|Henri de Saint-Simon|
The first principle of socialism is that the needs of the collective — “the People” — are paramount and take precedence over everything, including the natural law, i.e., God Himself. As Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) put it in his book, Le Nouveau Christianisme (“The New Christianity”), “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.” (“Saint-Simon,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 19: 14th Edition, 1956, Print.)
More simply put, the socialist principle is that whatever has been determined by those in power to be for the greater good is to be brought about by any means necessary. Service to humanity, not to God, is the true democratic religion.
Creating “the Kingdom of God on Earth” (or the secular equivalent) became the principal goal of reformers. Out of this first principle developed and grew every form of socialism, modernism, and esoteric thought, the last of which eventually became known as “the New Age.” (Julian Strube, “Socialism and Esotericism in July Monarchy France,” History of Religions, July 2016, 3-4.)
|Cyrus Reed Teed ("Koresh")|
Although originating during the Middle Ages and the ideas of Blessed Joachim of Flora (cir. 1132-1202), the modern New Age movement dates from 1869 when Cyrus Reed Teed (1839-1908) received a visit from a divine spirit. The spirit informed Teed that he (Teed) was the new Messiah sent to redeem humanity and bring it into the Age of Aquarius that had dawned with Teed’s birth. (Adam Morris, American Messiahs: False Prophets of a Damned Nation. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2019, 146-147.) In 1894 the Christian socialist magazine The New Age began publication, popularizing the term.
From the first days of his pontificate Gregory XVI (Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, 1765-1846, elected 1831) faced serious problems directly related to the spread of the new ideas. Early on he received an unannounced visit from a trio calling themselves “the Pilgrims of God and Liberty.”
|Félicité de Lamennais|
Leading the Pilgrims was the “tormented, headstrong Breton priest” Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782-1854). (Philip Spencer, Politics of Belief in Nineteenth-Century France. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1954, 39.) His companions were Charles Forbes René de Montalembert (1810-1870) and Pére Jean-Baptiste Henri Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861), all involved in the recently suspended radical journal l’Avenir, “The Future.”
The Pilgrims eventually got the papal audience they requested, but not the endorsement they sought for their ideas of political economy that had become known as “Neo-Catholicism,” a presumably “Catholic” form of socialism. Lacordaire and later Montalembert left Rome and soon broke with de Lamennais and his ideas, but de Lamennais cooled his heels until Gregory XVI issued his ill-considered condemnation of the November Uprising in Poland. Outraged at what he considered a betrayal of democracy, de Lamennais finally left Rome.
A few days later, on August 15, 1832, Gregory XVI issued Mirari Vos, the first social encyclical. Without accusing de Lamennais, the pope enumerated the “novelties” afflicting society, many of which de Lamennais himself condemned, at least after a fashion.
|Pope Gregory XVI|
What infuriated de Lamennais was the condemnation of his chief claim to fame: his “theory of certitude.” This is the idea that reason resides only in the collective and must be accepted by individuals on faith when discerning religious truth.
Although de Lamennais submitted, he soon began complaining. Gregory XVI sent a letter demanding submission to Mirari Vos, and de Lamennais complied. A very short time later, however, he repudiated his priesthood, and immediately thereafter renounced Christianity.
De Lamennais, Alexis de Tocqueville later declared, had “a pride great enough to walk over the heads of kings and bid defiance to God.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville. Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1959, 191.) Today de Lamennais is revered as one of the founders of Christian socialism and liberal or social Catholicism. (Rev. Moritz Kaufmann, Christian Socialism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888, 35-56, 77-107.)
In May 1834 de Lamennais composed the pamphlet for which he is chiefly remembered, Les Paroles d’un Croyant, “Words of a Believer.” This production, characterized as “small in size but great in evil,” occasioned the second social encyclical, Singulari Nos, in which Gregory XVI referred to the errors of de Lamennais as rerum novarum, “new things.”
Nor did matters end with the death of Gregory XVI. A protégé of Pius VII, whose name he took, Pius IX began an ambitious reform program soon after his election in 1846. Pius IX, however, was a liberal of the American type, and his enemies were either reactionaries or liberals of the European type.
As a result, Pius IX was ground between the upper millstone of nineteenth century power politics, and the nether millstone of socialist economics and re-purposed religion. His reforms came to nothing. Nevertheless, spurred in part by the need to counter socialism and modernism, philosophical advances during his pontificate were impressive, especially in the new field of social ethics.
Monsignor Luigi Aloysius Taparelli d’Azeglio, S.J. (1793-1862) made possibly the most significant contribution to Catholic social thought in the 1840s, being the first to use the term “social justice” in a manner consistent with Thomist philosophy. (Taparelli, Saggio Teorico di Diritto Naturale (1840).) He developed of a concept of a social ethics to complement, not replace, individual ethics; a specific, identifiable principle, although not a particular virtue, of “social justice.” (Rev. William Ferree, S.M., M.A., The Act of Social Justice. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1942 (© 1943), 83.)
Taparelli’s principle of social justice relied on restructuring institutions (social habits) indirectly by people being individually virtuous, i.e., having individual habits of doing good. In this way institutions would conform to the demands of individual human nature and the common good. This, in turn, would bring people together in solidarity within the parameters established by the precepts of natural law. In Taparelli’s thought, all things, even social improvement and the general welfare, must be subordinate to the natural law as understood in Aristotelian-Thomism.
|Pope Pius IX|
Pius IX also issued encyclicals directed at undermining the religious and philosophical foundations of socialism and modernism, and reportedly had the Holy Office issue an encyclical on spiritualism. His greatest effort in the social realm, however, was to call the first Ecumenical Council since Trent in the sixteenth century.
Intended to counter the growing threat from socialism, modernism, and New Age thought, the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) addressed two key Church teachings in an effort to bolster the defenses of both faith and reason. The better known of these is the infallibility of the teaching office of the pope, “papal infallibility.” This would, it was believed, counteract the various socialist religions, each one claiming to be true Christianity and authentic democracy, but that were based on abstract human theory instead of Divine authority or individual human sovereignty.
Infallibility does not mean that the pope can create truth. Rather, infallibility refers to the belief that the pope has been granted special discernment in matters of faith and morals. He can declare a teaching that has always been held by the Church as “infallibly true”; something is not true because the pope says so, the pope says so because it is true.
The other key definition of the Council was the primacy of the Intellect. This addressed the problems associated chiefly with de Lamennais’s theory of certitude. It was intended to counter the shift away from the Intellect and to the Will as the basis of the natural law and take away any intellectual rationalization for the new things. As the Council Fathers declared,
If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema. (Vatican I, Canon 2.1.)
While strengthening faith and reason was absolutely essential, two things were missing from the vision of Pius IX. That was, one, a clear definition of social justice in order to change the system to accommodate common sense principles of natural law.
Two, because “power naturally and necessarily follows property,” widespread capital ownership is essential in order to empower ordinary people with the means of participating fully in the common good. Neither Pius IX nor the Council Fathers made any reference to private property.