As the Western world moved out of the early modern period (1600-1789) and into the modern era, the changes brought forth in society from the Industrial Revolution caused a massive upheavel in the social, political and economic realms necessitated a response from the Church on the proper way to integrate perennial Catholic morality in this new environment. This concern brought forth the groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum from Leo XIII in 1891. The encyclical addressed the proper relationship of workers to their management, the rights of workers and what a just wage consists of, condemned violence in labor movements, among many other things (very importantly, the refutation of socialism).
It is difficult to understate the importance of this document in the forumation of Catholic social doctrine (real Catholic social doctrine, not, as Athanasius says, the post Vatican II "pop socialism" that passes for social doctrine). Speaking of the document's legacy twenty years after its promulgation, the Catholic Encyclopedia says:
Probably no other pronouncement on the social question has had so many readers or exercised such a wide influence. It has inspired a vast Catholic social literature, while many non-Catholics have acclaimed it as one of the most definite and reasonable productions ever written on the subject.
Rerum Novarum only grew in importance as the twentieth century unfolded and nations experimented with new economic systems of organization, prompting a reaffirmation of RN in the 1931 encyclical Quadrigesimo Anno of Pius XI and in the 1938 Divini Redemptoris, which categorically condemned Communism based on, among many other things, principles set forth in RN.
All subsequent documents on Catholic social teaching were rooted solidly in Rerum Novarum. For example, Quadrigesimo Anno (1931) quotes RN 29 times. Divini Redemptoris quotes RN once and has several quotes from Quadrigesimo Anno (QA), thus reaffirming what was stated in RN. John XXIII, in his 1961 encyclical on Christian society Mater et Magistra, however, contains no references to RN, and only a single reference to QA.
John Paul II's use of RN is a bit confusing. In his first encyclical on social teaching (Laborem Exercens, 1981), out of the 91 footnotes, not a single one references RN and only two reference QA. Ten years later, in his famous Centesimus Annus (1991) marking the centennial of Rerum Novarum, John Paul quotes from Rerum Novarum 35 times (out of 119 footnotes) and makes almost as many refernces to QA. This is a marked contrast to the attention given to RN since the 1960's (between John XXIII in 1961 and John Paul II in 1981, Rerum Novarum was not quoted by them at all, and Quadrigesimo Anno quoted only three times in twenty-years. Why did JPII suddenly start using RN and QA in his 1991 Centesimus Annos? The obvious answer is that since the CA encyclical was a centennial commemoration of RN, it would be very awkward of him not to quote it. I think, therefore, Centesimus Annos is an aberration rather than the norm.
To prove the point, let's turn to the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has a lengthy section on the Church's social doctrine in its section on the 7th commandment (2401-2463). Here is an oppotune time to see where the post-Conciliar Magisterium sees the place of Rerum Novarum. How many times is it referenced in the CCC section on social justice?
In the CCC section on social justice, Rerum Novarum is not quoted a single time.
But wait, perhaps that is not as bad as it seems. We have seen that later encyclicals (like Divini Redemptoris) may not quote RN as much because they draw more from Quadrigesimo Anno, which is itself made up of quotes from RN. So how many times does the social justice section of the CCC quote Quadrigesimo Anno?
Again, there is not a sinlge quote in the social justice section from Quadrigesimo Anno.
If the two most pivotal documents on Catholic social teaching are not referenced, what then, does the CCC section on social justice base itself upon?
Mainly three documents (though there are minimal quotes from a few others). The biggest source, with 15 quotes, in JP2's 1991 Centesimus Annos. Second, with 8 quotes, is Gaudium et Spes (nowehere else quoted as a source for Catholic social teaching), and finally, with 5 quotes, JP2's Laborem Exercens (1981). What does this tell us?
First, all of these are post-Conciliar documents. Even more intriguing, all of them are John Paul II documents (it has long been suggested that John Paul, as Bishop of Krakow, wrote large portions of Gaudium et Spes). I think we can understand using CA and LE as sources for the CCC's section on social justice, but (a) why ignore RN and QA? (b) Why on earth use Gaudium et Spes?
Gaudium et Spes is only remotely concerned with the aspect of social justice addressed in RN and QA (and many would go so far as to say that it actually contradicts them). In the massive tome which is GS, there are 172 quotations. Of those 172, consider the following breakdown of sources:
Rerum Novarum- 2
Quadrigesimo Anno- 5
Mater et Magistra- 12 (remember, this 1961 encyclical of John XXIII didn't quote RN at all and only referenced QA once)
With only 7 total quotes from RN and QA, we can hardly say that GS is the best preserver of Catholic social teaching.
Not only this, but the CCC, in the Index of Citations at the back, does not even list Rerum Novarum among Leo XIII's encyclicals! Go look it up if you don't believe me! Not only in RN not quoted in the social justice section, but it is not quoted at all in the entire CCC! Not one single time. Quadrigesimo Anno is quoted only once.
Now, let's ask ourselves one question: How can the Catechism adequately pass on Catholic social teaching when it seems to have the most pivotal documents on the matter categorically left out in favor of Gaudium et Spes and Centesimus Annos?
The answer is simple: it is a blatant demonstration of Magisterialism, the idea that everything that is worth saying has been said by this current Magisterium, that post-Conciliar documents or JP2 documents are the only references we need seek, that pre-Conciliar documents are somehow not as pertinent as post-Conciliar ones, and that the current Magisterium has to restate the entire Tradition of the Church in its own terms in order to "bring things up to date." Meanwhile, innocent Catholics reading the CCC are not only deprived of the riches (true riches) of RN, but they are denied the opportunity to know that Rerum Novarum even exists because it is not even listed among Leo XIII's encyclicals (of course, since the CCC only lists sources it quotes from).
If anybody thinks Trads are being paranoid about the concept of Magisterialism, here is as concrete proof as we're ever going to get.