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Pope Leo XIII on Private Property, Wealth, Charity, Taxes, and Unions

Posted by Tony Listi on July 9, 2008

Alright all you liberal/socialist Catholics out there, I think it is time to reassess what the Church really believes about private property, wealth, charity, and other economic issues. Tell me what you think about the following citations from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (bolding mine).

Is there any doubt that the Church is on the side of conservatism?

To cure this evil, the Socialists, exciting the envy of the poor toward the rich, contend that it is necessary to do away with private possession of goods and in its place to make the goods of individuals common to all, and that the men who preside over a municipality or who direct the entire State should act as administrators of these goods. They hold that, by such a transfer of private goods from private individuals to the community, they can cure the present evil through dividing wealth and benefits equally among the citizens. But their program is so unsuited for terminating the conflict that it actually injures the workers themselves. Moreover, it is highly unjust, because it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the function of the State, and throws governments into utter confusion.”

Therefore, inasmuch as the Socialists seek to transfer the goods of private persons to the community at large, they make the lot of all wage earners worse, because in abolishing the freedom to dispose of wages they take away from them by this very act the hope and the opportunity of increasing their property and of securing advantages for themselves. But, what is of more vital concern, they propose a remedy openly in conflict with justice, inasmuch as nature confers on man the right to possess things privately as his own.

And owing to the fact that this animal [the human being] alone has reason, it is necessary that man have goods not only to be used, which is common to all living things, but also to be possessed by stable and perpetual right; and this applies not merely to those goods which are consumed by use, but to those also which endure after being used.”

There is no reason to interpose provision by the State, for man is older than the State. Wherefore he had to possess by nature his own right to protect his life and body before any polity had been formed. The fact that God gave the whole human race the earth to use and enjoy cannot indeed in any manner serve as an objection against private possessions. For God is said to have given the earth to mankind in common, not because He intended indiscriminate ownership of it by all, but because He assigned no part to anyone in ownership, leaving the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and the institutions of peoples.

For this reason it also follows that private possessions are clearly in accord with nature. The earth indeed produces in great abundance the things to preserve and, especially, to perfect life, but of itself it could not produce them without human cultivation and care. Moreover, since man expends his mental energy and his bodily strength in procuring the goods of nature, by this very act he appropriates that part of physical nature to himself which he has cultivated. On it he leaves impressed, as it were, a kind of image of his person, so that it must be altogether just that he should possess that part as his very own and that no one in any way should be permitted to violate his right.” Hmmm, sounds like John Locke’s view of property and property rights….

And, after all, would justice permit anyone to own and enjoy that upon which another has toiled? As effects follow the cause producing them, so it is just that the fruit of labor belongs precisely to those who have performed the labor. Rightly therefore, the human race as a whole, moved in no wise by the dissenting opinions of a few, and observing nature carefully, has found in the law of nature itself the basis of the distribution of goods, and, by the practice of all ages, has consecrated private possession as something best adapted to man’s nature and to peaceful and tranquil living together. Now civil laws, which, when just, derive their power from the natural law itself, confirm and, even by the use of force, protect this right of which we speak. — And this same right has been sanctioned by the authority of the divine law, which forbids us most strictly even to desire what belongs to another. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his….”

Behold, therefore, the family, or rather the society of the household, a very small society indeed, but a true one, and older than any polity! For that reason it must have certain rights and duties of its own independent of the State. Thus, right of ownership, which we have shown to be bestowed on individual persons by nature, must be assigned to man in his capacity as head of a family. Nay rather, this right is all the stronger, since the human person in family life embraces much more….”

Inasmuch as the Socialists, therefore, disregard care by parents and in its place introduce care by the State, they act against natural justice and dissolve the structure of the home. And apart from the injustice involved, it is only too evident what turmoil and disorder would obtain among all classes; and what a harsh and odious enslavement of citizens would result! The door would be open to mutual envy, detraction, and dissension. If incentives to ingenuity and skill in individual persons were to be abolished, the very fountains of wealth would necessarily dry up; and the equality conjured up by the Socialist imagination would, in reality, be nothing but uniform wretchedness and meanness for one and all, without distinction.

From all these conversations, it is perceived that the fundamental principle of Socialism which would make all possessions public property is to be utterly rejected because it injures the very ones whom it seeks to help, contravenes the natural rights of individual persons, and throws the functions of the State and public peace into confusion. Let it be regarded, therefore, as established that in seeking help for the masses this principle before all is to be considered as basic, namely, that private ownership must be preserved inviolate….”

Therefore, let it be laid down in the first place that a condition of human existence must be borne with, namely, that in civil society the lowest cannot be made equal to the highest. Socialists, of course, agitate the contrary, but all struggling against nature is vain. There are truly very great and very many natural differences among men. Neither the talents, nor the skill, nor the health, nor the capacities of all are the same, and unequal fortune follows of itself upon necessary inequality in respect to these endowments. And clearly this condition of things is adapted to benefit both individuals and the community; for to carry on its affairs community life requires varied aptitudes and diverse services, and to perform these diverse services men are impelled most by differences in individual property holdings. Therefore, to suffer and endure is human, and although men may strive in all possible ways, they will never be able by any power or art wholly to banish such tribulations from human life. If any claim they can do this, if they promise the poor in their misery a life free from all sorrow and vexation and filled with repose and perpetual pleasures, they actually impose upon these people and perpetuate a fraud which will ultimately lead to evils greater than the present….”

Among these duties the following concern the poor and the workers: To perform entirely and conscientiously whatever work has been voluntarily and equitably agreed upon; not in any way to injure the property or to harm the person of employers; in protecting their own interests, to refrain from violence and never to engage in rioting; not to associate with vicious men who craftily hold out exaggerated hopes and make huge promises, a course usually ending in vain regrets and in the destruction of wealth….”

Therefore, the well-to-do are admonished that wealth does not give surcease of sorrow, and that wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance; that the threats pronounced by Jesus Christ, so unusual coming from Him, ought to cause the rich to fear; and that on one day the strictest account for the use of wealth must be rendered to God as Judge….” The rich must account to God, not the State for how they use their wealth. Of course, it is easily seen how liberal fascists have trouble distinguishing between the two.

But when the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, it is a duty to give to the poor out of that which remains…. These are duties not of justice, except in cases of extreme need, but of Christian charity, which obviously cannot be enforced by legal action….”

But it must not be supposed that the Church so concentrates her energies on caring for souls as to overlook things which pertain to mortal and earthly life. As regards the non-owning workers specifically, she desires and strives that they rise from their most wretched state and enjoy better conditions. And to achieve this result she makes no small contribution by the very fact that she calls men to and trains them in virtue. For when Christian morals are completely observed, they yield of themselves a certain measure of prosperity to material existence, because they win the favor of God, the source and fountain of all goods; because they restrain the twin plagues of life — excessive desire for wealth and thirst for pleasure — which too often make man wretched amidst the very abundance of riches; and because finally, Christian morals make men content with a moderate livelihood and make them supplement income by thrift, removing them far from the vices which swallow up both modest sums and huge fortunes, and dissipate splendid inheritances.”

But, in addition, the Church provides directly for the well-being of the non-owning workers by instituting and promoting activities which she knows to be suitable to relieve their distress. Nay, even in the field of works of mercy, she has always so excelled that she is highly praised by her very enemies. The force of mutual charity among the first Christians was such that the wealthier ones very often divested themselves of their riches to aid others; wherefore, ‘Nor was there anyone among them in want.’ [Acts 4:34] To the deacons, an order founded expressly for this purpose, the Apostles assigned the duty of dispensing alms daily; and the Apostle Paul, although burdened with the care of all the churches, did not hesitate to spend himself on toilsome journeys in order to bring alms personally to the poorer Christians. Moneys of this kind, contributed voluntarily by the Christians in every assembly, Tertullian calls ‘piety’s deposit fund,’ because they were expended to ‘support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of orphan boys and girls without means of support, of aged household servants, and of such, too, as had suffered shipwreck.'”

Thence, gradually there came into existence that patrimony which the Church has guarded with religious care as the property of the poor. Nay, even disregarding the feeling of shame associated with begging, she provided aid for the wretched poor. For, as the common parent of rich and poor, with charity everywhere stimulated to the highest degree, she founded religious societies and numerous other useful bodies, so that, with the aid which these furnished, there was scarcely any form of human misery that went uncared for.”

“And yet many today go so far as to condemn the Church as the ancient pagans once did, for such outstanding charity, and would substitute in lieu thereof a system of benevolence established by the laws of the State. But no human devices can ever be found to supplant Christian charity, which gives itself entirely for the benefit of others. This virtue belongs to the Church alone, for, unless it is derived from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is in no wise a virtue; and whosoever departs from the Church wanders far from Christ….”

Therefore those governing the State ought primarily to devote themselves to the service of individual groups and of the whole commonwealth, and through the entire scheme of laws and institutions to cause both public and individual well-being to develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State. For this is the duty of wise statesmanship and the essential office of those in charge of the State. Now, States are made prosperous especially by wholesome morality, properly ordered family life, protection of religion and justice, moderate imposition and equitable distribution of public burdens, progressive development of industry and trade, thriving agriculture, and by all other things of this nature, which the more actively they are promoted, the better and happier the life of the citizens is destined to be. Therefore, by virtue of these things, it is within the competence of the rulers of the State that, as they benefit other groups, they also improve in particular the condition of the workers. Furthermore, they do this with full right and without laying themselves open to any charge of unwarranted interference. For the State is bound by the very law of its office to serve the common interest. And the richer the benefits which come from this general providence on the part of the State, the less necessary it will be to experiment with other measures for the well-being of workers….”

Rights indeed, by whomsoever possessed, must be religiously protected; and public authority, in warding off injuries and punishing wrongs, ought to see to it that individuals may have and hold what belongs to them…. The capital point is this, that private property ought to be safeguarded by the sovereign power of the State and through the bulwark of its laws. And especially, in view of such a great flaming up of passion at the present time, the masses ought to be kept within the bounds of their moral obligations. For while justice does not oppose our striving for better things, on the other hand, it does forbid anyone to take from another what is his and, in the name of a certain absurd equality, to seize forcibly the property of others; nor does the interest of the common good itself permit this. Certainly, the great majority of working people prefer to secure better conditions by honest toil, without doing wrong to anyone. Nevertheless, not a few individuals are found who, imbued with evil ideas and eager for revolution, use every means to stir up disorder and incite to violence. The authority of the State, therefore, should intervene and, by putting restraint upon such disturbers, protect the morals of workers from their corrupting arts and lawful owners from the danger of spoliation….”

[I]n the case of the worker, there are many things which the power of the State should protect; and, first of all, the goods of his soul. For however good and desirable mortal life be, yet it is not the ultimate goal for which we are born, but a road only and a means for perfecting, through knowledge of truth and love of good, the life of the soul….” Hmmm, I assume preventing the poor from stealing from the rich would be good for the souls of the poor, no?

Let it be granted then that worker and employer may enter freely into agreements and, in particular, concerning the amount of the wage; yet there is always underlying such agreements an element of natural justice, and one greater and more ancient than the free consent of contracting parties, namely, that the wage shall not be less than enough to support a worker who is thrifty and upright….”

But in these and similar questions, such as the number of hours of work in each kind of occupation and the health safeguards to be provided, particularly in factories, it will be better, in order to avoid unwarranted governmental intervention, especially since circumstances of business, season, and place are so varied, that decision be reserved to the organizations of which We are about to speak below….”

We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property. If this is done, excellent benefits will follow, foremost among which will surely be a more equitable division of goods.…”

[I]f the productive activity of the multitude can be stimulated by the hope of acquiring some property in land, it will gradually come to pass that, with the difference between extreme wealth and extreme penury removed, one class will become neighbor to the other. Moreover, there will surely be a greater abundance of the things which the earth produces. For when men know they are working on what belongs to them, they work with far greater eagerness and diligence.”

But these advantages can be attained only if private wealth is not drained away by crushing taxes of every kind. For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man’s law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the commonweal. Public authority therefore would act unjustly and inhumanly, if in the name of taxes it should appropriate from the property of private individuals more than is equitable.

Finally, employers and workers themselves can accomplish much in this matter, manifestly through those institutions by the help of which the poor are opportunely assisted and the two classes of society are brought closer to each other. Under this category come associations for giving mutual aid; various agencies established by the foresight of private persons to care for the worker and likewise for his dependent wife and children in the event that an accident, sickness, or death befalls him; and foundations to care for boys and girls, for adolescents, and for the aged….”

Inadequacy of his own strength, learned from experience, impels and urges a man to enlist the help of others. Such is the teaching of Holy Scripture: “It is better therefore that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society. If one fall he shall be supported by the other; woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up.” [Eccl. 4:9-10] And this also: “A brother that is helped by his brother, is like a strong city.” [Proverbs 18:19] Just as man is drawn by this natural propensity into civil union and association, so he also seeks with his fellow citizens to form other societies, admittedly small and not perfect, but societies none the less….” Brothers know each other personally. Societies are local, small, and intimate. How the heck can a Christian claim impersonal Big Government thousands of miles away in Washington, DC is brotherly love?!

Although private societies exist within the State and are, as it were, so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the State universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the State, on the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself because both the State itself and private associations are begotten of one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to associate….” Hmmm, and what if government social programs destroy the will, initiative, and resources of private charitable groups by trying to assume to itself their functions and resources? Where will charitable groups get money if the State taxes the rich heavily?

Certainly, the number of associations of almost every possible kind, especially of associations of workers, is now far greater than ever before. This is not the place to inquire whence many of them originate, what object they have, or how they proceed. But the opinion is, and it is one confirmed by a good deal of evidence, that they are largely under the control of secret leaders and that these leaders apply principles which are in harmony neither with Christianity nor with the welfare of States, and that, after having possession of all available work, they contrive that those who refuse to join with them will be forced by want to pay the penalty. Under these circumstances, workers who are Christians must choose one of two things; either to join associations in which it is greatly to be feared that there is danger to religion, or to form their own associations and unite their forces in such a way that they may be able manfully to free themselves from such unjust and intolerable opposition….”

Finally, there are not wanting Catholics of great wealth, yet voluntary sharers, as it were, in the lot of the wage workers, who by their own generous contributions are striving to found and extend associations through which the worker is readily enabled to obtain from his toil not only immediate benefits, but also assurance of honorable retirement in the future. How much good such manifold and enthusiastic activity has contributed to the benefit of all this is too well known to make discussion necessary. From all this, We have taken auguries of good hope for the future, provided that societies of this kind continually grow and that they are founded with wise organization. Let the State protect these lawfully associated bodies of citizens; let it not, however, interfere with their private concerns and order of life; for vital activity is set in motion by an inner principle, and it is very easily destroyed, as We know, by intrusion from without.” Hmmm, sounds like the principle of limited government. Now, what political philosophy espouses this principle too??

It is clear, however, that moral and religious perfection ought to be regarded as their [unions’] principal goal, and that their social organization as such ought above all to be directed completely by this goal. For otherwise, they would degenerate in nature and would be little better than those associations in which no account is ordinarily taken of religion. Besides, what would it profit a worker to secure through an association an abundance of goods, if his soul through lack of its proper food should run the risk of perishing? “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” [Mt 16:26] Christ Our Lord teaches that this in fact must be considered the mark whereby a Christian is distinguished from a pagan: “After all these things the Gentiles seek — seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.” [Mt 6:32-33] Therefore, having taken their principles from God, let those associations provide ample opportunity for religious instruction so that individual members may understand their duties to God, that they may well know what to believe, what to hope for, and what to do for eternal salvation, and that with special care they may be fortified against erroneous opinions and various forms of corruption.” Hmmm, could these errors and corruption be liberalism and its disregard for private property rights? Judging from the rest of the encyclical, yes!

Through these regulations, provided they are readily accepted, the interests and welfare of the poor will be adequately cared for. Associations of Catholics, moreover, will undoubtedly be of great importance in promoting prosperity in the State.” He means moral, religious regulations, not government regulations. The context is clear. Also, promoting prosperity is good! How else can we provide for the poor??

The foundation of this teaching rests on this, that the just ownership of money is distinct from the just use of money. To own goods privately, as We saw above, is a right natural to man, and to exercise this right, especially in life in society, is not only lawful, but clearly necessary. ‘It is lawful for man to own his own things. It is even necessary for human life.’ [Aquinas] But if the question be asked: How ought man to use his possessions? the Church replies without hesitation: ‘As to this point, man ought not regard external goods as his own, but as common so that, in fact, a person should readily share them when he sees others in need. Wherefore the Apostle says: “Charge the rich of this world…to give readily, to share with others“.'” [Aquinas; Tim 6:17-18] Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look like Scripture says tax the rich and force them to share with others! It says that religious leaders, who are not to be political leaders, should encourage and command the rich to do so.

For, no matter how strong the power of prejudice and passion in man, yet, unless perversity of will has deadened the sense of the right and just, the good will of citizens is certain to be more freely inclined toward those whom they learn to know as industrious and temperate, and who clearly place justice before profit and conscientious observance of duty before all else….” Notice that the pope has faith in free people who know others intimately in community. Why can’t liberals do the same thing?

They are conscious of being most inhumanly treated by greedy employers, that almost no greater value is placed on them than the amount of gain they yield by their toil, and that in the associations, moreover, in whose meshes they are caught, there exist in place of charity and love, internal dissensions which are the inseparable companions of aggravating and irreligious poverty. Broken in spirit, and worn out in body, how gladly many would free themselves from a servitude so degrading! Yet they dare not because either human shame or the fear of want prevents them. It is remarkable how much associations of Catholics can contribute to the welfare of all such men if they invite those wavering in uncertainty to their bosom in order to remedy their difficulties, and if they receive the penitents into their trust and protection….” Hmmm, again, I don’t see any advocacy of Big Government. I see encouragement of private associations of Catholics (like at St. Mary’s).

First and foremost Christian morals must be re-established, without which even the weapons of prudence, which are considered especially effective, will be of no avail, to secure well-being.” What?! We can’t steal from the rich first and then be moral? What a shame.

“Let this be understood in particular by those whose duty it is to promote the public welfare. Let the members of the Sacred Ministry exert all their strength of mind and all their diligence, and Venerable Brethren, under the guidance of your authority and example, let them not cease to impress upon men of all ranks the principles of Christian living as found in the Gospel; by all means in their power let them strive for the well-being of people; and especially let them aim both to preserve in themselves and to arouse in others, in the highest equally as well as in the lowest, the mistress and queen of the virtues, Charity. Certainly, the well-being which is so longed for is chiefly to be expected from an abundant outpouring of charity; of Christian charity, we mean, which is in epitome the law of the Gospel, and which, always ready to sacrifice itself for the benefit of others, is man’s surest antidote against the insolence of the world and immoderate love of self; the divine office and features of this virtue being described by the Apostle Paul in these words: “Charity is patient, is kind…is not self- seeking…bears with all things…endures all things.” [1 Cor 13:4-7] Notice that it is the Church’s duty to promote the public welfare. Notice that the well-being of the poor is to come “chiefly” from charity. Notice that real charity requires “sacrifice [of the self] for the benefit of others,” NOT making others sacrifice for others.

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10 Responses to “Pope Leo XIII on Private Property, Wealth, Charity, Taxes, and Unions”

  1. […] – bookmarked by 3 members originally found by reidsrow on 2008-11-21 Pope Leo XIII on Private Property, Wealth, Charity, Taxes, and… […]

  2. n8 said

    papal quotes:

    QUOTE
    Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth. All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty.

    QUOTE
    Government officials, it is your concern to mobilize your peoples to form a more effective world solidarity, and above all to make them accept the necessary taxes on their luxuries and their wasteful expenditures, in order to bring about development and to save the peace

    QUOTE
    Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.

    QUOTE
    To labor is to exert oneself for the sake of procuring what is necessary for the various purposes of life, and chief of all for self preservation. Hence, a man’s labor necessarily bears two notes or characters. First, it is personal, inasmuch as the force which acts is bound up with the personality and is the exclusive property of him who acts, and, further, was given to him for his advantage. Secondly, man’s labor is necessary; for without the result of labor a man cannot live, and self-preservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey. Now, were we to consider labor merely in so far as it is personal, doubtless it would be within the workman’s right to accept any rate of wages whatsoever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so is he free to accept a small wage or even none at all. But our conclusion must be very different if, together with the personal element in a man’s work, we consider the fact that work is also necessary for him to live: these two aspects of his work are separable in thought, but not in reality. The preservation of life is the bounden duty of one and all, and to be wanting therein is a crime. It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.

    QUOTE
    “Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” (35) the work of individuals and intermediary organizations. It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. ”

    QUOTE
    property is acquired first of all through work in order that it may serve work. This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production. Isolating these means as a separate property in order to set it up in the form of “capital”in opposition to “labour”-and even to practise exploitation of labour-is contraryto the verynature of these means and their possession. They cannot be possessed against labour,they cannot even be possessed for possession’s sake, because the only legitimate title to their possession- whether in the form of private ownerhip or in the form of public or collective ownership-is that they should serve labour,and thus, by serving labour,that they should make possible the achievement of the first principle of this order,namely,the universal destination of goods and the right to common use of them. From this point of view,therefore,in consideration of human labour and of common access to the goods meant for man,one cannot exclude the socialization,in suitable conditions,of certain means of production.

    QUOTE
    Legislation is necessary, but it is not sufficient for setting up true relationships of justice and equality…If, beyond legal rules, there is really no deeper feeling of respect for and service to others, then even equality before the law can serve as an alibi for flagrant discrimination, continued exploitation and actual contempt. Without a renewed education in solidarity, an over-emphasis on equality can give rise to an individualism in which each one claims his own rights without wishing to be answerable for the common good.

    QUOTE
    In other words, the rule of free trade, taken by itself, is no longer able to govern international relations. Its advantages are certainly evident when the parties involved are not affected by any excessive inequalities of economic power: it is an incentive to progress and a reward for effort. That is why industrially developed countries see in it a law of justice. But the situation is no longer the same when economic conditions differ too widely from country to country: prices which are ” freely n set in the market can produce unfair results.

    QUOTE
    What was true of the just wage for the individual is also true of international contracts: an economy of exchange can no longer be based solely on the law of free competition, a law which, in its turn, too often creates an economic dictatorship. Freedom of trade is fair only if it is subject to the demands of social justice.

    QUOTE
    …it has always understoodthis right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation:the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.

    QUOTE
    You must not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis. You must study the injustices which brought about such poverty,with the aim of a longterm improvement. It is time to seek the abolition of poverty. Justice demands a consecration of each one for the welfare of all and especially for the protection of the weak. It is time to plead the cause of workers,to lift up the suffering poor and to pursue the abolition of poverty. Let us turn to democracy,to the mass of people to whom we are unknown and appeal to them not by sermons,but by benefits. Help them not with alms which humiliate,but by creating social conditions which will free them and lift them up out of their repressive situations.

    QUOTE
    Given these conditions, it is obvious that individual countries cannot rightly seek their own interests and develop themselves in isolation from the rest, for the prosperity and development of one country follows partly in the train of the prosperity and progress of all the rest and partly produces that prosperity and progress.

    QUOTE
    Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, grounded on the principle that the goods of creation are meant for all. Avoiding every type of imperialism, the stronger nations must feel responsible for the other nations, based on the equality of all peoples and with respect for the differences.

    Fathers of the Church
    Frederic Ozanam
    The question agitating the world todayis…a social question. It is the struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much, it is a clash between wealth and poverty,which is shakingthe groundat our feet…. we should take responsibility for the people who have too many needs and not enough rights.

    “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man,but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.” St Ambrose

  3. foospro86 said

    If you are going to quote popes, I’d prefer you actually cite them. A name, an encyclical, a year, or, better yet, a link. I mean, you do care to contribute to this discussion in an above-board and productive way, right?

  4. foospro86 said

    With all due respect to Church Fathers and popes, if they don’t understand the realities of a market economy and have no perspective with regard to the harmful effects of alternative economic systems and policies (as they often don’t), then they are in no position to judge the morality of certain economic policies and systems. Economists, not economic sentimentalists, are what is needed to determine the reality of a situation before sober moral judgment can be applied.

    As we live in a fallen world, it may be imperative to remind even high clergy not to make the utopian perfect the enemy of the capitalist good. They of all people should recognize that theft by the government on behalf of the poor is no virtue.

    The Western world used to actually recognize the difference between the social and the political, between social justice and political justice. Social justice, strictly defined, is an endeavor of civil society acting INDEPENDENT of government to provide real, meaning uncoerced, charity and compassion that goes beyond mere political and market justice.

  5. Jimmy Gill said

    Leo XIII the who for the entirety of his Papacy never spoke to or acknowledged the man who drove his carriage daily

  6. Theano said

    It never ceases to amaze me how conservatives selectively reject data that refutes their claims. Tony, you said: “Is there any doubt that the Church is on the side of conservatism?” Yes!! In selectively citing Rerum Novarum you omitted many things Pope Leo said…such as:

    “If a worker receives a wage sufficiently large to enable him to provide comfortably for himself, his wife and his children, he will, if prudent, gladly strive to practice thrift; and the result will be, as nature itself seems to counsel, that after expenditures are deducted there will remain something over and above through which he can come into the possession of a little wealth. We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property.” (#65) The pope supports the idea of a living wage earned by the husband alone! Ever since the corporations decided to take advantage of Asia’s “cheap labor” pool, this possibility is gone with the wind for most families.

    You said, “Hmmm, I assume preventing the poor from stealing from the rich would be good for the souls of the poor, no?” Your concern for the “souls of the poor” is touching! Perhaps you failed to notice that Pope Leo asserted: “Still, when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.”

    For more current info on how the rich–as the pope put it– ‘have many ways of shielding themselves’ search: Is The US System Rigged For The Rich by David Francis, Christian Science Monitor.

    Probably the agribusiness fat-cats who have bragged about the “slaves they rent” to pick our food, failed to read that Pope Leo cautioned: “… wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine.” Or this! “”As regards protection of this world’s good, the first task is to save the wretched workers from the brutality of those who make use of human beings as mere instruments for the unrestrained acquisition of wealth.” (#43)

    Tony, has it escaped your notice that a tiny fraction of the US population owns and controls a vast percentage of the wealth of this nation?…that while the American worker has become far more productive, the wages of workers have remained stagnant over the last 30 years? Pope Leo warned:
    33. “ …It would be irrational to neglect one portion of the citizens and favor another, and therefore the public administration must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working classes; otherwise, that law of justice will be violated which ordains that each man shall have his due. To cite St. Thomas Aquinas: “As the part and the whole are in a certain sense identical, so that which belongs to the whole in a sense belongs to the part.”(27) Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for the people, the first and chief is to act with strict justice – with that justice which is called distributive – toward each and every class alike.”

    • Tony Listi said

      As a matter of morality, of social justice, the Church (and everyone, really) should care for families who cannot support themselves. But as a matter of political justice, the employer has a right to hire and fire whomever he wishes for whatever reason and at whatever wage he wants to offer. No one has a right to force someone to hire them or to force someone to pay them a certain wage.

      The poor indeed need the protection of the State more than the rich, but “protection” does not consist of coerced wealth redistribution. Equality before the law goes both ways. Even Leo XIII recognized that prudence is necessary for politics.

      Are you not aware that “agribusiness fat-cats” are propped up by government subsidies while smaller farms collapse? Again, the problem is government intervention, which almost always has the opposite effect intended: enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

      Has it escaped your notice that envy is a deadly sin? Envy springs from resentment at inequalities. One should not be envious of gain that is gotten in the free market, from voluntary exchange. It matters not if some have more than others or are gaining wealth at a faster rate if all are increasing in wealth in the free market.

  7. Theano said

    Tony,

    This exchange began because you posed a question re. the Catholic Church’s alleged support of conservatism. I answered the question based on the very encyclical to which you are referring readers. Quite clearly Pope Leo’s Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, endorses many things that are highly relevant in our time–-things that are not endorsed by conservatives. Among other things, the Pope advocated for a living wage and he spoke eloquently, elaborating his vision of the happy, predictable outcome of a man being paid a just wage with which he could support his wife and children–with enough left over [if he managed his money wisely] to save toward buying a house–property–for his family. The pope depicted this as an ideal situation.
    This, in fact, was the idyllic reality for millions of blue-collar workers of America throughout the late 40s, 50s and 60s. Just as the Pope had envisioned, family life was very stable during those decades.

    To answer another question–no, Tony, the fact that envy is a deadly sin has not escaped my notice. Corporate owners were quite envious of the wages and benefits that America’s great Unions had won for the working man of America. And other soul-killing sins– greed and gluttony– caused said owners to steal American workers’ jobs/earnings by moving the factories to Asia. Ross Perot called these owners “economic traitors,” but Pope Leo XIII described them in even harsher terms which I quoted verbatim in my earlier comment.

    While the Pope’s message regarding “the rich” is very clear, the attitude of conservative “devout Catholics” is troubling…
    Have you all embraced the Calvinist belief that material wealth is a sign of God’s favor and therefore the wealthy have Divine Rights regarding the destiny of our workers, our political system, and our country??!!

    • Tony Listi said

      “happy, predictable outcome”
      Actually, the predictable empirical economic outcome of a legal minimum wage is HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT for the least skilled of workers. Are you not aware of this? It’s common sense to anyone with any basic business sense.
      Are you or is the Church in favor of increasing unemployment for the worst off?

      The “living wage” teaching and the legal minimum wage ARE NOT the same concept. The former is charitable; the latter is coerced and imposed with threat of force.

      The post-war prosperity that America experienced in the 50s had nothing to do with a minimum wage. Minimum wages do not create prosperity; they kill it.

      Unions have destroyed American manufacturing; they are a big part of the reason for outsourcing. They have managed to use legal coercion and force to artificially inflate their wages beyond their actual productivity. Thus Michigan and car companies are economic wastelands going bankrupt. End result: MORE UNEMPLOYMENT.

      Government intervention in the free market results in consequences that HURT the poor and disadvantaged. Legalized plunder and force is not the answer to helping the poor.

      As you quoted, Pope Leo believes that private property should be held sacred.

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