The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 21, 2001

Todd David Whitmore
Pages 215-232

John Paul II, Michael Novak, and the Differences Between Them

Unnamed sources have claimed that Michael Novak is "credited with considerable input" into John Paul II's encyclical, Centesimus annus, such that the former's thought "is said to be reflected in" the document. However, while John Paul II affirms economic rights, Novak rejects them. In addition, the Pope critiques the gap between rich and poor and the consumerism that drives it; Novak finds them to be morally irrelevant. Following Catholic teaching before him, John Paul places restrictions on the accumulation of private property for one's own use, while Novak identifies no such limits. Finally, while the Pope rejects the affirmation of any one system as a form of "ideology," Novak argues, "We are all capitalists now, even the Pope." Such dramatic differences suggest that the claim that Novak has influenced John Paul's thought is unfounded and that the former's position may even be one of dissent.