The forty-sixth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Rerum Novarum, a great piece of instruction which has rightly been called " the Workers' Charter," was commemorated in Edinburgh at a gathering presided over by the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. The chief item in the proceedings was a lecture, summarised below, by Fr. Eustace Dudley, S.J., whose words on " God's Key to the World Crisis" were followed with deep interest by the assembly.
We are here to commemorate and honour one of the greatest social and political documents of the present time, said Fr. Eustace Dudley, S.J., in commencing his address. The Rerum novarum is truly styled " the Workers' Charter "; and with the great social encyclicals of Pius XI it supplies, as expressing the mind of His Vicar on earth, God's kcy to the world crisis.
There are those, said Fr. Dudley, who represent this World Crisis as purely economic, a matter of the proper distribution of the world's population and the earth's products. Others stress the political aspect, a battle to the death between Fascist and Communist ideologies. But these aspects are only on the surface, the external quakes or convulsions of a struggle for the preservation or destruction of what someone has called the " tap-root " of our European civilisation, the Christian revelation.
Three Systems, One Thrust
We have only to look abroad at such countries as Russia, Germany and Spain —and in a less degree manifest in France and Britain—to see on every side Satanic forces unleashed against God and His Church. And we are reminded of Pius XI's words — "This new deluge that threatens the world," a thing " unheard of hitherto." Behind the three opposing political systems of Communism, Naziism, and Liberalism, there is the same deadly thrust at the Christian God and Christian revelation.
The issue is perhaps less clear and decisive in this country; hut the assumption is growing apace that morality conies under State legislation and is mainly concerned with the material order. Thus the moral law has little or no objective value. as having not God but man for its author. It must he modified to suit the age and its requirements. Thus with the fifth and sixth commandments especially.
We are well on the road to the triumph of the Servile State, when with blissful indifference to the law of God we look to the State for moral legislation with its facilities for divorce. and its "right to kill" and "die" bills. When man sets himself up as his own judge and lawmaker, and regards the moral law as merely the expression of the general will, he cuts himself adrift from the glorious liberty of the children of God. The " splendid animal " of Wells and Bernard Shaw, supposedly free, surrenders inevitably to a worse tyranny than anything enforced by the Victorian school.
Significantly a leading article in The Scotsman, apropos of Mr. Baldwin's speech at the Albert Hall Empire Rally of Youth, asked the question—" How are the actions of the State to he controlled by some superior moral influence? " Mr. Baldwin in his speech rejected the Servile State as regimenting and collectivising man and so denying theosupreme worth of the individual. This worth, the dignity of the human personality, he said was derived from the Christian religion.
Where Mr. Baldwin Erred
But Mr. Baldwin erred when he spoke of this "essential dignity of the human soul " as " our secret." It is not a British secret nor that of any nation but God's (revealed by Jesus Christ), Who designed from all eternity to deify man by raising through grace to adopted sonship. The fearful tragedy and travesty of the truth today is that man is striving by his own natural strength to deify himself, or his nation, or the Classless Society.
It is precisely this revealed worth of the individual soul that is so strongly stressed in the Rerum novarum and is the basis of all the social reforms outlined there. For the essential equality of all men—created and redeemed for the same eternal destiny —renders inseparable the love of God from that of our fellow-men be they employers or employed. Hence the key-note of Pius XI's " Social Order " (which developed and applied the " Workers' Charter " of Leo XIII), is association of owners and workers (both necessary) in vocational groups.
Finally the State emerges of which the social unity is the family. The State's authority therefore exists primarily and essentially for the good and prosperity of the family it represents the collection of families which are prior to it.
Fr. Dudley concluded with two warnings: First, never to confuse the Corporate State, outlined in " the Social Order " as the ideal one, with the Fascist State. That, he said, is the impression our enemies wish to spread. The corporate principle can be fitted into any kind of Government—Republic, or Fascist, or Monarchic—provided it be not Atheist. For the principle of the Corporate State is free association of employers and employed in the different trades and industries, with the Government as a guiding and as a controlling influence. In contrast the Fascist State implies authority from above imposed by the State upon employers and employed alike.
Finally, remember we live in a fallen world. There is no Utopia here such as those imagine who reject this simple fact. Vigilance. courage, effort, sacrifice arc indispensable for the knights of today as of old. And even so the "Vision Resplendent " of Pius X's life work " To restore all things in Christ " may not be ours. If we have sown the seed we can leave with childlike confidence the gathering of the harvest to those whom God shall call to that magnificent task.