Thursday, November 3, 2016

Faux Solidarism and the Totalitarian State


In yesterday’s posting we gave a brief overview of solidarism, especially as it relates to individual and social virtue.  We closed by noting, however, that what passes for solidarism in many cases these days can hardly be called virtuous.  It violates natural law, particularly the natural rights of freedom of association (liberty/contract) and private property, turning the tool of the State into the master.  This is a phenomenon Archbishop Fulton Sheen noted in his first two books, God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925), and Religion Without God (1928).
No, not Lenin, but Durkheim
This is in large measure due to the fact that many of today’s solidarists often cite the work of Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., but put an interpretation on it that is closer to the thought of sociologist Émile Durkheim, a facist-socialist who greatly influenced modernism and New Age thought, all of which insist on a greatly expanded role of the State.  This has made it easy, especially since the Second Vatican Council, to twist the interpretation of Catholic social teaching that underpins the Just Third Way into something completely antithetical to Father Pesch’s or the popes’ original intent.
To be blunt, using Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum to justify a vastly expanded role for the State, a mere social tool, not the Hobbesian “Mortall God” so many today demand, is to misunderstand Catholic social teaching at the most profound level.  As the pope clearly stated, “There is no need to bring in the State. Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body.”  (Rerum Novarum, § 7.)
Rev. Heinrich Pesch, S.J.
Father Pesch should, therefore, be regarded more as the redeemer of solidarism than its founder.  He corrected Durkheim’s fascist, socialist, modernist, and New Age concepts, and developed a Christian solidarism on the foundation of natural law theory that complemented the vision of Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum — which Durkheim contradicted.  This is why Pope Pius XI called two members of the Königswinterkreis discussion group (composed primarily of students of Father Pesch), Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J., and Father Gustav Gundlach, S.J., to Rome to consult on the writing of Quadragesimo Anno.
To Durkheim, God is a “divinized society” and religion is a social, not a spiritual phenomenon.  This, as Archbishop (then Father) Sheen explained, puts collective man (and thus the State) at the center, not God.  As the (real) solidarist Heinrich Rommen (a student of Father Pesch) analyzed this, the error starts with a shift in the understanding of the natural law from the Intellect (reason) to the Will (faith), leading to pure moral relativism, even nihilism.  Socialism (especially of the Fabian variety, but including infusions of Marxism as well), fascism, modernism, and New Age thought become “authentic” Catholic social teaching, and the State is “overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties.”  (Quadragesimo Anno, § 78.)
"Hi! I'm John Paul I!"
Every pope since Pius IX — John Paul I not excepted — has worked to counter this shift from the Intellect to the Will.  The First Vatican Council declared the primacy of the Intellect to be an infallible doctrine, and anathematized anyone who denied that knowledge of God’s existence and of the natural law written in the hearts of all men can be known by the force and light of human reason alone.  The first provision in the Oath Against Modernism is an affirmation of the primacy of the Intellect, and the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis starts off by identifying a denial of the primacy of the Intellect as the chief threat to Catholic doctrine in the world.
Msgr. John A. Ryan
Unfortunately, thanks primarily to the efforts of one man, Msgr. John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America, the understanding of Catholic social teaching shifted from the Intellect to the Will.  According to Ryan and other socialists, the collective has rights that individuals do not, especially private property and liberty.  Ryan used Rerum Novarum to justify a vastly expanded role for the State.  By his skill at both academic and civil politics he achieved an ascendency as the authority on Catholic social thought that, despite its obvious contradictions and weaknesses, was never successfully challenged until the advent of the Just Third Way.
Ryan’s principal error was to shift the basis of the natural law from the Intellect to the Will, meaning his personal opinion.  As Heinrich Rommen, Mortimer Adler, Pope St. John Paul II, and others have pointed out, this leads directly to the belief that “might makes right” and that the collective created by man has rights that human beings created by God do not have.
Pius XI: Only the human person has natural rights.
This, as Pius XI put it, is a theory “utterly foreign to Christian truth.”  Why?  Because God created man, not mankind.  Man created the collective, an abstraction.  God does not abstract (He is omniscient, and has no need to do so, so as a “necessary Being,” He does not), so the only source of rights the collective can have is the actual human beings who come together to form a group.  It is therefore completely impossible that a creation of human beings can have rights that human beings do not have!
Matters were not helped any when followers of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc bought into Fabian socialism and its offshoots, such as guild socialism and social credit.  This is supremely ironic, for Chesterton and Belloc developed distributism to counter Fabian socialism, which is based on an expanded agrarian socialism of Henry George. (Another irony: a prominent distributist recently declared that distributism cannot survive without georgism!)
Belloc even wrote what many consider his greatest book, The Servile State, in 1912 to counter Fabian socialism.  Yet many of today’s distributists and Chestertonians slavishly follow the Fabians and advocate guild socialism and social credit, and promote the work of Fabians E.F. Schumacher, Arthur Penty, R.H. Tawney, and others, including the horrifying and perverted Eric Gill.
The issue then becomes, What are we to do about this?  We’ll look at that on Monday.
#30#

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