19 February, 2015

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.

05 February, 2015


At the beginning of his term as Prime Minister, David Cameron unveiled a program called the “Big Society.” The idea is to decentralize both legislative and tax authority from the central government and make them more local. Geographically, this plan goes beyond the states of the United Kingdom, and even beyond the county councils. The plan includes moving authority all the way to city leaders. This idea, known as “devolution,” is still on the minds of the English, and there appears to be an ongoing movement to make this idea a political reality. This is certainly an encouraging movement from a distributist perspective, but it faces some serious challenges.

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.

The Economists Are Beginning To Crack

In [an] article [on www.roubini.com], Tim Duy asks “Why Is the American Jobs Machine Broken?” In the article, he describes the discussions economists are having about the reasons the job market continues to decline, and declares that he has become a heretic in regard to the theories of Free Trade. The fact that economists are beginning to question their policies is only the beginning.  The only choices they appear to see are between Free Trade and protectionism. In fact, the issue goes much deeper than that. This small crack in the faith of modern economists is just the first step in a long journey to seeing what is truly necessary for economic stability.