Ralliement and the common good

With his 1892 encyclical on the Church and state in France, Au milieu des sollicitudes, Leo XIII instructed Catholics, who opposed the firmly anti-Catholic Third Republic, to begin cooperating with the regime. This new direction, known as ralliement, was based upon a distinction Leo drew between the civil power itself, which comes from God, and the political means of exercising and transmitting this power. As we shall see, Leo’s argument was based also on the common good. That is, Leo argued that the common good required French Catholics to cooperate with the Third Republic. In some respects, this is argument based upon a profoundly Thomistic understanding of government and the common good. However, it is not an argument without some perplexities, as we shall see. Most notable is the sense that engagement with liberalism will result in benefits to the Church. This is perhaps a departure from the Thomism otherwise on display in Au milieu and Leo’s follow-up letter to the French cardinals, Notre consolation. It is this sense that has been most strongly and most credibly criticized, as we shall see.

First, a historical note. The legacy of Au milieu des sollicitudes was almost immediately complicated. Roberto de Mattei has observed that Leo’s policy of engagement with the Third Republic failed disastrously. The French state, despite Leo’s encouragement to French Catholics to support the government, embarked on a vicious campaign against the Church. Indeed, the French government attacked directly even the Concordat of 1801. In response, St. Pius X made a series of allocutions condemning in the most stringent terms various actions by the French government. On November 14, 1904, he gave the allocution Duplicem on the Concordat. Then, on March 27, 1905, the allocution Amplissimum coetum. Then, on February 21, 1906, he condemned the law on the separation of Church and state in the allocution Gravissimum. He followed these statements up with a series of encyclicals beginning with his February 1906 encyclical on the law of separation, Vehementer nos. He followed it in the same year with his encyclical condemning the associations of worship, Gravissimo officii. Then, in 1907, Pius returned to the question of the French separation of Church and state in the encyclical Une fois encore, answering certain criticisms leveled against the Church by supporters of the French state. It is clear from this brief sketch of Pius’s statements that he was deeply concerned about the French question. But in all of it, Pius makes it clear that the depredations of the French state are to be resisted, come what may. De Mattei observes that Pius’s uncompromising resistance to the actions of the French government probably leavened the impact of the unjust laws on the Church. However, the impact on Au milieu was clear: as a policy, it failed.

Pater Edmund Waldstein has argued, following Petrus Hispanus, that ralliement was doomed to fail because it was an imprudent strategy. You can read Pater Waldstein’s argument at The Josias, but it ultimately boils down to this: cooperation with liberalism is a nonstarter because liberalism reduces everything to proceduralism. The idea behind ralliement was that Catholics, setting aside once and for all the dream of restoring the monarchy, could use the procedural machinery of the Third Republic to obtain a more favorable settlement for the Church instead of fighting the Republic itself. Indeed, according to Étienne Lamy, quoted at length by Pater Waldstein, Catholics could obtain a more favorable settlement for the Church using the very ideals of the Republic: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality. However, it did not work that way, and, De Mattei argues, it was only Pius X’s uncompromising insistence on Catholic truth that prevented the French state from enforcing its tyrannical laws.

In this, we see the value of the ralliement debate for Catholics today. The cry from liberals of all political persuasions is that machinery of liberalism can be harnessed and employed to the benefit of the Church. Just vote for the right candidate, just vote for the right ballot initiative, just demand the right judge, Catholics are told, and the tide can be turned back. But, Waldstein and Petrus Hispanus argue, that is not in the logic of liberalism. Cooperation invariably results in confinement to the liberal procedural norms that form the shared basis for discussion. In other words, ralliement did not prevent the French state from taking ever more anti-Catholic steps, and Catholic participation in liberalism today will not prevent a western state from taking ever more anti-Catholic steps. That is not how liberalism works. And to a certain extent, the argument has merit.

Nevertheless, Leo’s argument for ralliement deserves independent consideration, not least because of its fundamental connection to his other encyclicals on the Christian constitution of the state. Now, De Mattei argues that Au milieu represents at least a practical contradiction of Immortale Dei, Diuturnum illud, and Libertas praestantissimum.  As De Mattei puts it, Leo might have been illiberal in his doctrine, but he was certainly a liberal in his praxis. This is not a cheerful prospect. At the very least, one cannot say that Leo did not know his own mind, and, therefore, if there is a contradiction between his great, illiberal political encyclicals and Au milieu, we must attempt to resolve the contradiction—one way or the other. To analyze the question, one ought, in fairness to such a great pope, consider his thought in full. To clarify Au milieu des sollicitudes, one should turn to Notre consolation, the letter Leo sent to the French cardinals shortly after his encyclical was issued. This letter, as far as we know, has never been issued in English. As usual, we will not translate it here, not out of a sort of showy erudition, but because our French is not up to the task and we think you can get a machine translation as well as we can. At any rate, Notre consolation is Leo’s response to the reception of Au milieu in France. It would be important for that reason alone. However it is also important because Leo clarifies the basis of the acceptance of the new regime in France set forth in Au milieu.

In Notre consolation, Leo says:

Nous l’avons également expliqué et Nous tenons à le redire, pour que personne ne se méprenne sur Notre enseignement: un de ces moyens est d’accepter sans arrière-pensée, avec cette loyauté parfaite qui convient au chrétien, le pouvoir civil dans la forme où, de fait, il existe. Ainsi fut accepté, en France, le premier Empire, au lendemain d’une effroyable et sanglante anarchie ; ainsi furent acceptés les autres pouvoirs, soit monarchiques, soit républicains, qui se succédèrent jusqu’à nos jours.

Et la raison de cette acceptation, c’est que le bien commun de la société l’emporte sur tout autre intérêt; car il est le principe créateur, il est l’élément conservateur de la société humaine ; d’où il suit que tout vrai citoyen doit le vouloir et le procurer à tout prix. Or, de cette nécessité d’assurer le bien commun dérive, comme de sa source propre et immédiate, la nécessité d’un pouvoir civil qui, s’orientant vers le but suprême, y dirige sagement et constamment les volontés multiples des sujets, groupés en faisceau dans sa main. Lors donc que, dans une société, il existe un pouvoir constitué et mis à l’œuvre, l’intérêt commun se trouve lié à ce pouvoir, et l’on doit, pour cette raison, l’accepter tel qu’il est. C’est pour ces motifs et dans ce sens que Nous avons dit aux catholiques français: Acceptez la République, c’est-à-dire le pouvoir constitué et existant parmi vous; respectez-la ; soyez-lui soumis comme représentant le pouvoir venu de Dieu.

(Emphasis supplied.) Leo connects ralliement with the common good. He reminds us that government is required to order society toward its common good. Where there is government, then, it has the authority to order society toward the common good, and for this reason, the government must be accepted. In the words, the supremacy of the common good requires that the government, which is responsible for ordering the state toward the common good, be accepted. Leo also reminds us of an important point from Au milieu,

Qu’on veuille bien y réfléchir, si le pouvoir politique est toujours de Dieu, il ne s’ensuit pas que la désignation divine affecte toujours et immédiatement les modes de transmission de ce pouvoir, ni les formes contingentes qu’il revêt, ni les personnes qui en sont le sujet. La variété même de ces modes dans les diverses nations montre à l’évidence le caractère humain de leur origine.

In other words, while the civil power is from God, this does not mean that the mechanism by which that power is transferred is necessarily of divine origin.

Leo expands this point in terms of history. The rise and fall of governments, Leo assures us, is proof that there is a separation between the civil power from God and the transmission of that power.

Il y a plus, les institutions humaines les mieux fondées en droit et établies dans des vues aussi salutaires qu’on le voudra, pour donner à la vie sociale une assiette plus stable et lui imprimer un plus puissant essor, ne conservent pas toujours leur vigueur conformément aux courtes prévisions de la sagesse de l’homme.

En politique, plus qu’ailleurs, surviennent des changements inattendus. Des monarchies colossales s’écroulent ou se démembrent, comme les antiques royautés d’Orient et l’Empire romain; les dynasties supplantent les dynasties, comme celles des Carlovingiens et des Capétiens en France ; aux formes politiques adoptées, d’autres formes se constituent, comme notre siècle en montre de nombreux exemples. Ces changements sont loin d’être toujours légitimes à l’origine : il est même difficile qu’ils le soient. Pourtant, le critérium suprême du bien commun et de la tranquillité publique impose l’acceptation de ces nouveaux gouvernements établis en fait, à la place des gouvernements antérieurs qui, en fait, ne sont plus. Ainsi se trouvent suspendues les règles ordinaires de la transmission des pouvoirs, et il peut se faire même, qu’avec le temps, elles se trouvent abolies.

(Emphasis supplied.) However, Leo argues that the “supreme criterion” of the common good and public order require the acceptance of governments after the rise and fall of governments. After all, the common good prevails over any other interest (“le bien commun de la société l’emporte sur tout autre intérêt”).

To a certain extent, Leo is reinforcing and distilling the central argument he made in support of ralliement in Au milieu des sollicitudes. Here is the relevant passage:

However, here it must be carefully observed that whatever be the form of civil power in a nation, it cannot be considered so definitive as to have the right to remain immutable, even though such were the intention of those who, in the beginning, determined it.… Only the Church of Jesus Christ has been able to preserve, and surely will preserve unto the consummation of time, her form of government. Founded by Him who was, who is, and who will be forever, she has received from Him, since her very origin, all that she requires for the pursuing of her divine mission across the changeable ocean of human affairs. And, far from wishing to transform her essential constitution, she has not the power even to relinquish the conditions of true liberty and sovereign independence with which Providence has endowed her in the general interest of souls . . . But, in regard to purely human societies, it is an oft-repeated historical fact that time, that great transformer of all things here below, operates great changes in their political institutions. On some occasions it limits itself to modifying something in the form of the established government; or, again, it will go so far as to substitute other forms for the primitive ones-forms totally different, even as regards the mode of transmitting sovereign power.

And how are these political changes of which We speak produced? They sometimes follow in the wake of violent crises, too often of a bloody character, in the midst of which pre-existing governments totally disappear; then anarchy holds sway, and soon public order is shaken to its very foundations and finally overthrown. From that time onward a social need obtrudes itself upon the nation; it must provide for itself without delay. Is it not its privilege – or, better still, its duty – to defend itself against a state of affairs troubling it so deeply, and to re-establish public peace in the tranquillity of order? Now, this social need justifies the creation and the existence of new governments, whatever form they take; since, in the hypothesis wherein we reason, these new governments are a requisite to public order, all public order being impossible without a government. Thence it follows that, in similar junctures, all the novelty is limited to the political form of civil power, or to its mode of transmission; it in no wise affects the power considered in itself. This continues to be immutable and worthy of respect, as, considered in its nature, it is constituted to provide for the common good, the supreme end which gives human society its origin. To put it otherwise, in all hypotheses, civil power, considered as such, is from God, always from God: “For there is no power but from God.”

Consequently, when new governments representing this immutable power are constituted, their acceptance is not only permissible but even obligatory, being imposed by the need of the social good which has made and which upholds them. This is all the more imperative because an insurrection stirs up hatred among citizens, provokes civil war, and may throw a nation into chaos and anarchy, and this great duty of respect and dependence will endure as long as the exigencies of the common good shall demand it, since this good is, after God, the first and last law in society.

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, Notre consolation clarifies the point in Au milieu that the acceptance of a new regime is ultimately a question of the primacy of the common good.

Leo’s emphasis on the common good is profoundly Thomistic in many regards. Whatever the ultimate judgment on Leo’s ralliement policy, we must admit that his premises were, at least, consistent with the Common Doctor’s thought. We know from the De Regno (and Aristotle) that society necessarily implies government. We also know that government must direct the state toward its common good—that is, unity and peace. And the common good is the end toward which all elements of society must be ordered. Indeed, the society will collapse without something moving it toward the common good. Let us follow Thomas’s argument for a moment:

Si ergo naturale est homini quod in societate multorum vivat, necesse est in hominibus esse per quod multitudo regatur. Multis enim existentibus hominibus et unoquoque id, quod est sibi congruum, providente, multitudo in diversa dispergeretur, nisi etiam esset aliquis de eo quod ad bonum multitudinis pertinet curam habens; sicut et corpus hominis et cuiuslibet animalis deflueret, nisi esset aliqua vis regitiva communis in corpore, quae ad bonum commune omnium membrorum intenderet. Quod considerans Salomon dicit: ubi non est gubernator, dissipabitur populus.

Hoc autem rationabiliter accidit: non enim idem est quod proprium et quod commune. Secundum propria quidem differunt, secundum autem commune uniuntur. Diversorum autem diversae sunt causae. Oportet igitur, praeter id quod movet ad proprium bonum uniuscuiusque, esse aliquid quod movet ad bonum commune multorum. Propter quod et in omnibus quae in unum ordinantur, aliquid invenitur alterius regitivum. In universitate enim corporum per primum corpus, scilicet caeleste, alia corpora ordine quodam divinae providentiae reguntur, omniaque corpora per creaturam rationalem. In uno etiam homine anima regit corpus, atque inter animae partes irascibilis et concupiscibilis ratione reguntur. Itemque inter membra corporis unum est principale, quod omnia movet, ut cor, aut caput. Oportet igitur esse in omni multitudine aliquod regitivum.

(Emphasis supplied.) In English in Fr. Eschmann’s translation:

If, then, it is natural for man to live in the society of many, it is necessary that there exist among men some means by which the group may be governed. For where there are many men together and each one is looking after his own interest, the multitude would be broken up and scattered unless there were also an agency to take care of what appertains to the commonweal. In like manner, the body of a man or any other animal would disintegrate unless there were a general ruling force within the body which watches over the common good of all members. With this in mind, Solomon says [Eccl. 4:9]: “Where there is no governor, the people shall fall.”

Indeed it is reasonable that this should happen, for what is proper and what is common are not identical. Things differ by what is proper to each: they are united by what they have in common. But diversity of effects is due to diversity of causes. Consequently, there must exist something which impels towards the common good of the many, over and above that which impels towards the particular good of each individual. Wherefore also in all things that are ordained towards one end, one thing is found to rule the rest. Thus in the corporeal universe, by the first body, i.e. the celestial body, the other bodies are regulated according to the order of Divine Providence; and all bodies are ruled by a rational creature. So, too in the individual man, the soul rules the body; and among the parts of the soul, the irascible and the concupiscible parts are ruled by reason. Likewise, among the members of a body, one, such as the heart or the head, is the principal and moves all the others. Therefore in every multitude there must be some governing power.

(Emphasis supplied.) Leo is not wrong, therefore, in Notre consolation to observe that society implies government to order that society to the common good. Aristotle and Thomas tell us that man is a political animal; that is, it is natural for man to live in society. It is, therefore, necessary for some governing power to order that society toward the common good, otherwise the society would collapse.

And what is the common good toward which society must be ordered? As we have previously noted, it is peace—that is, unity and good order. Thomas teaches us:

Ad hoc enim cuiuslibet regentis ferri debet intentio, ut eius quod regendum suscepit salutem procuret. Gubernatoris enim est, navem contra maris pericula servando, illaesam perducere ad portum salutis. Bonum autem et salus consociatae multitudinis est ut eius unitas conservetur, quae dicitur pax, qua remota, socialis vitae perit utilitas, quinimmo multitudo dissentiens sibi ipsi sit onerosa. Hoc igitur est ad quod maxime rector multitudinis intendere debet, ut pacis unitatem procuret. Nec recte consiliatur, an pacem faciat in multitudine sibi subiecta, sicut medicus, an sanet infirmum sibi commissum. Nullus enim consiliari debet de fine quem intendere debet, sed de his quae sunt ad finem. Propterea apostolus commendata fidelis populi unitate: solliciti, inquit, sitis servare unitatem spiritus in vinculo pacis. Quanto igitur regimen efficacius fuerit ad unitatem pacis servandam, tanto erit utilius. Hoc enim utilius dicimus, quod magis perducit ad finem. Manifestum est autem quod unitatem magis efficere potest quod est per se unum, quam plures. Sicut efficacissima causa est calefactionis quod est per se calidum. Utilius igitur est regimen unius, quam plurium.

(Emphasis supplied.) In English:

This question may be considered first from the viewpoint of the purpose of government. The aim of any ruler should be directed towards securing the welfare of that which he undertakes to rule. The duty of the pilot, for instance, is to preserve his ship amidst the perils of the sea. and to bring it unharmed to the port of safety. Now the welfare and safety of a multitude formed into a society lies in the preservation of its unity, which is called peace. If this is removed, the benefit of social life is lost and, moreover, the multitude in its disagreement becomes a burden to itself. The chief concern of the ruler of a multitude, therefore, is to procure the unity of peace. It is not even legitimate for him to deliberate whether he shall establish peace in the multitude subject to him, just as a physician does not deliberate whether he shall heal the sick man encharged to him, for no one should deliberate about an end which he is obliged to seek, but only about the means to attain that end. Wherefore the Apostle, having commended the unity of the faithful people, says: “Be ye careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” Thus, the more efficacious a government is in keeping the unity of peace, the more useful it will be. For we call that more useful which leads more directly to the end. Now it is manifest that what is itself one can more efficaciously bring about unity than several—just as the most efficacious cause of heat is that which is by its nature hot. Therefore the rule of one man is more useful than the rule of many.

(Emphasis supplied.) Now this much we have discussed previously, and it’s relatively basic in terms of principle. The temporal common good is peace, and peace is unity and good order. Up to a point, Leo’s argument in Au milieu and Notre consolation is intuitive. If peace is the common good, then what serves peace—that is, unity and good order—will serve the common good. And resisting the temporal power, illegitimate or not, is not consistent with unity and good order.

Moreover, Thomas teaches us that there may be practical reasons to tolerate a tyrannical (or revolutionary) government. In the De Regno, he argues:

Et quidem si non fuerit excessus tyrannidis, utilius est remissam tyrannidem tolerare ad tempus, quam contra tyrannum agendo multis implicari periculis, quae sunt graviora ipsa tyrannide. Potest enim contingere ut qui contra tyrannum agunt praevalere non possint, et sic provocatus tyrannus magis desaeviat. Quod si praevalere quis possit adversus tyrannum, ex hoc ipso proveniunt multoties gravissimae dissensiones in populo; sive dum in tyrannum insurgitur, sive post deiectionem tyranni dum erga ordinationem regiminis multitudo separatur in partes. Contingit etiam ut interdum, dum alicuius auxilio multitudo expellit tyrannum, ille, potestate accepta, tyrannidem arripiat, et timens pati ab alio quod ipse in alium fecit, graviori servitute subditos opprimat. Sic enim in tyrannide solet contingere, ut posterior gravior fiat quam praecedens, dum praecedentia gravamina non deserit et ipse ex sui cordis malitia nova excogitat. Unde Syracusis quondam Dionysii mortem omnibus desiderantibus, anus quaedam, ut incolumis et sibi superstes esset, continue orabat; quod ut tyrannus cognovit, cur hoc faceret interrogavit. Tum illa: puella, inquit, existens, cum gravem tyrannum haberemus, mortem eius cupiebam, quo interfecto, aliquantum durior successit; eius quoque dominationem finiri magnum existimabam: tertium te importuniorem habere coepimus rectorem. Itaque si tu fueris absumptus, deterior in locum tuum succedet.

(Emphasis supplied). And in English:

Indeed, if there be not an excess of tyranny it is more expedient to tolerate the milder tyranny for a while than, by acting against the tyrant, to become involved in many perils more grievous than the tyranny itself. For it may happen that those who act against the tyrant are unable to prevail and the tyrant then will rage the more. But should one be able to prevail against the tyrant, from this fact itself very grave dissensions among the people frequently ensue: the multitude may be broken up into factions either during their revolt against the tyrant, or in process of the organization of the government, after the tyrant has been overthrown. Moreover, it sometimes happens that while the multitude is driving out the tyrant by the help of some man, the latter, having received the power, thereupon seizes the tyranny. Then, fearing to suffer from another what he did to his predecessor, he oppresses his subjects with an even more grievous slavery. This is wont to happen in tyranny, namely, that the second becomes more grievous than the one preceding, inasmuch as, without abandoning the previous oppressions, he himself thinks up fresh ones from the malice of his heart. Whence in Syracuse, at a time when everyone desired the death of Dionysius, a certain old woman kept constantly praying that he might be unharmed and that he might survive her. When the tyrant learned this he asked why she did it. Then she said: “When I was a girl we had a harsh tyrant and I wished for his death; when he was killed, there succeeded him one who was a little harsher. I was very eager to see the end of his dominion also, and we began to have a third ruler still more harsh—that was you. So if you should be taken away, a worse would succeed in your place.”

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, prudence may require a people to endure a tyrant for fear of what will come after the tyrant. All these reasons, therefore, bolster Leo’s argument that the government must be accepted. Government is necessary for life in society, and there may be prudential reasons to accept and endure a bad government rather than seek a change in government.

And Leo, in Notre consolation, makes a gesture in the direction of endurance, observing that to accept a revolutionary government is not to accept every act of the government, especially those at variance with the divine and natural law: “Après avoir solidement établi dans notre Encyclique cette vérité, Nous avons formulé la distinction entre le pouvoir politique et la législation, et Nous avons montré que l’acceptation de l’un n’impliquait nullement l’acceptation de l’autre; dans les points où le législateur, oublieux de sa mission, se mettait en opposition avec la loi de Dieu et de l’Église.” (Emphasis supplied.) However, where Thomas counsels what amounts to an endurance turned toward God, Leo counsels engagement with the regime, in an attempt to persuade the government to withdraw from its wicked acts:

Et, que tous le remarquent bien, déployer son activité et user de son influence pour amener les gouvernements à changer en bien des lois iniques ou dépourvues de sagesse, c’est faire preuve d’un dévouement à la patrie aussi intelligent que courageux, sans accuser l’ombre d’une hostilité aux pouvoirs chargés de régir la chose publique. Qui s’aviserait de dénoncer les chrétiens des premiers siècles comme adversaires de l’Empire romain, parce qu’ils ne se courbaient point devant ses prescriptions idolâtriques, mais s’efforçaient d’en obtenir l’abolition?

(Remember Pater Waldstein’s extensive quotation of Lamy?) This points toward the fundamental problem, according to De Mattei and others, with Au milieu des sollicitudes and Notre consolation: whatever the Thomistic foundations of Leo’s argument, he still argues that Catholics should participate in liberal political processes in hopes of, as it were, persuading the regime to order itself the the divine and natural law, without which it will be impossible to pursue the common good. This, we think, is a sharp departure from Thomas’s thought. At the very least it is a point of difference.

And is in consequence of this difference that we find ourselves back to Pater Edmund Waldstein’s point: cooperation with the liberal regime invariably results in a reduction to liberal proceduralism. And we see, following De Mattei, from the historical example of France—the laws resisted by St. Pius X but a few years after Au milieu and Notre consolation—that participation in the liberal regime by Catholics does not necessarily dissuade the regime from acting contrary to God’s law. However, we can see that the Thomistic principles that motivated Leo’s great encyclicals on the Christian constitution of the state are present in large part in Leo’s teaching on the situation in France. One need not set Au milieu and Notre consolation against the others necessarily. One may instead acknowledge that in places Leo comes to different conclusions than Thomas.

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.