Pope Leo XIII was a crypto-Actonite, or so Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute seems to think. In his latest piece for Crisis, “A Revolutionary Pope for Revolutionary Times,” Gregg presents Leo as a pro-market liberal whose landmark social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, contains “no call . . . for industrial capitalism to somehow be replaced with an entirely different economic system.” In a certain sense that’s true, though Gregg has nothing to say about Leo’s teaching on just wages or the role of the state in protecting vulnerable social classes.
The project of warping Leo into a liberal is nothing new. Two years ago, over at Ethika Politika, I critiqued Joe Hargrave’s attempt at that nefarious project. (My follow-up critique is available at The American Catholic here.) Gregg’s piece adds very little to the discussion, though I fear he is contributing to the culture of confusion which still surrounds the Church’s social magisterium. When will it end?