Fig Professor M. P. FOGARTY
THE CHURCH AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. By J-Y. Calvee. and J. Perrin, S.J. (Burns & Oates, 1961, 426.).
CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY IN ITALY, 1860-1960. By R. Webster (Hollis and Caner, 1961, 30s.).
FROM opposite angles these hooks illuminate the probs lems facing the Catholic who proposes to apply his principles lo social problems.
The Church and Social Justice" is a translation of a standard French text. prepared by the Jesuits of "Action Populaire". on the social and economic teaching of the Church up to the death of Pius XII. It has four chief merits. which make it by far the best text of its kind available in English.
It sets out clearly the presuppositions of Catholic social teaching; its sources in revelation and the natural law, the nature and documents of the Church's intervention In social affairs. the person as the starting point of the Church's social thought, and the meaning of concepts such as justice. charity, and need.
It is fully up to date. It is fully digested, a continuous text based on the work of study groups at Action Populaire: it is not put together from snippets of Papal documents. Most important of all, it marks firmly the limits of the Church's teaching.
There is. for instance, it points out, no Vatican plan for the organisation of the economy; there are only certain guide lines which leave a wide variety of choices open to those who actually manage the economy. Papal teaching on property likewise leaves far more questions open than one might realise from less sophisticated texts.
IT is at this point that Mr. Webster takes over. His book studies the actual activity of Catholics in Italian politics over the last hundred years. I suspect that he has missed the inwardness of some of the specifically religious aspects of Italian politics. But in a way this is all to the good, for it brings out more clearly what he is doing.
He is a historian who asks of Catholics, as he might of any other politicians: "Are these men doing a good job as politicians? Have they learnt the skills necessary for this trade, and are they doing the
politicians' specific job of serving the common good?" The answer is I regret to say unflattering; and, though some of Mr. Webster's judgments are controversial. I have no doubt that the picture he paints is generally correct.
DOWN to just before the fall of Fascism neither the clergy nor the laity in Italian Catholic politics showed themselves particularly skilful in the art of government. or even very clearly aware, in practice as apart from pure theory, of what the politician's business is.
Benedict XV stands out as an exception. Don Seurzo is less of
an exception than a knowledge of his writings would lead one to believe. It is with the arrival in power of Alcide de Gasperi that Italian Christian Democracy, in Mr. Webster's view -and again think he is right first produces a man of first-class stature and maturity as a politician; an outstanding professional of the art of government who was at the same time fully in harmony with the upto-date teaching of the Church.
Mr. Webster passes briefly over the years since De Gasperi's death, but points out that it is by no means certain that the improvement in the quality of Italian Catholic politics that came in with De Gasped is anything more than one man's work. lasting while he lived, and disappearing when he died.