THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

It’s Not Socialism Except When It Is

In the previous posting on this subject, we noted that, while the most popular interpretation of “Catholic social teaching” (really the natural law social teaching that applies to everyone, including atheists and anybody else who is a human being, regardless of faith or philosophy or lack thereof and how’s that for a run-on parenthetical?), and even considered “authoritative” — even though it contradicts the very authorities on which it bases its claims.


This, of course, violates the “first principle of reason” which is at the heart of Aristotelian natural law theory that says “law is reason” (lex ratio), not “law is will” (lex voluntas).  That means that nothing based on natural law or derived from it, or even the natural law itself can violate the first principle of reason.  And the first principle of reason?

The first principle of reason can be stated in two ways, one “positive” and one “negative.”  The positive statement is, “that which is true is as true, and is true in the same way, as everything else that is true.”  This is called “the law or principle of identity.”



The negative statement of the same principle is, “nothing can both ‘be’ and ‘not be’ at the same time under the same conditions.”  This is called “the law or principle of (non) contradiction.”

How does a socialist or faith-based understanding of the natural law violate the first principle of reason?  Primarily by overriding (or attempting to override) human nature and observed facts by substituting “faith” (really personal opinion or brute force; “might makes right” in the faith-based understanding of natural law; real religious faith has nothing to do with this except to get itself confused with it).

That was how Msgr. John A. Ryan claimed his revision of the natural law was “authentic Catholic teaching,” when it wasn’t authentic anything, much less Catholic or even genuinely religious.  As Ryan declared to the consternation of anyone who understands basic common sense, private property is a natural right . . . but not like other natural rights as it can be taken away!  Yes, he really did say that.  It’s right there in his doctoral thesis, A Living Wage (1906).

Msgr. John A. Ryan


So, according to Ryan, a natural right can at times not be the same as other natural rights.  Private property as a right is not as true, or is true in a different way, than all other natural rights!  Decades later, E.F. Schumacher published A Guide for the Perplexed (1979) in which he claimed that truth changes at different levels of consciousness!

Like . . . wow.  For people like Ryan and Schumacher, and all who take them as some kind of authority, then, “truth” is no longer true!

So, what is true?  Whatever someone with power says is true.

Might makes right.

G.K. Chesterton


This is evident in how Ryan pitched his program to people confused by over a century of what G.K. Chesterton called socialist/modernist “muddleheadedness.”

Ryan brushed aside or altogether ignored natural law, individual rights, sovereignty, free will, and more — all “the important qualifications made by Leo” to protect the individual and the family (Rerum Novarum, §§ 12-14).  In common with Saint-Simon, Fourier, de Lamennais, and others, Ryan redefined salvation in terms of State-provided or supported universal wellbeing.  As Franz Mueller explained Ryan’s orientation,

Ryan started out with the question whether the then prevailing trend toward wider State intervention should be permitted to continue until it has embraced the full program of socialism or whether it should be countered by, and confined to, a program which will keep it within the bounds of feasible and rational social reform. . . . He then proceeded to outline such a program which should aim at “regulating the limits, both upper and lower, of industrial opportunity,” by securing to the laborers a reasonable minimum of wages and other economic goods. (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 104.)

State labor colony.


Ryan’s program included minimum wage and maximum hours laws (Monsignor John A. Ryan, “A Program of Social Reform by Legislation,” New York: Catholic World Press, 1909, quoted in Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 105), compulsory arbitration, State employment bureaus, and unemployment insurance. (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 104-105.) Ryan also advocated “State labor colonies” for recalcitrants and hardcore unemployables that “could be of great benefit to certain classes of the unemployed.” (Ryan, “A Program of Social Reform by Legislation,” loc. cit.) Regimentation of the workforce would be accompanied “by gradual nationalization of railroads, power companies, water works, municipal transportation, and telephones.” (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 105. Ryan’s proposal for industrial armies may have been suggested by Marx, Fourier (Jennings, Paradise Now, op. cit., 240) or Edward Bellamy’s utopian socialist novel, Looking Backward (Morris, American Messiahs, op. cit., 166).) Wealth above a predetermined level would be confiscated and redistributed. (Cahill, The Framework of a Christian State, op. cit., 568-569.)

Fascism's Corporate State


The American Bishops’ Program of 1919 contained many of the elements of Ryan’s proposal.  In particular, “The industry in which a man is employed should provide him with all that is necessary to meet all the needs of his entire life.”  (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 107. Cf. “I would rather see a man employed in private industry. But if he can’t find that kind of a job, the government should give him one.” “Restaurant Union Hears Judge Smith,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 20, 1939, 6.) As Mueller commented, “It is hard to understand why neither Ryan nor the Catholic War Council realized, or so it seems, the ‘corporatist’ [i.e., Fascist] implications of this statement.” (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 107.)

Ryan’s chief accomplishment, then, was to make Rerum Novarum mean exactly the opposite of what Leo XIII had intended.  He used an encyclical directed against socialism and fascism in support of socialism and fascism.  Nevertheless, despite its heterodoxy and deviations from papal teachings, Ryan’s analysis eventually became for many people the authoritative interpretation of Catholic social teaching. (Vide “Letters from Citizen Readers, ‘Takes Issue With Review’; ‘Catholics and C.C.F.,” The Ottawa Citizen, November 2, 1943, 22.)

Nor did it end there, as we will see in this next posting on this subject.