Letter: Papal `third way'

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Canon Wilkinson (letter, 24 November), is less than fair to the Roman Catholic tradition of social teaching which goes back to the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII of 1891. Leo condemned both secular socialism and its denial of the right to private property, and an unregulated liberal laissez-faire capitalism, and enunciated an ideal of social justice which included a just and living wage. This is reasonably close to Mr Blair's "Third Way".

It was Leo, not Marx, who said in criticism of the capitalism of his time "that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself." (Rerum Novarum, paragraph 2).

The "pro-socialist" pronouncements of some of the Anglican bishops signified approval for a socialism very different from the aggressively anticlerical socialism of the Continent, which Leo condemned. Indeed Anglican episcopal socialism was, in the rigorous sense of the word, as meaning the collective public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, hardly socialist at all.