Category Archives: Society

Limitations in Liberation Theology

It goes without saying that poverty and anguish call for mercy and labor. Yet, let it be said. Nonetheless, not all mercy and labor are well ordered. To be effective, mercy must order its labor well. The virtues go together. To fail to love prudently is to fail to love. To fail to be prudent lovingly is to fail to be prudent, since we cannot achieve the end without love. (No one will follow us.)

In preparing for a course this year, I have been reading some Liberation Theology. I’ve read some of the work of a major voice in the movement, Gustavo Gutiérrez (A Theology of Liberation.) I had heard much about him. I had heard that, while his work strays in very crucial ways from the narrow path, nonetheless, there is at least the attempt to hold Christianity in full while developing goals about true progress for the exploited, already on earth, etc. So, I expected to be surprised in a positive way.

Not that there are no positive things in this work. However, I would remark on one particular misfortune of his work. He mentions Sir Thomas More’s Utopia favorably. I sat up in my chair. “Interesting. Let’s keep reading, and stave off this sleepiness.” So I read,

“The guidelines for utopian thought were essentially established by Thomas More’s famous Utopia. Later, the term degenerated until it became common language synonymous with illusion, lack of realism, irrationality. But because today there is emerging a profound aspiration for liberation—or at least there is a clearer consciousness of it—the original meaning of the expression is again gaining currency” (Orbis, 1988)

I’m no scholar of More’s political thought. I’ve got no Straussian decoder ring. But I’ve gathered from people wittier than I that there’s more to More than a superficial reading can harvest. I’ve gathered that there is No Place for a superficial reading of this masterpiece of his youth. In short, U-Topos is no simple goal. Its iron wit draws out the “ick” that ought to factor into our assessments of ideological efforts such as Marxism.

All this is bombast for this: Guttiérez didn’t read More right. His reading totally misses More’s ridicule of eutopian thinking.

That’s why he changed the “good” in “eutopia” to the “non” in “uptopia,” the no place. This is perhaps a nit picky criticism to make. On the other hand, if the goals of the liberation theology movement are by and large distorted by an exaggerated focus on this-worldly-ends then G’s obliviousness to More’s irony here is most lamentable. Indeed, liberation theology is perhaps going to bring the world to the sad state of lunacy one might have gathered by using some common sense, first, by looking at Russia, second, and at the 70’s third.

But perhaps I should not be so harsh on G’s reading. Well, at least I should not put myself above him. I remember a good friend describing to me More’s portrait of the family meal: All the adults eating first, while the children quietly stood at arm’s length, serving the adults obediently and cheerfully, ready to eat only after the adults had achieved a good comfort. I remember biting on the bait, “That sounds great!” My friend went on to comment on what idiocy this was. (Not More, but the portrait of nonsense he depicted, so utterly bereft of common sense and rootedness, so utterly clueless to nature and original sin.)

Thankfully, I saved face by echoing my approbation of that grand vision to myself alone, not to my friend. To him, I only nodded. At the time of this encounter, I had already had a number of kids. To be honest, the vision still sounds great. But it ain’t reality.

“I wish money grew on trees; I wish beer rained from the skies… but it doesn’t” (Paraphrased of course).

Love that is not prudent is not love. Let the world give up its Marxist dreams. Clueless seminarians: Read with sobriety.

Pius VII: The Church’s Laws are of the Deposit

The neat and fast distinction between laws and deposit is too readily, and imprudently drawn. Thus writes Pius VII, in face of pressure on the Church to change her laws, pressure from within and pressure from the State:

18. Still another deposit which We must firmly protect is that of the Church’s holy laws by which it establishes its own practice, and over which it alone has power. Under these laws, virtue and piety thrive; the spouse of Christ terrifies her enemies as an army set in battle array. Many of these laws are like foundations laid down to bear the weight of the faith, as Our predecessor St. Zosimus says.[16] There is no greater benefit or boast for kings and political leaders, as another wise and brave predecessor, St. Felix, wrote to Emperor Zeno, than “to allow the Catholic Church to enjoy its own laws and not to let anyone interfere with its liberty….For it is certain that it is beneficial for their own affairs, as God has laid down, for kings to submit their will to the priests of Christ when God’s business is in question, rather than imposing it.”

Newman on the Antichrist

Newman has a marvelous several-part essay on ANTICHRIST. One can find it in the volume Discussions and Arguments.

He simply weaves together patristic and sound later thought together, all upon a Biblical foundation.

The First Thesis: The Antichrist is an analogous or polyvalent reality. Its chief referent is the final Terror to come, in the shape of One Real Man possessed perfectly by Satan. However, meanwhile, it signifies any local antichrist, such as Napoleon. He included Mohammed and Nero as other real instantiations of Antichrist.

Second Thesis: The coming of any antichrist always follows infidelity by pastors of the Church. Such a sequence is even found in Ancient, God-appointed Judaism. The Greeks sacked Jerusalem only after the infidelity of the Jews.

Let us read Two Snippets from Newman concerning the deeds and precedents of the Ultimate Antichrist. Newman thought that in his day, the days grew short for the final coming of Antichrist.

The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretence of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries. The pretended toleration will go far beyond a just toleration, even as it regards the different sects of Christians. For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none. All establishments will be laid aside. From the toleration of the most pestilent heresies, they will proceed to the toleration of Mahometanism, Atheism, and at last to a positive persecution of the truth of Christianity. In these times the Temple of God will be reduced almost to the Holy Place, that is, to the small number of real Christians who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, and regulate their doctrine and their worship, and their whole conduct, strictly by the word of God. The merely nominal {108} Christians will all desert the profession of the truth, when the powers of the world desert it. And this tragical event I take to be typified by the order to St. John to measure the Temple and the Altar, and leave the outer court (national Churches) to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles. The property of the clergy will be pillaged, the public worship insulted and vilified by these deserters of the faith they once professed, who are not called apostates because they never were in earnest in their profession. Their profession was nothing more than a compliance with fashion and public authority. In principle they were always, what they now appear to be, Gentiles. When this general desertion of the faith takes place, then will commence the sackcloth ministry of the witnesses … There will be nothing of splendour in the external appearance of their churches; they will have no support from governments, no honours, no emoluments, no immunities, no authority, but that which no earthly power can take away, which they derived from Him, who commissioned them to be His witnesses (pp. 107f).

The second text is even more incisive. Here, he submits that the Pretense of Religious Liberty, the Pretense of Toleration and Religious Neutrality,  will occasion / is occasioning the utter downfall of civilization and the rule of law and thus usher in Antichrist:

“And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience? – which is all one with saying that we many let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it in and on after our time. Is there not a vigorous and united movement in all countries to cast down the Church of Christ from power and place? Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavour to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions? for example, an attempt to get rid of oaths, under a pretence that they are too sacred for affairs of common life, instead of providing that they be taken more reverently and more suitably? an attempt to educate without Religion?—that is, by putting all forms of Religion together, which comes to the same thing;—an attempt to enforce temperance, and the virtues which flow from it, without Religion, by means of Societies which are built on mere principles of utility? an attempt to make expedience, and not truth, the end and the rule of measures of State and the enactments of Law? an attempt to make numbers, and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining, this or that creed, as if we had any reason whatever in Scripture for thinking that the many will be in the right, and the {60} few in the wrong?”

 

Lessons from Leo XIII on Laws and Marriage

Peru was enacting laws on “civil marriage”, and even reaching its hands into Sacramental Marriages. Pope Leo, in Quam religiosa,  rightly decried this. He also urged the legislators, in framing any laws, to keep the true essence of natural marriage in mind, to refrain from any laws on Sacramental Marriage, which are the competence of the Catholic Church alone.

He also urges them to repeal UNJUST LAWS:

The courage of the blessed citizens Turibius and Rose, great examples of virtue, comes to mind here. Publicly restore both mind and will, so that they never depart from the Church’s precepts in making laws, which, if correctly observed, will bring about the natural happiness of the people. They should promise that they will not allow the recent decree to stand unchanged. They should also promise that civil marriage laws will contain nothing contrary to the teaching of the Church.

More Lessons from Leo XIII on Socialist Errors

From Graves de communi:

5. What Social Democracy is and what Christian Democracy ought to be, assuredly no one can doubt. The first, with due consideration to the greater or less intemperance of its utterance, is carried to such an excess by many as to maintain that there is really nothing existing above the natural order of things, and that the acquirement and enjoyment of corporal and external goods constitute man’s happiness. It aims at putting all government in the hands of the masses, reducing all ranks to the same level, abolishing all distinction of class, and finally introducing community of goods. Hence, the right to own private property is to be abrogated, and whatever property a man possesses, or whatever means of livelihood he has, is to be common to all.

6. As against this, Christian Democracy, by the fact that it is Christian, is built, and necessarily so, on the basic principles of divine faith, and it must provide better conditions for the masses, with the ulterior object of promoting the perfection of souls made for things eternal. Hence, for Christian Democracy, justice is sacred; it must maintain that the right of acquiring and possessing property cannot be impugned, and it must safeguard the various distinctions and degrees which are indispensable in every well-ordered commonwealth. Finally, it must endeavor to preserve in every human society the form and the character which God ever impresses on it. It is clear, therefore, that there in nothing in common between Social and Christian Democracy. They differ from each other as much as the sect of socialism differs from the profession of Christianity.

Lessons from LEO XIII on Private Property and the Poor

Great Pope Leo XIII teaches us the errors of Socialism and Greed. He teaches us the correct way to ensure that the poor are taken care of. He teaches the crucial importance of the right to private property.

Not through Socialistic re-distribution. Not through the neglect of the poor and the gluttonous consumption of goods in the “name” of economic involvement (but really to the consumer’s own hedonistic ends). Rather, through the simple teaching of the Divine Lord from Galilee. A teaching that is heavenly. A teaching whose eyes are on eternity: Heaven or Hell. A teaching with authority, and not like the moralists.

Would that we would learn from this Great Pope again! The below from his Encyclical Quod apostolici muneris of 1878:

First, he notes the Grave Error of watering down the Divine Truth of the Gospel, making it a religion about man, about earth. He declares as pope:

The supernatural truths of faith having been assailed and cast out as though hostile to reason, the very Author and Redeemer of the human race has been slowly and little by little banished from the universities, the lyceums and gymnasia-in a word, from every public institution. In fine, the rewards and punishments of a future and eternal life having been handed over to oblivion, the ardent desire of happiness has been limited to the bounds of the present.

Next, he notes how this naturalizing, this focus on the earth and man – a focus that destroys both man and earth, since it is based in ideology that cannot see things in proper perspective – leads to insubordination, anarchy, chaos:

… Surely these are they who, as the sacred Scriptures testify, “Defile the flesh, despise dominion and blaspheme majesty.”(2) They leave nothing untouched or whole which by both human and divine laws has been wisely decreed for the health and beauty of life. They refuse obedience to the higher powers, to whom, according to the admonition of the Apostle, every soul ought to be subject, and who derive the right of governing from God; and they proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties. They debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together, they weaken, or even deliver up to lust. Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is “the root of all evils, which some coveting have erred from the faith,”(3) they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life. These are the startling theories they utter in their meetings, set forth in their pamphlets, and scatter abroad in a cloud of journals and tracts. Wherefore, the revered majesty and power of kings has won such fierce hatred from their seditious people that disloyal traitors, impatient of all restraint, have more than once within a short period raised their arms in impious attempt against the lives of their own sovereigns.

He continues:

…. Although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: “for what participation bath justice with injustice or what fellowship bath light with darkness?”(7) Their habit, as we have intimated, is always to maintain that nature has made all men equal, and that, therefore, neither honor nor respect is due to majesty, nor obedience to laws, unless, perhaps, to those sanctioned by their own good pleasure. But, on the contrary, in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts. The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, “from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.”(8) But the minds of princes and their subjects are, according to Catholic doctrine and precepts, bound up one with the other in such a manner, by mutual duties and rights, that the thirst for power is restrained and the rational ground of obedience made easy, firm, and noble.

Next, he declares:

…. But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquility in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the “right” of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but, rather, drawing them to her with a mother’s embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments. In fine, she does all she can to relieve and comfort the poor, either by holding up to them the example of Christ, “who being rich became poor for our sake,(18) or by reminding them of his own words, wherein he pronounced the poor blessed and bade them hope for the reward of eternal bliss. But who does not see that this is the best method of arranging the old struggle between the rich and poor? For, as the very evidence of facts and events shows, if this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times

FINALLY, he appeals to the government to recognize the Divine Liberty of the Holy Church of Christ:

And since they know that the Church of Christ has such power to ward off the plague of socialism as cannot be found in human laws, in the mandates of magistrates, or in the force of armies, let them restore that Church to the condition and liberty in which she may exert her healing force for the benefit of all society.

Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 6

The return to Gospel life must involve (a) detachment from worldly goods and (b) charity.

Detachment from worldly goods does not mean detestation of the world. It means rightly ordering all things. And above all, the goods of heaven rank supreme. The goods of this world are so much rubbish compared to what eye has not seen, nor ear heard. By detachment from worldly goods, the rich can get a true sense of the purpose of their wealth. The ultimate purpose of their wealth is to do good to their neighbor by providing for them. And of course this provision can be undertaken in many and various ways. However, the destination of wealth is for the common good, not for the private benefit of the individual. In turn, the poor gain inestimably by patiently enduring their difficulties as they seek diligently to better the situation. Patience, then, should rule both poor and rich; that long-suffering patience that allows true progress to be made most efficiently, not under the yoke of a whip or knife or rifle, but under the sweet Cross of Christ.

More important than detachment is charity, claims the good pope. Charity enables that patience to be endured with human dignity and even divine dignity. This charity ought also to pull the rich into a more serious examination of conscience. Are they spending their wealth on “useless things and frivolous amusements” (art. 47)? Or are they truly dedicating it to its divinely appointed destination?

The terrifying judgment of Christ – Mt 25 – looms as a crucial final word by which the rich must guide their lives and steward their wealth. The words are indeed nothing short of terrifying. And yet, they are for those who have charity, words of challenge, not merely rebuke; words that invite towards the higher vision of life which alone can allow the many poor, and even the troubled rich, to escape the tempting siren of Marxist Communism.

Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 5

What are the practical strategies to defend society from the seditions and revolutions of communism? “Sincere renewal of private and public life according to the principles of the Gospel by all those who belong to the Fold of Christ” (art. 41).

In short, the solution is that Catholics be Catholics. This in turn means that if Catholics are not Catholics, then the world shall totter on ruin. That truth seems to me an identical truth running through history.

It starts with the first beloved of God, the Jews. When they are faithful, God blesses the world. When they are unfaithful, they are punished and ruin sets in. The same is true of the Church. Although holy in her essence, she is either holy or sinful in her members. When they are unfaithful, when they ditch the Gospel for false humanitarianism, when they refuse to evangelize, when they do not see love of neighbor consisting above all in desiring his spiritual welfare, when they do not attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, when they neglect the Blessed Sacrament, when they show ingratitude to Our Lady for all her mediation and co-redemptive activity, when they neglect the poor in their concern to put on a good face for the fellow rich – then the Church lies in ruins and must be rebuilt in her members.

 

 

Pius XI’s Condemnation of Communism – Relevant Still!

Part 4

Two key principles with which to address the errors of communism are the Existence of God and the Dignity of the Person.

God exists; therefore, people believe in him. This is the true order, not the reverse. Whereas the communists claim that God is the invention of the powers in the status quo. They invent God in order to appease the masses, claim the revolutionaries. But, only the ill-willed man disbelieves in God, claims Pius XI, echoing the biblical dictum: “The fool said in his heart, there is no God.”

Believe in God, and our spirits are enlightened by the true depth of our lives. Our end is God, and God alone. Each of us is called to him, to union with him. We are not just bodies. We are also spiritual. And in the end, we shall arise bodily. Thus, our hopes are not all and only in this world. Hence, we need not put our endless desire into only this-worldly hopes. Were we to do so, we should be plunged into a desperate search either (a) for more property alone, as the economic liberals selfishly do, or (b) for a classless society of equals, as those who rightly reject (a), most foolishly do. Rather, we can place things in proper perspective. We can work for equitable distribution of resources while not fomenting revolution and anti-religion to do so. And our very work unto this end is sanctifying.

We can sanctify our work in the humdrum ways. It is our cross and our joy.

This sanctification of work, and this effort to order society aright, is the Joy of the Gospel.

We have already discovered our human dignity in the above. For the individual human person is the only entity on earth with intellect and free will. The pope very simply, quite frankly, states an obvious fact that is ignored by many who promote “social justice”. The state, the corporation, has no free will. It is the persons in the state, the persons in the corporation who have free will. And free will is the primary locus of responsibility. When we act, each of us, in his own office, yes, we “amount” to something more than the sum of the individual efforts. Yes, there can be structures that cause, systematically, adverse circumstances for persons. Nevertheless, the moral culpability rests not on social structures. It rests on individuals, who are the ultimate source of such structures.

Trust God, and give him your true debt, and he in his wisdom will rightly order the resultant activity.