As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, socialism did not start out as opposed to capitalism, but as an alternative to traditional Christianity, especially Catholicism. Making today’s de facto surrender to socialism supremely ironic, this has been recognized from the very beginning of the establishment of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine as a distinct field of study.
In a very real sense, modern social teaching began in 1832 with Pope Gregory XVI. His pontificate did not begin auspiciously, nor has history been particularly kind to him, or appreciative of his accomplishments. His election in 1831 sparked rebellions by radicals who feared he was a tool of the reactionary Prince Metternich of Austria.
Had they known it, the radicals had far more to fear from the new pope’s scholarship than from his political acumen or military might (or lack thereof). It was, in fact, philosophy, not firearms, that Gregory XVI used in his efforts to bring order out of the political, religious and social confusion that characterized post-Napoleonic Europe.
It was clear something had to be done. Politics and religion as well as nature abhor a vacuum. The new ideas and schemes that sprang up seemingly everywhere to fill the void left by the inadequacies of traditional institutions in Church and State rivaled those of today in number, if nothing else.
From Gregory’s perspective (as might be expected), of most concern were the philosophical and religious innovations that would become known as socialism and modernism. In the early nineteenth century, however, these went hand-in-glove and were generally labeled l’démocratie religieuse, “the Democratic Religion.”
Promoting socialism as an alternative religion to Catholicism may have originated with Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, to whom Msgr. Benson referred in the letter to his mother. According to Saint-Simon, Christianity had been useful in its day, but that day was past. A new religion was needed to replace Christianity, not merely reform it along economic and humanitarian lines.
|Henri de Saint-Simon|
To anyone familiar with subsequent efforts at economic and social reform, especially the Great Reset and other current proposals, Saint-Simon’s New Christianity sounds very similar. In 1803 Saint-Simon began publishing works detailing his religious, social, political, and economic ideas. The plan was to “associate” all of society in a unified whole, integrating production with a moral code based on science. This, being objective and scientific instead of religious or faith-based, could be coercively enforced.
About 1817 Saint-Simon replaced Augustin Thierry as his secretary with Auguste Comte, the future founder of positivism. Over the next two years Saint-Simon and Comte decided that society needed to be run by a religious authority, but not one based on a traditional concept of God. After Saint-Simon’s death Comte would invent his own “Religion of Humanity” asserting society itself as divine with no need of a transcendent God.
Developing these ideas, Saint-Simon and Comte thought society should be organized like a medieval theocracy in which people would all associate on the basis of shared moral values and a common social vision. Anticipating the twenty-seven Guardians of Inclusive Capitalism, in place of civil governors or ecclesiastical authorities, there would be an Industrial Hierarchy.
The Industrial Hierarchy would have economic, political, and military power, the last of which would fade away as there was an end to conflict between classes and universal prosperity and harmony ensued in a scientifically and morally directed economy. Democratic only in name, the whole of society, construed as exclusively economic in nature, would be devoted to material improvement, with special emphasis on uplifting the poor.
In his posthumous book, Le Nouveau Christianisme (1825), “The New Christianity,” Saint-Simon declared himself the prophet of a “true Christianity.” This was a universal religion returning to the pure doctrine of Christ. The goal was to establish a rational, scientific, positivist religion. A global social organization stressing “the spirit of association” and based on peace and the brotherhood of man would direct economic life and bring an end to poverty.
|Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin (in costume)|
Saint-Simon’s New Christianity would “resolve Christianity into its essential elements” by focusing on the moral teachings and removing anything purely religious. This would combine civil, religious and domestic society — State, Church and Family — into one, presumably more efficient unit that would make material wellbeing its sole priority. As summarized in the precept that became the fundamental dogma of socialism, “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.”
After his death, Saint-Simon’s followers proclaimed themselves the Apostles of their Messiah or “Revelator,” Saint-Simon, and formed Le Église Saint-Simonienne, “the Church of Saint-Simonism.” Saint-Amand Bazard and Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin were selected as “Supreme Fathers.”
Although extremely influential in its day, the Saint-Simonian organization was rent by schism and involvement in the Occult. “[L]ax notions as to the relation of the sexes” and a series of “extravagant entertainments” (possibly a euphemism for orgies) discredited the movement. It eventually dissolved as anything coherent. Significantly, the first published work of Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam — best known today as the founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul — was a pamphlet harshly critiquing the Saint-Simonians.
It was a Saint-Simonian, Pierre Leroux, who coined the term socialisme (“socialism”) in 1833/1834 as a pejorative to mean the opposite of individualisme. By 1847, however, Leroux noted that socialism had come to be used to describe every form of démocratie religieuse. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx debated what term to use. They selected communism because they felt others had already coopted the word socialism.