- The Expression "Social Justice" Before and After Quadragesimo anno
Following are two appendices from Église et société économique (Paris: Aubier, Éditions Montaigne, 1959), in which the eminent authors establish their thesis. "Very simply, the term social justice replaced the term legal justice, a term that was far less understood at the time."
This thesis has more than historical interest. There is a hidden moral. Some, looking back, might note just another instance of too little and too late. But what of the present? Could the conspicuous absence of the term social justice in [Pope John XXIII's] Mater et magistra [End Page 116]  and in Pacem in terris  be indicative of its being misunderstood in our times?
It has been pointed out that the underlying concept of the term is pervadingly present with even greater vigor than in preceding papal pronouncements. And commentators add that Pope John's strong pastoral approach and his avoidance of polemic preclude the use of the term.
But how to explain his dominant spirit of "confident hope" in the absence of moral or political consensus? Does he see the effective solutions to problems in the "pronounced dynamism" toward change and the efforts of some, still "not many," who are "scientifically competent, technically capable and skilled in the practice of their professions" [Pacem in terris, #148] to apply the spiritual values?
While these lines are not germane to the reading of these studies, they are tendered as an earnest for continued interest in papal social thought.
We are grateful to the authors and the publisher for their permissions to present this approved translation, which is the work of Bro. George McKenzie, SM, of the Department of Languages of the University of Dayton. [End Page 117]
- Appendix One: The Expression "Social Justice" before Quadragesimo anno
Many authors have hesitated about the meaning they should give the expression "social justice" used by Pius XI in his encyclicals Quadragresimo anno and Divini redemptoris. As for ourselves, we have shown that the texts compel us to identify social justice with "legal" or general justice in the traditional Thomistic sense.1 Certain related questions, however, arise in this connection. Why did not the pope in 1931 resort to the classical terms of legal or general justice? At this point we should, by means of historical inquiry, give some details about the answers briefly indicated in previous discussions.2 At the same time, it is not without interest to show the origin and the exciting history of the expression "social justice" as it finally made its way into pontifical parlance.
Briefly, we give here the conclusion we have already presented in Chapter VI: the use of a new expression—and precisely of this one, "social justice"—seemed quite necessary because of the existence of certain notions of justice that were at once insufficient in themselves, and foreign to traditional moral theology, and because the simple use of the Thomistic expression "legal justice" would not have succeeded, in the context of recent controversies, in removing all ambiguity.
We shall first of all indicate a few of the sources of the expression "social justice." It was doubtless Taparelli d'Azeglio who first introduced it into the vocabulary of Catholic writers. He used it, moreover, in a context that clearly indicates the influence of the thought of St. Thomas. And this is so true that we can well wonder whether he was not already using "social justice" to designate precisely legal or general justice in the Thomistic sense. [End Page 118]
Like St. Thomas, Taparelli establishes a close link between the idea of...