We’ve been doing a great deal of research for a series of books a publisher (obviously intelligent and astute) has requested that we submit “on spec” — i.e., they’d like to see a manuscript, but aren’t making any specific promises about acceptance. Much of this has involved investigation into the roots of the “New Things,” as Pope Leo XIII referred to them in his landmark 1891 encyclical “On Capital and Labor” (the current official title).
We’ve found some astonishing things. For example, while many people assume that Leo XIII issued the first “social encyclical” in 1891 and called it “Rerum Novarum” off the top of his head, that turns out not to be the case. The first social encyclical was Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos in 1832 (“On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism”), which condemned a number of ideas that later became known as socialism, modernism, and the New Age.
|Félicité de Lamennais
And the term rerum novarum — new things? That comes from the second social encyclical, Singulari Nos, in 1834, “On the Errors of Lamennais.” It seems that a priest, Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais, was one of those who was spreading the new things around. In outrage over Mirari Vos, de Lamennais repudiated his priesthood, renounced Christianity, and founded his own “religion of humanity.” De Lamennais is today considered the founder of liberal or social Catholicism, also known as “the New Christianity” and “Neo-Catholicism,” which by Leo XIII’s pontificate were considered synonyms for socialism and modernism.
The two key doctrines defined in the First Vatican Council (infallibility of the teaching office of the pope and the primacy of reason) were intended specifically to counter de Lamennais’s “theory of certitude.” This theory is that only humanity in general, no individual, is endowed with reason and a morally free will. Only the pope is capable of receiving and interpreting religious truth, which all people are required to accept on faith.
|Be not afraid . . . unless you're a modernist. . .
Another thing we’ve discovered is that historians of socialism tend to go out of their way to affirm and deny socialism, usually in the same breath. Evidently socialism, along with the other New Things, can violate with impunity the first principle of reason* on which Saint Thomas Aquinas built his entire philosophy . . . at least until someone catches them at it. “It is therefore clear why Modernists are so amply justified in fearing no Doctor of the Church so much as Thomas Aquinas.” (Studiorum Ducem, § 27.)
*As Fulton Sheen observed in his doctoral thesis, published in 1925 as God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy with a foreword by G.K. Chesterton, the whole of modern(ist) philosophy takes for granted that you not only can, you must violate the first principle of reason to get anywhere if you expect to advance the cause of socialism, modernism, and the New Age. The first principle of reason is expressed in two ways, one negative, one positive. The negative expression is the law or principle of (non) contradiction: Nothing can both be and not be at the same time under the same conditions. The positive expression is the law or principle of identity: That which is true is as true, and is true in the same way, as everything else that is true. In virtually every instance where socialism, modernism, and the New Age depart from natural law proper or Catholic social teaching it turns out to be based on a violation of the first principle of reason.
All of this is a prelude to explaining something we found the other day while delving into the life and adventures of Robert Owen. Owen was an industrialist in late eighteenth century, early nineteenth century England who had some innovative theories about economics, politics, money and credit, and marriage and family.
Having been only marginally successful in implementing the full spectrum of his ideas in England (one of the disadvantages of having business partners who put the brakes on your enthusiasms), Owen decided to go to America. Unlike most socialist theorists having ample private means, there he purchased the southern Indiana utopian community of Harmonie from George Rapp and renamed it New Harmony, intending to create the perfect world.
For various reasons that are not relevant to this discussion, Owen’s dream crashed and burned. This was not before he outlined his three principles on which the perfect society must be built. (Note that this was before Pierre Leroux coined the term “socialism,” so Owen did not use it. Interestingly, the reason Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels decided to use the term “communism” to describe their variety of scientific socialism was because later followers of Owen had preempted socialism.)
|"The Parallelogram" of New Harmony (never built)
According to Owen, three things had to go before the perfect society could be established and maintained on Earth: 1) private property, 2) organized religion, and 3) marriage and family. While this outraged many people in the United States (particularly since he declared this in a speech on July 4, 1826), he was already widely known as an atheist and social revolutionary prior to going to America.
One of the more in-depth analyses of why Owen failed so spectacularly in New Harmony can be found in John F.C. Harrison’s Quest for the New Moral World: Robert Owen and the Owenites in Britain and America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969). Not realizing that Owen’s principles on private property, religion, and marriage were integral to his ideas on social reform, Harrison attempted to divide Owen’s thought into four distinct categories, only one of which he declared was true socialism (Harrison argued that the definition of socialism had changed so much since Owen’s time that it didn’t have any real meaning).
|Philanthropy • Communitarianism • Socialism • Religion
Harrison’s categories are 1) Philanthropy, 2) Communitarianism, 3) Socialism, and 4) Religion. (Harrison dismissed Owen’s ideas about abolishing marriage on the grounds that he must not have meant it since he stayed married . . . not taking into account the immense difficulty in the early nineteenth century of obtaining a divorce.)
Realizing that what Harrison had claimed were non-socialist aspects of Owen’s thought were really aspects of socialism, we developed what we can call the “Four Pillars of Socialism”:
· Transformation of Religion, and
· Abolition of Private Property.
These will be addressed individually in future postings on this subject.