31 August, 2010

Catholic Social Doctrine: Pius XI

In the last article I discussed the contribution of Pius X and Pius XI to the social teaching of the Church, including the first part of Pius XI’s great encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. The next topic that Pius XI takes up is the immense one stated in the title of the encyclical, the reconstruction of the social order. This reconstruction is divided into two essential parts, “the reform of institutions and the correction of morals.” Pius treats moral reform in the third and last section of the encyclical, and now turns his attention to the reform of institutions. This is probably the most important section of Quadragesimo Anno, for in it Pius XI elaborates his teaching about “occupational groups,” sometimes known in the United States as “industry councils.” But first he introduces the concept of the principle of subsidiarity and begins the discussion by reminding his readers about that “highly developed social life which once flourished in a variety of prosperous and interdependent institutions,” but which has subsequently been destroyed “leaving virtually only individuals and the State…” (§78). What is the Pope talking about? In the English-speaking world we are apt to consider the individual as the foundation of the state, which was formed when a number of separate individuals joined together to form a body politic. We consider only individuals and the state to be normal or necessary parts of any society. Of course, we might admit various private and voluntary organizations, from clubs to political parties to labor unions and trade associations. But all of these are private, essentially nothing more than groups of individuals having no more status in the constitution of society than a chance gathering of friends.

30 August, 2010

Catholic Social Doctrine: St. Pius X through Pius XI

In the last article in this series I spoke of Leo XIII, and especially of his great encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891. Leo XIII was the first pope to systematically evaluate modern economic conditions in the light of the teaching of the Church, and the tradition he began has continued and developed to this day. In this article, I will cover the period from the reign of St. Pius X (1903 to 1914) to Pius XI. During this time successive popes developed the doctrine of Rerum Novarum according to the needs of the time, in particular in the encyclical Pius XI issued commemorating its fortieth anniversary in 1931.

27 August, 2010

Catholic Social Doctrine: From the Beginning through Leo XIII

The social apostolate of Christ’s one Church began while that Church’s Founder was still on this earth. In fact, even before the Incarnation, during the Old Testament dispensation, the law of God and His prophets insisted continually on justice and charity toward the poor. For example, the law of Moses proclaims that every seventh year “every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor” (Deuteronomy 15:2) and nearly every prophet denounces those “who oppress the poor, who crush the needy” (Amos 4:2). In fact, social justice was linked with faithfulness to the God of Israel and the keeping of His covenant.

26 August, 2010

Catholic Social Doctrine: An Introduction

Within the body of truths taught by the Catholic Church, truths about what we must believe and about how we are to live, there are those truths commonly called Catholic social teaching or the Church’s social doctrine. They are an important and integral part of Catholic doctrine, but not so well known or so well understood as they might be. In this series of articles I will be presenting this teaching by way of expounding the principal documents in which it has been embodied by successive popes. In this first article I will give an introduction to the teaching, including what I think are important points we should remember to prevent misunderstanding, and to perhaps lessen the disagreements which sometimes arise in this area.

20 August, 2010

A Problem With Over-Centralizing Production

This article was originally published by
The Distributist Review on 20 August, 2010

We distributists advocate the decentralization of production whenever practical. We are challenged by claims that centralization is more efficient in terms of cost. “What’s wrong with Big Business” is a question we need to answer. The founders of Distributism focused on the idea that, when the overwhelming majority of citizens work for a wage at jobs controlled by relatively few wealthy individuals, their situation is a form of slavery. It may not be as bad as the slavery of the 19th century but, in many ways, the house slaves of that era didn’t have it as bad as the slaves of the field.

09 August, 2010

The Distributist Review

The folks over at The Distributist Review have asked me to join them and contribute articles to their web site.