Page 4, 2nd May 1941

2nd May 1941
Page 4
Page 4, 2nd May 1941 — " RERUM NOVARUM "-III

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Organisations: i.e., Catholic Church
People: Leo, Encyclical


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The "Capital Error" Of Class Warfare A Deadly Struggle That The Church Can Resolve JUST as we can divide the European world and its American and other derivatives into those for and against the Mass, so we can divide them into those for and against ownership. In the first part of Rerum Novarum Pope Leo has established a very fundamental distinction. It is not the distinction between the " haves" and the " have-nets " or between rich and poor, but between those who accept or reject the doctrine of ownership. The millionaires, the directors of vast trusts and corporations equally with the Socialists reject the principle of ownership, because the system under which they constitute the " few, in whose hands not alone is wealth accumulated but immense power and despotic economic domination is concentrated " (Quadragesimo Anno) is obviously a system which denies ownership to the majority. At the same time the vast mass of the workers are not conscious of the principle of ownership. They have been indoctrinated with the theory that it is merely a question of changing the personnel of the directorate and substituting the politicians. The Pope has placed us Catholics almost in a world apart, because we alone stand for the principle of ownership as such, i.e., we claim the right of ownership for each and every man, because each and every man has reason and is his own prpvidence for himself and his family. It may seem strange to say it, but yet it is true— we stand alone for the fundamental normality of ownership.

AN EXECUTIVE DOCUMENT HAVING established this base of operations the Pope comes to the main part of his thesis. Is this some new programme, a new plan, a new order? It is none of these things. It is not a series of suggestions, about which we can have opinions and debate. It is an executive document emanating from the supreme authority and, for us Catholics, authoritative. Three things are contained in it. First:—things to be believed and accepted. Most of the doctrines taught are already known to us. They are either part of the deposit of faith or deductions from natural reason. What is new and authoritative here is the precise choice of these doctrines and their application to the social question. The second set of things is the precepts, commands, directions, and from his position the Pope is bound to assume that at least all loyal Catholics will strive to obey him. The third thing is that since the change to be brought about is from the abnormal to the normal, there must be certain measures of transition. During the period of transition to the normal (i.e., a society founded on the principle of ownership), Catholics have to live under the present abnormal conditions, in which the principle of ownership is either denied outright or rendered practically impos sible. There must, therefore, be certain tolerations, which are of their very nature transitory. To emphasise these points of transition and tolerability is to misconstrue the papal document.

BRIDGING THE CHASM ABRIEF analysis of the introductory paragraph of this part of the Encyclical will make these points clear. The principle of ownership being established, " we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found." The remedy for what? Throughout the Encyclical we find the constant repetition of the words certamen, contentio, dinzicatio, and expressions whiett envisage a great grim struggle of two parties locked in death-grips. There is a subsequent passage which proves to us how keenly the Pope saw this deadly struggle. We might translate it as follows: " The violenceof changes in social and economic life has split the urbanised areas into two classes of citizens, with an enormous chasm between them. 'I On the one side is the party abnormally powerful because abnormally wealthy—a faction, which grips in its power the whole of the labour-market and manufacture; which swings the entire effective power of material wealth to its own interests and advantage and is therefore too strongly represented in the government. On the other side is the impoverished and powerless majority with minds ' ulcerated ' and ready for any violence " § 35. It is easily realised that a person, who is conscious that he is the representative of Christ, the Creator and Redeemer of the whole human race; one, who feels himself to be the Common Father—should know that he has been given the means to heal this conflict and bridge this chasm, which men have erected between themselves. " We approach the subject confidently and in the exercise of the rights which clearly belong to us." What really matters is the state of mind of the two parties to the conflict. It is the " ulcerated " minds, which most concern the Pope. There can be no practical solution without his intervention and he has the means to heal these " ulcerated " minds. He wishes others to collaborate with him. In the next section he will outline how these others, viz., the rulers of States, employers and workers themselves, should co-operate. But there is no doubt in his mind that it is the action of the Church, which is of paramount importance. " We affirm without hesitation that all the striving of men will be in vain if they leave out the Church." What then is this action of the Church, which is essential to the healing of the conflict? It is embraced under the headings of (1) Doctrinal. and (2) Directive or Moral. In other words, it is first an enlightening of the mind by the acceptance of those teachings founded on the authority of the Gospel, on which the Church insists " whereby the conflict can be brought to an end, or rendered. at least, less bitter." Secondly, arising out of each point of doctrine. there are certain duties to be performed.

EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES TAKE for example what the Pope calls " the capital error "—the Marxist doctrine of class-warfare—a permanent and ultimately irreconcilable hostility between the owning and labouring class, which can only be resolved by the final conquest and " liquidation" of the rich. This false doctrine is briefly, but adequately refuted. But it is immediately added that the real solution comes from the fulfilment of the precepts of justice on both sides. The worker is told that it is his duty to carry out honestly and fairly all equitable contracts entered into with complete freedom: never to injure the property nor outrage the person of his employer: never to resort to violence in defending his cause nor to have resort to riot or disorder. and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who try to deceive him with false promises. On the other hand the employer is reminded that respect is due to the worker in his dignity as a man and as a Christian. He is not a bondsman nor a mere chattel to make money by, nor so much muscle and physical power. But his great and principal duty (in maximis autem officiis dominorum Riad eminet) is to pay a fair wage. The point to note at this stage is that each of these duties of justice is prefaced by the phrase " Religion teaches " or " The Church teaches." Hence it follows that those who teach these doctrines and those who fulfil these duties of justice, are taking part in the action of the Church in bringing the conflict to an end. And at the conclusion of this part the Pope makes the assertion that were these "carefully obeyed and followed out they would be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and its causes." In his conclusion on the Action of the Church Pope Leo claims that the Church does not only offer some academical remedy but that she applies her remedy here and now, and can point out to the actual putting into practice of her remedy in the past. She applies the remedy here and now by fulfilling her teaching office, in which she possesses a power peculiarly her own, because the agencies employed were given her by Christ and therefore possess a divine efficiency. What she teaches is of such a nature as to solve the Social Question, because it brings men to act from the motive of duty; it teaches them to resist their passions and appetites; it teaches them to love God and their fellow men with a singular and supreme love: it teaches them to break down courageously every barrier which impedes the way to a life of virtue. Lastly, there is the witness of history. Civil society was renovated in every part by the teachings of the Church and in the strength of that renewal the human race was lifted up to better things—nay, it was brought back from death to life, and to so excellent a life that nothing more perfect had been known before, or will come to be known in the ages that have yet to be.

CARRYING IT OUT may now well ask the question: What has the Church done since the Rerurn Novarurn? Has this action of the Church on the solution of the Social Problem been continuous during the past fifty years? Pius XI summed up the benefits due to the great Encyclical in his Quadragesimo Anno and quoted a document, which was published by the Union Internationale d'Etudes Soda/es, founded by Cardinal Mercier. This document was a most impressive one because it brought under one cover a complete list of whatever had been said or done by Popes and by all the Bishops over the world on the Social Question since the publication of the Rerum Novarum. But it is never mentioned in our parish many will say. Perhaps not explicitly. But what has to be remembered is that the doctrines laid down in the Encyclical do receive constant attention in countless sermons and instructions. Often enough neither the preacher nor the congregation is actually conscious of the fact. Nevertheless, the work is being done. However, in this fiftieth anniversary there is one serious question to be asked. Pope Leo gave these explicit instructions to the clergy: "Every minister of holy religion must bring to the struggle the full energy of his mind and all his power of endurance. They should never cease to urge upon men of every class. upon the high-placed as well as the lowly, the Gospel doctrines of Christian life; by every means in their power they must strive to secure the good of the people; and above all must earnestly cherish in themselves and try to arouse in others, charity, the mistress and queen of virtues " (§ 45). If we might learn a lesson from the Communist agitators, it might be this. They are always deliberately conscious that whatever they say or do is directed towards the furtherance of the class struggle. It is their morning offering. They are constantly referring themselves back to Marx's writings in order to be sure of their orthodoxy. Can, then, the work which Leo XIII and his successors wished the clergy to do, be done consciously, as a deliberate furtherance of the teachings of the Rerum Novarum? Can the congregation stand it, when they know it is the Rerum Novarum which is being preached at them? Or are we still flummoxed by the hang-over from the Penal Days—the fear of offending the rich, who rule us, and ashamed to let it be known that the majority of Catholics in this country are workers, and that there is even a bias in the Catholic Church in favour of the poor?

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