems in much of Europe, including the ordoliberal system of the social market economy in Germany, the social partnership in Ireland, the polder model in the Netherlands, the concertation system in Italy, the Rhine model in Switzerland and the Benelux countries, and the Nordic model in Scandinavia.


  1. Quadragesimo anno, 16–40
  2. Quadragesimo anno, 44–52
  3. Quadragesimo anno, 114–115
  4. 4.0 4.1 Quadragesimo anno, 63–75
  5. Quadragesimo anno, 99 ff
  6. Quadragesimo anno, 109
  7. Quadragesimo anno, 115–118
  8. Quadragesimo anno, 127–148
  9. 9.0 9.1 Quadragesimo anno, 115-118
  10. J. B. S. Haldane, Auld Hornie, F.R.S., The Modern Quarterly, Autumn 1946, included in Shadows of Imagination, ed. Mark R. Hillegas (1969, 1979). "I do not think that any of the Popes whom Dante saw in hell had done an action as evil as that of Pius XI when he blessed fascism in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno."
  11. Dinunzio, Mario (2011). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Third American Revolution. ABC-CLIO. p. 49.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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