THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Things, Part II

In the previous posting on this subject, we noted that the “new things” (rerum novarum) to which Pope Leo XIII referred in his landmark 1891 encyclical, “On Capital and Labor,” had first been addressed in 1832 and 1834 by Pope Gregory XVI in the first two social encyclicals, Mirari Vos and Singulari Nos, both of which were concerned with problems with the theology, philosophy, and social thought of a French priest by the name of Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais.

Félicité de Lamennais
It happened this way.  At the heart of de Lamennais’s thought was his “theory of certitude,” around which he developed “Neo-Catholicism” or Catholic socialism.  His idea was that reason resides not in any individual, but in humanity as a whole.  Only the pope has the God-given power to interpret reason.  Everybody else must accept reason on faith.
De Lamennais’s theory of certitude violated the first principle of reason on which Thomas Aquinas founded his entire philosophy.  It may even have been the reason Gregory XVI decided that the way to counter the threat posed by socialism was to revive the philosophy of Aquinas.  The pope’s goal was to make certain that all Catholic theology and philosophy is consistent with what Chesterton called “the philosophy of common sense.”
Pope Gregory XVI
Not that Gregory XVI condemned de Lamennais, not at first.  In fact, when de Lamennais visited Rome to try and obtain the pope’s endorsement for his work, Gregory XVI received him kindly and praised him for his work in combatting religious indifferentism and Gallicanism, that is, State control of religion.
The pope, however, also warned de Lamennais not to make exaggerated claims for the papacy or to express his political opinions so violently, although he was free to hold any political opinions he desired.  As for the theory of certitude, the pope would study it carefully and give his opinion in due time.
After waiting several months, de Lamennais left Rome and a few days later on August 15, 1832, Gregory XVI issued the first social encyclical, Mirari Vos, “On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.”  After praising the efforts to revive Catholic practice of the faith, the pope again warned against attacking opponents, using violent language, unsound methods, or bad philosophy.
In Mirari Vos Gregory XVI also condemned the theory of certitude.  This was because de Lamennais’s theory was a form of European liberalism that put sovereignty in the collective, an abstraction created by man, not the American type that put sovereignty in actual human beings created by God.
Pope Pius IX
De Lamennais at first submitted, but then changed his mind.  He took immense pride in his theory of certitude that had made him famous.  He repudiated his priesthood, renounced Christianity, invented his own Religion of the People, and wrote a pamphlet attacking the pope.  Gregory XVI then issued the second social encyclical, Singulari Nos, “On the Errors of Lamennais,” in which he referred to the ideas of de Lamennais and others as rerum novarum: “new things.”
With Pope Pius IX, defending the Church against the new things of socialism, modernism, and esoteric thought (spiritualism and what became known as the New Age) became a priority.  At first the new pope thought the best way to defeat bad liberalism was with good liberalism, and instituted reforms on the American model.  Much of the new constitution (“Fundamental Statute”) of the Papal States was lifted from the U.S. Constitution.  Virtually all civil power was turned over to the laity, with the pope retaining only a veto over legislation.
The socialists seized power, however, and Pius IX was forced to flee Rome.  After he returned, he had to direct all his efforts to fighting bad liberalism and trying to maintain the independence of the Papal States.  He could no longer risk reforms for fear the radicals would again take over.
Msgr. Aloysius Taparelli
After the Kingdom of Sardinia conquered the Papal States and declared the Kingdom of Italy, there was nothing left to reform.  Pius IX directed his efforts to strengthening the Church to resist socialism and modernism.
It was during Pius IX’s pontificate that the term “social justice” was first used in a Catholic sense.  Monsignor Luigi Aloysius Taparelli d’Azeglio, who was important in Gregory XVI’s Thomist revival, used it to mean the principle that every effort should be made to provide a social order in conformity with the natural law.  Rejecting the socialist abolition of private property, Taparelli’s idea was that people of all faiths and philosophies could become virtuous and live decent lives without harming anyone else’s natural rights of life, liberty, or private property.
Unfortunately, “social justice” was such a good term that socialists began using it to refer to their proposals.  No pope would use the term until Pius XI, just as no pope would use the term “liberal” to refer to the American model of liberal democracy: it was too confusing to try and keep the different meanings straight.
Pope Leo XIII
Although Pius IX issued encyclicals and a Syllabus of Errors to teach people about the dangers of socialism, modernism, and even spiritualism, his greatest effort was the First Vatican Council.  The Council’s two most important definitions, papal infallibility and the primacy of reason, specifically refuted the errors of de Lamennais by declaring that the pope’s infallibility extends only to matters of faith and morals, not to reason, and that reason is not based on faith, but that faith is based on reason.
Leo XIII continued Pius IX’s efforts, but to little effect.  Condemnations of socialism and modernism were ignored.  Then, in 1891, Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum, his encyclical “On Capital and Labor.”  This presented a positive remedy to the new things: widespread ownership of capital.  As he declared,
We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.  (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)