Page 6, 7th August 1936

7th August 1936
Page 6
Page 6, 7th August 1936 — PRIVATE PROPERTY AND CATHOLIC ACTION Eric Gill Replies

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Organisations: Body Moreover
Locations: Birmingham, Portsmouth


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SIR,—You invite me to reply to your various correspondents but I think that it is not really my business to do so, for the controversy has turned mainly in the direction of morality and as my opponents are busy' questioning the Church's teaching, they should properly be replied to by a theologian.

I assume that when it is said that a man " should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all" that is Christian teaching. It is not my business to defend this doctrine in a Christian newspaper and your correspondents, instead of attacking me as though I had invented Christianity, ought to be trying to put the teaching into practice. I will, however, reply to Doctor Howley.

There is the thing called the Mystical Body of Christ of which all Christians are members. If I own anything it is as a member of that body that I own it.

Thus if I own " a radio set or a pair of pants " my ownership means that I am trusted with these things to care for them and use them for the common good, my own good in the first place, but my own good as a member of that Body Moreover, even as owning such things as radio sets or pants I am a kind of artist, a kind of maker, a responsible workman, for those things are a part of the apparatus by which I make my life, or the life of my family.

It should be obvious that when we visit our friends and go into their sittingrooms we see not merely their possessions but the kind of home they have made, and

in maltinz a home a man i net mirfty

snuggling himself down but is contributing to the common good. Privacy itself is only defensible as contributing to the good of the work to be done, thence to the good of all, thence to man's Last End, his final beatitude and God's glory.

No, a moral being purely as such, can't be robbed. But there is no such being.

Elm Gu,L.

Piggotts, High Wycombe.

P.S.—In reply to the Bachelor of Arts: The saying that " as many as possible should be induced to become owners" (Rev. Nov. 35) does not iniply that all wage service is immoral but simply that ownership is better. It will always be true that some men shun responsibility and others are unfitted for it. Our society multiplies both kinds exceedingly.

That Pontifical Tone

SIR,— Those who • find themselves

Whig' by the " pentiflial

tone " of Mr. Eric Gill, should pause to consider whether the cause of their irritation is righteous anger at his impudent heresies or merely injuied self-complacency.

If a man speaks the truth, it matters little how lofty his utterance so long as his hearers have the humility to discern it.

11 ka altaalio falllely or timidly, it it lime wasted to be annoyed by his tone: it is of more importance to examine his teaching and demolish his errors.

When words are used with the skill and precision of Mr. Gill, it is wise to consider them carefully before deciding to differ from them especially if it is likely that one habitually misuses those words as a result of mechanical ways of thinking, and more especially still, when they are backed up by the judgements of men of the calibre of Fr. McNabb, 0.P., Mr. Belloc and Gilbert Keith Chesterton—to mention only the most obvious names.

Many ciecllcnt oorlom mint hnbeen

outraged by the " pontifical tone " of St. Catharine of Sienna, perhaps the Pontiff, Urban V, most of all. But the price paid for the satisfaction of disregarding them was the Schism of the West. Mr. Gill will himself be the first to disclaim any great similarity with St. Catharine, yet to JIsregard his warnings may well mean a captivity far more costly to the Church than that of Avignon.

J. A. B.

A Mythical Right To

SIR,—If I may be so bold, I wish to 1 draw attention to some mistakes 1tne letter of Noel T. Purgold.

His statement re displacement of labour being caused by modern machinery being twaddle—is twaddle! Let him tell that story to an unemployed miner.

He states that machinery gives new em ployment. TIM, 011t flOGI hfi the labour newly created is skilled labour, i.e., mechanics, chauffeurs, operators, etc., etc., while the labour displaced is un skilled for the most part. Therefore, it can be assumed that machinery replaces the labour it displaces.

The second point to which I want to l is MittliiklA ieaw attention ing paragraph, when he takes Eric Gill to task by the customary war-cry of the cul pably ignorant. A man's private house and belongings certainly do belong to himself, if, of course, obtained justly. No one would deny that but the problem which is before us is: Is the "right" to private property in owning the means of production, distribution and exchange justifiable?

As the " right " to hold this kind of " private property," in my opinion, means on the whole the concomitant deprivation of other people's rights, I cannot find it justified. Thera no need to work out a_ came ed; Thera no need to work out a_ came ed; against the abuses of this " right " by the adherents of the capitalist economic system. A few topical cases might be sufficient: the overcrowding report of the I wish I had space at my disposal to ski my reasons for regarding the right private property is mythical for the m; of people in this country.


1078, Pershore Road, Stirchley, Birmingham.

Gill and Purgold

SIR,—The issue between Mr. Gill a Mr. Purgold needs to be clearly stated. IN Gill's thesis shortly is this. Man shot be free in his work, that is, responsible I his work, and man in a machine age is x so responsible.

Freedom does not mean permission do what we like. God gave us free v (physical freedom) but He also gave us t moral law. We may not do what we Ii but we are still responsible for what do. So also in our work. We may t make what we like, i.e., bad or shod work, but we are (or should be accordi to God's plan) responsible for what make. Freedom therefore is not "incomp ible with discipline, it is only incompatil with irresponsibility." And this responsit ity does not mean merely moral rev( sibility (King Alfred minding the cake it means intellectual responsibility (1 woman making the cakes) as was point out by one of your correspondents a sh, while ago.

Obviously men in mass-production f; tories are not so responsible (the form the object produced does not depend up them at all), i.e., they are not free. Ni we are made to " know, love and set God " and to that end we are given fri

dom. Therefore ute come to the ctrer

conclusion that a man in his work, a as far as his work is concerned, is not f filling his destiny. Arid yet surely should be doing that in his work more th anywhere else.

It follows now that if a man is to free in his work, he must own both wl he makes and what he makes it with, a so leaving aside for the moment Dr. Ho ley's category of " Habitus," we see tl the right to private property does proct from man's need to make things, even it does also proceed from another sour It is not a very great step from the cc elusion that in the modern industrial syst( man is badly affected, to the conclusion tl his work is badly ii the two things that concern Mr. Gill.. is not arguing for material comfort," state of freedom does not necessarily cc note greater material comfort." 1%1( greater material comfort is Mr. Purgol only argument. That is his thesis. So he were right, (which he is not) it wot be suite beside qi??Si11 Twig, we are at it, it is at least significant ti not till the coming of Industrialism do hear of a permanent body of unemploy numbering nearly 2,000,000, and it is qu idle for Mr. Purgold to argue that this due to bad economics or a faulty moneta system, for in the state visualised by IN Gill, neither the one nor the other—as know them—would exit Mr. Purgold asks why Industrialism f not been condemned. Because in its it is not sinful. (Remember slavery si never condemned.) But Mr. Gill so far frc being out of step, is very much in st with Catholic Sociology. " Ren Novarum " and " Quadragesimo Ann( are both appeals for a return to " lit men" But though these are only reco mendations, recommendations are son times precepts, when necessary for sali tion.


15, Longs Road, Portsmouth.

Machines and Cheapness

SIR,—I venture to doubt Mr. Purgol, statement, in so far as that statement 2 plies to essential forms of wealth, ti machinery produces goods more cheap The principal efficacy of machinery 2 1 J pears to De in tne proJuucuIon ol ecru commodities which large scale urb civilisation renders indispensable. But large scale urban civilisation itself ind pensable as a factor of happiness, or is itself only the unlovely result of that gn concentration of capital wealth which NA the midwife of modern machinery?

Many of us to-day own cite machine-made cars, partly for the satisfi tion theygive in taking us far from pia( of which cheap machine-made cars ha destroyed the amenities, and partly becat in present day conditions they are ind pensable. But if the circumstances whi, MIIC cr111a1SlIE11111)1C, ir themtcli the result of those forces which brous about the production of the cars, then t productive effort which brought the mot into being is itself part of a huge proc( of pure waste, and we are not only richer but positively poorer through sit misdirection.

The question we have to al ourselves, whether, thanks to machinery, a given 01 put of human energy, including the ener used in producing and maintaining t necessary plant, and the energy used make the necessary power accessible, sN produce a greater quantity of housing of given duality) oi f(?4:4 from a given land surface, of clothes of given durability, and of warmth in agreeable form. In making this asse ment, we must discount any cheapness tl is due to the substitution of cheap labo (and particularly the cheap labour women) for the labour of the natw hread winners (this last c.nniclInrntics.r, n plies especially to the shoe and cloth! industries).

If the matter is examined from tl angle, I think it will be found that the i

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