Les Femmes

E-mail from Heaven: Is your computer on?

When Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum in 1891 he was concerned about social justice particularly for poor workers. He described the rights and duties of both employers and employed. He also spoke of the role of charity. What would Pope Leo say today about modern “social justice” programs that claim to “help the poor” by building the nanny state?

Par. 35-36.  Wealth: On the use of wealth we have the excellent and extremely weighty teaching, which…the Church has handed down in a completely developed form….The foundation of this teaching rest on this, that the just ownership of money is distinct from the just use of money. To own goods privately…is a right natural to man, and to exercise this right, especially in life in society, is not only lawful, but clearly necessary….As to [how man ought to use his possessions] 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….These are duties not of justice, except in cases of extreme need, but of Christian charity, which obviously cannot be enforced by legal actions. [Charity is personal. There is nothing in the encyclical about the government redistributing wealth. In fact, Pope Leo repudiates socialism.]

Par. 32. Obligations of the rich: The rich must religiously avoid harming in any way the savings of the workers either by coercion, or by fraud, or by the arts of usury; and the more for this reason, that the workers are not sufficiently protected against injustices and violence, and their property, being so meager, ought to be regarded as all the more sacred. [While this was written about employers one might as easily apply it today to the actions of rich congressmen who, by their policies, have destroyed the savings of millions of Americans, especially the elderly on fixed incomes. It also applies to credit card companies, payday loan operations, and others who exploit the poor and middle class.]

Par. 23. On Socialism: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….Private ownership must be preserved inviolate. [How do you think Pope Leo would react to the government takeover of the banks and the auto industry?]

Par. 42. Relation of Virtue to Wealth: [The Church] 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.” [Socrates said, “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” The virtuous man, as Pope Leo points out avoids vices (usually expensive) and tends toward thrift which frees up wealth to share with others.]

Par. 19-20. Primacy of the family: The family, or rather the society of the household, [is] 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 entirely independent of the State….The family assuredly possesses rights, at least equal with those of civil society….We say ‘at least equal’ because, inasmuch as domestic living together is prior both in thought and in fact to uniting into polity, it follows that its rights and duties are also prior and more in conformity with nature. But if citizens, if families, after becoming participants in common life and society, were to experience injury in a commonwealth instead of help, impairment of their rights instead of protection, society would be something to be repudiated rather than to be sought for. [Exactly! The State is at war against the family starting with its weakest members, the unborn, handicapped and elderly. Rather than protecting families government is enriching special interests and stealing from future generations. Groups like VOICE, who turn to the government for every need violate the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. The Catechism says that God “entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life.” In other words human affairs should be dealt with at the lowest possible level closest to the people involved.

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