Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pope Pius XII's Catholic Social Teaching

Against the Grain has this post about Pope Pius XII little noticed contribution to CST. Writer Anthony G. Percy reflects on Pope Pius XII's little noticed doctrine:
The great dramas of this period in the life of the Catholic Church may explain why Pius XII’s contributions to the development of Catholic social teaching have not captured the attention of historians and theologians. This absence is somewhat strange, not least because the magisterial teachings of his immediate successors—not to mention the Second Vatican Council—are replete with citations and footnotes from Pius’ numerous addresses and speeches. It is, for example, in Pius’ writings that we observe crucial developments in magisterial teaching on the subject of democracy and the emerging discourse of human rights.1

Even less recognized are Pius XII’s teachings on specifically economic issues, including the origin and nature of private initiative and business, and the rights and responsibilities of the entrepreneur.2 The specific texts in which Pius considers these matters in some detail are:3

• The Fiftieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, June 1, 1941;

• Social Function of Banking, April 25, 1950;

• Vocation of Businessmen, April 27, 1950;

• Function of Banking, October 24, 1951;

• The Catholic Employer, June 5, 1955;4

• The Small Business Manager, January 20, 1956;5

• Business and the Common Good, February 17, 1956;

• Economics and Man, September 9, 1956; and

• Small Business in Today’s Economy, October 8, 1956.
Pope Pius XII makes clear CST's current direction. His contributions appear to inform John Paul the Great's thinking in Centesimus Annus. Both articulate the right of private property as an extension of the more fundamental right to the use of the world's goods. Both saw the positive interconnection between work and Christian life. Both had positive views of free market enterprise, when appropriate juridicial structures regulated it's excesses. It certainly calls many of the conclusions of Catholic socialists as to whether or not CST supports their economic vision.

Christopher also links to Teofilo's discussion of Thomas' and Danforth's take on Christian political activism. He reaches this conclusion:
I freely admit that the Commandment to Love holds absolute primacy in the life of the Christian and is the ultimate measure of our commitment. But love does not sanction behaviors and views that in practice deny its force. I can't see how Christian love allows for euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, or circumspection on mentioning God and His Commandments in the public square.

One thing is certain: when Jesus was tempted, Satan showed him all the kingdoms and the powers of the earth and asserted that "they have all been given to me and I give them to whomever I choose." Christians should be aware who is the master of kingdoms and powers and politics and thread lightly in this realm.
His warning on the risks of political participation on our Christian witness are well taken. That is why it is so important for Catholics to be as well informed on Catholic Social Teaching as possible. When we approach politics fully formed in those principles that ensure a just society, we more effectively discern which policies--and politicians--support such a society. Mr. Danforth's confusion about the role of charity represents the sad consequence of a lack of such understanding of CST. Granted, Mr. Danforth is not Catholic. CST, however, can be understood and verified through reason. Thus, one need not be Catholic to accept that euthanasia and abortion offend human dignity and deprive the innocent of life; thus, they denigrate Charity. Catholic Social Teaching provides society with an invaluable guide to the creation of a civilization of Love. We would all do well to become formed by these teachings and then forge policies that implement them.