Well folks, I’m in day 3 of Acton University. What follows are my notes from a session that took place yesterday, June 17, 2010. The presenter was Rev. Raymond de Souza, Chaplain of the Newman House at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where he is also an adjunct professor in the economics department. Prior to attending seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, he studied economics at Queen’s, in Manila, Philippines, and at the University of Cambridge. He serves as editor of Acton’s Religion and Liberty and is a regular columnist for Canada’s National Post.
CST 101 Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching, de Souza
Catholic social teaching is broader than economics, but he’s an economist and so will focus on that aspect.
Catholic teaching on the social order. Not (just) the state. Think of all the social relations you’re part of. Many of these have nothing to do with the state.
What we’re really focusing on is reflections on the modern state—from the late 19th century, what does the church have to say about the ordering of society: culture, politics, economics. Dominated a lot by the state, so lots of talk about the states.
Social teaching for the church is a branch of theology. Means it ought to begin with divine revelation.
We can get right into the realm of philosophy, moral philosophy—can seem as if we are leaving God out of it. But it’s a branch of theology: moral theology (to do with human action).
Practical problem: you go to any Catholic University and take degree in moral philosophy: you do all kinds of stuff (he lists), but not much on social doctrine. That’s why the mission of Acton!
The church does not look at social order and decide what policy should be pursued re: import/export balance, correct taxation, regulation of land use. Church does not have specific models to propose. Rather, it proposes principles which need to be respected in all situations around the globe. Not particular doctrines for particular continents/ country. But for the whole world.
Basic principle might be . . . right to life. Might be protected differently in different countries.
There are four distinctive aspects, principles, of Catholic social teaching. Many experts might expand this list to 10, or say 7.
Care for my neighbor, being brother’s keeper, corporal works of mercy, being concerned for the poor, suffering, weak, dispossessed, widow, poor, alien—all who are afflicted have special concern shown for them in mosaic law and NT. Term used is solidarity: somehow or other, I stand with the one who is suffering. This ought to animate our social relations, says Catholic social teaching. This doesn’t necessarily talk abot the state. State MIGHT be animated by solidarity, but not necessarily. This is a basic intuition of the human, certainly the Christian, heart.
A distinctively Catholic word. Developed by Pius XI. In the organization of society, those who are closest to a particular problem ought to be the ones whose creativity, resources are brought to bear on it. This acknowledges that there are some problems too big to be solved on a local level—then the broader units of social organization ought to assist. E.g. national defense, building an interstate highway, regulating airline industry, food safety. NOT easily done at neighborhood level. Warns against unnecessary bureaucratization, esp. large-scale bureaucratization. Contested re: education in particular. Can you do it at the local level? Need broad organization? Subsidiarity is the idea that the sources of initiative and creativity should not be suppressed by a larger level of social organization. This gives a clue why this is called Catholic social teaching, not Catholic state teaching. “Society” can mean “everyone.” But there are many societies. One is the family. One is summer softball lead.
Every member of society is in the image of God and therefore equal before the eyes of God. Not really equality before the law. That’s secondary. Everybody, in any vocation . . . in the organization of society because every individual is entitled to be respected, there is equality. There’s a very long struggle in history of the church and world. Took a long time to understand that more particularly. Of course you see clear indications in Scripture. This also talks about . . . re distributive justice . . . that all members of society are entitled to participate in the work and the fruits of that society. What that means is a huge part of what’s discussed in politics: role of redistribution, participation, etc. There are no lesser human beings. When you think of world as a whole, it’s a rare thing for someone to say: In our country, these people will be treated as lesser. But in the world as a whole, can ways creep in where we say whowle areas of the world are secondary to our concern. But in social teaching, whole world . . .
The human person is made in the image of God, and made to be free. The first liberty is the liberty to live. In the 20th c., the very right to life for whole classes of people is brought into question. Religious liberty, freedom of conscience to live toward God. Political liberties, legal liberty (right not to be incarcerated without charge, etc.), economic liberties.
So these are principles derived from divine revelation, principles of Catholic social teaching.
So what happened . . . what should a wealthy country, say Canada, think about what should be done in Rwanda. First: why should we care about Rwanda? Principle of equality: they’re human as well. We’re in solidarity, they are suffering. We want to help, but not displacing local people: subsidiarity. Does it respect their liberties? Easy for rich countries to go in and not respect their liberties. Equality: do we have an obligation as those who enjoy much, toward those who enjoy little.
Catholic social teaching relatively new, last 100 years. But there’s a long history and a short history (see outline)
“Tale of two cities”: Augustine, City of God, City of Man, 5th c. History of church and social order is one of persecution. First several centuries: state not an ally, source of support, but an enemy. From beginning, church never had the idea that the civil power was an essential part of the Christian church. Don’t need support of civil power to be a Christian. No theological problem to live in non-Christian regime. Not a theological problem for immacule, last night’s teacher, to suffer as she did. In fact, given that the Lord Jesus Christ himself was executed, it’s clear that the state doesn’t have the last word . . . Most clear In City of God; religion is not politics. Politics just, noble, aimed at justice, but not the same as worship of God. To worship God doesn’t mean to opt for a particular political problem. Kingdom of God not same as Roman Empire. Christians who have participated in state: that’s not their ultimate allegiance.
Gregory VII was in 11th c. (correct? He asks). The big debate at the time was about who would govern the church, esp. appointment of bishops: lay investiture controversy. State making claims that we will decide; king, prince is supreme ruler of all of society. EVERYTHING belongs under him. King dhoul d govern things including church. Greg won, though humanly he lost—died in exile. There were established things the king could not do. That’s still an issue in cddertain places in world in 21st century. State has limits. Very important principle. Cdertain things it cannot do.
Then soon after, Aquinas systematized this: limits of state but also broad Christian legitimacy . . . state has obligations and duties. Human authority must be respected; but has obligations to acdt, thus, with almost sacral power: an agent . . . not of divine authority . . . but authority to act for the common good, as a form of the proper order of society. So a certain ____ of the state (27:35ish): ordination, coronation rites of kings . . .
Fast forward to the 19th century. Church faced with two radical changes in society: catholic social teaching responded to both of these. First, revolutions. French revolution, impact throughout Europe (more impact than American Revolution). Very secular, brutal revolution. State was to organize all economic, social, cultural life including life of church. State claimed authority even ofer houses of worship.
So principle of limited state comes into forefront of church’s consciousness. Can’t claim rights over your conscience, or to say who God is. Total state became total persecution; the whole part of ecclesial life is persecuted: dissolution of monasteries, seising of church properties . . .
Second revolution in 18th, 19th c: industrial revolution.
Stable for many centuries: agrarian life, some trade, some small manufacture. Remarkably stable: 1650, 1150, 650 AD, life largely recognizable. Buthe 1600 and 1850—you woldn’t recognize changes in transportation, electricity, etc.
[missed some; around 31 minutes]
A lot of suffering in that period. At end of 19th c., Leo XIII began to say We must look at social order, highlight application of the gospel. This had happened before, with criticism of things incompatible with Christian faith, Leo more systematic: several encyclicals, the big one being Rerum Novarum in 1891. “The new things” or “Revolutionary change.” We are in time of many new things. Leo makes a series of critical points:
First, apply the gospel to the social order. Morality not simply individual. How are the whole of our social relations organized—is that compatible with the gospel?
So, plight of workers cannot be ignored. You go to church, say prayers, social conditions irrelevant. NO.
Second: 26 years before Bolshevik revolution. Socialism, state ownership of property,: that will be worse than the problem. Cure worse than disease. Take away property of people, of workers, state will turn against them, their liberties.
A defense of private property: not unlimited. A man should enjoy fruits of own labor. Basic: right to your own body (anti-slavery).
Respect for the rights of workers. Especially unions: right to enter in free associations. Another type of society.
Right to worship God: religious liberty. Must be free to go t Mass on Sunday. Days of rest.
Right to wages.
So this was revolutionary response to revolutionary change. Departure from normal way in which Roman Catholic moral teaching had been expressed. A new point of departure in Roman Catholic teaching, calld Social Teaching of Church.
1931, 41 years later: Pius XI says “we must update. A lot has happened in 40 years.” Calls it Quadrigesimo Anno: forty years.
Church has now faced rise of totalitarians: Bolsheviks in Russia, Fascists in Italy. Totalitarian state now not a remote thing in French Rev, but seems to be wave of the future. Main concern for Pius XI is (missed)
Concerned about income distribution. Masses of society now impoverished. He also now introduces principle of sobsidiarity. State had power to redistribute income. (missed)
Also concerned about concentration of power. At the time state directin of society, corporatism, was a live option (e.g. in fascism). Powerful groups would get together and organize society. NO. He invokes principle of subsidiarity.
State could not claim total domination of social life. Two encyclicals: one in German in 1937: anti-Nazi. Printed, smuggled into Germany. Palm Sunday, all priests read same document in service (and something about an anti-communist encyclical too)
After the war, there was a human rights revolution in the thinking of the church. Facing the horrors of totalitarianism, there was a shift in emphasis: defense of human person, dignity, rights was essential. Universal declaration of human rights made after war. State no longer as in Aquinas’s time, a sacral actor: a thing thought of as exercising benign influence, but the source of evil, malign forces. Emphasized in documents of the 1960s: Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, Vat II emphasized religious liberty—a contested concept! Right to worship God freely! 1965 Dignitatis Humanae Personae.
Then toward end of 60s, shift to another problem that emerged: world that seemed to have prosperous, advancing societies, and those left behind with nothing. 1967, Paul VI, looked at question of income and equality. Not everyone sharing in fruits and goods of earth: focus on development, redistribution of wealth.
Then key figure, JP II, in social teaching of Catholicism: 27 year papacy. And lived in totalitarian world—came out of that. Three encyclicals: first: defense of right of workers, similar to that of Leo XIII. More deeply into anthropology of work: man’s work shapes him. Attacked communism not so much on loss of liberties, but mistakes about work: work is to be controlled by state to liberate man. NO man liberates through work, broadly speaking. Fundamental part of man’s liberty is exercised in his work, understood in broadest sense. Work is an expression of liberty. We use our intelligence in our work, gift of God. Our creativity is being applied, which is in the image of God.
Then a few years later, the “Concern for the things of the social order” encyclical: Right to economic initiative. Sollicitudo rei socialis, 1987. Liberty not just in political, cultural, religious spheres. Also right to economic initiative—a liberty proper to man in his economic work, which should not be stifled by state. That expression is new. The idea goes back a long time. And the idea of entrepreneurship (Acton involved in this) affirmed for the first time here too.
Then Centesimus Annus, 1991, defense of free economy, as he calls it. Economic liberty exercised with others: if you mean this by capitalism, then that is good. But if you separate economic liberty from all other liberties—freedom to exploit—then that is not a Christian vision.
Wrapping up: that’s where things stood. Enter Benedict XVI, 2005. Not a lawyer like Pius XI, Leo XIII, not a historian like ____, not a diplomat like _____, not a philosopher like JPII, but a gifted theologian. That’s the exception. That’s unusual. Maybe never in history of church is the successor of Peter also the most accomplished theologian alive. He starts with a theological point on social teaching: the basic reality that ought to characterize our social relations is charity. Usually Catholic social teaching had started with justice. Ubi caritas, not ubi justitio. Where there is charity, there is God. Not where there is justice.
This is a challenge, therefore. For Christians, he says, we must start with charity. We wouldn’t disagree, but it’s a challenge to the way things has been done.
2005: Deus Caritas Est: there is justice and politics. Politics is aimed at justice. Witness of church is charity, which goes beyond justice.
Then in Caritas in Veritate, says that charity must be driver of development, in economics. Reality of gift: fundamental Christian understanding of human relations is “the gift,” starting with God’s gift of existence with us. But in economics, the fundamental understanding is one of exchange. We don’t deal with gifts in economics. There, we find out the exchange value of things. So a challenge to economics.
Where does this fit? Don’t know yet! Just happened last year, still thinking about it.
Final point: he talks about the rise of care for environment. Same book of nature, that must be respected on purity of air, cleanness of water, sustainability of land . . . if we must respect book of nature in those things, how can it not be respected in area of humanity. It’s all good to care for creation, but we also must care for human ecology. Makes uncomfortable point for readers: if you’re concerned about the right to life, dignity of marriage, human persons, then you can’t leave aside the natural world . . . and vice versa. Paul VI wrote on concern for nature in development , good stuff. But this was the same guy who wrote Humanae Vitae on contraception! It’s of a piece.