The economic order has always presented Christians with a challenge. The economic dimensions of human life are as ordinary and necessary as any others, yet either too little economic success or too much often endangers more important goals in life. The questions of economic life for Christians touch both personal and institutional relationships, and the answers of the tradition at different times in its history exhibit a basic continuity and yet show differences related to the status of the religious community within the wider society. Thus the responses made within a religious state, whether in ancient Israel or medieval Christendom, differ from those given within a secular state. And even within the latter situation we find responses when Christians are a persecuted minority, as in the first centuries of the church, that differ from those made today when Christians live within a modern democracy. As a result, the task of analyzing a Christian view of economic order is a complex one. It requires careful attention not only to the content but to the context of earlier answers to the questions involved.
The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought brings together writers from around the world, writing on present-day social issues as well as historical issues and movements that have shaped our current views. Included are articles on the great social encyclicals, from Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum to John Paul II's Centesimus Annus, and the Vatican II documents and various episcopal documents that relate to social concerns and the field of social ethics.
Finn, Daniel K. "Economic Order." In The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought, edited by Judith A. Dwyer, 310-327. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1994.