In the previous posting in this series, we looked at the difference between legal justice and social justice and why, despite the fact that both “look” to the common good, they are not the same thing. This is a key point because it goes straight to the heart of everything to which Pope John Paul I was opposed, viz., socialism, modernism, and the New Age, particularly the goal of establishing “the Kingdom of God on Earth” — a materialist paradise devoid of genuine spirituality to replace traditional religion. As he explained in his homily on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1976 while still Patriarch of Venice,
“Our homeland,” it has been written, “is in the heaven and from it we also await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform them with his glorified body” (Phil. 3:20-21). Let us note here two words, “homeland” and “we await” [aspettiamo — one word in Italian].
If it is true that heaven is our homeland, the earth will become merely a colony for us; let us not be dazzled by appearances. In a train it is we wo are moving; but it seems to us that it is the trees and houses that are not standing still. So it is in this world, we have the impression that we are going to remain here forever. This is an illusion, only in the other life are we going to remain forever. (Raymond and Lauretta Seabeck, The Smiling Pope: The Life and Teaching of John Paul I. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2004, 243..Specifically, a great deal of confusion results from the fact that many commentators noted that both legal justice and social justice look to the common good — and stopped there.
|Pope John Paul I|
· Since legal justice and social justice both look to the common good, and
· Legal justice only “acts” through commutative and distributive justice, then
· Not only are legal justice and social justice the same thing (“social justice” is just a new, fancy term for legal justice), but
· Commutative and distributive justice are also social justice!
But wait, it gets better! Over the years, commutative justice, which is the most basic form of justice, from which all other forms of justice are derived, got marginalized and, finally, ignored altogether. Significantly, Monsignor John A. Ryan (1869-1945) in Distributive Justice, his 1918 magnum opus, ignored commutative justice completely! Instead, Ryan simply assumed an equivalence between legal and social justice, and social justice and distributive justice, and then redefined distributive justice as a form of charity with the essence of justice removed, with what someone needs (as determined by others) instead of what someone is due being the principle of distribution.
How could such a thing happen?
In the wake of the upheavals of the Industrial and the French Revolutions society was shaken to its foundations. New methods of finance that came in with the invention of central banking late in the seventeenth century changed both economics and politics profoundly.
While the ability to finance new capital formation more easily accelerated the rate of technological advancement immensely, the manner in which it was done tended to concentrate ownership of those new technologies. Ownership of the means of production became increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
As ordinary people lost property in capital and thus power, the power of the financial élite and owners of capital increased greatly. This shifted the base of support of State power away from free workers and small owners, and to those who controlled money and credit and thus production.
|Henri de Saint-Simon|
As a result, existing institutions began to give way under the strain. Nor, lacking the concept of social justice that put the institutions of the social order under their direct control, were people able to do anything effective about the situation. Traditional social bonds began dissolving, and many had recourse to violence.
While there had been previous disruptions, the French Revolution was the beginning of the end for the old paradigm and the gradual recognition of the sovereignty of the individual that had been slowly building up over millennia. In its stead was a concept not of individual human dignity and sovereignty, but of sovereignty of the collective with human dignity derived from that of the people as a whole instead of being inherent in every child, woman, and man.
This new European version of democracy was in sharp contrast to that of the United States, the founding documents of which made explicit references to being based on natural law and the sovereignty of the human person under God. Not that the American system was perfect, by any means — chattel slavery and the treatment of native peoples comes too readily to mind — but the founding principles (if not their application) of the American republic were fully consistent with natural law, and thus with what would soon become known as Catholic social teaching.
Nature and politics both abhor a vacuum, and with society in upheaval new things sprang up everywhere presenting innovative systems, principles, and even religions in an effort to try and make sense of this new and frightening world. Foremost among the new things was something known variously as “the democratic religion,” “the religion of humanity,” “New Christianity,” “Neo-Catholicism,” and a host of other terms. A few decades later it would become known as “socialism,” and divide into religious or democratic socialism, and scientific socialism, the latter being termed “communism,” a term that before Karl Marx and the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848 had been used interchangeably with socialism.
Ironically, the socialist Pierre Leroux coined the term socialisme as a pejorative around 1832 or 1833. By 1848, however, the term had been generally accepted for all forms of “the democratic religion.” That is, in fact, partly the reason Karl Marx looked down on other socialists and insisted on the term “communism” for his brand of “scientific” socialism. Marx wanted to remove all forms of religion, democratic or otherwise, from the purity of the goal of abolishing private property.
|Msgr. Ronald Knox|
Of course, most proponents of “the democratic religion” did not claim to be founding a new, materialist religion, even though that was, in fact, what they were doing. No, as Monsignor Ronald Knox explained in his book, Enthusiasm (1950), they always claimed to be returning to the true spirit of Christianity, having managed to discern it in various ways, some of them increasingly esoteric, eventually evolving into New Age thought. The goal was, inevitably (as Dr. Julian Strube of Heidelberg University has discovered) to establish and maintain the Kingdom of God on Earth.
As Venerable Fulton Sheen realized and explained in his 1925 doctoral thesis, however (God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy), the god these reformers worship is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but some form of Collective Man. Just as the human creation of the abstraction has replaced individual human beings, it has also replaced the Creator Himself.
Nor was this something new even when Sheen wrote about it. The then-current “wave” had been around for half a century by 1925, but the problem had been around from the beginning of Christianity — and then only if you limit the problem to its effect on Christianity!
It has always been around, but the modern movement began in the early nineteenth century, with most authorities giving the trigger as the publication of L’Nouveau Christianisme (“The New Christianity”) by Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) in 1825. Briefly, Saint-Simon’s thesis was that traditional religion had failed, and what was needed was a new Christianity more suited to modern times, one that downplayed or eliminated unnecessary spiritual aspects of religion in favor of uplifting humanity materially, with a special focus on the poor.
Saint-Simon was not, of course, the only one making such claims. A renegade priest by the name of Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1760-1854), credited with being the founder of “social Catholicism,” and François Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837), among a host of others, were busily deconstructing organized religion (targeting especially the Catholic Church) with various schemes and proposals that put Collective Man in the place of God.
It was, however, Saint-Simon who probably best articulated the goal of “social Christianity” or “the democratic religion.” Saint-Simon’s goal, like that of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), was “to resolve Christianity into its essential elements” (“Saint-Simon,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 19: 14th Edition, 1956, Print.) by focusing on the moral teachings and removing anything purely spiritual or religious.
Unlike Jefferson, however, Saint-Simon summed up his efforts in the precept, “The whole of society ought to strive towards the amelioration of the moral and physical existence of the poorest class; society ought to organize itself in the way best adapted for attaining this end.” (Ibid.) As the Encyclopedia Britannica commented, “This principle became the watchword of the entire school of Saint-Simon.” (Ibid.)
Saint-Simon’s principle also summed up the basic creed of socialism, modernism, and the New Age that developed out of it. Ultimately, there would be no distinction between Church, State, and Family; all society — and all humanity — would be One.
To counter this and realizing that the problem was not in the principles of western politics or religion, but in their application, Pope Gregory XVI worked to revive the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas and a sound theory of natural law as the corrective to these innovations, especially those proposed by de Lamennais. In what is arguably the first social encyclical, Mirari Vos in 1832, Gregory XVI attempted to steer de Lamennais and other proponents of the new religion back on to a more orthodox track. Failing at this (due in large measure to a flaw in de Lamennais’s character that prevented him from accepting correction, however mild), Gregory condemned de Lamennais’s teachings in 1834 in Singulari Nos, referring to the teachings as rerum novarum — “new things,” a term that encompassed what was soon to become known as socialism as well as modernism and New Age thought.#30#