Some introductory sources on integralism

In the wake of Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa’s essay at Civiltà about American fundamentalist protestants and Catholic integralists—about which we have written here and elsewhere—there has been some discussion of integralism. It remains our contention that Spadaro and Figueroa never actually defined integralism and seemed to think, as Matthew Walther observes in a column at The Week, it is somehow the same thing as being conventionally conservative. This is flatly wrong. However, instead of criticizing Spadaro and Figueroa again, though there is much to criticize there, we thought we would point to some sources on integralism.

Before pointing to sources, a word on the project. Reclaiming integralism in 2017 is almost necessarily a project for autodidacts, and, therefore, it runs the risk of all projects for autodidacts. That is, one can accumulate a bunch of scraps of knowledge and imagine that one has mastered the field. Worse, one can accumulate a bunch of scraps of knowledge and imagine that one knows more than most. It is important, we think, to emphasize that integralism is simply Catholic political thought until the 20th century. One must, therefore, take care to think with the Church and with the Church’s authorities when one begins to look to integralism. This is not to say that one should not educate oneself on these matters; one will like have to take the initiative. Instead, it is to urge anyone interested in questions of integralism to proceed slowly and choose the best sources.

What are the best sources? Why, the ones we identify.

The best source is Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “Integralism in Three Sentences” at The Josias. One can get into the weeds quickly on this stuff, but Pater Edmund boils the theory down to its basic contentions. It’s a dense three sentences, requiring one to know more than nothing, but most educated Catholics can pick up the argument.

Also by Pater Edmund is the essential “The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good,” also at The Josias, which explains some of the terms that are used not only by integralists but also by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the popes. Indeed, it is impossible to discuss these matters without a clear understanding of the good, the highest good, and the common good. One will quickly lose the thread without such an understanding.

Taking a step into the realm of the philosophers and the theologians, Charles De Koninck’s The Primacy of the Common Good Against the Personalists is an important text for integralists. Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas’s De Regno. There are obviously other texts, such as Fr. Henri Grenier’s influential manual, Thomistic Philosophy, but it is by no means necessary at first to get into the weeds of the literature. However, with St. Thomas and De Koninck, one will be able to articulate in a very general way some of the philosophical and theological arguments behind integralism. We assume, by the way, that educated readers will have some familiarity with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics. If not, it would behoove the interested reader to go back and get some familiarity with those texts, which are widely available in any number of formats.

Turning from the philosopher and theologians to the magisterium, Leo XIII’s encyclical on the Christian constitution of states, Immortale Dei, and his encyclical on the origin of civil power, Diuturnum illud, set forth some of the crucial magisterial teachings in support of integralism. While there are many other magisterial teachings that contribute to what we call integralism, Immortale Dei and Diuturnum illud are probably the most important. (His encyclical on Christians as citizens, Sapientiae christianae, is also important, but it develops upon Immortale Dei and Diuturnum illud and is perhaps not essential reading at the outset.) Leo’s style is clear, direct, and forceful. As we say, integralism is simply Catholic political teaching up until the 20th century and Leo, coming at the end of the 19th century, had an opportunity to restate that teaching. One will not go far wrong following Leo in these matters.

This is not a comprehensive introduction by any means, but we think it will provide the reader with enough of an understanding of integralism—that is, the Church’s traditional political thought—to weigh the matter intelligently. We offer, finally, this passage from St. John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical on the relationship between faith and reason, Fides et Ratio:

Eclecticism is an error of method, but lying hidden within it can also be the claims of historicism. To understand a doctrine from the past correctly, it is necessary to set it within its proper historical and cultural context. The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose. At least implicitly, therefore, the enduring validity of truth is denied. What was true in one period, historicists claim, may not be true in another. Thus for them the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now. On the contrary, it should not be forgotten that, even if a formulation is bound in some way by time and culture, the truth or the error which it expresses can invariably be identified and evaluated as such despite the distance of space and time.

(Emphasis supplied.)

Augustine on peace, order, and inequality

From Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, 19.13.1:

Pax itaque corporis est ordinata temperatura partium, pax animae irrationalis ordinata requies appetitionum, pax animae rationalis ordinata cognitionis actionisque consensio, pax corporis et animae ordinata vita et salus animantis, pax hominis mortalis et Dei ordinata in fide sub aeterna lege oboedientia, pax hominum ordinata concordia, pax domus ordinata imperandi atque oboediendi concordia cohabitantium, pax civitatis ordinata imperandi atque oboediendi concordia civium, pax caelestis civitatis ordinatissima et concordissima societas fruendi Deo et invicem in Deo, pax omnium rerum tranquillitas ordinis. Ordo est parium dispariumque rerum sua cuique loca tribuens dispositio. Proinde miseri, quia, in quantum miseri sunt, utique in pace non sunt, tranquillitate quidem ordinis carent, ubi perturbatio nulla est; verumtamen quia merito iusteque sunt miseri, in ea quoque ipsa miseria sua praeter ordinem esse non possunt; non quidem coniuncti beatis, sed ab eis tamen ordinis lege seiuncti. Qui cum sine perturbatione sunt, rebus, in quibus sunt, quantacumque congruentia coaptantur; ac per hoc inest eis ordinis nonnulla tranquillitas, inest ergo nonnulla pax. Verum ideo miseri sunt, quia, etsi in aliqua securitate non dolent, non tamen ibi sunt, ubi securi esse ac dolere non debeant; miseriores autem, si pax eis cum ipsa lege non est, qua naturalis ordo administratur. Cum autem dolent, ex qua parte dolent, pacis perturbatio facta est; in illa vero adhuc pax est, in qua nec dolor urit nec compago ipsa dissolvitur. Sicut ergo est quaedam vita sine dolore, dolor autem sine aliqua vita esse non potest: sic est quaedam pax sine ullo bello, bellum vero esse sine aliqua pace non potest; non secundum id, quod bellum est, sed secundum id, quod ab eis vel in eis geritur, quae aliquae naturae sunt; quod nullo modo essent, si non qualicumque pace subsisterent.

In translation, this is rendered:

The peace of the body then consists in the duly proportioned arrangement of its parts. The peace of the irrational soul is the harmonious repose of the appetites, and that of the rational soul the harmony of knowledge and action. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered and harmonious life and health of the living creature. Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. The peace of all things is the tranquillity of order. Order is the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place. And hence, though the miserable, in so far as they are such, do certainly not enjoy peace, but are severed from that tranquillity of order in which there is no disturbance, nevertheless, inasmuch as they are deservedly and justly miserable, they are by their very misery connected with order. They are not, indeed, conjoined with the blessed, but they are disjoined from them by the law of order. And though they are disquieted, their circumstances are notwithstanding adjusted to them, and consequently they have some tranquillity of order, and therefore some peace. But they are wretched because, although not wholly miserable, they are not in that place where any mixture of misery is impossible. They would, however, be more wretched if they had not that peace which arises from being in harmony with the natural order of things. When they suffer, their peace is in so far disturbed; but their peace continues in so far as they do not suffer, and in so far as their nature continues to exist. As, then, there may be life without pain, while there cannot be pain without some kind of life, so there may be peace without war, but there cannot be war without some kind of peace, because war supposes the existence of some natures to wage it, and these natures cannot exist without peace of one kind or other.

(Emphasis supplied.)

Spadaro and Figueroa against Francis?

Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa have a piece in Civiltà complaining about “the surprising ecumenism” between Catholic integralists and evangelical fundamentalists. As we are never not reminded, Civiltà is reviewed in the Secretariat of State before publication, and, more than that, Spadaro has been a leading hype man for the Holy Father’s projects. (He is also a devoted consumer of pop culture.) Figueroa is an Argentine protestant pastor whose primary claim to fame is that he is friends with the Pope. Spadaro and Figueroa write in some ways the standard left-liberal piece about politics and religion in America. In fact, every educated American has probably read this piece a thousand times over, as it was a very popular piece during the presidency of George W. Bush. That Spadaro and Figueroa feel the need to deliver themselves of it in 2017 betrays their fundamental ignorance of American politics, culture, and the intersection of both with religion. No American editor with half a clue would have accepted their pitch, unless he was trying to ingratiate himself with the Pope’s buddies.

It is hard to describe just how hackneyed this piece is, but, for you, dear reader, we will try. (Assuming you don’t want to read it, which is a perfectly reasonable reaction.) It begins with a potted history of Christian fundamentalism in the United States. It meanders into dominionism and apocalypticism. Next, we turn to the prosperity gospel; bizarrely they talk about Norman Vincent Peale but not Joel Osteen. Why do they mention the prosperity gospel? Who knows. Then we hear about the ecumenism between these protestants and some Catholics on the hot-button social questions of abortion and same-sex marriage. Of course, Spadaro and Figueroa omit to discuss the history of this relationship or some of its central figures, such as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Pastor Figueroa could perhaps be excused for not knowing the Church’s doctrine or history on these points, though the Pope has named him editor of the Argentine edition of L’Osservatore Romano, but it is less understandable why Fr. Spadaro is confused by the alliance. Or something. We then turn into a long discourse on spiritual war, which is not hugely clear, but the thrust of which seems to be that Michael Voris’s Church Militant is very bad.

Spadaro clarifies nothing in the interview he did with America about the piece. As we say, any educated American has read the article about fundamentalism and politicians a thousand times, the article about the prosperity gospel a thousand times, and the article about socially conservative Christians putting aside confessional differences to try to stop abortion and same-sex “marriage” a thousand times. What is new, other than the fact that Spadaro and Figueroa are seen as close collaborators of the reigning Pope, is the suggestion that Donald Trump, who is manifestly not hugely interested in religion nor even able to mouth the sorts of religious platitudes that American presidents are usually expected to mouth, somehow fits into this structure. They mention Steve Bannon, but only in passing and with no insight. And this is the primary problem with the essay: Spadaro and Figueroa plainly have no insight into the American political and religious scenes. They simply want to argue that Pope Francis and liberalism are good and integralism is bad.

Unfortunately, and even if you disagree that their piece has been done to death over the last seventeen years (and you’d be wrong), their argument is hamstrung by its mediocrity. For one thing, they never actually get around to discussing the Church’s historical position on the question of integralism. It is argued that Francis rejects it, but they make no effort to demonstrate that such a rejection is consistent with the Church’s social doctrine more generally. But that doesn’t really matter, since they never get around to defining “Catholic integralism.” All that matters for them is that it is extremely bad. It is probably unreasonable to expect them to engage with a tradition that they don’t even define. Moreover, they do not engage with the liberal tradition within American Catholicism, exemplified by the Jesuit John Courtney Murray, which might have provided an interesting strand in their argument—not least because it remains the dominant strand in American Catholicism. That article has itself been written many times, but not so many times as the article Spadaro and Figueroa turned in. It may even have been interesting.

However, even if they had made a halfway intelligent argument, grappling with the liberal tradition in Catholicism, they still would find themselves in opposition not only to the tradition of the Church but also to the pope they want to vindicate. The crux of their essay is this:

The religious element should never be confused with the political one. Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other. An evident aspect of Pope Francis’ geopolitics rests in not giving theological room to the power to impose oneself or to find an internal or external enemy to fight. There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends. Francis empties from within the narrative of sectarian millenarianism and dominionism that is preparing the apocalypse and the “final clash.” Underlining mercy as a fundamental attribute of God expresses this radically Christian need.

Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts for it is at the service of all men and women. Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere.

(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) It would be impossible to unpack all of the errors contained in these two paragraphs. For example, Spadaro and Figueroa apparently intend to deny outright the doctrines contained in Leo XIII’s Libertas praestantissimum, Immortale Dei, and Diuturnum illud, to say nothing of St. Pius X’s Fin dalla prima nostra and Notre charge apostolique. They also intend to deny the authority of the Church to pronounce on matters of political economy set forth by Leo XIII in Rerum novarum, Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, and Pius XII in La solennità della Pentecoste. They also apparently intend generally to deny the condemnations of liberalism contained in Gregory XVI’s Mirari vos and Bl. Pius IX’s Quanta cura and Syllabus. No doubt they see in Gaudium et spes, Dignitatis humanae, Nostra aetate, and Unitatis redintegratio the rejection of such tedious anti-liberal doctrines. We may say then that Spadaro and Figueroa oppose not only Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII, but also Benedict XVI, who taught that the Council could not be read in opposition to those good and holy popes.

More to the point, Spadaro and Figueroa set themselves against Pope Francis himself when they articulate a bizarre liberal atomization of man. According to Spadaro and Figueroa, in church, man is a believer; in the council hall, he is a politician, at the movie theater, he is a critic; and he is apparently supposed to keep all of these roles separate. The believer and the politician can never communicate, nor the critic and the believer, nor the politician and the critic. However, in April of this year, Francis gave an address to a conference in Rome on Populorum progressio in which he said:

It is also a matter of integrating in development all those elements that render it truly such. The various systems: the economy, finance, work, culture, family life, religion are, each in its own way, a fundamental circumstance for this growth. None of them can be an absolute, and none can be excluded from the concept of integral human development which, in other words, takes into account that human life is like an orchestra that performs well if the various instruments are in harmony and follow a score shared by all.

It is also a matter of integrating the individual and the community dimensions. It is undeniable that we are children of a culture, at least in the Western world, that has exalted the individual to the point of making him as an island, almost as if he could be happy alone. On the other hand, there is no lack of ideological views and political powers that have crushed the person; they have depersonalized the individual and deprived him of that boundless freedom without which man no longer feels he is man. There are also economic powers interested in this conformity; they seek to exploit globalization instead of fostering greater sharing among people, simply in order to impose a global market of which they themselves make the rules and reap the profits. The ‘I’ and the community are not in competition with each other, but the ‘I’ can mature only in the presence of authentic interpersonal relationships, and the community is productive when each and every one of its components is such. This is even more the case for the family, which is the first cell of society and where one learns how to live together.

It is lastly a matter of integrating among them body and soul. Paul vi previously wrote that development cannot be restricted simply to economic growth (cf. n. 14); development does not consist in having goods increasingly available, for physical wellbeing alone. Integrating body and soul also means that no work of development can truly reach its goal if it does not respect that place in which God is present with us and speaks to our heart.

(Emphasis supplied.) It is clear that Francis, like his predecessors, rejects the notion that the various aspects of human life can be atomized and compartmentalized. Instead, he sees human life as “an orchestra that performs well if the various instruments are in harmony and follow a score shared by all.” This is not the rhetoric of a pope who “wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church,” as Spadaro and Figueroa say. This is the rhetoric of a pope who understands the vital importance of this organic link and wishes to foster it.

Moreover, we are far from convinced that Francis is as liberal as Spadaro and Figueroa would have us believe. Consider Laudato si’. Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., a great friend of Semiduplex and a leading light among Catholic integralists, has argued conclusively that Laudato si’ is a deeply anti-modern, anti-liberal encyclical. Rusty Reno, editor of First Things, has likewise articulated the case that the Francis of Laudato si’ is deeply suspicious of modernity and liberalism. Indeed, the liberal atomization that Spadaro and Figueroa want to exalt is one of the central problems with modernity that Francis dissects brilliantly in Laudato si’. Francis teaches us:

A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.

The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) Francis sees what Spadaro and Figueroa do not: “the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church” is necessary for living well. The “objective truths and sound principles” provided by the Church ought to inform our lifestyle, our culture, and our political activities; indeed, these truths are necessary for our culture and our political activities, lest they fall into sickness and tyranny.

Spadaro and Figueroa, so far from expressing the mind of Francis, seek to articulate the misguided lifestyle Francis warns us about.

 

 

 

Notes on the hymns of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We have previously outlined the great antiquity of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The hymns in the Little Office are no less ancient than the office itself. However, it may interest you, dear reader, to learn a little more about those hymns. As you no doubt know, the Little Office uses four hymns. At matins, Quem terra pontus sidera is sung; at lauds, O gloriosa virginum; and at vespers, the great Marian hymn Ave maris stella. At all the little hours and compline, Memento rerum conditor is sung. We shall see that these are all hymns of great antiquity, of Merovingian or Carolingian origin. However, we shall also see that these venerable hymns did not pass through Urban VIII’s reforms unharmed, despite the fact that the obligation to say the Little Office had been greatly reduced by St. Pius V. It is not our intention to present a complete history of the hymns of the Little Office; instead, we offer a few notes.

Matins: Quem terra pontus sidera and Lauds: O gloriosa virginum

Just as matins and lauds formed, traditionally, one office, so too do Quem terra pontus sidera and O gloriosa virginum form one hymn—a hymn of great antiquity. Walpole sets forth in his Early Latin Hymns, pp. 193–95, an argument for attributing this hymn, under its pre-Urban VIII incipit, Quem terra pontus aethera, to the great Merovingian poet, St. Venantius Fortunatus. It is Walpole’s argument that Quem terra pontus sidera, the Christmas hymn Agnoscat omne saeculum, and the long poem in elegiacs Walpole calls the Laus Mariae are all by one author. All three are very much in Venantius’s style, and this point Walpole finds conclusive, as he does not think it likely that anyone in the next couple of hundred years after Venantius’s death could have so ably imitated the master poet. There are, however, some metrical issues with both Agnoscat omne saeculum and Quem terra pontus sidera, but Walpole finds none of them dispositive. The bottom line is that the poems are “not unworthy” of Venantius, as Walpole puts it. If true, this means that Quem terra pontus aethera was composed no later than Venantius’s death at the very beginning of the seventh century, and it has remained in widespread use for over a thousand years.

Of course, the fact that Quem terra pontus aethera was a composition of Venantius, close to the heart of every Catholic in Europe for six hundred years, did not spare it from the revisions initiated by Pope Urban VIII in 1629 or so. (This was part of a broader project of revision initiated by Urban.) As you, dear reader, no doubt recall, Urban was a man of tremendous erudition and good taste, and he wished to correct the prosody of those good old Merovingian and Carolingian hymns. It seemed, we suppose, to him that the hymns of the Breviary were deficient insofar as they were not written by Horace. Unfortunately, Urban’s assistants—the Jesuits Strada, Gallucci, Sarbiewski, and Petrucci—went a little too far, and frankly mangled some of the most beloved hymns in Christendom. All told, they made about a thousand changes to the Breviary. Quem terra pontus aethera came through it all right, with aethera being replaced with sidera. Unfortunately, O gloriosa femina didn’t fare so well. The first stanza is almost unrecognizable in Urban’s text. They tinkered somewhat less with the second stanza, and almost not at all with the third.

It is too bad, too, as O gloriosa femina (O gloriosa domina is a known variant, per Walpole, attested by several sources) was a favorite hymn of St. Anthony of Padua, who learned it as a child from his mother. He died with it on his lips. One imagines that that saint was by no means alone in his devotion to the hymn. And, of course, if we say Venantius Fortunatus wrote it, we find ourselves with Quem terra pontus aethera being an expression of Marian devotion by the greatest Christian poet of his age. Either way, one may say both that Quem terra pontus aethera should have been spared the attentions of Urban’s Jesuits and that it is a preeminent example of their handiwork.

Little Hours and Compline: Memento rerum conditor

The authorship of Quem terra pontus aethera is just about the only question about that hymn. The same cannot be said for the hymn most used by the Little Office: Memento rerum conditor. We do not know who wrote it, nor when. Indeed, it is not a wholly original composition. Memento salutis auctor, the pre-Urban VIII version of Memento rerum conditor, takes its first stanza from the Christmas hymn Christe redemptor omnium. This is an anonymous hymn, part of the so-called New Hymnal of the Carolingian period, and it has had, over the past thousand years, a prominent place in the Christmas office. One imagines that the popularity of Christe redemptor omnium explains how one of its stanzas found its way into the Little Office.

But the second stanza, Maria mater gratiae, is not part of Christe redemptor omnium. It has been from time to time suggested that it is a continuation of Quem terra pontus aethera, or the second part of it, O gloriosa femina, said at lauds. It is thus found in Cardinal Quignon’s controversial breviary. However, Maria mater gratiae is not found in the text of Quem terra pontus aethera, and must be considered a later composition, whatever its source. It has been, however, a prayer close to the hearts of many Catholics down through the ages. For example, Fr. Henry Garnet, the English Jesuit hanged for his supposed complicity in the so-called Gunpowder Plot, died with it on his lips.

Memento salutis auctor also met with substantial revisions under Urban VIII. The first three lines of the first stanza were substantially rewritten into their present form, and in the second stanza, Mater misericordiae, a quotation perhaps of the Salve Regina, was changed into Dulcis parens clementiae. The Jesuit Hornsby, discussing this revision in the American Ecclesiastical Review, observed that, “though corrected in meter, it has lost some of its sweetness.”  While contemporary critics remarked accessit latinitas, recessit pietas, we think Hornsby has a nice way of putting it, too. It is telling, we think, that Dom Anselmo Lentini, when putting together the hymns for Paul VI’s Liturgia Horarum, rolled back the clock, stripping away Urban’s classicizing revisions. (And introducing some revisions of his own.)

At any rate, none of this answers the fundamental question: who wrote Memento salutis auctor, or, perhaps more precisely, who added the stanza Maria mater gratia to the stanza of Christe redemptor omnium selected for the Little Office? When did it happen? Walpole observes (p. 306) that Christe redemptor omnium is found in most manuscripts from the 10th century onward. We may guess that the stanza was excerpted and enlarged at about that time or shortly thereafter. Such would jive with what we know about the emergence of the Little Office generally. But that answers nothing. We are still left with questions upon questions about this little hymn.

Vespers: Ave maris stella

Little needs to be said about this great Carolingian hymn in honor of Our Lady. It is found already in the ninth century Codex Sangallensis 95, and it has been attributed to numerous authors, including Venantius, Paul the Deacon, and Bernard of Clairvaux (who could not have written it). However, its certain authorship remains a mystery. What is not mysterious is the preeminent place it has held in the Breviary, even down to the present day. It passed unscathed through Urban’s process of reform, a testament, we suspect, as much to its stature as to its prosody.

Philip Hamburger, Anti-Catholicism, and Liberalism

Is there any publication today as consistently interesting as First Things? Example: today, they have a piece by Columbia Law professor Philip Hamburger about the Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran of Columbia v. Comer. This may well be a significant Establishment Clause case, given the issues and the Justices’ positions. If you are legally inclined, the petitions and briefs briefs are, of course, available through SCOTUSBlog. The case has produced some interesting ecumenical alignments. For example, the amici brief of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is also signed by the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and the Reformed Church in America. Hamburger’s piece is not, actually,  much of a discussion of the legal issues in play with Trinity Lutheran. Instead he offers readers some background on the so-called Blaine Amendments, which are at the root of the Trinity Lutheran case.

Hamburger demonstrates—conclusively, we think—that the Blaine Amendments were the product of a pervasive anti-Catholicism in the United States in the late 19th century. Indeed, as we shall see, Hamburger makes the case that there was a bias against organized Christianity generally in many quarters, though the Church of Rome was taken as the archetype of organized Christianity. Hamburger explains:

Maine Representative James G. Blaine (1830–93) was born to a Catholic mother and a father who later converted to Catholicism; as a child, he apparently was baptized in the Catholic Church. As an adult, however, he had presidential ambitions. He does not seem to have harbored anti-Catholic animosity, and he refused to be drawn into “any avowal of hostility or unfriendliness to Catholics.” But in an era of profound anxieties about Catholics, including fears about their voting power and about the danger of their introducing papal tyranny, he was eager to be elected. He therefore proposed a constitutional amendment in late 1875 that would have rewritten the First Amendment—applying it to the states, and adding that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools … shall ever be under the control of any religious sect.”

[…]

Blaine’s amendment appealed to such fears by preventing tax money from coming under the control of any “religious sect.” Existing constitutional provisions against establishments of religion did not bar public spending on education from reaching schools with religious affiliations, and Blaine’s amendment did not propose to alter this arrangement except by excluding Catholics. The Catholic Church, being attached to its orthodoxies, had theological objections to cooperating theologically with Protestants, and it therefore could only operate schools that were distinctly Catholic or “sectarian.” In contrast, Protestants were willing to join with Protestants of other denominations in running schools. Thus, when the Blaine Amendment stated that public money could not go to institutions belonging to any one “sect,” it effectively proposed to prevent money from reaching Catholic institutions—without cutting off funds for institutions shared by Protestant denominations.

(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger goes on to explain, however, that Blaine’s amendment was manifestly an effort to advance his presidential hopes in 1876. And it made some headway in the Republican Party: the 1876 platform supported Blaine’s amendment. But it was obvious that Blaine’s amendment would not succeed and that the 1876 platform’s anti-Catholicism was merely an attempt to catch votes. Hamburger notes that, when Blaine’s amendment, which had passed the House overwhelmingly, reached the Senate, Blaine did not even attend the vote. It failed.

However, as is often the case, the amendment had a life of its own. Hamburger observes that many states adopted amendments to their constitutions along the lines of Blaine’s failed amendment to the federal constitution. Some of these amendments are fairly specifically anti-Catholic, others are more broadly anti-religious. And this is where Hamburger’s essay is indispensable. He explains that the Blaine amendment fits into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 19th century:

In appealing to anti-Catholic prejudice, Blaine was reaching out not merely to the unwashed masses, nor even merely to narrowly anti-Catholic nativists, but more broadly to theological liberals. As a Jewish commentator observed in 1875, “this issue will unite the whole Liberal element in this country with the anti-Catholic element, and these two elements form a vast majority all over the land.” Blaine thus could capture the votes of both traditional Protestants and theological liberals.

Nativists were not as theologically traditional in their anti-Catholicism as one might suppose. Their animosity against the Catholic Church arose not so much from the doctrines of their particular churches as from their broader theologically liberal concerns about church authority. They complained that the Catholic Church’s assertions of authority (including its hierarchy, its creeds, and its dogmatic claims of truth) threatened the mental independence of individuals. Catholic claims of priestly and especially papal authority thus seemed to prevent individual Christians from choosing their own faith, as necessary for salvation; they also seemed to prevent citizens from thinking and voting independently, as necessary for democracy.

Many theological liberals thus found themselves aligned with nativism. Although theological liberals viewed the Catholic Church as the model of what they disliked in religion, they typically expanded upon this narrow animosity to develop a broader hostility toward all hierarchical churches, Catholic or Protestant.

(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger’s point bears repeating: liberals and nativists alike shared anti-Catholicism in the late 19th century. Indeed, the liberals and the nativists were the same people in many cases, according to Hamburger. But for many liberals, especially those who identified as capital-L Liberals around the 1876 election, the Church of Rome was not the sole enemy, even if she was the most prominent. Hamburger explains that these “Liberals” opposed all hierarchical ecclesial bodies with definite Christian doctrine.

In this same vein, Richard Garnett, at Notre Dame, has a piece at SCOTUSBlog from August 2016 discussing this question in depth, and citing several scholars, including Hamburger, who have addressed the question of the Blaine Amendments in detail. Garnett wrote:

First, will the Justices acknowledge, and perhaps even engage, the actual history and purpose of no-aid provisions like the one invoked by Missouri in this case? The Eighth Circuit did not mention the term “Blaine Amendments” and instead gestured vaguely to, again, a “long history of maintaining a very high wall between church and state” and to Missouri’s embrace of a “more restrictive” version of separation. In fact, though – as Philip Hamburger, John McGreevy, Joseph Viteritti, Lloyd Jorgenson, and many others have shown – provisions like Missouri’s were adopted by states (and sometimes required by the federal government) not to implement an abstraction like “separation” but rather to marginalize and undermine Roman Catholicism in America. These provisions’ origins, regardless of how the laws are justified or described today, are not easily disentangled from nineteenth-century America’s pervasive anti-Catholicism and nativism or from a broader ideological, nationalist project of using state-mandated public schooling to inculcate “American” values and loyalties. Justice Thomas discussed this history in his 2000 opinion in Mitchell v. Helms and Chief Justice Rehnquist mentioned it in a footnote in Locke. Will the Justices, in Trinity Lutheran, deal with the elephant in the room?

(Emphasis supplied, but hyperlinks in original.) It is possible that the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in Trinity Lutheran on Thursday at 10 AM. However, whenever it does hand down its decision, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the Court grapples with the history of the Blaine Amendments.

But we can think about these questions before the Supreme Court makes its thoughts known. Hamburger points to a fundamental problem that all integralist Catholics—indeed, all orthodox Catholics—have to confront sooner or later: liberalism is incompatible with Catholicism. Consider Leo XIII’s teaching in Libertas praestantissimum:

What naturalists or rationalists aim at in philosophy, that the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority. But, from what has been said, it is clear that all this is in contradiction to reason. To refuse any bond of union between man and civil society, on the one hand, and God the Creator and consequently the supreme Law-giver, on the other, is plainly repugnant to the nature, not only of man, but of all created things; for, of necessity, all effects must in some proper way be connected with their cause; and it belongs to the perfection of every nature to contain itself within that sphere and grade which the order of nature has assigned to it, namely, that the lower should be subject and obedient to the higher.

Moreover, besides this, a doctrine of such character is most hurtful both to individuals and to the State. For, once ascribe to human reason the only authority to decide what is true and what is good, and the real distinction between good and evil is destroyed; honor and dishonor differ not in their nature, but in the opinion and judgment of each one; pleasure is the measure of what is lawful; and, given a code of morality which can have little or no power to restrain or quiet the unruly propensities of man, a way is naturally opened to universal corruption. With reference also to public affairs: authority is severed from the true and natural principle whence it derives all its efficacy for the common good; and the law determining what it is right to do and avoid doing is at the mercy of a majority. Now, this is simply a road leading straight to tyranny. The empire of God over man and civil society once repudiated, it follows that religion, as a public institution, can have no claim to exist, and that everything that belongs to religion will be treated with complete indifference. Furthermore, with ambitious designs on sovereignty, tumult and sedition will be common amongst the people; and when duty and conscience cease to appeal to them, there will be nothing to hold them back but force, which of itself alone is powerless to keep their covetousness in check. Of this we have almost daily evidence in the conflict with socialists and members of other seditious societies, who labor unceasingly to bring about revolution. It is for those, then, who are capable of forming a just estimate of things to decide whether such doctrines promote that true liberty which alone is worthy of man, or rather, pervert and destroy it.

(Emphasis supplied.) We see in Leo’s discourse exactly what Hamburger was talking about in the passage we quoted above. The problem with Catholicism for the liberal of 1876 was that it denies the supremacy of the individual as judge of right and wrong, even in matters of religion. But Leo makes clear that it is—in addition to an affront to God’s sovereignty and to the authority that He has granted to the Church and the state in their spheres—a shortcut to tyranny and anarchy to grant the individual and his subjective reason the supremacy demanded by liberals.

Leo goes on to address squarely the question of church and state:

There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. Nature herself proclaims the necessity of the State providing means and opportunities whereby the community may be enabled to live properly, that is to say, according to the laws of God. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enactment. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men’s souls in the wisdom of their legislation. But, for the increase of such benefits, nothing more suitable can be conceived than the laws which have God for their author; and, therefore, they who in their government of the State take no account of these laws abuse political power by causing it to deviate from its proper end and from what nature itself prescribes. And, what is still more important, and what We have more than once pointed out, although the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life.

(Emphasis supplied.) In essence, Leo teaches that liberalism, whether it is extreme or moderated, is contrary to the divine and natural law. Indeed, Leo demonstrates with great clarity that the moderate liberal is incoherent at best and disingenuous at worst.

The Catholic should, therefore, be troubled by policies like the Blaine Amendments. As Philip Hamburger outlines brilliantly, they were proximately the product of anti-Catholicism deployed cynically to further James Blaine’s presidential ambitions. However, they fit into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 1800s. This liberalism has been squarely condemned by Leo XIII, who shows us that it is both contrary to the divine and natural law and incoherent on its own terms. The sort of liberal who concedes to Catholics (or any Christian committed to Christian teaching) the right to believe what they believe, provided they keep it out of the public square, is either confused about his liberalism or economizing with the truth.

Hamburger’s piece provides an excellent test case, since it deals with a policy unquestionably liberal and unquestionably anti-Catholic. It is hard to dodge the harder questions in the context of the Blaine Amendments, since they were explicitly motivated by liberal anti-Catholicism. But one cannot stop the analysis with the Blaine Amendments, not least since the policy they articulate is no less present today than it was in 1876. Indeed, if anything, liberalism has strengthened its hand since 1876. It is all around us, as ever-present as air. One can find it in other political contexts, in the workplace, in the popular press, and in entertainment. We live in a golden age of liberalism, as it were, and it is no less hostile to the Church than the world of 1876 that produced the Blaine Amendments. The Catholic must, sooner or later, confront this hostility.

Pius XI against communism: another forgotten intervention in the social magisterium

We have talked recently about important Church documents on the social question (or economics or political economy). In our view, integralist Catholics need to promote not only a correct understanding of the relation between Church and state but also a ressourcement of the Church’s true social teaching. In recent years, as capitalism and liberalism have become the dominant ideologies in the west, many important interventions by the popes have been forgotten in favor of about half of Rerum novarum and about half of Centesimus annus. However, it is becoming clear that liberalism and capitalism have created in the west a dead end, and many men and women of good faith are looking for a way forward. The Church offers exactly that, and recovering our understanding of these interventions is, therefore, a rejection of unrestrained capitalism and liberalism in favor of Church’s reliable solutions to these problems. By the same token, it would be a fruitless project to argue that the state is subordinate to the Church, even indirectly, on those matters touching upon faith and morals, if the true teaching of the Church is not also advanced.

Among the forgotten interventions is Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical on communism, Divini Redemptoris. This encyclical is another condemnation of the materialistic, atheistic, and leveling impulses then current in communism and socialism. However, it is more than that: Pius XI took the opportunity to hand down an encyclical very much in the vein of Leo XIII’s great social encyclicals, touching upon not only matters of political economy but also the constitution of the state. The towering Papa Ratti explains the problems with communism succinctly, drawing implicitly on the teachings of Leo XIII and Pius X:

The Communism of today, more emphatically than similar movements in the past, conceals in itself a false messianic idea. A pseudo-ideal of justice, of equality and fraternity in labor impregnates all its doctrine and activity with a deceptive mysticism, which communicates a zealous and contagious enthusiasm to the multitudes entrapped by delusive promises. This is especially true in an age like ours, when unusual misery has resulted from the unequal distribution of the goods of this world. This pseudo-ideal is even boastfully advanced as if it were responsible for a certain economic progress. As a matter of fact, when such progress is at all real, its true causes are quite different, as for instance the intensification of industrialism in countries which were formerly almost without it, the exploitation of immense natural resources, and the use of the most brutal methods to insure the achievement of gigantic projects with a minimum of expense.

The doctrine of modern Communism, which is often concealed under the most seductive trappings, is in substance based on the principles of dialectical and historical materialism previously advocated by Marx, of which the theoricians of bolshevism claim to possess the only genuine interpretation. According to this doctrine there is in the world only one reality, matter, the blind forces of which evolve into plant, animal and man. Even human society is nothing but a phenomenon and form of matter, evolving in the same way. By a law of inexorable necessity and through a perpetual conflict of forces, matter moves towards the final synthesis of a classless society. In such a doctrine, as is evident, there is no room for the idea of God; there is no difference between matter and spirit, between soul and body; there is neither survival of the soul after death nor any hope in a future life. Insisting on the dialectical aspect of their materialism, the Communists claim that the conflict which carries the world towards its final synthesis can be accelerated by man. Hence they endeavor to sharpen the antagonisms which arise between the various classes of society. Thus the class struggle with its consequent violent hate and destruction takes on the aspects of a crusade for the progress of humanity. On the other hand, all other forces whatever, as long as they resist such systematic violence, must be annihilated as hostile to the human race.

Communism, moreover, strips man of his liberty, robs human personality of all its dignity, and removes all the moral restraints that check the eruptions of blind impulse. There is no recognition of any right of the individual in his relations to the collectivity; no natural right is accorded to human personality, which is a mere cog-wheel in the Communist system. In man’s relations with other individuals, besides, Communists hold the principle of absolute equality, rejecting all hierarchy and divinely-constituted authority, including the authority of parents. What men call authority and subordination is derived from the community as its first and only font. Nor is the individual granted any property rights over material goods or the means of production, for inasmuch as these are the source of further wealth, their possession would give one man power over another. Precisely on this score, all forms of private property must be eradicated, for they are at the origin of all economic enslavement.

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) Leo XIII and Pius X had discussed socialism and communism in similar terms. Materialism, class struggle, and an artificial—unnatural—leveling of society are the three biggest faults of socialism and communism as it was practiced at the time. This is not to say that the socialists and communists did not have grounds to critique liberalism, however. We shall, in a moment, see that Pius himself finds liberalism deficient.

A word on materialism, though. More recently, in Spe salvi, Benedict XVI provided an important connection with respect to Pius’s critique of socialism and communism:

Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx’s fundamental error also became evident. He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out. Then everything would be able to proceed by itself along the right path, because everything would belong to everyone and all would desire the best for one another. Thus, having accomplished the revolution, Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. True, Marx had spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant. This “intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction. Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment.

(Emphasis supplied.) In this regard, Benedict points backward to Pius’s description of communist materialism: the inexorable conclusion of dialectical materialism meant that the communist needn’t spend an inordinate amount of time constructing a solution to the social question. Simply heightening the contradictions would move things in that direction. This turned out to be not the case, at least as implemented in the Soviet Union. The upshot is that the failure of communism to rebuild a society in the place of the one it overthrew is ultimately a failure at the heart of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism. It is not a question of the right ideas being applied wrongly.

Now, there is a question of the extent to which dialectical materialism was a key component of Marx’s thought, as opposed to a gloss by Engels on Marxist thought or a later development by Plekhanov, Lenin, and Stalin. Nevertheless, Pius was certainly accurately describing communism’s dominant tendency in 1937, and any extant form of socialism or communism that adheres to dialectical materialism. The popes show, we think, that dialectical materialism is simply incapable of producing positive results. Any attempt, therefore, to grapple with Marxist thought must address the question of dialectical materialism and its fundamental flaws.

As we noted just a moment ago, the popes understand why communism (or socialism or any variant of either) is so attractive. Indeed, Pius XI is not blind as to the reason why communism was, in 1937, such a live option:

How is it possible that such a system, long since rejected scientifically and now proved erroneous by experience, how is it, We ask, that such a system could spread so rapidly in all parts of the world? The explanation lies in the fact that too few have been able to grasp the nature of Communism. The majority instead succumb to its deception, skillfully concealed by the most extravagant promises. By pretending to desire only the betterment of the condition of the working classes, by urging the removal of the very real abuses chargeable to the liberalistic economic order, and by demanding a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods (objectives entirely and undoubtedly legitimate), the Communist takes advantage of the present world-wide economic crisis to draw into the sphere of his influence even those sections of the populace which on principle reject all forms of materialism and terrorism. And as every error contains its element of truth, the partial truths to which We have referred are astutely presented according to the needs of time and place, to conceal, when convenient, the repulsive crudity and inhumanity of Communistic principles and tactics. Thus the Communist ideal wins over many of the better minded members of the community. These in turn become the apostles of the movement among the younger intelligentsia who are still too immature to recognize the intrinsic errors of the system. The preachers of Communism are also proficient in exploiting racial antagonisms and political divisions and oppositions. They take advantage of the lack of orientation characteristic of modern agnostic science in order to burrow into the universities, where they bolster up the principles of their doctrine with pseudo-scientific arguments.

If we would explain the blind acceptance of Communism by so many thousands of workmen, we must remember that the way had been already prepared for it by the religious and moral destitution in which wage-earners had been left by liberal economics. Even on Sundays and holy days, labor-shifts were given no time to attend to their essential religious duties. No one thought of building churches within convenient distance of factories, nor of facilitating the work of the priest. On the contrary, laicism was actively and persistently promoted, with the result that we are now reaping the fruits of the errors so often denounced by Our Predecessors and by Ourselves. It can surprise no one that the Communistic fallacy should be spreading in a world already to a large extent de-Christianized.

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) Pius goes on to say:

It may be said in all truth that the Church, like Christ, goes through the centuries doing good to all. There would be today neither Socialism nor Communism if the rulers of the nations had not scorned the teachings and maternal warnings of the Church. On the bases of liberalism and laicism they wished to build other social edifices which, powerful and imposing as they seemed at first, all too soon revealed the weakness of their foundations, and today are crumbling one after another before our eyes, as everything must crumble that is not grounded on the one corner stone which is Christ Jesus.

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, in Pius’s view, liberalism itself creates the conditions for a communist reaction.

On one hand, liberalism and capitalism commit “very real” abuses and tend toward an unjust distribution of material goods. On the other hand, liberalism de-Christianizes society, leaving workers in a state of “religious and moral destitution.” The communist, Pius teaches, comes into this situation promising to remedy the former situation, and a de-Christianized society is incapable of responding to the system the communist proposes. This point bears underlining: Pius XI taught that liberalism both creates the circumstances that spawn pernicious ideologies and renders its subjects incapable of responding to those same ideologies. In a sense, liberalism sets up not only its failure but also the success of worse ideologies. This is, of course, a scene we see playing out even now, as more men and women realize that liberalism is a dead end. They, rightly seeing the injustices created by liberalism, look to all manner of potential ways forward, both to the right and the left. However, liberalism has left many of them incapable of discerning the ways in which the ways forward do and, more important, do not comport with the divine and natural law. And it is with his incisive diagnosis of liberalism that Pius returns to the question of the Christian state and of political economy.

If liberalism invariably sets the stage for communism, then addressing the faults of liberalism is in a sense prophylaxis against communism. One fault that Pius identifies is the atomized, individualistic relationship between man and society—that is, between man and the state—that liberalism fosters. Consider this passage explaining the correct understanding of that relationship:

But God has likewise destined man for civil society according to the dictates of his very nature. In the plan of the Creator, society is a natural means which man can and must use to reach his destined end. Society is for man and not vice versa. This must not be understood in the sense of liberalistic individualism, which subordinates society to the selfish use of the individual; but only in the sense that by means of an organic union with society and by mutual collaboration the attainment of earthly happiness is placed within the reach of all. In a further sense, it is society which affords the opportunities for the development of all the individual and social gifts bestowed on human nature. These natural gifts have a value surpassing the immediate interests of the moment, for in society they reflect the divine perfection, which would not be true were man to live alone. But on final analysis, even in this latter function, society is made for man, that he may recognize this reflection of God’s perfection, and refer it in praise and adoration to the Creator. Only man, the human person, and not society in any form is endowed with reason and a morally free will.

Man cannot be exempted from his divinely-imposed obligations toward civil society, and the representatives of authority have the right to coerce him when he refuses without reason to do his duty. Society, on the other hand, cannot defraud man of his God-granted rights, the most important of which We have indicated above. Nor can society systematically void these rights by making their use impossible. It is therefore according to the dictates of reason that ultimately all material things should be ordained to man as a person, that through his mediation they may find their way to the Creator. In this wise we can apply to man, the human person, the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who writes to the Corinthians on the Christian economy of salvation: “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” While Communism impoverishes human personality by inverting the terms of the relation of man to society, to what lofty heights is man not elevated by reason and Revelation!

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) Now, an Aristotelian and a Thomist knows that it is natural for man to live in society in peace and unity. And Pius takes this point to respond to a mass of errors. On one hand, the relationship between man and society makes class struggle in the communist sense impossible—to say nothing of state terror. On the other hand, man may lawfully be coerced into living up to his obligations to society; that is, the atomization of society under liberalism is itself forbidden. Man is a social animal, we know from Aristotle and Thomas.

In this vein, Pius goes on to condemn the leveling impulse of communism in strong terms:

In this same Encyclical of Ours We have shown that the means of saving the world of today from the lamentable ruin into which a moral liberalism has plunged us, are neither the class-struggle nor terror, nor yet the autocratic abuse of State power, but rather the infusion of social justice and the sentiment of Christian love into the social-economic order. We have indicated how a sound prosperity is to be restored according to the true principles of a sane corporative system which respects the proper hierarchic structure of society; and how all the occupational groups should be fused into a harmonious unity inspired by the principle of the common good. And the genuine and chief function of public and civil authority consists precisely in the efficacious furthering of this harmony and coordination of all social forces.

In view of this organized common effort towards peaceful living, Catholic doctrine vindicates to the State the dignity and authority of a vigilant and provident defender of those divine and human rights on which the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church insist so often. It is not true that all have equal rights in civil society. It is not true that there exists no lawful social hierarchy. Let it suffice to refer to the Encyclicals of Leo XIII already cited, especially to that on State powers, and to the other on the Christian Constitution of States. In these documents the Catholic will find the principles of reason and the Faith clearly explained, and these principles will enable him to defend himself against the errors and perils of a Communistic conception of the State. The enslavement of man despoiled of his rights, the denial of the transcendental origin of the State and its authority, the horrible abuse of public power in the service of a collectivistic terrorism, are the very contrary of all that corresponds with natural ethics and the will of the Creator. Both man and civil society derive their origin from the Creator, Who has mutually ordained them one to the other. Hence neither can be exempted from their correlative obligations, nor deny or diminish each other’s rights. The Creator Himself has regulated this mutual relationship in its fundamental lines, and it is by an unjust usurpation that Communism arrogates to itself the right to enforce, in place of the divine law based on the immutable principles of truth and charity, a partisan political program which derives from the arbitrary human will and is replete with hate.

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) The leveling tendency of socialism was a great concern for Leo XIII and St. Pius X in their treatments of these topics. That is, the desire to make absolutely equal what nature has made unequal is a defect of socialist thought. Pius echoes their condemnations of the idea.

As we said—and as we have explained previously—the common good is peace and unity. What Pius XI (and Leo XIII and St. Pius X) explains is that the leveling tendencies of communism, the political choice to enforce absolute political equality, is ultimately contrary to the common good. There is a hierarchical structure to society and ordering oneself to that structure is ultimately ordering oneself to the common good. Trying to obliterate that structure, however, is almost by definition an act against peace and unity. While the flaws of socialism with respect to leveling are well demonstrated in the magisterium, we wonder if socialism alone is subject to the charge. Could one argue that liberalism no less than socialism attempts to enforce absolute political equality? Pius sees in liberal thought a radical individualism that seeks to unmoor man from society. To our mind this seems no less a leveling of the natural hierarchy of society than the collectivism of the communists.

A brief word about hierarchy and reform: the popes do not conflate natural hierarchy with “the way things are,” as Pius demonstrates amply in both Quadragesimo anno and Divini Redemptoris. It would be, we think, an error to assert or imply that reform or reconstruction of society requires the leveling of the communists or the liberals. The fact is that Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and Pius XI all condemned the unnatural leveling of society; it may not be said, therefore, that it is an acceptable component of necessary reform or reconstruction.

Turning to a broader discussion of the social question, Pius sets forth the rights and duties of capital and labor once more, following his teaching in Quadragesimo anno. One passage is particularly significant today, given the understanding and misunderstanding of the term social justice:

In reality, besides commutative justice, there is also social justice with its own set obligations, from which neither employers nor workingmen can escape. Now it is of the very essence of social justice to demand for each individual all that is necessary for the common good. But just as in the living organism it is impossible to provide for the good of the whole unless each single part and each individual member is given what it needs for the exercise of its proper functions, so it is impossible to care for the social organism and the good of society as a unit unless each single part and each individual member—that is to say, each individual man in the dignity of his human personality—is supplied with all that is necessary for the exercise of his social functions. If social justice be satisfied, the result will be an intense activity in economic life as a whole, pursued in tranquillity and order. This activity will be proof of the health of the social body, just as the health of the human body is recognized in the undisturbed regularity and perfect efficiency of the whole organism.

But social justice cannot be said to have been satisfied as long as workingmen are denied a salary that will enable them to secure proper sustenance for themselves and for their families; as long as they are denied the opportunity of acquiring a modest fortune and forestalling the plague of universal pauperism; as long as they cannot make suitable provision through public or private insurance for old age, for periods of illness and unemployment. In a word, to repeat what has been said in Our Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno: “Then only will the economic and social order be soundly established and attain its ends, when it offers, to all and to each, all those goods which the wealth and resources of nature, technical science and the corporate organization of social affairs can give. These goods should be sufficient to supply all necessities and reasonable comforts, and to uplift men to that higher standard of life which, provided it be used with prudence, is not only not a hindrance but is of singular help to virtue.”

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) Social justice must, therefore, be seen in terms of the common good—in terms of peace and unity—and especially in terms of work and the ability to support oneself and one’s family. This is a far cry both from a social justice conceived solely in identitarian terms and from a concept of society that denies social justice altogether.

Indeed, one sees throughout Divini Redemptoris the teaching that the way to avoid the modern social errors, both communism and liberalism, is to focus on the common good. This is, of course, the purest Thomism. One sees in the De Regno and the Treatise of Law from the Summa Theologiae that society is ultimately ordered—if it is rightly ordered—to the common good. When a society departs from the common good, either into individualism or collectivism, Pius appears to teach, the society sows the seeds of its own destruction.

Social conflict and the common good

A little while ago, we discussed St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of the common good: peace, which is to say unity and good order. It occurs to us a  brief demonstration of the value of this clear definition might be illustrative. Consider the social-conflict doctrine of the Church, most clearly expressed by Pius XI and St. John Paul II. In Centesimus annus (no. 14), John Paul taught:

From the same atheistic source, socialism also derives its choice of the means of action condemned in Rerum novarum, namely, class struggle. The Pope does not, of course, intend to condemn every possible form of social conflict. The Church is well aware that in the course of history conflicts of interest between different social groups inevitably arise, and that in the face of such conflicts Christians must often take a position, honestly and decisively. The Encyclical Laborem exercens moreover clearly recognized the positive role of conflict when it takes the form of a “struggle for social justice”; Quadragesimo anno had already stated that “if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice”.

However, what is condemned in class struggle is the idea that conflict is not restrained by ethical or juridical considerations, or by respect for the dignity of others (and consequently of oneself); a reasonable compromise is thus excluded, and what is pursued is not the general good of society, but a partisan interest which replaces the common good and sets out to destroy whatever stands in its way. In a word, it is a question of transferring to the sphere of internal conflict between social groups the doctrine of “total war”, which the militarism and imperialism of that time brought to bear on international relations. As a result of this doctrine, the search for a proper balance between the interests of the various nations was replaced by attempts to impose the absolute domination of one’s own side through the destruction of the other side’s capacity to resist, using every possible means, not excluding the use of lies, terror tactics against citizens, and weapons of utter destruction (which precisely in those years were beginning to be designed). Therefore class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.

(Emphasis supplied and footnotes omitted.) John Paul’s thinking becomes much clearer. If the common good, as St. Thomas tells us, is peace, which is to say unity and good order, a partisan interest—especially a destructive partisan interest—is surely directly opposed to the common good. One cannot have total war and peace at the same time. (So much for Marxist class struggle.) Moreover, social conflict rightly conceived, John Paul and Pius XI tell us, requires always participants to seek justice in unity. In other words, social conflict is really an attempt to restore unity and good order.

To this end, consider Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno (no. 114), quoted by John Paul in Centesimus annus:

For if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice, and if this is not that blessed social peace which we all seek, it can and ought to be the point of departure from which to move forward to the mutual cooperation of the Industries and Professions. So also the war declared on private ownership, more and more abated, is being so restricted that now, finally, not the possession itself of the means of production is attacked but rather a kind of sovereignty over society which ownership has, contrary to all right, seized and usurped. For such sovereignty belongs in reality not to owners but to the public authority. If the foregoing happens, it can come even to the point that imperceptibly these ideas of the more moderate socialism will no longer differ from the desires and demands of those who are striving to remold human society on the basis of Christian principles. For certain kinds of property, it is rightly contended, ought to be reserved to the State since they carry with them a dominating power so great that cannot without danger to the general welfare be entrusted to private individuals.

(Emphasis supplied.) The great Papa Ratti tells us that a class struggle “abstain[ing] from enmities and mutual hatred,” thereby transformed into an “honest discussion” about social justice, if it is not the peace which is sought, at least is the beginning of unity and good order.

All of this makes sense in the context of what John Paul tells us. It appears to be his position that social conflicts arise in the course of history, and that Christians must “often” take a position, “honestly and decisively.” In other words, even if Christians do not create the conflict, they may well have to take a position in the conflict. However, this must be a discussion of differences founded upon a desire for social justice. If this cannot per se restore unity and good order (“that blessed social peace”), it can at least be the starting point for the process of restoring unity and good order. One may say, therefore, that social conflict has as its end the restoration of unity and good order, whether this is accomplished immediately or after some time. Thus, as Christians evaluate the circumstances that lead to their involvement in social conflict, they must evaluate also the most expedient means for restoring unity and good order.