Monday, July 25, 2005
Guest opinion: Catholic Social Justice

A superficial understanding of the Social Justice teachings of the Church and the ideals put forward by socialism might lead to the conclusion that the two have common goals and are indeed compatible. But spending more than ten minutes of study in either discipline would convince anyone with a modicum of open mindedness that they are about as compatible and fire and ice. Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical on Socialism, QUOD APOSTOLICI MUNERIS, is so scathing in it’s condemnation of socialists and communists it makes Ronald Reagan look like an editor for Pravda. Just a glance at reum Novarum, also by Leo XIII, and there is his reference to privte property as “sacred”.

In a 1991 article on Centesimus Annus for Faith and Reason magazine, Father Ernest L. Fortin points out, “The somewhat unexpected appearance of the word ‘sacred’ in this context was not an accident. In the first draft of the text, Matteo Liberatore, S.J., one of Leo's chief collaborators, had written with amazing candor, "Private property is sacred"— Never before in an official Church document had the right of property been so forcefully asserted. The older view, summarized in Gratian's and well articulated by Thomas Aquinas, was that at the outset the earth and its resources were common to all and that their subsequent allocation to private individuals pertained to the ‘law of nations,’ considered by Thomas to be a part of the positive law— ( I-II, 95, 4; II-II, 66, 2). Long experience had shown that in general material goods are more peacefully, more efficiently, and more fruitfully managed when entrusted to individuals than when left undivided. In that sense, private property was clearly in accord with human nature and was to be encouraged whenever possible.” To the socialist, private property is anathema in favor of the uptopian “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” The repressive means and destruction of personal freedom this leads to is completely contrary to Church teaching and not in any way in pursuit of the Christian ideal of Social Justice.


7 comment(s):

del_button July 27, 2005 at 9:40 AM
billathts said...

very very interesting. The Catholic Worker Movement was founded, in part, on the principals you are talking about. Read anything by Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, or for that matter, any of the Distributists or Personalists and you will read the same.

del_button July 27, 2005 at 10:08 AM
billathts said...

by Peter Maurin:

All the land belongs to god. God wants us to be our brother's keeper. Our superfluous goods must be used to relieve the needs of our brother. What we do for our brother for Christ's sake is what we carry with us when we die. This is what the poor are for, to five to the rich the occasion to do good for Christ's sake. To use property to acquire more property is not the proper use of property. It is a prostitution of property.

Also by Peter Maurin:

"Communism is a society where each one works according to his ability and gets according to his needs."
Such a definition DOES NOT COME FROM MARX (emphasis, mine); it comes from Proudhon. Proudhon wrote two volumes on "The Philosophy of Poverty" which Marx read in two days. Karl Marx wrote a volume on "The Poverty of Philosophy." Karl Marx was too much of a materialist to understand the philosophical and therefore social value of voluntary poverty.

del_button July 27, 2005 at 10:10 AM
billathts said...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon died in 1865.

del_button July 27, 2005 at 10:13 AM
billathts said...

Karl Marx died in 1883.

one definition of Heresy is the undue concentration on only one aspect of Truth.

del_button July 27, 2005 at 10:34 PM
Deacon Mike said...

billathts said...
by Peter Maurin:

"Communism is a society where each one works according to his ability and gets according to his needs."
Such a definition DOES NOT COME FROM MARX (emphasis, mine); it comes from Proudhon.

Thank you for the clarification on the author of the statement. I have often heard the statement in relationship to communism but was unsure of where it originated. No matter where it originated, however it is fanciful deception to apply it to any communist state that has ever existed.


del_button July 28, 2005 at 9:31 AM
billathts said...

Dear Mike,

i am not sure if I understand what you mean in the last sentence of your reply.

Until Marx, communism was a term used, quite innocently and however correctly to Christian communities such as Religious orders and Protestant communities such as the Quakers and Shakers, whose origins antecede the 19th century.

After Marx, term used by these communities became communitarianism to emphasize the aspect of the Body of Christ,both mystical and, in Catholic cases, eucharistic, where communism emphasized atheism.

I would also like to note that although Dorothy Day sympathized, before her conversion, with communist causes (the "wobblies", or the International Workers of the World, of which she was closely tied)specifically BECAUSE they were trying to improve the lot of the poor, she never became a communist precisely because of their denial of the existence of God. For that reason she severed all professional ties with organizations sympathetic with communism in the late 20's. However, she did maintain her friendships with figures like Mike Gold,who was the editor of various left-wing newspapters throughout the 40's and very early 50's.

Peter Maurin got her very involved with the Distributists (Gill, Belloc, etc.) and Personalists (Mounier, Maritain, etc.), all of whom emphasized the communal aspects and responsibilities of society, based on the social encyclicals of the Popes, as well as on the the Mystical body of Christ.

Communism IS a fallacy and in grave error precisely because of its denial of the Mystical body of Christ.

del_button July 29, 2005 at 1:05 AM
Deacon Mike said...

Bill, perhaps I should have clarified what I meant by Communist State, which I failed to capitalize. By that I mean the military dictatorships that existed in the twentieth Century and the handful that survive today. The babarism of such as Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Castro or Kim Jung Il have nothing whatsoever to do with the Proudhonian statement. Home grown American Communists, of which there are admittedly few these days, are fond of using that staement as there own. That is the context in which I first heard it. However, Leo XIII points out, "5. For, indeed, although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: 'for what participation hath justice with injustice or what fellowship hath light with darkness?'"(2 Cor.6:14)
This is why Dorothy Day had no choice but to disassociate herself from them after her conversion as you point out.


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