Centesimus Annus Notable Quotations

(Unless otherwise noted, these quotations are from the translation by Joseph Donders in the book entitled John Paul’s Encyclicals in Everyday Language.)

Love for others, and especially for the poor, is made concrete by promoting justice. (#58)


As far as the church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all a basis and a motivation for action. Today more than ever, the church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency. (#57)


There are needs and common goods that cannot be satisfied by the market system. it is the task of the state and of all society to defend them. An idolatry of the market alone cannot do all that should be done. (#40)


A change of mentality is needed, no longer seeing the poor as a burden, or as intruders trying to profit from others, but as people seeking to share the goods of the world so that we can create a just and prosperous world for all. (#28)


The obligation to earn one’s bread presumes the right to do so. A society that denies this right cannot be justified, nor can it attain social peace. (#43).


The church has always defended the right to private property, teaching at the same time that this right is not absolute. Pope Leo XIII wrote: “How must one’s possessions be used? The human being should not consider material possessions as his or her own, but as common to all.” The Second Vatican Council stated: “Of its nature private property also has a social function, based on the law of the common purpose of goods.” (#30)


Human persons are willed by God; they are imprinted with God’s image. Their dignity does not come from the work they do, but from the persons they are. (#11)


To overcome today’s individualistic mentality, a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity is needed, beginning in the family. (#49)


The free market appears to be the most efficient tool for utilizing resources and responding to needs. But this is true only if you are able to buy and sell. Justice and truth demand that basic human needs should be met and that none should be left to perish. (#34)


The human being is the primary route that the church must travel to fulfill its mission. (#53)


Profit, though it plays a legitimate role, is not the only indicator of a firm’s condition. The people in it might be humiliated and offended. The aim of a business is not simply profit, but to form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. (#35)


Can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? … The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, …
But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality and sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative. (Official text, #42)


The social message of the Gospel is and always has been a basis for action: (#39)


Pope Leo XIII criticizes “socialism” and “liberalism.” Against “socialism” he affirms the right to private property. As for liberalism he states that the state may not favor the rich while neglecting the poor. It is the poor who have a claim to special consideration. The richer class can help itself; the poor have no resources of their own to do so. They chiefly depend on the help of the state. This remains valid today, considering the poverty in the world. (#10)


The first and fundamental structure for a “human ecology” is the family, founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self as husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and grow up. (#39)


After the fall of “real socialism” capitalism is not the only economic alternative left. Individuals and nations need the basic things to enable them to share in development. The stronger ones must assist the weaker ones, and the weaker ones must use the opportunities offered. (#35)


The principle that debts should be paid remains, but this should not be asked for at the cost of the hunger and despair of entire peoples. There is the need to lighten, defer, or even cancel the debts, and indeed, this does sometimes happen, to let people subsist and progress. (#35)


[The Catholic tradition calls for] a society of free work, of enterprise, and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied. (#35)


The struggle between good and evil will continue as long as time lasts. The kingdom of God, being “in” the world, without being “of” the world, throws a critical light on society, calling everyone, especially the laity, to infuse human reality with the spirit of the Gospel. (#25)


Society and state need to afford protection against the nightmare of unemployment through economic policies that ensure balanced growth and full employment or through unemployment insurance and retraining programs. (#15)


A business is not only a “society of capital goods,” it is also a “society of persons.” A broad associated workers’ movement is still needed to achieve these goals. (#43)


It is right to struggle against an unjust economic system that does not uphold the priority of the human being over capital and land. (#35)


Consumerism also raises the ecological issue. Humanity is consuming the resources of the earth and life in an excessive and disordered way, forgetting the earth’s own needs and God-given purpose, provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, and overlooking our duties and obligations toward future generations. (#37)


Yet alienation is still a reality in Western societies, because of consumerism, that does not help one appreciate one’s authentic personhood and because of work, which shows interest only in profit, and none in the workers, considering them to be mere means. (#41)


The economy cannot be run in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum: the state has its role to play, guaranteeing personal freedom, a stable currency, and efficient public services. (#48)

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