One of the more surprising things people find out when they study history is that what actually happened, and what most of the experts say happened, are two different things. Nowhere has this been more of a problem than when trying to figure out how social Christianity differs from Christian socialism.
|DE Lamennais: social Christianity = socialism.|
Part of the problem, of course, is that socialists have not been shy about “borrowing” anything that looks good if it can be twisted to their purposes. That is how we find that Jesus, who said that he came to fulfill the law not abolish it, gets labeled “the first socialist.” Given standard rhetoric, this might sound pretty plausible until you realize that socialism abolishes the law. . . .
The simple fact is that socialism — originally known as “the democratic religion” that puts collective man in place of the Christian God — was developed specifically to replace traditional political and religious institutions and create “the Kingdom of God on Earth.” Catholic social teaching did not come about as an accommodation to socialism, but to counter it. That is why Pope Leo XIII declared that widespread private ownership of capital would achieve in a just manner all that socialism tries to do in an unjust manner, i.e., by overthrowing the natural law, especially the right to own inherent in every child, woman, and man.
The problem is, where does the money come from? As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, and as Fulton Sheen hinted at in Freedom Under God, that is the question.
|Leo XIII: Christianity is not socialist.|
Trying to reconcile the demand that the right to private property be regarded as “sacred and inviolable” (Rerum Novarum, § 46.) under human law based on justice, and yet not absolute under divine law based on charity, however, the social Christian paints him- or herself into a corner. Bound by the assumption that past savings are the only source of financing for new capital, social Christians can only hope and pray for a change of heart on the part of the wealthy, and urge the poor to resist the blandishments of socialism. (Cf. Rerum Novarum, §§ 25, 61.)
Unfortunately, if we wait for the wealthy to have a change of heart before things can get better for the poor, we shall all be waiting a very long time. Added to that is the fact that socialism, as Orestes Brownson pointed out, is so very attractive to the poor and their champions that it has the potential to “deceive the very elect, so that no flesh should be saved.” (Orestes Brownson, “Socialism and the Church,” Brownson’s Quarterly Review, January, 1849.)
Within the barriers imposed by reliance on past savings as the only source of financing for new capital formation, the rich can more or less honestly claim that, were they deprived of their wealth, little or no new capital would be financed. Few if any jobs would be created. The rich can also claim that, if their savings finance new capital formation, simple justice dictates that they own the new capital for which they have paid.
|Marx: Religion is the opiate of the masses.|
Out of frustration, social reformers and activists try to justify on the basis of bad faith what cannot be justified on the basis of sound reason. Seeing that the traditional understanding of private property seems to be standing in the way of implementing something they accept on faith as God’s Will, they change the definition of private property from a natural right inherent in every human being, to something granted by the State as an expedient. They become socialists and abolish private property — “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” (Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin Books, 1967, 96; cf. Rerum Novarum, § 15.)
If liberty (freedom of association/contract) gets in the way, then liberty, too, must be abolished. The so-called “logic of gift” (See Michael Naughton, The Logic of Gift: Rethinking Business as a Community of Persons. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette University Press, 2012.) based on wild emotion and false charity must replace God’s gift of logic based on calm reason and true justice. (See Fulton J. Sheen, God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy: A Critical Study in the Light of the Philosophy of Saint Thomas. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., Ltd, 1925.) This abolishes not only freedom under God, but under anything else.
In all of this the reformers and activists claim to be enforcing God’s law. They conveniently ignore the fact that Christians have been carefully instructed to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21.) Based on their private interpretation of something they accept on faith as God’s Will, their opinion overrides merely human ordinances based on reason, that is, knowledge. They try to render unto God that which belongs to Caesar or set up Caesar in the place of God.
This, however, is precisely what Leo XIII warned them not to do. (Immortale Dei, § 48; Rerum Novarum, §§ 7, 30.) In their desire to take revenge for what they see as the crimes of the wealthy and privileged against the poor, they forget that they themselves are not God. They turn social Christianity into Christian socialism, and then into fascist socialism or communism in a vain effort to make their ideal systems work.