As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, although Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, “On Capital and Labor,” was meant to provide an alternative to socialism and modernism, adherents of the new things of modernism, socialism, and the New Age were quick to seize on it and divert it to their own purposes. Among the first to do so were the agrarian socialist Henry George and his friend, the excommunicated priest Father Edward McGlynn.
|Bishop von Ketteler|
McGlynn had been put under the ban of the Catholic Church not for advocating socialism, but for refusing to go to Rome at the direct command of the pope to explain his position on socialism. Both George and McGlynn took the opportunity to declare they were once again being persecuted for their beliefs and for exercising their rights as American citizens.
Nor were George and McGlynn the only problems. Almost from the first day of the promulgation of Rerum Novarum not only socialists, modernists, and New Agers, but capitalists and reactionaries went to work to convince the public the encyclical was either in error or supported the very things it condemned.
In Germany, widespread misunderstanding of the work of Freiherr Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz (1811-1877), and in France, that of Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), inadvertently prepared the ground for a Neo-Catholic resurgence and a socialist interpretation of Rerum Novarum.
|Adrien Albert Marie Comte de Mun|
Later in France, socialists also successfully subverted the work of Adrien Albert Marie Comte de Mun (1841-1914), François René de La Tour du Pin, Marquis de la Charce (1834-1924), and Jules-Charles-Maurice Maignen (1822-1890). To this day, the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on de Mun erroneously states he advocated a form of Christian socialism (“Mun, Adrien Albert Marie de,” Encyclopedia Britannica 15, 14th ed., 1956. Print), as did the Reverend Moritz Kaufmann’s Christian Socialism (Rev. M. Kaufmann, Christian Socialism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888, xiv, 27, 44, 169-170, 174-175.), a work that took numerous liberties with the facts. After Rerum Novarum was issued, the new leader of the Neo-Catholic movement, Marie-Eugène-Melchior, vicomte de Vogüé (1848-1910), cleverly reinterpreted the encyclical to conform to socialism. (Vicomte Eugène Melchior de Vogüé, “The Neo-Christian Movement in France,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1892.)
The modernist movement that swept through the Church in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was strongest in France where Christian socialism had been born and had put down the deepest roots. As with the esotericism that had a symbiotic relationship with socialism, modernism and socialism reinforced each other, each lending the other credibility.
What resulted is a confusing mess that, as G.K. Chesterton observed, has “a very curious kind of immortal mutability.” (Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas, op. cit., 106.) Gaining in strength down to the present day, the combination of socialism, modernism, and what is now known as the New Age is virtually impossible to pin down and fight.
|Alfred Richard Orage|
This is because what remains the movement’s only constant is to be in a constant state of change, like “the magician who turns himself into a snake or a cloud.” (Ibid.) Alfred Richard Orage (1873-1934), editor of New Age magazine and mentor of Arthur Joseph Penty (1875-1937) — Guild socialism grew out of concepts developed by George Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959), Orage, or Penty, or perhaps a consortium of all three — characterized the socialist movement of this period as a cult, mixing in “theosophy, arts and crafts, vegetarianism, [and] the ‘simple life’.” (Quoted in Henry Mead, “Max Stirner, T.E. Hulme and Alfred Orage: Radical Individualism at the New Age,” Scribd.com, https://www.scribd.com/document/64135018/Max-T-E-Hulme-and-Alfred-Orage-Radical-Individualism-at-the-New-Age-Henry-Mead, accessed 09/15/16.) These were Hilaire Belloc’s “cranks,” the “simple-lifers, the Guild-socialists, and the band of mildly eccentric hangers-on” (Wilson, Hilaire Belloc, op. cit., 343.) — what Chesterton referred to as the “fantastic forms” that later attached themselves to the distributist movement. (G.K.’s Weekly, April 24, 1926.)
With the death of Leo XIII and the election of Pope Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, 1835-1914, elected 1903) liberals and conservatives alike thought they now had a chance to reform the Church along either modernist or traditionalist lines. As Pius X was a Vatican outsider, both major factions thought they could easily control the pope.
|Pope Benedict XV|
Both parties were badly mistaken. Far from being a malleable puppet, Pius X instituted reforms that antagonized virtually everyone at the Vatican, liberal or conservative. He reorganized the Curia, dealt summarily with recalcitrants, began a revision of the Code of Canon Law, and (probably to secure his own position against internal bureaucratic politics) insisted on punctilious observance of Vatican protocol. He even risked offending former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt because of a minor diplomatic faux pas. (“Roosevelt Not To See Pope,” Boston Evening Transcript, April 4, 1910, 3.)
Pius X’s misstep was in how he dealt with socialism, modernism, and the New Age. Where Leo XIII had tried education and persuasion (Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, Life of Leo XIII, From an Authentic Memoir Furnished by His Order. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Co., 1903, 155.), Pius X commanded, demanding obedience. His Oath Against Modernism and other strictures and efforts drove the movement underground but failed to halt it.
Benedict XV (Giacomo Della Chiesa, 1854-1922, elected 1914) gave every indication of returning to Leo XIII’s methods to combat the new things. In his first encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, “Appealing for Peace,” he declared the same attitudes and beliefs that underlay socialism and modernism had led to the war. (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, § 12.) Nor was he blind to the dangers represented by conservatives and reactionaries, reminding people that for the Church to be effective in the modern world it must do “[o]ld things, but in a new way.” (Ibid., § 25.)
Unfortunately, Benedict XV’s pontificate was overshadowed by World War I and he died in the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed. It was left to his successor, Pius XI, to deal with the increasingly serious world situation, which we will look at in our next posting on this subject.