We’re tempted to begin this posting with our usual, “As we said in the previous posting on this subject” . . . so we will yield to temptation and begin by saying that in the previous posting on this subject, we asked the question whether material wellbeing is the sole end of existence, such as the Fabians and other socialists claimed, or if there was something more.
|Fr. Heinrich Pesch, S.J.|
Obviously, we think there is something more, or we wouldn’t have written this posting, but the question is, What?
We’ll answer that, but first we’ll another great thinker who has had his thought turned into the opposite of what he intended, viz., Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J. On the plus side, at least Pesch’s thought was spared the ignominy of having the gross distortions and misunderstandings that second and third generation disciples forced on it applied in the unforgiving “real world.”
As Msgr. Taparelli noted more than a century before the near-total application of the new things throughout the world, mistakes by scientists in the physical sciences can have no effect on how nature operates. Mistakes in philosophy, politics, and theology, however, have far-reaching consequences in human society. Pesch’s latter-day disciples, for all the damage they’ve done to Pesch, have at least not managed to inflict very much harm on others.
|Msgr. Luigi Taparelli, S.J.|
And now back to our regularly scheduled program, and the answer to what life is all about if not material wellbeing? To that we respond that the meaning and purpose of life is to become more fully human, that is, virtuous. Ordinarily this can only be done by exercising natural rights in conformity with human nature, thereby becoming more fully human by doing what it is that defines us as human, i.e., building habits of doing good, thereby becoming good, or at least better.
And the most immediate natural right that supports all the others? The right to be an owner, that is, private property. To understand this, we need merely look at the effects of the New Deal — the precursor to the Great Reset — that abolished private property as much as it dared in the name of establishing a presumably just society from which justice was noticeably absent.
|Dr. Harold G. Moulton|
Again, contrary to popular legend, the New Deal did not end the Great Depression. According to Dr. Harold Glenn Moulton, president of the Brookings Institution, and other authorities, Keynes’s economic — and political — prescriptions actually prolonged it, and caused “the Depression within the Depression” of 1937-1938.
Rather, it was the buildup to World War II that restored prosperity and brought the somewhat ephemeral goal of “full employment” to realization during the war. Ironically, the politicians insisted on financing the war effort using debt instead of the politically dangerous method of raising taxes.
This was despite the fact that according to Keynesian theory, once full employment is reached, no new money should be created. Keynes himself urged that the war effort be financed with taxes alone, but the politicians were more concerned with getting reelected in the short term than in the effects of debt in the long term.
|Pope Pius XII|
Better than most, Pope Pius XII knew what was behind the war. He did not need to recall Benedict XV’s reminder that the new things caused World War I. He was well aware that that stripping people of their natural rights, especially ownership of capital, caused the growing alienation of ordinary people from the ability to participate in the common good. This in turn led directly to the rise of capitalism, socialism and modernism, to the growing power of the State, and thus to economic and political dictatorships hungry for power.
It comes as no surprise, then, that as early as 1939, the pope began calling for protection of basic human rights, principally life, liberty and (hold your breath) private property. Pronouncements were made regularly throughout the war, and were the special focus of Pius XII’s 1942, 1943, and 1944 Christmas Messages.
Of the Christmas Messages, that of 1942, “The Rights of Man,” was possibly the most important in Pius XII’s eyes. This is almost certainly the case, as he quoted a key section of that Christmas Message in his 1950 encyclical Evangelii Praecones, “On Promotion of Catholic Missions” —
The dignity of the human person then, speaking generally, requires as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation, regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must see to it that the worker, who is or will be the father of a family, is not condemned to an economic dependence and servitude which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. (Evangelii Praecones, § 52.)
Nor did Pius XII stop there. Frequently during the war, and with increasing emphasis after it, the pope insistently called not merely for peace, but a restoration of basic human rights as the only secure foundation for peace. In particular he repeatedly cited socialism and communism, philosophies built on the abolition of private property in capital, as the chief danger to civilization, the family, and world peace.
To restore and secure fundamental rights, Pius XII advocated the establishment of some sort of “Society of Peoples” as a means of preserving peace. (“Pope Calls On World For Society of Peoples To Ban Future Wars,” Washington Evening Star, December 24, 1942, A-2.) After the war, President Harry S. Truman and the pope exchanged letters pledging mutual support for securing human rights and initiatives for peace. (“Text of Truman-Pope Letters,” Washington Evening Star, August 28, 1947, A-2.)
It is beyond the scope of this posting to determine the role Pius XII played in the United Nations adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it certainly had his full backing. This appears to have been common knowledge, for when Eleanor Roosevelt was lobbying to garner support for the Declaration, John Foster Dulles strongly opposed her. Many conservatives viewed the Declaration as communist.
|John Foster Dulles|
Appealing to his Catholicism, however, and probably mentioning Pius XII’s well-known advocacy for such a statement, Roosevelt was able to overcome Dulles’s objections (“How Eleanor Roosevelt Pushed for a Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” A&E History, https://www.history.com/news/eleanor-roosevelt-universal-declaration-human-rights, accessed May 10, 2021.) Key to the Declaration, as might be expected from papal insistence on the importance of private property, is Article 17: “(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”
Given such strong statements about the importance of private property, why was it not addressed in the Second Vatican Council? That is what we will look at in the next posting on this subject.