As we noted in the previous posting on this subject, both capitalists and socialists managed to reinterpret Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum to fit their particular paradigms. The possibility that what Leo XIII was talking about was something entirely different does not appear to have occurred to many people.
|Pope Leo XIII|
Nor was it only capitalists and socialists who insisted on reinterpreting Rerum Novarum to conform to a political or economic agenda. Within the Catholic Church as well as among the “separated brethren” (Quanto Conficiamur, §§ 7-9), since the early nineteenth century and the spread of the “new things” fundamental religious doctrines as well as civil institutions had been grossly distorted in an effort to modernize Christianity and political theory and make them relevant to contemporary society.
This caused a great deal of acrimony. (Quadragesimo Anno, § 40.) In addition, strong voices among the socialists and modernists insisted the message Christ came to deliver, and that Leo XIII affirmed in Rerum Novarum, was not the traditional Gospel.
Rather, “true Christianity” (As Dr. Julian Strube of Heidelberg University has noted, there was and remains a “socialist fascination with a tradition of true Christianity.” Strube, “Socialism and Esotericism in July Monarchy France,” Socialism and Esotericism in July Monarchy France,” History of Religions, July 2016, 23) and the Social Gospel demand that the material uplift of society, with a special focus on the poor, override all other considerations whatsoever. This includes dismissing even the absolutes of the natural law, which is to say God Himself, if rights such as life, liberty, and private property get in the way of the program.
|Pope Pius XI|
Pius XI was not the first to try and counter socialist efforts to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. He was, however, the first to do so based on identifying “social justice” as a particular virtue with its own “act” that has a direct effect on the common good.
Previous attempts to counter socialism and modernism had assumed, consistent with the work of Monsignor Luigi Aloysius Taparelli d’Azeglio, S.J. (1793-1862), that social justice is not a distinct virtue. Rather, until Pius XI, social justice was identified only as a principle under the general virtue of legal justice. The theory was that the principle of social justice guides the exercise of individual virtues within the framework of the natural law, especially commutative and distributive justice, by adding a good intention for the common good.
Inevitably, some commentators assumed they could add a collectivist aspect to individual virtue and make up whatever is lacking with individual charity. Yes, charity fulfills justice and the other cardinal virtues and makes up what is lacking, but not in the sense that temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice are lacking as virtues.
Rather, it is that the cardinal virtues are insufficient in and of themselves for people to become children of God. (Cf. Matt. 5:41, Luke 17:7-10.) Derived from the terminology used by utopian and religious socialists of the 1840s (Adam Morris, American Messiahs: False Prophets of a Damned Nation. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2019, 82-83), the idea that charity replaces justice turned the combination of individual justice and charity — now called “distributive justice” (See John A. Ryan, Distributive Justice. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916) — into a new form of legal justice called social justice which meant redistribution.
When redistribution was voluntary, it was called philanthropy. Involuntary redistribution by use of the legal system was called distributive justice. Both were called social justice, a term then used more or less interchangeably with the redefined distributive justice, which then nullified or redefined the natural law. Coercive redistribution on the basis of need was transformed from an allowed expedient in an emergency, to a mandatory program that would establish the Kingdom of God on Earth.
|David Émile Durkheim|
Attempting to list, much less analyze, all the different socialist and modernist schools of thought in this study would be impossible. There are, however, three in particular that have had not merely a profound effect on the modern understanding of social justice, but have proved especially resistant to correction, even by the most rigorous scholarship. These are Fabian socialism, the solidarism of David Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), and the “Living Wage” paradigm of Monsignor John Augustine Ryan (1869-1945).
Chesterton’s and Belloc’s refusal to propose a specific means of attaining the Distributist State was unavoidable in their framework if they wanted to preserve the integrity of the natural law, especially private property. By relying on past savings as the source of financing and existing assets as the only available capital, they could neither go back nor forward.
|George Bernard Shaw|
Nor was Fabian socialism any better at identifying specifics, except that it set aside natural law. As George Bernard Shaw admitted, the Fabian program was amorphous, and not understood either by people outside the organization or by the Fabians themselves. (“The Fading Fabians,” The Boston Evening Transcript, November 27, 1908, 10.) It therefore could not be countered by anything short of overwhelming force in the form of a program that combined financial feasibility with respect for human dignity and the natural rights of life, liberty, and private property.
Respect for human dignity was something G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc had in abundance. What they did not have was a means by which ordinary people could become capital owners in a way that respects the rights of others. All evidence to the contrary, recent commentators have therefore tended to assume that distributism is simply a Christianized Fabian socialism.
|Henri de Saint-Simon|
Durkheim is credited with the first scientific treatment of solidarism. This was a collectivist concept he derived from his studies of Saint-Simon as further developed by Saint-Simon’s secretary, Auguste Comte (1798-1857), the founder of positivism and “the Religion of Man,” and Saint-Simon’s disciple, Pierre Leroux (1797-1871). (Julian Strube, “Socialist Religion and the Emergence of Occultism,” Religion, 2016, 46:3, 264.)
Leroux, in fact, coined the term socialisme (“socialism”) in 1833/1834. This was in the October 1833 issue of Revue Encyclopédique, published in 1834. This was explained by Jacques Gans in “L’Origine du mot ‘socialiste’ et ses emplois les plus anciens,” Revue d’histoire économique et sociale 30 (1957), 79-83; cf. Carl Grünberg, “Der Ursprung der Worte ‘Sozialismus’ und ‘Sozialist’,” Archiv für die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung 2 (1912), 372-379 [cited by Strube].
Leroux also influenced Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803-1876) during Brownson’s socialist period. (Patrick W. Carey, Orestes A. Brownson: American Religious Weathervane. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004, 97-133.) Durkheim’s solidarism was a fascist and socialist — “entirely positivist” — form of corporatism. (Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1954, 413.)
Fulton Sheen characterized Durkheim’s view of God as “a divinized society.” (Fulton J. Sheen, Religion Without God. New York: Garden City Books, 1954, 54.) As Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) put it, for Durkheim, “religion is the group’s worship of itself.” (Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, op. cit., 794.) This is a logical conclusion from Durkheim’s theory that religion is a social, rather than a spiritual phenomenon.
Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., (1854-1926) worked to bring Durkheim’s concepts into conformity with the principles of Aristotelian-Thomism, particularly private property as a natural right. He thereby transformed solidarism from a statist/totalitarian philosophy, into a natural law, “person centered” system, but without making it a form of individualism. (Richard E. Mulcahy, S.J., The Economics of Heinrich Pesch. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1952, 6.)
|Rev. Heinrich Pesch, S.J.|
Assuming that “social justice” was just a new term for “legal justice,” Pesch did not recognize social justice as a particular virtue, and therefore concluded the common good is not directly accessible. (Rev. William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., The Act of Social Justice. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1942, © 1943, 86-87.) A number of subsequent commentators made similar errors and compounded them by assuming an equivalence between Durkheim’s thought and Pesch’s reformed system.
In Pesch’s solidarism, the human person is at the center of the social system, and thus also at the center of economic activity. Society is therefore not a mere voluntary aggregation of individuals, nor an amorphous collective independent of the individuals who compose it (Alfred Diamant, Austrian Catholics and the First Republic: Democracy, Capitalism, and the Social Order 1918-1934. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1960, 161), but a union of individuals all working toward common goals.
|Rev. Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J.|
Having common goals, however, does not mean that the human person is subsumed into the collective. Pesch carefully defined solidarism as “[t]he reciprocity and mutuality of human interests . . . based on the rational nature of the human personality and ultimately on God’s will.” (Ibid.)
Pesch’s thought, however, stressed the importance of widespread capital ownership without suggesting a means whereby it could be achieved. Nevertheless, his theory of groups as communicated through members of the Königswinterkreis discussion group composed predominately of Pesch’s students was critical to the development of Pius XI’s social doctrine. Pius XI called Father Gustav Gundlach, S.J. (1882-1963), and Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J. (1890-1991), both members of the Königswinterkreis, to Rome in 1931 to consult on the writing of Quadragesimo Anno.