AD2000 - a journal of religious opinionAD Books
Ask a Question
View Cart
Search AD2000: author: full text:  
AD2000 - a journal of religious opinion
Find a Book:

AD2000 Home
Article Index
About AD2000
Contact Us
Email Updates


Add Me
Remove Me

Subscriber Access:

Enter the Internet Access Key from your mailing label here for full access!


Labour and Justice, by Gavan Duffy

Bookmark and Share

 Contents - Mar 2009AD2000 March 2009 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Lent: preparing for the risen Christ - Peter Westmore
Lefebvrists: Benedict XVI's bold move for Church unity - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Vocations: Indian priests: still plentiful but fewer available for overseas - AD2000 Report
American seminaries mostly 'healthy', but many problems remain
Did Antonio Gramsci have second thoughts? - Babette Francis
Pope welcomes election of new Russian Patriarch Kirill - Michael Gilchrist
Foundations of Faith: Protestant Churches: origins and beliefs (2) - Frank Mobbs
Obituary: Fr Richard Neuhaus (1936-2009): bringing the Gospel to public life - Fr Raymond J. De Souza
The recession and Catholic social teaching - Mark and Louise Zwick
The family and the culture of death: a challenge for Christians - Fr Dennis Byrnes
Marian Valley, spiritual oasis for young Brisbane Catholics - Br Barry Coldrey
Letters: Pivotal question - Fr M. Durham
Letters: In communion? - Errol P. Duke
Letters: Cure for AIDS - Ben Veitz
Letters: Generosity - Fr A. Joseph
Poetry: Collages
Books: Labour and Justice, by Gavan Duffy - Peter Westmore (reviewer)
Books: THE BIBLE AND THE QUR'AN, by Jacques Jomier OP - Tim Cannon (reviewer)
Books: Books available now from AD2000 Books
Reflection: Benedict XVI: why kneeling is central to Christian worship - Benedict XVI

An important new book on Christian social teaching

by Gavan Duffy
(Gracewing/Freedom Publishing, 2009, 288pp, $45.00. Available from Freedom Publishing)

Cardinal George Pell states in the foreword of Labour and Justice, 'What makes this book stand out is its central claim 'that the social teaching of the Church directly challenges and confronts' that which stands in the way of 'the attaining of a just distribution of the world's goods, the dignity of work and the mutual dependence of capital and labour'.'

This important book fills a unique position at the junction of religious and social writing.

Gavan Duffy has written a book which puts Christian social teaching into both an historical and religious context. He starts with the earliest books of the Old Testament, which give remarkable insights into the relevance of the creative work of God and human labour.

From this, we see how work was consecrated to God in the Jewish faith, and how a just God had a loving and particular concern for the poor, the exploited, the marginalised and the oppressed.

It follows from this that a well- ordered society will help to lift up the poor and marginalised, and prevent people from being exploited or oppressed. The prophets frequently denounced the exploitation of the poor, particularly widows and orphans.

New Testament

In the New Testament the Gospel accounts record that on many different occasions Jesus sanctified work and reached out to the sick, the mentally ill, and the poor. He seems to have had a particularly soft spot for them, as well as for children and widows.

The other New Testament documents reveal that in the early Church, the first welfare system for the poor was organised by the Apostles, with St Paul taking up a large collection from the new churches he had founded, presenting the proceeds to the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem.

Paul also spoke out on the dignity of slaves, stating that like all others they were children of God.

From these beginnings, it is not surprising, as Gavan Duffy points out, that the early Church developed a radically different view from the rest of society, which was largely based on the principle that what mattered was power and wealth.

It was in its conception of a just society, based on divine not human laws, that Christianity put forward the moral principles which ultimately made possible the replacement of the pagan world of ancient Greece and Rome with the new law, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

This was amplified by many of the great Christian thinkers, from Pope Clement at the end of the first century AD, to Origen, St John Chrysostom and, later, Saints Ambrose and Augustine.

Gavan Duffy explains that it was in this context that workers' guilds later developed and, under the Church's patronage, the great works of art and architecture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were produced.

The author argues that the status of work was radically diminished by both the Reformation, which undermined the protective role of the Church and emphasised the individual at the expense of the community, and later, the Industrial Revolution, with the emergence of laissez-faire capitalism.

It was only in the 19th century, some 45 years after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto, that the Catholic Church addressed these issues again in a comprehensive way, through Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum (literally 'of new things').

Leo XIII argued that Christian social teaching represented a 'third way' between unbridled capitalism, on one hand, and Marxist doctrines of class war and dictatorship of the proletariat, on the other.

During the 20th century, the Church's teachings were radically expanded to encompass a whole range of new issues, as the Church and her followers sought to influence the policies and laws of a succession of new nation-states.

The Church's teachings were deeply influenced by the practical experience of Christians in the modern world and in the political parties which emerged at the time.

In turn, Christian social principles exercised a significant influence on the laws and institutional arrangements which were established in many Western countries, notably in Europe and Australia.

Gavan Duffy's book concludes with an important discussion of the emergence of radical free market economic theory from the 1980s onwards, which represents a new challenge to the Christian vision of a free and just society.

Labour and Justice is one of the most important books on Christian social teaching to appear in recent years. It will serve as a reference point and an inspiration to all those who wish to see a better society built on the foundation of Christian principles.

Bookmark and Share

Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 22 No 2 (March 2009), p. 17

Page design and automation by
Umbria Associates Pty Ltd © 2001-2004