Friday, February 08, 2008

Review of the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII/2

by Cardinal Manning

II. The Encyclical goes on to show the false and destructive character of Socialism.

The law of property or of private ownership, both in land and in the product of his own labor, is founded in nature, and cannot be abolished by any human authority without a violation of the Divine order of natural society. Neither land nor wage can be nationalized. Property existed before the nation; and rests immediately on nature itself. This does not deny the lawfulness of taxing all property by the State for the safety or welfare of the commonwealth. It denies only the lawfulness of uprooting the right of property which is in its origin founded on nature itself. There are many kinds of nominal Socialism, which we need not deal with now; but of the original Socialism there are two sections: the one that holds the lawfulness of nationalizing both land and the wages of labor; the other that holds the lawfulness of nationalizing the land only, but admits the right of private property in the wages and products of personal labor. The Encyclical denies both these claims. Socialism therefore affecte to reconstitute human society upon a new foundation and by new laws, and this, whether accomplished by force or by fallacy, is destructive of the natural and normal society of man. For this cause the terms Socialistic and Socialism have an essentially ill signification. Socialism is to society what rationalism is to reasoning. It denotes an abuse, an excess, a de-ordination in human society, as rationalism denotes a misuse and an abuse of reason. All reasoning must be rational that is in conformity with the laws of reason, and all legislation for human society must be both human and social by the necessity and nature of mankind. Inhuman and antisocial law is not law, but tyranny or anarchy. It implies therefore a laxity of thought, or at least of terminology, to speak of Christian Socialism, of Catholic Socialism. The Holy Father is too keen in his apprehension and too exact in his reasoning to admit such confusion even in terms. This will be seen in the third part of the Encyclical, which treats of the intervention of the State in social questions.

Leo XIII points out that the equality of all men is contradicted by every fact and condition of human life. Both the gifts of nature and the products of human freewill introduce, at every moment, inequalities which are lawful, innocent, and fruitful of every kind of good. Society itself would not grow, nor would its prosperity and power be developed, if all men were equal And as society unfolds its own perfections, men at once become unequal. The inequalities of age alone would daily multiply the inequalities of early and middle and mature life. If we were all equal to-day, inequalities would spring up to-morrow. And these very inequalities are the spirit and the means of growing perfection. " It is impossible to reduce human society to a level. The Socialists may do their utmost, but they are striving against nature in vain."

If the right of private ownership were violated, no one would suffer so much as the poor working-man. It is his ambition and his prayer to possess as his own the roof over his head and the patch of garden which now pays his rent. In absorbing rich landlords, the poor cottager is also sacrificed. Property is more vital to those who have little than to those who have much. The rich may make great losses, and yet have enough to live; but they who live always on the brink of want, are ruined by one privation.

Socialism properly so-called, by the equality of all and the community of goods invades also the domestic life and the rights of parents. "The Socialists therefore in setting aside the parent, and introducing the providence of the State, act against natural justice, and therefore the very existence of family life."

The Holy Father goes on to point out the remedy of these social evils. He says: "There is nothing more useful than to look at the world as it is, and at the same time to look elsewhere for a remedy to its troubles. It is certain that the world cannot heal itself; it is more certain that Socialism, which violates the primary laws of nature, cannot heal our social evils. Socialism is in itself the master evil in the society of men, being the destroyer of the first laws of the natural order. Therefore, to find a remedy we are bid to look away from the world, and to look "elsewhere." It is certain, therefore, that neither legislation, nor civilization, nor any simple human influence or natural agency, can restore society which is sick with manifold diseases. The Holy Father tells us where to look. He says: "When a society is perishing, the true advice to give to those who would restore, is to recall it to the purpose and principles from which it sprang." "So that to fall away from its primal constitution is disease; to go back to it is recovery." "If society is to be cured now, in no other way can it be cured but by a return to the Christian life, and to the Christian institutions." Therefore, "no practical solution of this question will ever be found without the assistance of religion and of the Church." God created the Church and the Church created the Christian world. For three centuries the world has been in revolt against the Church, and has thrown off the first principles from which it sprang; they are: faith, indissoluble matrimony, Christian education, obedience to the Head of the Christian world. The consequence of this revolt is schism, divorce, schools without religion, and the weaken-ing of all moral laws. The natural society of man fell from its normal state into manifold corruptions. The merely human civilization in its most refined state in Greece, and in its loftiest attainments in the Roman world, perished by its own suicidal corruptions. "There cannot be the shadow of doubt . . . that civil society was renovated in every part by the teaching of Christianity; that in the strength of that renewal the human race was lifted up to better things; nay, that it was brought back from death to life." "Of this beneficent transformation Jesus Christ was at once the first cause and the final purpose; as from Him all came, so to Him all was to be referred." These sentences are full of meaning. They affirm:

1. That into the fallen and perverted society of men a new life and a new legislation entered, which expelled the evils of human corruption and elevated society to a supernatural state; in other words, that the society and law of nature were not only restored to their first principles, but were elevated to a higher law and state. Human society was made perfect in the supernatural society that is in the Church. Separation therefore from the Church has deprived a great part of the Christian world of its supernatural perfection in life and constitution.

2. That the Christian law made perfect the natural law of justice any mercy, which may be enforced by human tribunals.

3. That it superadded the law of charity, the highest and most perfect law which, though it cannot be enforced by human tribunals, has a Divine sanction to enforce it in the conscience of all men.

4. That without the teaching of Christianity, the moral relations of human society become unsympathetic, hard, and selfish.

When, then, Leo XIII says that the only remedy for the social evils of States is to be found in the Church, he means that "without God there is no society"; without a legislator, human laws are powerless to restrain the selfish passion of men; and without charity all laws are cold, unpersuasive, and inefficacious. Justice alone without mercy is heartless, and mercy without charity is constrained and repulsive. Without the Church, this higher moral law is not to be found. The condition of the labor world, or of the "labor market," as political economists have taught us to call it, is proof enough.

The Encyclical then points out two other explicit reasons why the actions of the Church, in its teaching, spirit and sanction, is of the highest moment to society, and especially to the millions of the world. The poor are the special charge of the Church. "God hath chosen the poor of this world." "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him?; Every living soul is in His immediate care, the rich as well as the poor; there is no distinction of class or privilege with Him. Every soul, whether refined or rude, is in His keeping. But with an especial care He watches over those who "eat bread in the sweat of their brow." They are under the habitual penance of Adam in privation, toil, poverty, often in want, living in hardness, and bearing many sufferings. They live perpetually on the brink of want, in the midst of vicissitudes of human fortune. None needs the Paraclete, the Consoler, more than they; and none needs the sympathy of the Church as they do. "The Church has guarded with religious care the inheritance of the poor." At the present day there are many who, like the heathen of old, condemn the Church for this beautiful charity. We are told that it demoralizes the people. "They would substitute in its place a system of State organized relief. But no human methods will ever supply for the devotion and self-sacrifice of Christian charity."

Another reason is this. The creative power of the Church has in all ages formed for itself organized bodies, incorporating and fulfilling its manifold works of charity. A religious order springs from the bosom of the Church, and is sustained by it And as religious orders have sprung up within it, so also have guilds, confraternities, sadalities, unions, both sacred and beneficial. Association and co-operation are of the spirit of brotherhood; and the greatest brotherhood in the world is the Church itself. Therefore the Church blesses and encourages every form of lawful and Christian association. It condemns secret societies as such, because they walk in darkness; but it sanctions the open uniting of men for a lawful object, such as mutual protection against those who make the largest profits out of the lowest wsges, or intolerable hours of work, and the like. In a word, the Church recognizes the liberty of the human will in jail its lawful actions, individual and collective; and it encourages men to use that liberty for their self-defence and for the defence and help of others.

But finally, the Church alone deals not only with the bodily, but also with the spiritual life of man; and no people can be peaceful or contented with a life of labor who do not know, and hope for, an eternal rest. And it thereby teaches men, the poorest and the humblest, their true dignity. "To man may outrage with impunity that human dignity which God Himself treats with reverence; nor stand in the way of that higher life which is the preparation for the eternal life of heaven." It is certain that in the measure in which these truths pervade the mind of people, in that measure they are elevated, refined, and independent In the measure in which they are lost, a people becomes animal, gross and intractable, or, it may be, slavish. "To consent to any treatment which is calculated to defeat the end and purpose of his being, is beyond his right. He cannot give up his soul to servitude; for it is not man's own rights which are here in question, but the rights of God." Therefore no man can contract to work so many hours and so many days a week as to render it impossible for him to live a Christian and human life." From this follows the obligation of the cessation of work and labor on Sundays and certain festivals. From this also it follows that to work sixteen or eighteen hours a day is contrary both to natural and to Christian law. It springs either from the recklessness of the employed, or the covetousness of the employer. This is a just condemnation of the state of many of our industries under which till now our people have suffered in silence. But they are now bid to make their burdens and sufferings known.

3. The Encyclical then treats of the intervention of the State in matters of political economy. If a century of narrow and commercial mistreatment had not contracted the range and fulness of political economy to the "dismal science" of supply and demand, wage-funds and labor markets, the very title would have affirmed the duty of the State to intervene whensoever the welfare of the commonwealth is in any part at stake. All political economy contains financial and com mercial economy, but neither commerce nor finance are co- extensive with political economy. Political economy watches indeed over the whole commercial and financial economy, but it watches also over the welfare of all classes. Classes revolve round their own interests. It is in reaction from this organized selfishness that some men have recoiled into Socialism. The Encyclical having carefully defined Socialism, both name and thing, goes on to show how the legislation of human society must be essentially social. "It is in the power of a ruler to benefit every order of the State, and among the rest to promote in the highest degree the interests of the poor; ... for it is the province of the commonwealth to consult for the common good, and the more that is done for the working population by the general laws of the country, the less need will there be to seek for particular means to relieve them."

The richer population have many ways of protecting themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State. Those who are badly off have no recourse of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly rely upon the assistance of the State, and it is for this reason that wage-earners, who are undoubtedly among the weak and necessitous, should be especially cared for and protected by the commonwealth." It is to be doubted whether in any country of the Christian world these truths axe better realized than in our own. Ever since the abolition of slavery in 1834, our legislation has entered more and more minutely into the social needs and sufferings of our people. Our poor-law incorporates the primary laws of nature, that a man has a right to live and a right to the food necessary to sustain life, either by gift or by wage. But nobody dreams of calling these laws socialistic. The mining and factory legislation protects millions of men, women and children; the abolition of Corn Laws impoverished a class for the welfare of the people; a dozen laws protect children from noxious trades and the like; but no man till now has been blind enough to accuse our Statute Book of Socialism. The State education of France, America and Belgium are denounced as godless; but though they are the worst form of Socialism, nobody says so or sees it. But if any man would protect the world of labor from the oppression of "free contracts" or "starvation wages," he is a Socialist. So obscure from want of thought, or so warped by interest, or so prejudiced by class feeling are the minds of men. Our legislation hitherto and the programme of the Berlin Conference are supremely conservative, social, and anti-socialistic.

Interview with Thomas Storck

On Cooperative Ownership

John Médaille Interview in Romania

Download Web Counter

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP