For those of you who care (and we would be surprised if there were very many), the Chestertonian Community (i.e., fans of the English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1874-1936) sustained a shock on the order of 7.3 on the Richter Scale this past Friday. It seems that His Excellency (or His Lordship; we aren’t up on the latest ecclesiastical lingo in the U.K.) Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton in England, which was Chesterton’s home diocese, put the kibosh on Chesterton’s “cause” for canonization.
|Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton
In plain English, Bishop Doyle reported that, following an official investigation, there was in his opinion insufficient evidence to proceed with the process. It does not mean that Chesterton is not in heaven or a “saint,” as the Catholic Church puts it. It just means that the official word is that there is insufficient reason to carry out an expensive and time-consuming process. Chestertonians can continue to think what they want, but they have to acknowledge that there is no official sanction for their opinion.
And that gripes the, er, heck out of some of them. A few are claiming the bishop has made false accusations against Chesterton. One or two got even nastier. A goodly number vow to carry on the fight, and so on.
So, what has this got to do with the Just Third Way?
Quite bit, actually. First, for decades we have contended that there is no effective difference between distributism as Chesterton and his confrere Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (1870-1953) understood it and the Just Third Way. Of course, we have also claimed that the Just Third Way is fully consistent with Catholic social teaching and that of any other faith or philosophy grounded in natural law.
|Pope Saint John Paul II
We have, in strict fact, been accused by some of these experts of “dissenting” from the Catholic faith in the areas of economic and social justice . . . a claim utterly ludicrous on two counts. One, CESJ is not a Catholic or even a religious organization, although we acknowledge God in our Core Values. How we are supposed to be dissenting from something that has no direct relevance to matters of faith or morals is a complete mystery to us.
|Pope Leo XIII
We say that as many as possible of the people should prefer to own capital (so far, so good), but state that in our opinion it is better that workers as well as everyone else (why limit ownership to just workers?) should be able to purchase any kind of capital and pay for it out of the future profits of the capital itself.
DISSENT!! shriek the experts. The pope specifically said to pay people more. Anything else constitutes dissent from papal teaching . . . at least, in the opinion of the experts.
Another example, closer to our day? How about the 1986 U.S. Bishops’ pastoral on the economy, Economic Justice for All? We have taken issue with some of the specifics in the document; they seem a trifle naïve at times, and the committee that put together the final draft completely ignored the input of some very qualified people, particularly concerning their concept of social justice and specific applications of economic justice.
|Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D.
Do we dissent from the pastoral? If by “dissent” you mean we think it did not go far enough, it left out some important issues, the applications described were inadequate at best, and a number of other issues, then, yes, we “dissent” from the document. If, however, by “dissent” you mean we disagree with the underlying principles of charity and justice, however poorly understood (Father Ferree’s opinion) or applied (Dr. Kurland’s opinion), then, no, we do not “dissent.” We think the document could — and should — have been much better than it was, but we do not reject the fundamental principles involved. How they were applied is another matter altogether.
|Dr. Norman G. Kurland