The Catholic Solution to a Social and Political Problem
#1
http://distributistreview.com/catholic-s...political/


The Catholic Solution to a Social and Political Problem
July 13, 2016

By Arturo Ortiz

We all have political and social questions. In the presidential elections we have every four years, different individuals offer different solutions to these problems. This is no different in the race they are in right now. Many of these solutions range from the good to the bad to the ugly with respect to the most important issues we care about: economic and political concerns, faith, family, work, our children, morality, and many other things. Regardless of which politicians are up for election and/or re-election, regardless of what solutions they offer, there is a common and dangerous folly that many, including myself, fall into. This foolishness of looking for a “Political Messiah” as has been pointed out in a recent article published by Professor John Médaille. Médaille makes the following observations:

   
[size=12pt][font=times new roman]The mistake is simply this: to confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men … hoping for a political messiah who will bring hope and change; will make America great again, will restore our former glory, a glory that glows more brightly in the imagination than it ever did in reality…. We are looking for candidates to restore American greatness by political means—that is, by means of power—alone. And there are many willing to fulfill this role.[sup]1[/sup]

[size=12pt][font=times new roman]This is a brilliant reflection offered by Médaille, and I would like to take the liberty to propose a solution to the political and social problem of seeking out a “political messiah”. It is a solution that is not just another economic, political, or cultural answer. It is above all a moral and religious one, a solution that I offer to any Catholic and to the people of good will who may be reading this. This is the Christian answer to political, economic and social problems, one that has taken the name of “Christian Democracy” or in other, more popular venues, “Catholic Action”.


Pope Leo XIII writes the following regarding the nature of Christian Democracy (Catholic Action):

    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.[sup]2[/sup]

Certain principles make up “Christian Democracy” and “Catholic Action”, respectively. The first as shown by Pope Leo XIII is that it is by its very foundation, based on truly Christian principles, Catholic Action upholds the fundamental belief in Christ and in His Church. Catholic Action flows from the belief that all things begin and end in God. It may then best be described by the quote that was popularized by Pope Saint Pius X; to “renew all things in Christ,” that “Christ may be all and in all.”[sup]3[/sup] As Christ says, “Behold I make all things new.”[sup]4[/sup]

To achieve this, Catholic Action proposes to bring the Catholic faith to all of society and views the Catholic State as the ideal. These things are done not merely through mere political, economic, or even social means, but above all by spiritual and moral means. It professes above all things, first and foremost, that “all authority comes from God,”[sup]5[/sup] and states as the Church has often stated in many ways that the Catholic religion, which is the one true religion, as directly revealed by God, should be given full liberality and sole profession by civil society.

Based on the belief that Christ is king, both temporal and spiritual, in our private and public lives, it also affirms that only Christ can be a “Saviour”—not only politically, but spiritually—and that the saving power of Christ first begins within ourselves, in relation to Christ, as he must first be messiah of our own hearts. Once this is done and Christ is allowed to reign within us we take him everywhere we go: to our work, school, the voting booth, the political and public arena, the parish, and nearly everywhere else.

Catholic Action then becomes what it was once meant to be; not merely an individual endeavor, but a social thing. By its very nature it will go about transforming society in a truly Christian way, for example, by promoting the long neglected natural virtue of justice, by which is meant “the obligation to give all according to their due,” or go further and promote the theological and supernatural virtue of Charity, a supernatural love based on the virtue of faith, by which we love our neighbor in relation to our love of God and His love for us.

Catholic Action is the apolitical solution to a political problem. It is the Catholic faith put into social practice.

Catholic Action has always been practiced by the Church by both clergy and laity alike. It has also been practiced in a variety of ways to the benefit of society. This can be seen in the many hospices and hospitals that were created and run by the Church from the medieval ages to our present time. For example, in the great generosity of The Sovereign Military Order of Saint John (also known as the “Hospitallers”) which took care of the various pilgrims who flocked to the Holy Land. Or in the generosity towards the sick and unfortunate by “The Poor Clares” or Blessed Mother Teresa’s “Missionaries of Charity”. There is also the great educational system provided for and founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first canonized native-born U.S. citizen. This also includes the protection of the common individual against usury, the protection of the common artist, worker, the development of various guild systems, and the assistance of those in dire poverty through various mutual associations of voluntary aid.

We should then not turn to any “political messiah” or even exclusively to politics for the solution of those things most important in life. No politician or “political decision” at large will solve the political or even social problems of our day and age. I then once again propose a different apolitical solution that works only in so far as it is based on Him who can save; namely Christ and His Church. It is only through Catholic Action that we can have such real solution. A solution that truly transforms society and not merely tries to fix it or conserve it. This indeed is authentic Catholic Social Teaching and I would propose Distributism as its expression par excellence.


Notes

  1) John Médaille, “Making Judah Great Again: An Apology for Judas”.
  2)Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter Graves De Commune Re.
  3)Colossians 3:2.
  4)Rev 21:5.
  5)Romans 13.


Reply
#2
Forgive me, Arturo, but I do not see anything here resembling a solution.

Let me take a practical example: let's say, speculatively, that POTUS and his Supreme Court organize thing  so that all Catholic health care agencies must provide contraception and abortion to those who so desire. There go the various Catholic social agencies of mercy out the door. Either they must close, or they must no longer be Catholic.

It's just one of many possible examples, but my point is this: we are all called to be religious, pious, holy men and women. This is not the same as the obligation to act in society to defend the People of God from attackers of one kind or another. There must be political solutions as well to these political problems. POTUS' spiritual life is, politically speaking, irrelevant, until his POLITICS make it impossible for the faithful to live their faith. There have been many kings and popes and presidents of dubious or even heinous individual and personal faith and morals who have NOT made a point of forcing the Catholic faithful to betray their faith.

The Roman Empire was a gigantic problem for Catholics, though the number of the faithful increased, until emperors converted and there were political solutions as well.

So while I totally admire your work and that of those whose writings you promote, I feel that you have not addressed a material problem materially.
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#3
Thanks for your input Maldon. I completely agree with you in that politics and social aspects play a crucial role in civil society. I did not mean to imply that they didn't. We need for example political policies that promote the well being of the family and which promotes a culture of life. I believe we need distributism and the Gospel. However in regards to this specific article I tried to accomplish two specific things. The first one is namely that it was meant to be an article that touched upon First Principles. Namely the reality that before we go on offering political and social solutions given a Catholic context; we first need to understand what it means to have a Catholic State and culture. Namely a fundamental belief in Christ and His Church and the belief that Christ is king and that society ought to be formed through Catholic Social Teaching and the Gospel. . It also means that we first need Christ in our lives. Once this is accomplished we can transform society by putting our Catholic Faith and the social principles into social practice. It is impossible to offer concrete political and social solitions without first having a right order.

The second thing I meant to accomplish is to offer this article as a first of many series of articles touching upon tje subject of Catholic Action "Christian Democracy." This is an apolitical Catholic movement that has IMHO been forgetten about and left unpracticed. It was a big movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was supported by many Popes and was done under the guidance of Holy Mother Church. It was a movement by which lay Catholics transformed society through purely religious and social means. This movement was popularized by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical "Graves De Commune Re." But to be fair it was a movement that has been in existence since the start of the Church. It has in many regards been this  transforming aspect of the Church that has saved Western Civilization time and time again. This is true in regards to the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Medieval Ages. It was also true during the French Revolution and lastly during the rise of Socialism in the late 1800s. As good as sound political policies may be, Christian Democeacy goes beyond mere politics in that it touches upon religion. Politics has its rightful place but Catholic Action does too.

I hope this all makes sense. Politics is important but we also need something more which goes beyond the merely political.

Reply
#4
Thanks, Arturo.
It would be interesting to read a good book, if you have any to recommend, on the history of Catholic Action.
I agree that Catholics need to be well-formed in the social doctrine of the Church and 'First Principles.' I suppose I find nowadays that there is too much confusion in the Church between the lay and clerical roles, and I think this is leading to paralysis. Let me explain in some very rough and simplistic manner: we have a great generation of absolutely well-formed Cardinals and Bishops in the Catholic Church. Yet not one of them has so far confronted Pope Francis on the serious consequences of what is surely a revolution, in the form of Amoris Laetitia. But I have seen LOTS of lay people, philosophers, thinkers, writers, theologians, representatives of groups and associations protest. So in this clerical context, we need clerics, cardinals and bishops, to confront the Pope and either make him clarify what he really means, or retract what he has said, or reaffirm clearly what he is saying and then accept what the Pope is saying. Instead, these cardinals and bishops either remain silent or they take evasive action, suggesting merely that the Pope has not created a new doctrine. Don't get me wrong: I am not saying the Pope is right or wrong; I am saying that cardinals and bishops took clear positions for and against the Kasper proposal BEFORE AL, and now, those ho took clear positions against, are silent and/or evasive. Maybe we can say that Bishop Athanasius Schneider is the sole exception. This is a problem related to the Church hierarchy that is not being dealt with by them. Instead, we have a lot of church hierarchy trying to solve the issues of migration. On the other hand the US has gone from being one of the few if not the only superpower to defend Christians in the world, or at least to care about them ever so little, to being an instrument of persecution. The answer to this political problem is a political solution, I think. The answer to a math problem is not going to be more prayer, but more math. As Catholics, we have to assume that we are dealing with people who are striving to do get closer to God every day. Every day, there should be 'more prayer' anyway. But then there has to be something else. I would love to read about Catholic Action and see what they came up with. So please continue this. I would love to see ideas about solutions to the present situation.
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#5
I don't have a specific book on Catholic Action yet, although I know that they do exist. However there is a really good article on Christian Democracy "Catholic Action" by the Catholic Encyclopedia on Christian Democracy It gives a great overview of the subject at hand and a history of it. I would also recommend reading the encyclicals that were written specifically on Christian Democracy "Catholic Action" by the popes themselves. Here are some of them Graves de Communi Re by Pope Leo XIII, Il Fermo Proposito by Pope Saint Piux X, Non Abbiamo Bisogno by Pope Pius XI. There are also some good articles by contemporary sources on the subject. The True Meaning of Catholic Action, Pope Reaffirms 'Catholic Action. I just found this book in Archives I don't know good it is (I haven't read it) but it looks promising The Popes and Catholic Action

I agree that more clerics especially those that are more prominent ought to challenge Pope Francis about many of the statements and actions he has made. Many of which could be called problematic. I also agree that if we are to have Catholic Action we would first need a strong and completely orthodox ecclesial hierarchy. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and prayed about.

I don't however believe that political solutions are the end solution however. I would have to say that I have to disagree with your analogy in regards to mathematics. Mathematics and the political and social arena are not the same and cannot possibly be compared in the same way. Mathematics is a natural science. It is a "descriptive science," namely a discipline which describes how things work. This is

I understand what you mean in regards to needing political solutions in order to solve many of the political and social problems in our day. However I don't think that we can rely on mere political solutions at the exclusion of Catholic Social Teaching or Catholic Action for that matter. I also have to disagree with your analogy comparing mathematics with the political and social order. Mathematics is a natural science and more specifically it is what is known as a "descriptive science." Mathematics shows how nature works. But mathematics does not have the human person as its subject nor does it take into consideration morality and virtues. Relying on mathematics itself gives into naturalism and the exclusion of the moral and virtuous order. On the contrary the political and social arena require us to take into consideration God and humans as their proper subject.  While political solutions and politics in of itself is itself necessary in its own sphere, I really think that Catholic Action is also very much necessary. It is merely a movement by which the Catholic Laity engages in the mission of the  Church at large, namely the sanctification and Christianization of society. This in addition to Catholic Social Teaching and the belief in the Kingship of Christ is absolutely necessary.

Reply
#6
Arturo, thank you for the reading recommendations. Will make for some good reading. Also, I agree that the 'objective' nature of mathematics makes it a poor choice for a meaningful analogy, for the reasons that you gave.

I hope that your ideas bear fruit. Regardless of what I may think, anything leading to a Catholic society is all good by me.

I think (perhaps wrongly, but for now it is what I think) that if the Church hierarchy problems are cleaned up, and if we are given the freedom to practice our religion uninhibited by the state, we will win this war, we will convert more and more people, and at that point we can get into notions of a Catholic State. Until then, we are just Christians in pagan Rome, hoping for the freedom to practice our religion, and praying for the emperor's conversion. But my answer is decidedly passive. My answers to these things are almost always A) wrong and B) excessively passive or active. For me, we pray for conversions and for Crusades. Either one will work for me.
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#7
(07-14-2016, 12:03 PM)maldon Wrote: Thanks, Arturo.

It would be interesting to read a good book, if you have any to recommend, on the history of Catholic Action.

I agree that Catholics need to be well-formed in the social doctrine of the Church and 'First Principles.' I suppose I find nowadays that there is too much confusion in the Church between the lay and clerical roles, and I think this is leading to paralysis. Let me explain in some very rough and simplistic manner:

We have a great generation of absolutely well-formed Cardinals and Bishops in the Catholic Church. Yet not one of them has so far confronted Pope Francis on the serious consequences of what is surely a revolution, in the form of Amoris Laetitia. But I have seen LOTS of lay people, philosophers, thinkers, writers, theologians, representatives of groups and associations protest.

So in this clerical context, we need clerics, cardinals and bishops, to confront the Pope and either make him clarify what he really means, or retract what he has said, or reaffirm clearly what he is saying and then accept what the Pope is saying. Instead, these cardinals and bishops either remain silent or they take evasive action, suggesting merely that the Pope has not created a new doctrine.

Don't get me wrong: I am not saying the Pope is right or wrong; I am saying that cardinals and bishops took clear positions for and against the Kasper proposal BEFORE AL, and now, those who took clear positions against, are silent and/or evasive. Maybe we can say that Bishop Athanasius Schneider is the sole exception. This is a problem related to the Church hierarchy that is not being dealt with by them. Instead, we have a lot of church hierarchy trying to solve the issues of migration.

On the other hand the US has gone from being one of the few if not the only superpower to defend Christians in the world, or at least to care about them ever so little, to being an instrument of persecution.

The answer to this political problem is a political solution, I think. The answer to a math problem is not going to be more prayer, but more math. As Catholics, we have to assume that we are dealing with people who are striving to do get closer to God every day. Every day, there should be 'more prayer' anyway. But then there has to be something else.

I would love to read about Catholic Action and see what they came up with. So please continue this. I would love to see ideas about solutions to the present situation.

Sorry for re-posting this. But when the posts are not broken up into readable paragraphs, it makes it hard for me and others to follow and understand. Thank you in advance.
Reply
#8
(07-14-2016, 03:24 PM)maldon Wrote: Arturo, thank you for the reading recommendations. Will make for some good reading. Also, I agree that the 'objective' nature of mathematics makes it a poor choice for a meaningful analogy, for the reasons that you gave.

I hope that your ideas bear fruit. Regardless of what I may think, anything leading to a Catholic society is all good by me.

I think (perhaps wrongly, but for now it is what I think) that if the Church hierarchy problems are cleaned up, and if we are given the freedom to practice our religion uninhibited by the state, we will win this war, we will convert more and more people, and at that point we can get into notions of a Catholic State. Until then, we are just Christians in pagan Rome, hoping for the freedom to practice our religion, and praying for the emperor's conversion. But my answer is decidedly passive. My answers to these things are almost always A) wrong and B) excessively passive or active. For me, we pray for conversions and for Crusades. Either one will work for me.

I believe another good book regarding Catholic Action is the classic work by French author Jean Ousset called "Action". IHS Press publishes it here in the USA. You can get it either via IHS Press or via Amazon.

I hope this helps. Thank you in advance.
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#9
Thank you, HailGilbert! Have it on my list now too!
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