From Criterio magazine via Mirada Global:
It is the 50th anniversary of John XXIII’s social encyclical Mater et magistra, published on the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum (1891), the document where Leon XIII established the foundations of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Within a fundamental continuity the thought of the Church on social issues has adopted different figures or paradigms throughout the years, partly because of the changes in social reality, partly because of the changes in the underlying theological perspective. In this complex process, Mater et magistra is undoubtedly recognized today as a remarkably innovative text, a true preannouncement of the turn that the Second Vatican Council would stamp on the Social Doctrine of the Church. Until then it had been conceived as a social philosophy alternative to liberalism and socialism, or even as a “third way”, that is, a model of society different from capitalism and communism. John XXIII clearly sees the progressive weakening of the ideologies because of their lack of an adequate anthropology and religious meaning, and therefore understands the danger of conceiving the Social Doctrine of the Church as a closed system, whether under the form of a “Catholic ideology”, or a “Christian society” project. Thus, a new stage is launched, marked by openness and the disposition to dialogue.
This new inspiration is still reflected not so much in the contents but in the style and the methodology of the encyclical. Indeed, in contrast with previous popes, Pope John adopts a direct, familiar, realistic and positive style. He thus puts forward an attitude free from nostalgia, characterized by a serene confidence in the future. Even when he indicates the negative aspects of modern society without the use of euphemisms, he considers it in an essentially appreciative way, and bets on the collaboration with good will men.
At the same time, he avoids the judgement that either side of the ideological spectrum expected, doesn’t get sp involved into theoretical discussions, and prefers to focus on practical issues. That is why in this text we no longer find the well known scheme “negative judgement-positive recommendation”, a sign that the preceding, more “apologetical” figure of the Social Doctrine of the Church was left in the past.
In relation to the methodology of Mater et magistra, it gives wider recognition to the role of science and their importance in order to understand reality (in fact, several of his advisors were sociologists), unlike the more philosophical and deductive accent of previous documents.