Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Octogesima Adveniens (On the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum)

May 14, 1971

Octogesima Adveniens, an apostolic letter written by Pope Paul VI on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, represents a reformulation and expansion of the Catholic social teaching tradition in light of the events of the late 1960s. Paul's letter exhorts Catholics to be politically engaged, but it cautions that political action alone will not resolve the world's problems. The letter focuses on extending participation to include all members of society, sharing responsibility for political and economic decision-making, and introduces the notion of the preferential option for the poor. The letter acknowledges that socialism begins with good intentions but goes awry when it constrains human freedom. Likewise, it praises the liberalism of democracies but warns that an excessive focus on individual autonomy can lead persons to forget their duties to those around them.

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