As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in economic terms was intended to solidify and carry out the program that had been developed to counter socialism: foster a state of society characterized by widespread capital ownership. Socialism had by the time of the Council so permeated understanding of the Church’s natural law social teachings, however, that the “modernists,” as they were inappropriately called, were able to turn an administrative event into a revolution.
N.B. Even though “modernist” is the correct term, it’s not very descriptive, particularly since there really is nothing actually modern about it except its name. “Moral relativism” is more accurate, but just as the socialists were able to grab a very good word and make it mean something very bad, the modernists called themselves that to make people think they were updating matters by raking up some very old things. We’ll try to call it moral relativism unless we can’t avoid the term modernism.
Now, why (and how) did the Council get “hijacked” (so to speak)? In our opinion, it had to do with the “climate of dissent” at the Catholic University of America and the socialist interpretations of the natural law, all due to Msgr. John A. Ryan, most — if not all of it — based on some pretty flimsy evidence.
For example, in his autobiography, Social Doctrine in Action (1941), Ryan stated that hard on the heels of the release of Quadragesimo Anno, Bishop Thomas Shahan, past Rector of the Catholic University of America, exclaimed, “Well, this is a great vindication for John Ryan.” (Ryan, Social Doctrine in Action, op. cit., 242.) This was similar to other endorsements, favorable comments on his work, and encouragement from leading Churchmen that Ryan claimed he had received, such as from Cardinal Gibbons (Ibid., 18-21, 128, 129.) and Archbishop Ireland. (Ibid., 21-28, 42, 43, 62, 69, 70, 128-131.)
We can only take Ryan’s word about such things, as none of it can be verified. This is due to the fact that all the individuals cited were dead by the time Ryan made the information public and there are no other sources to support his statements.
Frankly, not only is the timing suspicious, what Ryan reported in many cases contradicted facts as well as the known positions of Gibbons and Ireland. As for Shahan’s alleged comment, the facts reveal it is even more dubious than those attributed to Gibbons and Ireland.
On May 13, 1931, Ryan had testified before a special Visiting Committee at Catholic University. (Riley, Fulton J. Sheen, op. cit., 15.) This was one of two committees appointed to investigate certain irregularities in the school of theology for which Ryan was believed responsible. Quadragesimo Anno was released May 15, 1931. “[A] few days later” (Ryan, Social Doctrine in Action, op. cit., 242.) — on or about Mary 17 — Ryan claimed Shahan made his comment.
In his May 13 testimony, Ryan had made damaging — and demonstrably false — statements about Fulton Sheen, who was (in a sense) Shahan’s protégé. Further, Ryan had been the cause of Sheen’s ouster from the School of Sacred Sciences. (Sheen, Treasure in Clay, op. cit., 45-46.)
The Visiting Committee was, in part, charged with looking into John A. Ryan’s efforts to remove James H. Ryan as rector. It would therefore not only have been imprudent and irregular, but grossly improper for Shahan as past rector to comment on anything connected with John A. Ryan while the Visiting Committee was in session, unless called to testify. It is inconceivable that Shahan would have made any statement in support of John A. Ryan, thereby undercutting the current rector’s position and authority as well as implying that Ryan’s accusations against Sheen were valid.
The plain fact is that Quadragesimo Anno, Pius XI’s encyclical “On the Restructuring of the Social Order, did not inspire or justify the New Deal, nor did it “vindicate” Ryan. Instead, a strong case could be made that the encyclical was (at least in part) a response of sorts to the errors being spread by Ryan through his distortions of Rerum Novarum. (See Quadragesimo Anno, §§ 14, 40, 44.) There is therefore no basis for claiming that the Great Reset or other proposals characterized as expansions of or improvements on the New Deal are compatible with a natural law approach to economics or are consistent with Catholic social teaching — or Jewish, Islamic, or pagan, for that matter.
This is not to say that many people are not sincerely searching for alternatives to today’s seemingly overwhelming and endless crises. The problem, of course, is when people of any faith or philosophy get away from a concept of natural law based on reason and go with some version of manufactured reality — such as the new things — that dismisses or deviates from a reason-based approach derived from human nature. What results may by chance be consistent with the demands of human dignity, but more often than not ends up being anti- or un-human.
Take, for example, the two most common responses in Catholic circles to modern society in general, and to the Great Reset and similar proposals in particular. This is not to say that people of other faiths and philosophies are not doing the same thing, possibly to an even greater degree. Here, however, we are presenting a natural law response to the current situation, framed within the context of Thomistic personalism as articulated in the work of Pope Saint John Paul II, (Wojtyła, “Thomistic Personalism,” Person and Community, op. cit., 165-175.) and thus within the larger framework of Catholic social teaching and the theories of economic justice presented by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler.
The first response to today’s situation is to surrender to it. This generally means promoting some version of capitalism, socialism, or the Servile State. In effect, this gives in partially or completely to the socialist and moral relativist idea that existence relates only to this world, and the only thing that matters is meeting people’s material needs.
This, as already noted, is the goal of the new things that Catholic social doctrine was developed to counter. It is blatantly materialistic, and fosters war, love of money, poverty, racism, consumerism, and pretty much every other ism one can imagine.
Unfortunately, it is also how many people understand the goal of Catholic social teaching. It thereby provides a solid foundation for such things as the New Deal, the Great Reset, stakeholder capitalism, the Universal Basic Income, inclusive capitalism, and so on. Surrendering to a materialist understanding of the meaning and purpose of life validates and justifies anything and everything intended to improve the quality of life as defined by those with property, and thus power. The end justifies the means and might makes right.#30#