The foundations of social teachings

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From Does Catholicism Still Exist? (Staten Island: Alba House, 1994), pp. 165-88.

In the modern world, the alternatives to Catholicism almost always take the form of a social theory or program that promises a radical improvement in the human condition. This projected improvement is to come either through the reform of something outside of the inner soul or will of man, in his institutions and his environment or through his subjective will with no relation to any objective order. As I have pointed out, there is something logical in this alternate social program, both because it is a fact that religion has some particular effect, some influence on the world and because the most subtle alternative to God is going to be a counter city, a City of Man, as St. Augustine called it, something that at first sight will claim to have the power to correct mankind's ills.
John Paul II in his major Address in Santo Domingo quite clearly has understood the import of this issue:

These days are witnessing a cultural crisis of unheard-of proportions. It is certain that the cultural substratum of the present has a good number of positive values, many of them the result of evangelization; however, at the same time, it has eliminated basic religious values and introducted deceptive ideaswhich are not acceptable from the Christian viewpoing.

The absence of these basic Christian values from modern culture has not only obscured the transcendent dimension ... at the same time, it is a major cause of the social disenchantment in which this crisis of culture has developed. In line with the autonomy introducted by rationalism, today there is a tendency to base values most of all on subjective social consent which frequently leads to positions which are even contrary to the natural moral law.1
The religious values that remain have been cut off from their spiritual roots and alternative structures of life come from an autonomous reason and will subject to nothing but itself.
These types of proposed correction, either restructuring society or leaving the will no criterion but itself, however, will always have something missplaced about them. They will miss the heart of human dignity and the drama of human choice and its object wherein all real change in the world ultimately originates. Here, I want to suggest in general why the Catholicism insists that man does not live by bread alone, even if he needs bread, and I want to show how, in the latest statement of the Church on this issue, the Encyclical Centesimus Annus, this priority is consistently formulated to take into account both the spiritual and the political and economic dimensions of man.

During the years I was in Rome, I had the pleasure of knowing a fellow Jesuit, Roger Heckel, whom the Holy Father appointed to be the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace. He was an Alsatian, a man who later became a bishop in Strassbourg. He was unfortunately killed in an automobile accident at a relatively early age. He wrote a number of brilliant things for the Commission. To begin these considerations on how we should live, which I think flow naturally from the implications of the General Catechism, that is, from a coherent presentation of what the faith holds, I want to cite something from Bishop Heckel as I think he comes close to the heart of how Catholicism looks on the political and social life of man.
"What is true in the reciprocal interaction between the quality of human person and that of institutions is all the more fruitful when we are able to recognize the priority of the ethical and spiritual dimension, human transcendence," Heckel wrote.

The development of the moral and ethical life, however "seems unfortunately always to be left behind" (Redemptor Hominis, #15). This gives rise to the practical urgency, the permanent and fundamental necessity to strengthen the human person from within. This is the proper task of the Church whose "social doctrine" takes on life only when it is presented by morally and spiritually mature consciences.2

Already here is stressed the emphasis that will be found in every historical document and teaching of Catholicism that the inner life of man causes and shapes the exterior life, including the economic and political life. And there is a "reciprocal" relationship. Good polities will assist this same inner life; bad ones will cause harm. But in no case is man determined by these external orders.
Religion has been called, in a famous phrase, the "opium of the people." But it has also been held to be the "foundation" of public order. In the first case, religion is depicted as a distraction of men from the "important" things that they were called on to do,. These important things, it was said, had to do with the construction and reconstruction of the worldly city to be a fit place for human living and habitation. the sources of this fashioning of the human city were said to belong exclusively to man and his own powers. Anything from outside man, including any divine influence, was said to be "alienating."
In the second case, religion was itself a civic project. It had no transcendent purpose in itself but was seen to be a necessary way to maintain order among those citizens who could not be exptected to understand the need for law and order from their own resources. To propitiate the gods substituted among the people for the knowledge of how to rule among the philosophers. Religion in the case of the non-philosopher filled in for what thought or virtue could not do for them. In this sense, religion did not "distract" men from their earthly duties, but incited them to fulfill such obligations even when they did not understand them. The philosophers themselves did not believe in the civic religion itself, but they recognized its civil utility.

Political philosophy has long wrestled with its most central question -- namely, what is the best regime? But in the best authors, this question was seen to be resolutely answered in a negative fashion. The best regime did not and could not exist as an actual state without refashioning man or submitting him to such a control that human life would be practically impossible. The impossibility of the best city led to the actual or imperfect cities as the real situation of mankind. The most important result of philosophic reflections on the best regime was that politics was essentially "limited." there were things that could not be achieved by politics. There were aspects of man, indeed the highest ones, that transcended the political order. Freedom, in its highest sense, meant the possibility of pursuing these higher things without necessarily neglecting the ordinary things.
The note of all healthy political thinking, consequently, is its abiding awareness of this sense of limitation. Politics ought to be politics, but it ought not to be anything else but itself. Certain things could rightly be done in the political and economic orders, but there were things that could not be achieved. And this implied no defect in politics, but rather implied that it knew its own limitations, knew what it was. When in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John were forbidden to preach the Good News, they politely replied that this was one prohibition that the civil authorities did not have within their competence because their message was not limited to nor did it originate in the category of politics.
The uniqueness of the New Testament in political philosophy is not its attention to the things of God. All classic religions and philosophies, all ancient cities, both Jerusalem and Athens, recognized some sort of public due to the divinity, usually manifested in the form of civic liturgies or ceremonies. The New Testament is not, moreover, a treatise in political science or economic doctrine. No doubt, there are things in the New Testament that would cause special attention to be placed on political or economic affairs -- we recall that Christ had the apostles pay taxes to Caesar, that St. Paul did not hesitate to use Roman judicial proceedings to defend himself, that the poor were always to be with us.
However, the New Testament is not primarily a teaching about the structure or constitutions of the civil order. It is a teaching about salvation in any political order. And if we recall that St. Paul himself was probably executed under Nero, certainly one of the world's most unlovely rulers, we will not forget that he admonished the Romans that all authority, even Nero's such as it was, came from God. We can assume, of course, that St. Paul did not think that Nero was some sort of Platonic philosopher-king. If we wish to examine rule and the forms of rule, the relation of the ruled to the rulers, the nature of citizenship and authority, we do not go to the New Testament, but to the philosophers, to the lawyers, to the experience of men of wisdom, and to practical knowledge.
The purpose of the New Testament then was not to explain the things of Caesar, even while it acknowledged that there were indeed such civic things that it was the purpose of thought and experience to discover. The New Testament did not intend to substitute itself for what man could figure out by himself, thought it did imply that there were indeed d things even perhaps political things like the true nature of reward and punishment, that men could not ultimately figure out for themselves. The fact that the New Testament does recognize things of Caesar is, indeed, one of its chief claims for its own credibility. But its religious purpose did have the effect of limiting Caesar to those things only that belonged to Caesar, which things were learned primarily from experience and the philosophers.

If the purpose of the New Testament was to teach man about is ultimate, not political, destiny, it did not imply that there was no connection whatsoever between these two purposes. *the New Testament ever treated man as a whole in which all human actions and deeds fit together, including man's relation to God and to the polity. Aristotle ad already distinguished between contemplative happiness and political happiness. For Aristotle, the civil society did have a legitimate purpose and form, the ultimate purpose of which was to enable men eventually to participate in those things that belonged properly to the philosophy of life.
The active virtues were required, moreover, for the contemplative ones, but both were proper to man's condition. It was in this contemplative life, that Aristotle held was more divine than human, however, that the higher questions of the immortality of the soul and the transcendent nature of man resided. It was to these questions that revelation primarily addressed itself so that in defining their proper nature, man was freed form the temptation of building his own heaven on earth by his own powers. In this sense, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body completes questions asked but unanswered by political living and philosophy.
"One cannot revolt against God without revolting against reason," Eric Voegelin has written.3 It has been the Catholic tradition in social thought, following Aquinas, that there is a right order of things that includes revelation and reason, the one supports and understands the other. The disordered political society -- and there are many forms of disorder of soul and polity -- may in fact be the sort of actual sate in which most real men, most of the time, have ever lived. Utopia, as St. Augustine realized, is not a Christian concept, yet it brings up the question of the exact location of the highest things even when they cannot be achieved in this world. We will never have perfect political order, though, to be sure, some political orders will be better or worse than others. It is important, even religiously important, to know these differences and their consequences.
Salvation in the Catholic sense can be found and achieved in any existing political order, even the worst one. Likewise, it is quite possible to lose one's soul in the best and most just of historically existing political societies. Catholicism is not "individualistic" in the rigid philosophic sense, but it does teach that we are responsible for our souls even when salvation is a gift. Political and economic life in this sense is not therefore frivolous, not something that makes no difference to our ultimate good and goal.
Moreover, there is no "collective" salvation that ultimately would place our transcendent fate on the shoulders of reasons modern political heresy from Rousseau is to postulate that our ills lie in the structures and system and now, as St. Augustine following the teaching of genesis, knew, in our souls, in our wills. E. F. Schumacher has written in this regards:

Some people are no longer angry when told that restoration must come from within; the belief that everything is "politics" and that radical rearrangement of the "system" will suffice to save civilization is no longer held with the same fervor as it was even twenty-five years ago.4

This abiding truth that the reform of the polity attends the reform of the soul was found in The City of God and remains a basic truth for the understanding of Christian thought about the greater public order. It is also the ultimate grounding for the familiar Christian teaching that even in economic or social matters, everyone should seek to do what he is capable of doing.
In his Puebla Address, John Paul II wrote:

The Church's action in earthly matters such as human advancement, development, justice, the rights of the individual, is always intended to be at the service of man; and of man as she sees him in the Christian vision of the anthropology that she adopts. She therefore does not need to have recourse to ideological systems in order to love, defend and collaborate in the liberation of man: at the center of the message of which she is the depositary and herald she finds inspiration for acting in favor of brotherhood, justice, and peace, against all forms of domination, slavery, discrimination, violence, attacks on religious liberty and aggression against man, and whatever attacks life.5

What John Paul II said here was that Catholicism at its center contained its own revelational resources for dealing with what man is in his dignity, for understanding what violated this same dignity. However much reason and experiential politics may go wrong, these sources remain true and in tact for their own purposes, purposes that indirectly at least also serve the order found in reason.
That there is an ultimate correspondence between this revelational teaching in so far as it touches human conduct in this world and what good men have learned is the classic doctrine that faith and reason do not contradict each other. On the other hand, these are not exactly the same sources except in the sense that both arise, though in different ways, from the same transcendent source. It is quite possible to have religious presence in quite disordered societies, to draw even in such dire places order and inspiration from prayer, suffering, and penance. Change in disordered societies will seldom be easy of rapid, and must begin and continue at the deepest levels of human personhood. This is also the teachings of the best philosophers like Plato and aristotle who do deal with both the order of the soul and the order of polity.
For Catholicism, freedom of religion has meant, among other things, the freedom to teach its own doctrines and receive its own sacraments in any civil polity. The twentieth century has been unique in that it is the first century to develop political systems that claim and enforce complete control of man including control of his beliefs and his thoughts. Catholicism has seen, as have many philosophers and men of common sense, that this claim implies that politics is its own justification.

This position means that in modern thought, there is a claim to be able to explain all the disorders in society ana establish a perfect order depending on nothing other than man's own powers. From the very beginning of its existence, Catholicism has been confronted with the idolatry of the state. What is unique in modern times is both the powers available to the state to enforce its idolatrous claim and the intellectual apparatus to make it plausible.

The practice of Catholicism, thus, finds itself involved at two levels. On the one level, it is a teaching of the limits of man, limits that conform with his being, but limits that do not deny man's essential goodness or his mission to use all his powers, including his political ones, to establish a more human civilization. Too, there an and are many civil orders that display a wide variety of form and ethical priorities. In itself, this diversity is not bad but something to be expected and encouraged.
While Catholicism is realistically concerned with the right ordering of the civil order, this right ordering is not its basic task. Its primary task concerns those things that are revealed to it about man's nature, destiny, and the spiritual ways to reach his salvation. Politics in this sense can utterly fail, while man can succeed. The members of the ultimate City of God or City of Man, as St. Augustine taught, can come from any existing civil society.
The basic Catholic teaching about politics lies in the phrase in the New Testament that admonishes men to "seek first the Kingdom of God." This priority is by no means in conflict with the love of neighbor. But it is a priority that limits politics. A politics that is not limited to its own competency is a politics that rivals the Kingdom of God and offers men a choice between itself and God. The seriousness with which we must take this possible claim of the state to substitute itself for God is manifested in many areas -- in law, in attitudes to life, in understanding human enterprise, in the undermining of the family.
The great Protestant theologian Oscar Cullmann wrote in this regard:

The Church's task with regard to the State, which is posed for all time, is thus clear. First it must loyally give the State everything necessary to its existence. It has to oppose anarchy and all Zealotism within its own ranks. Second, it has tot fulfill the office of watchman over the State. That means: it must remain in principle critical toward every State and be ready to warn it against transgression of its legitimate limits. Third, it must deny to the State which exceeds its limits whatever such a State demands that lies within the province of religio-ideological excess; and in its preaching the Church must courageously describe this excess as opposition to God.6

The limits of the civil society, therefore, are precisely that, "limits." That is, there are legitimately things that belong to the state and things that do not.
Finally, neither the state nor the Church exist for themselves. Each has its own dignity and organizational structure. Yet, each is designed to serve its own defined purpose. The state is in this sense natural; it is something that arises out of man's very being what he is. The Church is established for a supernatural purpose, to achieve in each person what cannot be achieved by man's own powers. While the state can and has posed as a substitute for the divine, this is an aberration, not the normal face of the civil power. but both state and religion minister to man's destiny, to his individual destiny that is a dramatic relation to the divinity, to God.

Catholic thought about politics, then, places man within the normal institutions of human life, family, state, society, religion. Each of these minister not to himself but to God. Each member of any polity is ultimately to choose to be a member of the Kingdom of God or to refuse so to choose, No civil power can changes this deep drama that goes on in any and every civil order. The foundations of Catholic social teachings, then, "strengthen the person from within" both for the civil order and for that Kingdom of God to which each person is called in whatever civil society he might happen to live in whatever era of human history.
How does this position about the primacy of the spiritual fit into the latest understanding of Catholicism about itself and the social condition of the world? When the 1987 social encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, was published, I was very concerned about it in spite of the great admiration I have for the present Pope. I felt at the time that the Holy Father had missed one of the great opportunities of the Century. Finally, at a crucial moment, he had the occasion to remedy what was most lacking in Catholic social thought, namely, its failure to recognize the relation between wealth-production and the sort of basic social disorders the Papacy had criticized since the beginning of the modern era, since Rerum Novarum, in fact.7 But, as I saw it, Sollicitude Rei Socialis failed to meet this challenge and in fact seemed to be a step backward in many respects.
Fundamentally, as Lord Bauer had pointed out in a biting essay on the dangerous inadequacies of "ecclesiastical economics" at the time of Paul VI, the apparent re-distributionist bias of the thinking in papal social doctrine should have been rejected on empirical as well as on moral grounds. Redistributionism is the theory that a finite amount of goods exists in the world so that what one person or country has implies that someone else must lose the same amount. The theory is in many ways attractive, but it is quite false as a fact. To solve the modern problem of poverty, it is said, we must redistribute existing wealth politically, not create new wealth.
But in fact, this re-distributionist theory was not the solution to dire problems but the cause of further poverty and, in addition, of much tyranny, however good may have been the subjective intentions of those who promoted it, including the papacy.8 Rather than seeking to understand how and why wealth is produced, papal thinking seemed rather to suggest that the problem was one of greed and the failure of the political order. The ecclesial analysis, in other words, seemed to embrace modern theories of world order that were anything but solutions to the problems the papacy itself wanted confronted.
In contemporary ideological analysis, the so-called mal-distribution the world's goods seemed to be explained in terms of envy by the poor along side the moral corruption of those economic systems that did in fact produce existing wealth in the modern world. The result of such a theory was that instead of examining the many cultural, political, economic, and especially religious causes of why the poor were poor, the poor were told that they were poor because they were exploited by the rich, by those who knew how to produce wealth.

As a result of this analysis, the poor need not learn how to produce wealth but instead they should insist, even violently, that what was rightfully "theirs," on the to basis of some exploitation theory, be "returned" to them. Such theories not only proved statistically impossible -- the world needs more wealth, not a redistribution of existing wealth -- but justified decades of wasted energy and effort by the poor peoples themselves seeking a false solution to their own problems and blaming theories that did work for their own problems.
The world was seen, furthermore, to be divided between North and South, the rich and the poor. The most important thing was the "gap" between rich and poor and not, as in fact is the case, the gradual increase of wealth on the part of everyone. The solution to this problem of poverty, however, was not the ideological systems often chosen by the poor nations themselves to be their models of development, rather it was to be found in the success of the rich.
But this success was not primarily an exploitation or an injustice. It consisted in learning new ways of production and distribution that depended on intelligence, enterprise, and work, methods that did not in principle take away anything from anyone. These new methods proceeded from what exists, though the most basic of resources, human knowledge and skill, to fashion new wealth. This approach was the real key to the problem posed by re-distribution to help the poor, a key that often seemed to be understood everywhere better than in the Church.
Many activist tendencies in the Church, such as liberation theology, "gapism," and the newly present and worrisome uncritical appearance of ecological rhetoric in ecclesiastical circles seemed to reinforce this suspicion that the Church was going more and more in the wrong direction. But if the Church really wanted to achieve what it claimed that it wanted, namely, a free, limited society that was guided by principles of justice and generosity, it needed to understand and support a productive, expansive, and efficient economy that could actually make the poor rich, if given a chance.
It is not that John Paul II himself did not at times show great sympathy for certain elements of the free market system. But such rather uncritical notions as "options for the poor," or "consumerism," or a kind of bias against profit in his writings and speeches seemed to strike at the very roots of any positive system that might be able to meet the needs of mankind in behalf of which the Pope so eloquently witnessed wherever he travelled.
Much attention thus was given to the poor countries, not to the successful economies after World War II. The so-called "Fourth World," the least developed countries, received more sympathy than these oriental countries like Japan or Taiwan or Korea, lands with far fewer natural resources than many of the so-called poorest countries. These Far Eastern countries graphically showed that nations could pass rapidly from poverty to wealth during the same period that concerned clerics and other secular idealists were complaining about the poor being exploited by the rich and those becoming rich without any real means in their theories to do anything about it.
There is nothing wrong with calling attention to extremes of poverty, of course. The present encyclical continues this dogged insistence that we do not forget the poor. But the whole problematic and tenor of this attention are now significantly shifted from the re-distributionist context about which I had been concerned. The very meaning of "options for the poor" need no longer be ideological in overtones but directed instead to the real possibilities for a poor people to overcome their own problems with the intelligent aid of those who know how to produce wealth in the first place.

Before I remark on what is so right about this extraordinary encyclical, let me first call attention to a number of points that I still have problems with, this in the name and spirit of what John Paul II has been trying to do. John Paul II is the most extraordinary and intelligent of men. There has been no one quite like him in the modern era, a holy, wise man who has spoken to more political and intellectual leaders in the world than any man in history, surpassed only by the numbers of ordinary and poor people who have sought out and listened to his words. It can be argued that the decline and fall of the Marxist states owes more to him than to any other man or source.
To acknowledge what the Pope did requires recognition of spiritual forces at work in the civil order. Thus, the spiritual and religious roots from which the Pope comes remain alien to the liberal premises of the modern era. These premises, as Paul Johnson said, are at a deep level often the same ones from which marxism arose in the first place.9 Many of these secular forces are also very present in the Church itself in a form that seeks to transform the Church into a instrument for the achievement of the ends of the remaining ideologies of our era.
These premises of modernity, just to put them on the table, maintain that the "whole truth about man," to use the Pope's memorable phrase in exactly the opposite way that he does, is that man is the cause of his own being.10 Freedom is autonomy. There is no natural order to which man is subject. Freedom is creating one's own life, family, polity, world, on the basis of one's sole choices, themselves presupposed to nothing but themselves. Man is to take total control of what he is and makes. If there are some so-called "limits" in nature, these restrictions merely serve, in the ecological wing of this position, to justify the subsumption of man into the on-going process either of state or of nature.
No individual purpose exists beyond this life that would question man's ability to refashion and reconstruct himself against any so-called natural standards or norms that would prescribe or guide him in his normal activities to the purpose of his existence. Any effort to claim that the human being cannot will what he wants is looked upon as fanatical. There are no norms to democracy or to human nature other than those that man gives himself. Needless to say, a Pope who maintains eloquently and persistently that this sort of understanding of human nature and freedom is not at all its "whole truth" will be seen as anything from a Polish "reactionary" to a religious "enthusiast." That he is neither represents the most fundamental spiritual crisis for many Catholics and Christians, for many intellectuals and critics today.
Let me begin by rapidly remarking on a number of aspects of this document that strike me as weak or ill-argued. I call attention to these things not to seem more "wise" than the Pope, but to engage in that persistent duty we all have to argue clearly and objectively for what is true, all the time acknowledging that other understandings might be better than ours. These concerns are considered here under the understanding in the encyclical of the notions of work, of rights, and of ecology.

The first issue has to do with the emphasis the Holy Father gives to "work." My problem with what John Paul II says about work, already present in the Pope's encyclical Laborem Exercens, goes back to Josef Pieper who was at pains to reflect on the meaning of work and contemplation. Pieper insisted that there was something marxist in the notion of "intellectual work."11 This issue itself goes back to the Greeks and the problem of slavery, to the relation of art or craft to human society. The Pope is most concerned to dignify the worker. Again and again, he insists that in every industry or business, the most important thing is the worker and his family. The worker is more important than profit or material goods. Moreover, the Pope realizes that there is a kind of proportional dignity among all men no matter what kind of work they do.
In this encyclical, John Paul II has begun to recognize what people like George Gilder and Peter Bauer have long emphasized, that the real wealth in the world today is not goods but knowledge. This very convergence necessarily takes us back to the Greek discussion of practical and theoretical knowledge and their relationship. Likewise, it forces us to realize again that one of the major reasons for the disappearance of slavery was the Industrial Revolution and all that went with it in terms of machinery and organization. Aristotle had already implied that much work was drudgery, and if it could be replaced by the moving Statues of Daedalus, say to weave cloth, it would be a boon for mankind. It is not without interest that the weaving of cloth was the first large scale industry of the Industrial Revolution, and it still remains one of the most important industries for human well being.
With the invention of the computer and electronics, the possibility of placing into each man's hands powerful tools of inventiveness has been increased a thousand-fold, something someone like G. K. Chesterton had long wanted to see happen. The point I am trying to make here is that the emphasis on "work" that the Pope insists on seems too much to separate the work and the worker from what in fact the worker does or produces. By emphasizing rather knowledge and enterprise, something the Pope begins to do in the encyclical, I think it will be possible to restore the distinction between work and contemplation that Pieper sees at the heart of civilization. The problem is not solved, it seems to me, by calling what the highest activities consist in as "work." What the Pope wants to do is, no doubt, most laudable. He wants to show how each man leads a worthy life by his work. The question still must be asked, "is this work worth it?" By failing to ask this question, we can in principle justify governments that simply "make work" by legislation, or by bureaucracy, or by whatever classical means.
The Pope speaks of the worker so much and so earnestly because he wants a system whereby one's work is really contributing to man's well-being and at the same time offers a means to support a family. This sort of economy, of course, is what the Holy Father is seeking to get at in this encyclical. What is noticeable is that, while he insists on the need for voluntary societies, he never addresses himself to the more recent questions of the widespread phenomenon of labor union corruption or of the real economic and social necessity of unions themselves. In other places in Catholic social thought, the problem of union corruption, political and criminal, has been reservedly acknowledged. But the widespread decline of unions, their often counter-productivity regarding questions of just prices and contribution of other producers, are not mentioned.

A second major problem that seems to continue in this document, as it has in the major papal documents, is that of the meaning of the word "right." Nowhere in Centesimus Annus does there appear to be any reservation about the origins or use of this concept. It is assumed that everyone knows what a "right" is. It is universally acknowledged to be a good thing to promote. "Rights," however, are a product of modernity. If we want to make them concepts from say Aristotle or St. Thomas, we have to undertake the most careful of analysis about their meaning. "Rights" are philosophical words, words that are rooted in a system of thought very alien to the sort of concerns the Pope has in mind in using them.
Clearly "rights" are, at first sight, familiar concepts, used in public documents from the beginning of the modern era. They are found in the American and French documents, in the League of Nations, in the United Nations, in almost every civil constitution. Yet, they are rooted in a system of pure will, presupposed to no natural order. Again and again in recent times, we begin to find that there are "rights" to all sorts of things that are quite incompatible with Christian and natural law teachings.12
Conflicts of "rights" now have been transformed into the "duty" of the state to protect the exercise of sundry human disorders. A glowing praise of man's "rights" ends up in wondering how we can oppose a "right" to an abortion, or a "right" to a deviant life style. Moreover, "rights" to work or to housing, economic rights, in other words, have tended to embody the very socialist ideology that has failed. In any case, the point I want to make here is that it is not sufficient to use the doctrine of "rights" without in every case clearly identifying what is meant by them and how they are justified. As they are used in Catholic social thought, I am afraid, they often tend to imply notions quite at variance with what is in fact desired.
A further worry in this encyclical is the discussion on ecology, itself another potential ideology of the modern era. The Holy Father seems to give little warning about the intellectual background of much of the environmental and ecological movement that is so opposed to many of the very ends that he is proposing. It is not sufficient to say that ecology simply represents a delayed awareness of the limits of the earth and man's greed or lack of control. Ecology is if anything closer to a new religion that has premises and ends that subsume the individual person back into nature. The anti-growth aspect of the environmental movement is also an anti-human aspect. Thus far, I see no indication that this side of ecology is understood in its relation to the Church's own teachings and interests, nor do I see the sort of questioning of the validity of the thesis of the movement itself.13
If these are some concerns that I have with this document, they are nothing compared with the enthusiasm I have for the extraordinary insights and acknowledgements that have appeared in Catholic social thought as a result of John Paul II's new encyclical. Suffice it to say that it has appeared to many that Christianity would eventually identify itself with socialism. The so-called moral "force" of socialism is apparently very attractive to many religious people who see in the ordinary workings of economy or politics a kind of escapism or self-interest. Likewise, socialism has appeared to be an ideal way to unify religious and political energies to improve the world. In retrospect, we must be most respectful to the good sense of the Church, beginning with Leo XIII, as John Paul II duly noted, to see in this system ideas and tendencies most at odds with Christian and human understandings of man.

We cannot exactly say that the Catholicism has rejected socialism with this encyclical. Rather we must say that, granting the failures of socialism itself, the Church has finally been able to set aside the century old obligation of weighing socialist-capitalist claims in tandem to arrive at some sort of middle ground. Without denying its critique of the performance of capitalism, and not forgetting the liberal theory in which it was based, a theory so much criticized by the Church in the last century, we find here a frank acknowledgement that socialism has failed on its own terms as witnessed by events in Eastern Europe.
As a result there is a new look at the theory and practice of those free market economies that have proved their ability to know about the production of an abundance of goods and services, in fact relatively well-distributed within their confines. Since the Church wants poverty confronted, since it wants this confrontation to be done justly and with the interest and cooperation of the workers and the poor, it has had to acknowledge, as did the socialist systems themselves, that there are certain ways that must be employed if mankind is to meet its economic problems. These ways can be known and imitated, but they must include a juridical system, profit, enterprise, knowledge, exchange, a market, voluntary organizations, a relatively independent economy, private property, and respect for work and excellence.
The Pope proudly notices that the beginning of this crisis of the marxist states began in Poland with the workers movement. But behind this he sees deeper forces. He takes time to recognize that there was a relationship between modern totalitarian ideology that embraced socialism and carried it to its extremes and its corresponding attack on certain theological and religious notions, beginning with the belief in God. The Pope's analysis of totalitarianism is remarkable in this document. He does not hesitate to maintain that atheism does have political overtones and can result in the most extreme forms of political rule. He does not limit this effect only to admittedly totalitarian regimes of our era. He knows that certain democratic theories of relativism have the same premises as the more extreme theories.
The Pope argues as a result that the basic liberty to be that of religion. To acknowledge the reality and force of the transcendent God is the beginning of specifically human freedom. He sees in this direct relationship of man and God the only real power that limits the state from claiming with modernity complete autonomy or power over each man. One of the most striking aspects of Centesinus Annus, then, is not its calling religious people to do their duty to world, though it does this also, but its calling the world to recognize and allow certain relationships to God. The Pope even remarks, rather severely, on those states with established religions -- he is thinking of Islamic states, no doubt -- that in practice allow no freedom of religion to their citizens either in theory or practice.
If the first unique aspect of this encyclical is its analysis of the real problem with totalitarianism, the second unique aspect is its willingness to accept the general principles of a market economy. The Pope insists that there are always many dangers of greed, selfishness, and materialism in this market system. No one needs to deny his point to recognize that he also calls attention to what have become commonplaces among those who have sought to understand how modern societies develop their material bases.

Ever since the Tawney and Weber studies of the relationship of Protestantism and Capitalism, it has been a suspicion that Catholicism was somehow unable to understand the principles that caused the modern scientific, economic, and technological revolutions to take place. Catholic countries were said to be poor because they paid too much emphasis on morality and to the next world. As a result the people wasted time in religion better spent in working. It would be too much to say that this encyclical is a belated recognition of certain elements in the Reformation, those having to do with a vocation in this world, of hard work, of savings, of sobriety. None the less, all of these things are now present in this document.
The third and final thing that seems to be unique in this encyclical is the Pope's blunt and frank statement that man cannot achieve his inner-worldly goods or goals without Christianity. One has to know a good deal about the tendencies in modern academia and modern philosophy to realize the importance and radicalness of this aspect of Centesimus Annus. We Americans, perhaps, are so used to the exaggerations of our rhetoric on the separation of church and state that we are not prepared to recognize that this separation has something very unnatural about it. But the Pope is not talking about the legal or constitutional principle of how to deal with religion in a civil society. Rather he is dealing with the unity of man in all his aspects, faith and reason, this world and the next, morals and economics.
The Pope takes great care to make sure that man's eternal destiny is at stake in any civil society, even in a totalitarian one. Indeed, he suggests that this over-riding concern with ultimate things is just what has happened in Eastern Europe and Russia. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God is not in any earthly society. Nevertheless, and this is the point, it does make a difference what we believe and do. Faith is one of the main sources of our doing and making rightly. What exists among us is not just our polities or our philosophies, but grace and faith. Whatever we might say about tolerance and understanding others, it is not fanaticism that Catholicism is different and needed even to understand and do what we ought to do.
Perhaps nothing in the modern world drives more people to extremes than the simple and classic religious claim that God did become Man and that this has changed the meaning and history of the world in all its aspects. The emphasis of the Holy Father in this encyclical is simply factual or historical, however we might designate it. Let me, in conclusion, cite three remarks of John Paul II in this regard. They are cited in the context of the remarkable efforts he has made to know what is going on in the world and to acknowledge the truths of many social and economic and political facts that have recently come to the fore, facts that have been rooted in experience and practical intelligence.

1) To teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness of Christ the Savior. This doctrine is likewise a source of unity and peace in dealing with the conflicts which inevitably arise in social and economic life. Thus it is possible to meet these new situations without degrading the human person's transcendent dignity, either in oneself or in one's adversaries, and to direct those situations towards just solutions (#5).
2) We need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the 'social question' apart from the Gospel, and that the 'new things' can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them (#5).
3) In order that the demands of justice may be met, and attempts to achieve this goal may succeed, what is needed is the gift of grace, a gift which comes from God. Grace, in cooperation with human freedom, constitutes that mysterious presence of God in history which is Providence. The newness which is experienced in following Christ demands to be communicated to other people in their concrete difficulties, struggles, problems and challenges, so that these can then be illuminated and made more human in the light of faith. Faith not only helps people to find solutions; it makes even situations of suffering humanly bearable, so that in these situations people will not become lost or forget their dignity and vocation (#59).
These statements, if I read them correctly, maintain that human social and ethical problems can be understood and resolved in peace, that grace and faith are also necessary to incite men to act properly and to understand fully what their nature and situation demands, and that when all else fails that faith remains attentive to the final reality and destiny of each human person even in suffering and loss.
The tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine, which John Paul II has reflected on and advanced is not merely a philosophical analysis of moral principles, though it is at least that. Nor is it a claim to have something merely beyond the world, though it also claims that. Rather it is a description of the presence of God in the world, in the world of principles as well as in the world of suffering, in the world of production as well as in the world of distribution. The capacity to see the needs of mankind over time, to refine, revise, clarify a full human understanding is the remarkable and unique fruit of Centesimus Annus. Does Catholicism still exist? The explication of its doctrines include an explanation of the world. The person from within, the person who understands that he must be first related to God, is the same person who dwells and acts in existing cities.

1. John Paul II, "Address to the Bishops of Latin America," October 12, 1992, L'Osservatore Romano, English, October 21, 1992, pp. 8-9.

2. Roger Heckel, S. J., General Aspects of the Social Catechesis of John Paul II (Vatican City: Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, 1980), p. 19.

3. Eric Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections, Edited by Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), p. 76.

4. E. F. Schumacher, a Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Harper Colophon, 1977), p. 138.

5. John Paul II, Puebla, January 28, 1979, III, 2.

6. Oscar Cullmann, The State in the New Testament (New York: Scribner's, 1956), pp. 90-91.


. See James V. Schall, "John Paul II's Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," Religion, Wealth, and Poverty (Vancouver, B. C.: The Fraser Institute, 1990), pp. 149-70.

8. Lord Peter Bauer, "Ecclesiastical Economics: Envy Legitimized," Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in the Economics of Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 73-89.

9. Paul Johnson, "Is Totalitarianism Dead?" Crisis, 7 (February, 1989), 9-17.

10. See The Whole Truth about Man: John Paul II to University Students and Faculties, Edited by James V. Schall (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1981.

11. Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (New York: Mentor, 1963).

12. See James V. Schall, "Human Rights as an Ideological Project," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 32 (1987), 47-61.

13. See Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); Max Singer, Passage to a Human World (Indianapolis: Hudson Institute, 1987); James V. Schall, Human Dignity and Human Numbers (Staten Island: Alba House, 1971).

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