Where is the New Theology Leading Us? by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

Reginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

In a recent book, Conversion et grace chez S. Thomas d’ Aquin[1] (Conversion and Grace in St. Thomas Aquinas), Father Henri Bouillard writes, “Since spirit evolves, an unchanging truth can only maintain itself by virtue of a simultaneous and corelative evolution of all ideas, each proportionate to the other. A theology which is not current [does not keep changing – translators note] will be a false theology.”[2]

And in the pages preceding and following [the above quotation], the author demonstrates that the theology of St. Thomas, in several of its most important sections, is not current. For example, St. Thomas’ idea of sanctifying grace was as a form (a basic principle of supernatural operations which the infused virtues and the seven gifts have as their principle). “The ideas employed by St. Thomas are simply Aristotelian notions applied to theology”[3]

And further: “By renouncing the Aristotelian system, modem thought abandoned the ideas, design and dialectical opposites which only made sense as functions of that system.”[4] Thus modern thought abandoned the notion of form.

How then can the reader evade the conclusion, namely that, since it is no longer current, the theology of St. Thomas is a false theology?

But then why have the Popes so often instructed us to follow the doctrine of St. Thomas? Why does the Church say in her Code of Canon Law, Can. 1366, n.2:

“The professors should by all means treat of the rational philosophy and theology, and the training of the students in these subjects according to the method, doctrine and principles of the Angelic Doctor (Aquinas), and should hold these as “sacred”?[5]

Further, how can “an unchanging truth” maintain itself if the two notions united by the verb to be, are essentially variable or changeable?

An unchangeable relationship can only be conceived of as such if there is something unchangeable in the two terms that it unites. Otherwise, for all intents and purposes, it’s like saying that the waves of the sea can be stapled together.

Of course, the two ideas that are united in an unchangeable affirmation are sometimes at first confused and then distinguished one from the other, such as the ideas of nature, of person, substance, accident, transubstantiation. the Real Presence, sin, fundamentally unchangeable. how then will the affirmation which unites them by the verb ‘”to be” be unchangeable? How can one hold that the Real Presence of the substance of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist requires transubstantiation if the ideas are fundamentally variable? How can one assert that original sin occurred in us through a willed fault of the first man, if the notion of original sin is essentially unstable? How can one hold that the particular judgment after death is eternally irrevocable. if these ideas are said to change? Finally, how can one maintain that all of these propositions are invariably true if the idea of truth itself must change, and if one must substitute for the traditional definition of truth (the conformity of judgment to intuitive reality and to its immutable laws) what has been proposed in recent years by the philosophy of action: the conformity of judgment to the exigencies of action, or to human life, which is always evolving?

* * * * *

1. Do the Dogmatic Formulae Themselves Retain Their Immutability?

Father Henri Bouillard[6] responds: “‘The affirmation which is expressed in them remains.” But, he adds:[7]

“Perhaps one might wonder if it is still possible to assert the contingency of the ideas implied in the conciliar definitions? Will it not compromise the irreformable character of these definitions? The Council of Trent (sess. 6, cap. 7, can. 10) par excellence, in its teaching on justification, employs the idea of formal cause. Consequently, did it not enshrine this term and confer a definitive character upon the idea of grace as a form? Not at all. It was certainly not the intention of the Council to canonize an Aristotelian idea, nor even a theological idea conceived under the influence of Aristotle. It simply wished to affirm, against the Protestants, that justification is an interior renewal. Toward this end, it used some shared theological ideas of the times. But one can substitute others for these, without modifying the sense of its teaching.” (Emphasis mine.)

Undoubtedly, the Council did not canonize the Aristotelian idea of form with all of its relations to other ideas of the Aristotelian system. But it approved it as a stable human idea, in the sense that we speak of everything that formally constitutes a thing (in this case, justification).[8] In this sense, it speaks of sanctifying grace as distinct from actual grace, by saying that it is a supernatural gift, infused, which is inherent in the soul and by which man is formally saved.[9] If the Council defined faith, hope and charity as permanently infused virtues, their radical principle (habitual or sanctifying grace) must also be a permanently infused gift, and from that, distinct from actual grace or from a divine, transitory action.

But how can one maintain the sense of this teaching of the Council of Trent, namely that “sanctifying grace is the formal cause of salvation”? I do not say, if “one substitutes a verbal equivalent“; I say with Father Henri Bouillard “if one substitutes another idea”.

If it is another idea, then it is no longer that of formal cause: Then it is also no longer true to say with the Council: “Sanctifying grace is the formal cause of salvation.” It is necessary to be content to say that grace was defined at the time of the Council of Trent as the formal cause of salvation, hut today it is necessary to define it otherwise, and that this passe definition is no longer current and thus is no longer true, because a doctrine which is no longer current, as was said, is a false doctrine.[10]

The answer will he: For the idea of formal cause one can substitute another equivalent idea. Here one is satisfied by mere words (by insisting first on another and then on an equivalent), especially since it is not verbal equivalence, rather, it is another idea. What happens even to the idea of truth?[11]

Thus the very serious question continues to resurface: Does the conciliar proposition hold as truethrough conformity with the object outside the mind, and with its immutable laws, or rather through conformity with the requirements of human life which is always changing?[12]

One sees the danger of the new definition of truth, no longer the adequation of intellect and reality but the conformity of mind and life.[13] When Maurice Blondel in 1906 proposed this substitution, he did not foresee all of the consequences for the faith. Would he himself not he terrified, or at least very troubled?[14]

What “‘life” is meant in this definition of “conformity of mind and life”? It means human life. And so then, how can one avoid the modernist definition: “Truth is no more immutable than man himself, inasmuch as it is evolved with him, in him and through him.[15] (Denz. 2058) One understands why Pius X said of the modernists: “they pervert the eternal concept of truth.”[16] (Denz. 2080)

It is very dangerous to say: “Ideas change, the affirmation remains.” If even the idea of truth is changing, the affirmations do not remain true in the same way, nor according to the same meaning. Then the meaning of the Council is no longer maintained, as one would have wished.

Unfortunately, the new definition of the truth has spread among those who forget what Pius X had said: “We admonish professors to bear well in mind that they cannot set aside St. Thomas, especially in metaphysical questions, without grave disadvantage.[17] A small error in principle, says Aquinas, is a great error in conclusion.” (Encyclical Pascendi)

Moreover, no new definition of truth is offered in the new definition of theology: “Theology is no more than a spirituality or religious experience which found its intellectual expression.” And so follow assertions such as: “If theology can help us to understand spirituality, spirituality will, in the best of cases, cause our theological categories to burst, and we shall be obliged to formulate different types of theology…For each great spirituality corresponded to a great theology.” Does this mean that two theologies can be true, even if their main theses are contradictory and opposite? The answer will be no if one keeps to the traditional definition of truth. The answer will be yes if one adopts the new definition of truth, conceived not in relation to being and to immutable laws, bit relative to different religious experiences. These definitions seek only to reconcile us to modernism.

It should be remembered that on December 1, 1924, the Holy Office condemned 12 propositions taken from the philosophy of action, among which was number 5, or the new definition of truth: “Truth is not found in any particular act of the intellect wherein conformity with the object would be had, as the Scholastics say, but rather truth is always in a state of becoming, and consists in a progressive alignment of the understanding with life, indeed a certain perpetual process, by which the intellect strives to develop and explain that which experience presents or action requires: by which principle, moreover, as in all progression, nothing is ever determined or fixed.[18] The last of these condemned propositions is: “Even after Faith has been received, man ought not to rest in the dogmas of religion, and hold fast to them fixedly and immovably, but always solicitous to remain moving ahead toward a deeper truth and even evolving into new notions, and even correcting that which he believes.[19]

Many, who did not heed these warnings, have now reverted to these errors.

But then, bow can it be held that sanctifying grace is essentially supernatural grace, free, not at all due to human nature nor to angelic nature?

By light of Revelation, St. Thomas clearly articulated this principle; the faculties, the “habits ” and their acts are specified by their formal object; or the formal object of human intelligence and even that of angelic intelligence, are immensely inferior to the proper object of divine intelligence.[20] But if one puts aside all metaphysics, in order to be satisfied with historical study and psychological introspection, the text of St. Thomas becomes unintelligible. From this point of view, what will be maintained by traditional doctrine regarding distinction not being contingent upon, but necessitated by virtue of the order of grace and of nature?

On this subject, there is the recent book of Father Henri de Lubac, Surnaturel (Etudes historiques) [‘The Supernatural” in “Historical Studies”],[21] on the probable impeccability of the angels in the natural order, in which he writes: “Nothing is said by St. Thomas regarding the distinction which would be forged later by a number of Thomistic theologians between ‘God author of the natural order’ and ‘God author of the supernatural order’ … as if natural beatitude … in the case of the angels would have had to result from an infallible activity, non­sinning.”[22]

On the contrary, St. Thomas often distinguishes the ultimate supernatural end of the ultimate natural end,[23] and regarding the devil, he says,[24] “The sin of the devil was not in anything which pertains to the natural order, but according to something supernatural.”[25]

Thus one would become completely disinterested in the pronuntiata maiora (major pronouncements) of the philosophical doctrine of St. Thomas, that is in the 24 Thomist theses approved in 1916 by the Sacred Congregation of Studies.

Moreover, Father Gaston Fessard, S.J. in Les Etudes [“Studies”], November 1945,[26] speaks of the “welcome drowsiness which protects canonized Thomism, but also, as Peguy has said, ‘buried it’ whereas the school of thought dedicated to the contrary is full of life.”

In the same review in April 1946, it was said that neo-Thomism and the decisions of the Biblical Commission are “a guardrail but not an answer.” And it was proposed that Thomism be replaced, as if Leo XIII in the Encyclical Aeterni Patris, would have been fooled, as if Pius X, in reviving this same recommendation, had taken a false route? And on what path did those who were inspired by this new theology end up? Where but on the road of skepticism, fantasy and heresy? His Holiness, Pius XII, recently said in a published Discourse in L’Osservatore Romano, Dec. 19, 1946:

 “There is a good deal of talk (but without the necessary clarity of concept), about a ‘new theology’, which must be in constant transformation, following the example of all other things in the world, which are in a constant state of flux and movement, without ever reaching their term. If we were to accept such an opinion, what would become of the unchangeable dogmas of the Catholic Faith; and what would become of the unity and stability of that Faith?[27]

* * * * *

2. Application of New Principles to the Doctrines of Original Sin and the Eucharist

Some will no doubt say that we exaggerate, but even a small error regarding first ideas and first principles has incalculable consequences which are not foreseen by those who have likewise been fooled. The consequences of the new views, some of which we have already reviewed, have gone well beyond the forecasts of the authors we have cited. It is not difficult to see these consequences in certain typewritten papers, which have been sent (some since 1934) to clergy, seminaries, and Catholic intellectuals; one finds in them the most singular assertions and negations on original sin and the Real Presence.

At times, in these same circulated papers, before such novelties are proposed, the reader is conditioned by being told: This will appear crazy at first, however, if you look at it closely, it is not illogical. And many end up believing it. Those with superficial intelligence will adopt it, and the dictum, “A doctrine which is not current, is no longer true” will be out walking. Some are tempted to conclude: “It seems that the doctrine of the eternal pains of hell is no longer current, and so it is no longer true.” It is said in the Gospel that one day charity will be frozen in many hearts and they will be seduced by error.

It is a strict obligation of conscience for traditional theologians to respond. Otherwise; they gravely neglect their duty, and they will be made to account for this before God.

* * * * *

In the files copied and distributed in France in recent years (at least since 1934, some of which this writer has), the most fantastic and false doctrines regarding original sin are taught.

In these same files, the act of Christian Faith is not defined as a supernatural and infallible belief according to revealed truths on account of the authority of God Who reveals them[28], but as a belief of the spirit in relation to a general outlook on the universe. This perspective reflects what is possible and most probable but not demonstrable. The Faith becomes an ensemble of probable opinions. From this point of view, Adam appears to be not an individual man from whom the human species is descended, but who is, instead, a collective.

Thus, from that point of view, it becomes impossible to hold to the revealed doctrine of original sin as explicated by Saint Paul, Rom. 5:18: “Therefore as by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life.”[29] All of the Fathers of the Church, who were authorized interpreter of Scripture in its constant sacred teaching, have always meant that Adam was an individual man as after Christ, and not a collective.[30] But what is now proposed to us is a probability with a contrary meaning to that of the teaching of the Councils of Orange and Trent, Denz. 175, 789, 791, 793.[31]

Further, from this new point of view, the Incarnation of the Word would be merely moment in universal Evolution.

The hypothesis of the material evolution of the world is extended into the spiritual order. The supernatural world is in evolution toward the full coming of Christ.

Sin, in so far as it affects the soul, is something spiritual and thus intemporal. Thus it is of little importance for God that it took place at the beginning of the history of humanity or during the course of history.

The desire then is to change not only the expository mode of theology, but even the nature of theology, as well as that of dogma. No longer considered is the point of view of the faith infused by divine Revelation and interpreted by the Church in its Councils. It is no longer a question of the Councils, but the replacement of them with a biological point of view torturously conceived by dim artificial light only to arrive at the most fantastic points of view that recall those of Hegelian evolutionism, which allows Christian dogmas to be retained in name only.

This then is the way of the rationalists, the school most desired by the enemies of the faith, which reduces all to mere and changeable opinion so that there is no value retained in them. What remains of the word of God given to the world for the salvation of souls?

In the articles titled, “How I believe” one reads,[32]

“If we wish, we other Christians, to conserve to Christ the qualities which are the basis of His power and our adoration, we can do nothing better or even nothing more than accept completely the most modern ideas of Evolution. Under pressure, the union of Science and philosophy occurs, and the World more and more imposes itself on our experience and our thought as a system linked by activities gradually lifting us toward liberty of conscience. The only satisfying interpretation of this process is that of regarding it as irreversible and convergent. Thus before we arrived, there was a universal cosmic Center, where all leads, where All is felt, or all merge into each other. Ah, it is the physical pole of the universal. Evolution is necessary to locate and recognize the plenitude of Christ … By discovering the apex of the world, evolution renders Christ, and all that He gave in service of making sense of the world, possible, and also makes evolution possible.

I am perfectly aware of the staggering proportions of this idea … but, by imagining a parallel wonder, I can do nothing else but note, in terms of physical reality, the juridical expressions in the Church’s deposit its Faith … I have unhesitatingly come to the realization that I can only go in that direction which seems able to let me progress, and consequently, to save my Faith.

In the first place, Catholicism deceived me with its narrow definitions of the World, and by its failure to understand the role of Matter. Now, I recognize that by means of the Incarnation of God, it was revealed to me that I am only able to be saved by uniting myself to the universe. And my most profound ‘pantheistic’ hopes are guided, reassured and fulfilled by this same thrust (into the universe). The World around me, becomes divine …

A general convergence of religions toward a Christ-universal, who, fundamentally, fulfills everyone: this appears to me to be the only conversion possible to the World, and the only form imaginable for the Religion of the future.”[33]

Thus the material world would have evolved toward spirit, and the world of the spirit would evolve naturally, that is to say toward the supernatural order and toward the fullness of Christ. Thus, the Incarnation of the World, the mystical body, the universal Christ would be moments of Evolution, and based on this view of a constant progress from the beginning, it would seem that there was not a fall at the beginning of the history of humanity, but k constant progress of good which triumphs over evil according to the same laws of evolution. Original sin in us would be the result of man’s faults, which had exercised a deadly influence on humanity.

See then what remains of the Christian dogmas in this theory which distances itself from our Credo in proportion to its approach to Hegelian evolutionism.

In the above cited work, the writer said: I have taken the only road that seems possible to me for making progress and consequently, for saving my Faith.” This therefore means that the Faith itself only saves if it progresses, and it changes so much that one can no longer recognize the Faith of the Apostles, nor that of the Fathers of the Councils. It is a way of applying the principle of the new theology: “A doctrine which is no longer current, is no longer true” and for some, it suffices that it is no longer current in certain quarters. From this emerges that the truth is always in fieri, never immutable. The Faith is the conformity to judgment, not with being and its necessary laws, but with life, which is constantly and forever evolving. Here exactly is where the propositions condemned by the Holy Office, December 1, 1924, lead, and which we have quoted above.[34] “No abstract proposition can have in itself immutable truth. Even after Faith has been received, man ought not to rest in the dogma, of religion, and hold fast to them fixedly and immovably, but always solicitous to remain moving ahead toward a deeper truth and even evolving into new notions, and even correcting that which he believes.[35]

* * * * *

We have another example of the same deviation in the typewritten papers on the Real Presence, which have been circulating for some months among the clergy. These say that, formerly, the real problem with the Real Presence was not well posed: “The response to all of the difficulties that were posed was: Christ is present after the manner of a substance … This explication did not touch upon the real problem. We add that in its deceptive clarity, it suppressed the religious mystery. Strictly speaking, there is no longer a mystery there, there is nothing more than a marvel.”

Thus it is St. Thomas who did not know how to pose the problem of the Real Presence and his solution: the presence of the Body of Christ by mode of substance[36] would be illusory; its clarity is a deceptive clarity.

We are warned that the new explication being proposed “evidently implies that the method of reflection substitutes the Cartesian and Spinozan for the scholastic method”.

A bit further on, concerning transubstantiation, one reads: “This word is not without inconvenience, like that of original sin. It responds to the manner in which the Scholastics conceived of and defined this transformation and their definition is inadmissible.”

Here the writer distances himself not only from St. Thomas, but from the Council of Trent[37], because it (the Council) defined transubstantiation as true by faith, and even said: “a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation.”[38] Today these new theologians say:

“Not only is this word inconvenient, … it corresponds to an inadmissible concept and definition.

In the Scholastic perspective, in which the reality of the thing is ‘the substance’, the thing may not really change, only if the substance changes … by the transubstantiation. According to the current view, where, by virtue of the offering which was made according to a rite determined by Christ, the bread and the wine became the efficacious symbol of the sacrifice of Christ, and consequently of the spiritual presence, and their religious being was changed, not only their substance.[39] And also: “This is what we can designate by transubstantiation.”

But it is clear that it is no longer the transubstantiation defined by the Council of Trent, “that singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood, the species of the bread and wine only remaining“.[40] It is evident that the sense of the Council is not maintained by the introduction of these new notions. The bread and the wine have become only “the efficacious symbols of the spiritual presence of Christ.”

This brings us uniquely close to the modernist position which does not affirm the Real Presence of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, but which only says from a religious and practical point of view: Comport yourself toward the Eucharist the same way you behave with regard to the humanity of Christ.

In these same circulated papers quite the same is done to the mystery of the Incarnation: “Although Christ is truly God, one cannot say that, because of Him, God was present in the land of Judea … God was no more present in Palestine than anywhere else. The efficacious sign of this divine presence was manifested in Palestine in the First Century of our epoch, and this is all that one can say.”[41]

Finally the same writer adds: ‘The problem of the causality of the sacraments is a false problem, born of a false method for posing the question.”

* * * * *

We do not think that the writers whom we have discussed abandoned the doctrine of St. Thomas. Rather, they never adhered to it, nor ever understood it very well. This is saddening and disquieting.

Wouldn’t it be that only skeptics can be formed through this type of teaching, since nothing certain is proposed in place of St. Thomas? Moreover, they pretend to submit to the directions of the Church, but what is the substance of this submission?

A professor of theology wrote to me:

“In effect, the very notion of the truth has been put into debate, and without fully realizing it, thus revisiting modernism in thought as in action. The writings that you have spoken to me about are much read in France. It is true that they exercise a huge influence on the average type of soul. They have little effect on serious people. It is necessary to write for those who have the sincere desire to be enlightened.”

Surely, the Church not only recognized the authority of St. Thomas in the domain of theology, but, by extension, also in philosophy. Contrary to their assertions, the Encyclical Aeterni patris of Leo XIII speaks above all of the philosophy of St. Thomas.

Likewise, the 24 Thomistic theses proposed in 1916 by the Sacred Congregation of Studies are of a philosophical order, and if these pronunciata maiora of St. Thomas are not certified, then how can his theology have value, since they are constantly reiterated in the philosophy? Finally, we have already cited Pius X. who wrote: “‘We admonish professors to bear well in mind that they cannot set aside St. Thomas especially in metaphysical questions, without grave disadvantage.” A small error in principle, says Aquinas, U a great error in conclusion.” (Encyclical Pascendi)

From whence do these trends come? A good analyst wrote to me:

“We are harvesting the fruits of the unguarded attendance of university courses. Those who have attempted to attend the classes of the masters of modernist thought in order to convert them have allowed themselves to he converted by them. Little by little, they come to accept their ideas, their methods, their disdain of scholasticism, their historicism, their idealism and all of their errors. If this is the result for those already formed, it is surely perilous for the others.”

* * * * *

Conclusion: Whither the New Theology?

It revisits modernism. Because it accepted the proposition which was intrinsic to modernism: that of substituting, as if it were illusory, the traditional definition of truth: adaequatio rei et intellectus (the adequation of intellect and reality); for the subjective definition: adaequatio realis mentis et vitae (the adequation of intellect and life). That was more explicitly stated in the already cited proposition, which emerged from the philosophy of action, and was condemned by the Holy Office, December 1, 1924: “Truth is not found in any particular act of the intellect wherein conformity with the object would be had, as the Scholastics say, but rather truth is always in a state of becoming, and consists in a progressive alignment of the understanding with life, indeed a certain perpetual process, by which the intellect strives to develop and explain that which experience presents or action requires: by which principle, moreover; as in all progression, nothing is ever determined or fixed.” (Monitore ecclesiastico, 1925, t. I, p. 194.)

The truth is no longer the conformity of judgment to intuitive reality and its immutable laws, but the conformity of judgment to the exigencies of action, and of human life which continues to evolve. The philosophy of being or ontology is substituted by the philosophy of action which defines truth as no longer a function of being hut of action.

Thus is modernism reprised: “Truth is no more immutable than man himself, inasmuch as it is evolved with him, in him and through him.”[42] As well, Pius X said of the modernists, “they pervert the eternal concept of truth.”

This is what our mentor, Father Marie-Benoît Schwalm previewed in his articles in Revue thomiste, (1896 through 1898)[43] on the philosophy of action, on the moral dogmatism of Father Lucien Laberthonniere, on the crisis of contemporary apologetics, on the illusions of idealism, and on the dangers that all of these posed to the Faith.

But while many thought that father Schwalm had exaggerated, little by little they conceded the right to cite the new definition of truth, and they more or less ceased defending the traditional definition of truth, es well as the conformity of judgment to intuitive being and the immutable laws of non-contradiction, of causality, etc. For them, the truth is no longer that which is, but that which is becoming and is constantly and always changing.

Thus to cease to defend the traditional definition of truth by permitting it to be illusory, it is then necessary to substitute the vitalist and evolutionary. This then leads to complete relativism and is a very serious error.

Moreover, this leads to saying what the enemies of the Church wish to lead us to say. When one reads their recent works, one sees that they are completely content and that they themselves propose interpretations of our dogmas, whether it be regarding original sin, cosmic evil, the Incarnation, Redemption, the Eucharist, the final universal reintegration, the cosmic Christ, the convergence of all religions toward a universal cosmic center.[44]

One understands why the Holy Father in his recent speech published in the September 19, 1946, issue of L’Osservatore Romano, said, when speaking of the “new theology” “If we were to accept such an opinion, what would become of the unchangeable dogmas of the Catholic Faith; and what would become of the unity and stability of that Faith?

Further, since Providence only permits evil for a good reason, and since we see all about us an excellent reaction against the errors we have emphasized herein, we can then hope that these deviations shall be the occasion of a true doctrinal renewal, achieved through a profound study of the works of St. Thomas, whose value is more and more apparent when compared to today’s intellectual disarray.[45]


[1] 1944. p. 219

[2] Emphasis added.

[3] ibid, p. 213 ff.

[4] p. 224.

[5] “Philosophise rationaiis ac theologiae studia et alumnorumin his disciplinis institutionem professores omnino pertractent ad Angelici Doctoris rationem, docthnam, et principia, eaque sancte teneant.” Code of Canon Law, Can. 1366, n.2

[6] op. cit., p. 221

[7] ibid

[8] I have explained this more fully in Le Sens commun, la philosophie de I’etre et les formules dogmatiques [“Common Sense: The philosophy of being and dogmatic formulae”] 4th edition, 1936, p. 362ff.

[9] CF. Denzinger [Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum], 799. 821

[10] Further it is defined that the infused virtues (above all the theological virtues), which derive from habitual grace, are qualities, permanent principles of supernatural and meritorious supernatural operations; it is thus necessary that habitual grace or sanctifying grace (by which we are in a state of grace), from which these virtues proceed as from their source, are themselves a permanently infused quality and not at all a motion like actual grace. Thus it is much before St. Thomas that Faith, hope and charity were conceived as infused virtues. What could be clearer? Why revert to Thomas’ era under the pretext of preempting these questions, and of putting into doubt the most certain and fundamental truths? To do so is an indication of the intellectual disarray of our times.

[11]  Mr. Maurice Blondel wrote in Les Annales de philosophie chrétienne [“The Annals of Christian Philosophy”], June 15, 1906, p. 235: “For the abstract and chimerical adaequatio rei et intellectus one substitutes methodical research, adaequatio realis mentis et vitae.” It is not without great responsibility that one calls “chimerical” the traditional definition of the truth defined for centuries in the Church, and that one speaks of it by substituting another, in every area that comprises the theological Faith. Have the further works of Blondel corrected this deviation? We are unable to ascertain that. He also says in L’Etre et les etres [“The Being and the Beings”], 1935, p. 415 “Any intellectual evidence, even that of absolute principles themselves, and that have an ontological value, impose on us a constrained form of certainty.” In order to admit to the ontological value of these principles, one must have a free choice, and that by means of this choice, their ontological value is thus only probable. But It is necessary to admit according to the necessity of action secundum conformitatem mentis et vitae. It can not be otherwise if one substitutes the philosophy of action for the philosophy of being or ontology. Thus truth was defined not as a function of being, but of action. Everything was changed. An error regarding the first idea of truth gives rise to an error regarding all the rest. See also in La Pensee [“Thought”] of Blondel (1934) V.I, p. 39, 130-136, 347, 355; and V. II. p. 65 ff., 90, 96-196.

[12] per conformitatem cum ente extramentali et legibus eius immutabilibus, an per conformitatem cum exigentiis vitae humanae quae semper evolvitur? (Editors Note: Anytime that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange employed Latin, we have rendered the text in English and the Latin in footnote.)

[13] “no longer adaequatio rei et intellectus, but conformitas mentis et vitae

[14] Another theologian, whom we shall cite further on, asks us to say that at the time of the Council of Trent the transubstantiation was conceived as the changing, the conversion of the substance of the bread into that of the Body of Christ, but that today it has come to be thought of as the transubstantiation, without this changing of substance, meaning that the substance of the bread, which remains, becomes the efficacious sign of the Body of Christ. And that this pretends to conserve the sense of the Council!

[15] “Veritas non est immutabilis plusquam ipse homo, quippe quae cum ipso, in ipso et per ipsum evolvitur. “. (Denz. 2058)

[16] “Aeternam veritatis notionem pervertunt” (Denz. 2080)

[17] “Magistros autem monemus ut rite hoc teneant, Aquinatem deserere, praesertim in re metaphysica, non sine magno detrimento esse.” (Encyclical Pascendi) Parvus error in principio, sic verbis ipsius Aquinatis licet uti, est magnus in fine.” (Motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum)

[18] “Conformitas cum obiecto, ut aiunt Scholastici, sed veritas est semper in fieri, consistitque in adaequatione progressiva intellectus et vitae, scilicet in motu quodam perpetuo, quo intellectus evolvere et explicare nititur id quod parit experientia vel exigit actio: ea tamen lege ut in toto progressu nihil unquam ratum fixumque habeatur.” The last of these condemned propositions is: “Etiam post fidem conceptam, homo non debet quiescere in dogmatibus religionis, eisque fixe et immobiliter adhaerere, sed semper anxius manere progrediendi ad ulteriorem veritatem, nempe evolvendo in novos sensus, immo et corrigendo id quod credit.”

[19] These condemned propositions are found in Monitore ecclesiastico, 1925, p. 194; in Documentation catholique, 1925, V. I. p. 771 ff., and in Praelectiones theologiae naturalis by Father Pedro Descoqs, S. J., 1932, VI, p. 150 VII, p. 287ff.

[20] The Deity or the intimate life of God, cf. 1a , q. 12, a.4.

[21] 1946, p. 254.

[22] Ibid, p. 275.

[23] CF. ST I, Q. 23, A. 1: Finis autem ad quem res creatae ordinantur a Deo, est duplex. Unus, qui excedit proportionem naturae creatae et facultatem, et hic finis est vita aeterna, quae in divina visione consistit, quae est supra naturam cuiuslibet creaturae, ut supra habitum est. Alius autem finis est naturae creatae proportionatus, quem scilicet res creata potest attingere secundum virtutem suae naturae. Ad illud autem ad quod non potest aliquid virtute suae naturae pervenire, oportet quod ab alio transmittatur; sicut sagitta a sagittante mittitur ad signum. Unde, proprie loquendo, rationalis creatura, quae est capax vitae aeternae, perducitur in ipsam quasi a Deo transmissa. [The end towards which created things are directed by God is twofold; one which exceeds all proportion and faculty of created nature; and this end is life eternal, that consists in seeing God which is above the nature of every creature, as shown above (Q. 12, A. 4). The other end, however, is proportionate to created nature, to which end created being can attain according to the power of its nature. Now if a thing cannot attain to something by the power of its nature, it must be directed thereto by another; thus, an arrow is directed by the archer towards a mark. Hence, properly speaking, a rational creature, capable of eternal life, is led towards it, directed, as it were, by God.] {ST.I.Q23.A1.}

Est autem duplex hominis beatitudo sive felicitas, ut supra dictum est. Una quidem proportionata humanae naturae, ad quam scilicet homo pervenire potest per principia suae naturae. Alia autem est beatitudo naturam hominis excedens, ad quam homo sola divina virtute pervenire potest, secundum quandam divinitatis participationem; secundum quod dicitur II Petr. I, quod per Christum facti sumus consortes divinae naturae. [Now man’s happiness is twofold, as was also stated above (Q5, A5). One is proportionate to human nature, a happiness, to wit, which man can obtain by means of his natural principles. The other is a happiness surpassing man’s nature, and which man can obtain by the power of God alone, by a kind of participation of the Godhead, about which it is written (2 Pet 1:4) that by Christ we are made partakers of the Divine nature.] { ST.I-II.Q61.A5.T}

Item de Veritata, Q. 14. A. 2: Est autem duplex hominis bonum ultimum, quod primo voluntatem movet quasi ultimus finis. Quorum unum est proportionatum naturae humanae, quia ad ipsum obtinendum vires naturales sufficiunt; et hoc est felicitas de qua philosophi locuti sunt: vel contemplativa, quae consistit in actu sapientiae; vel activa, quae consistit primo in actu prudentiae, et consequenter in actibus aliarum virtutum moralium. Aliud est bonum hominis naturae humanae proportionem excedens, quia ad ipsum obtinendum vires naturales non sufficiunt, nec etiam ad cognoscendum vel desiderandum; sed ex sola divina liberalitate homini repromittitur. [Man, however, has a twofold final good, which first moves the will as a final end. The first of these is proportionate to human nature since natural powers are capable of attaining it. This is the happiness about which the philosophers speak, either as contemplative, which consists in the act of wisdom, or active, which consists first of all in the act of prudence, and in the acts of the other moral virtues as they depend on prudence. The other is the good which is out of all proportion with man’s nature because his natural powers are not enough to attain to it either in thought or desire. It is promised to man only through the divine liberality.] {DeVer.Q.14.A.2.}

If one no longer admits to the classical distinction between the order of nature and that of grace, one will say that grace is the normal and obligatory achievement of nature, and the concession of such a favor does not remain less, one says, free, like creation and all that follows It, because creation is no longer necessary. To which Father Pedro Descoqs, S. J. in his little book, Autour de la crise du Transformisme [“On the Crisis of Transformism”], 2nd edition, 1944, p. 84, very legitimately responds: This explication seems to us in distinct opposition to the most explicit Catholic teachings. It also contains an evidently erroneous conception of grace. Creation is never a grace in the theological sense of the word, grace only being able to be found in relation to nature. In such a perspective. The supernatural order disappears.”

[24] De Malo, 1.16, A.3.

[25] Peccatum Diaboli non fuerit in aliquo quod pertinet ad ordinem naturalem, sed secundum aliquid supernaturale. {QDeMalo.Q16}

[26] p. 269-270

[27] Plura dicta sunt, at non satis explorata ratione, “de nova theologia” quae cum universis semper volventibus rebus, una volvatur, semper itura, numquam perventura. Si talis opinio amplectenda esse videatur, quid fiet de numquam immutandis catholicis dogmatibus, quid de fidei unitate et stabilitate? {Quamvis inquieti – Address to Fathers of the Society of Jesus, the electors of XXIX General Congregation, September 17, 1946}

[28] propter auctoritatem Dei revelantis

[29] Sicut per unius delictum in omnes homines in condemnationem: sic et per unius justitiam in omnes homines in justificationem vitae. Rom. V, 18

[30] CF. L’Epitre aux Romains [The Epistle to the Romans], by Father M. J. Lagrange, OP. 3rd Edition, Commentary on chapter V.

[31] The difficulties for the positivistic sciences and for prehistory were exposed in the article “Polygénisme” in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique [“Polygenism”, Dictionary of Catholic Theology]. The authors of this article, Jean and Amédée Bouyssonie clearly distinguished, section 2536, the purview of philosophy as being “Where the naturalist, inasmuch as he is one, is incompetent.” It would have been well if, in that same article, the question had been treated from three points of view: the positive sciences, philosophy and theology, particularly in relation to dogma and original sin. According to several theologians, the hypothesis that before Adam there were men on earth who were of the human race, is not contrary to the faith. But according to Scripture, the human species which is dispersed over the entire earth, derives from Adam, Gen. III. 5…20, Wis. X, I: Rom V 12, 18, 19; Act. Ap. XVII 26.

Also regarding the philosophical point of view, a free intervention of God in creating the human soul was necessary, and even for preparing the body to receive it. The engendering of an inferior nature cannot however produce this superior state of his species; more comes out of less, contrary to the principle of causality.

Finally, as in the quoted article, col. 2535, “According to the mutationists (of today), a unique seed gave rise to the new species. The species was begun by an exceptional (superior) individual.”

[32] p. 15.

[33] Emphasis added. The same kind of nearly fantastic ideas are found in an article by Father Teilhard de Chardin, “Life and Planets,” published in les Etudes, May 1946, especially p. 158-160 and 168. — See also Cahiers du Monde nouveau [“New World Notebooks”]. August 1946, also by Father de Chardin, “Un Grand Événement qui se dessine: La Planétisation Humaine.” [“A great event is being planned: Human Planetization”] [Translator’s note: Without reading this article, it is difficult to know Teilhard de Chardin’s meaning which could variously mean something as banal as “space travel” or more exotically, the “beaming up of consciousness,” which would be commensurate with his notions on man evolving toward and to “pure mind” or the noosphere.]

I have also recently quoted a work by the same author, taken from Etudes, 1921 , V. II, p. 543. where he spoke of “The impossibility determining our absolute beginning in the order of phenomenon.” — To which, Messrs. Georges Salet and Louis Lafont legitimately responded in L’Evolution régressive [“Regressive Evolution”], p. 47: “Isn’t creation an absolute beginning?” The Faith tells us that God daily creates the souls of babies, and that in the beginning He created the spiritual soul of the first man. For Him the miracle is an absolute beginning which is not at all repugnant to reason.

CF: on this point, Pedro Descoqs, S. J. in his little book, Autour de la crise du Transformisme [“On the Crisis of Transformism.”], 2nd edition, 1944, p. 85.

Finally, as Father Descoqs remarked, Ibid, p. 2 and 7, the theologians should not be speaking so much about evolutionism and transformism, since the best minds such as Father Laurent Lemoine, Professor at the Museum writes: “Evolution is a kind of dogma which these priests do not believe, but that they hold for their people. Thus it is necessary to have the courage to say so. so that the men of the next generation will conduct their research by other methods.” CF. Conclusion of V. 5 of l’Encyclopédie Française (1937).

Dr. Henri Rouvière, professor in the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, member of the Academy of Medicine, also writes in Anatomie philosophiqueLa finalité dans Involution [“Philosophical anatomies [or forms]: Finality in Evolution”] p. 37: The doctrine of transformism collapses upon itself … The majority of biologists have distanced themselves from it because the defenders of transformism have never produced the least proof to support their theory and everything known about evolution contradicts their contentions.”

[34] Nulla propositio abstracta potest haberi ut immutabiliter vera. Etiam post fidem conceptam, homo non debet quiescere in dogmatibus religionis, eisque fixe et immobiliter adhaerere, sed semper anxius manere progrediendi ad ulteriorem veritatem, nempe evolvendo in novos sensus, immo et corrigendo id quod credit. CF: Monitore ecclesiastico, 1925, p. 194.

[35] CF: Monitore ecclesiastico, 1925, p. 194.

[36] Praesentia corporis Christi per modum substantiae

[37] Session XIII, chapter 4 and canon 2 (Denz. 877, 884)

[38] Quam quidem conversionem Catholica Ecclesia aptissime Transsubstantiationem appellat

[39] In the same article we read: “In the scholastics’ perspective, the idea of thing-sign was lost. In an Augustinian universe, where a material thing is not only itself, but rather a sign of spiritual realities, one can say that a thing, being through the will of God the sign of another thing, which it was by nature, [that thing] might become itself other without changing appearance.”

In the scholastic perspective, the idea of thing-sign is not lost at all. Saint Thomas says, ST I, Q. 1, A. 10: “Auctor sacrae Scripturae est Deus, in cuius potestate est ut non solum voces ad significandum accommodet (quod etiam homo facere potest), sed etiam res ipsas.” [The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves.]

Thus Isaac who prepared to be sacrificed is the figure of Christ, and the manna is the figure of the Eucharist St. Thomas notes this when speaking of this sacrament. But by the Eucharist consecration the bread does not only become the sign of the Body of Christ, and the wine the sign of His Blood, as the sacramentaries of the Protestants are thought to be.

CF. D.T.C. art. Sacramentaire; out as it was formally defined at the Council of Trent, the substance of bread is changed into that of the Body of Christ which was rendered present per modum substantiae under the species of bread. And this is not only germane to the theologians of the era of the Council regarding the consecration. It is the immutable truth defined by the Church.

[40] “Conversio totius substantiæ panis in Corpus , et totius substantiæ vini in Sanguinem , manentibus duntaxat speciebus panis et vini.” (Denz. 884.)

[41] St. Thomas clearly distinguished the three presences of God: first, the general presence of God in all the creatures which He brought into existence (ST I. Q. 8, A. 1); second, the special presence of God in the just by grace. He is in them as in a temple, acknowledged by a recognizable quasi-experienced object., (ST. I. Q. 43. A. 3) Third, the presence of the Word in the humanity of Jesus through the hypostatic union. Thus it is certain that after the Incarnation God was more present on the earth in Judea than elsewhere. But when one thinks that St. Thomas has not even known how to pose these problems, then one goes off into all types of flights of fancy, and returns to modernism with the off-handedness that can be read on every one of these pages.

[42] “Veritas non est immutabilis plusquam ipse homo, quippe quae cum ipso, in ipso et per ipsum evolvitur.” (Denz. 2058)

[43] 1896, p. 36, section 413; 1897, p. 62, 239, 627; 1898. p. 578

[44] Authors such as Teder and Papus, in their explication of Martinist doctrine, teach a mystical pantheism and a Neo-Gnosticism by which everything comes out of God by emanation (there is then a fall, a cosmic evil, a sui generis original sin), and all aspire to be re-integrated into the divinity, and all shall arrive there. This is in many recent occultists’ works on the modem Christ, and fulness in terms of astral light, ideas not at all those of the Church and which are blasphemous inversions because they are always the pantheistic negation of the true supernatural, and often even the negation of the distinction of moral good and of moral evil, in order to allow only that which is a useful or desired good, including cosmic or physical evil, which with the reintegration of all, without exception, will disappear.

[45] Certainly we admit that the true mystical experience, which proceeds in the just from the gifts of the Holy Spirit, above all, the gift of wisdom, confirms the faith, because it demonstrates to us that the revealed mysteries correspond to our most profound hopes, and arouses the highest of those hopes. We recognize that there is a truth of life, a conformity of the spirit, with the life of the man of good will, and a peace which is the sign of truth. But this mystical experience supposes the infused faith, and the act of faith itself supposes faith in the revealed mysteries.

Likewise, as the Vatican Council expresses it, we are able to have, by the natural light of reason, the certainty that God exists as the author of nature. Solely because of that, it is necessary that the principles of these proofs, in particular that of causality, are true per conformitatem ad ens extramentale, and that they are demonstrable through sufficiently objectively proofs (subject a priori to the free choice of men of good will), and not only through a sufficiently subjective proof, as that of the Kantian one of the existence of God.

Finally the practical truth of prudence (per conformitatem ad intentionem rectam) supposes that our intention is truly strictly fixed on the ultimate end of man, and the judgment of the end of men must be true secundum mentis conformitatem ad realitatem extramentalem. CF. ST I II. Q. 19, A. 3, Ad 2


Translated from the French by Suzanne M. Rini

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on Christian Freedom and Liberation – Truth Makes Us Free

Instruction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Pope John Paul Ii and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


The yearning for Liberation 

1. Awareness of man’s freedom and dignity, together with the affirmation of the inalienable rights of individuals and peoples, is one of the major characteristics of our time. But freedom demands conditions of an economic, social, political and cultural kind which make possible its full exercise. A clear perception of the obstacles which hinder its development and which offend human dignity is at the source of the powerful aspirations to liberation which are at work in our world. 

The Church of Christ makes these aspirations her own, while exercising discernment in the light of the Gospel which is by its very nature a message of freedom and liberation. Indeed, on both the theoretical and practical levels, these aspirations sometimes assume expressions which are not always in conformity with the truth concerning man as it is manifested in the light of his creation and redemption. For this reason the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has considered it necessary to draw attention to “deviations, or risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living”.(1) Far from being outmoded, these warnings appear ever more timely and relevant.

Purpose of the instruction 

2. The Instruction “Libertatis Nuntius” on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation stated the intention of the Congregation to publish a second document which would highlight the main elements of the Christian doctrine on freedom and liberation. The present Instruction responds to that intention. Between the two documents there exists an organic relationship. They are to be read in the light of each other. 

With regard to their theme, which is at the heart of the Gospel message, the Church’s Magisterium has expressed itself on many occasions.(2) The present document limits itself to indicating its principal theoretical and practical aspects. As regards applications to different local situations, it is for the local Churches, in communion with one another and with the See of Peter, to make direct provision for them (3)

The theme of freedom and liberation has an obvious ecumenical dimension. It belongs in fact to the traditional patrimony of the Churches and ecclesial communities. Thus the present document can assist the testimony and action of all Christ’s disciples, called to respond to the great challenges of our times.

The truth that makes us free 

3. The words of Jesus: “The truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32) must enlighten and guide all theological reflection and all pastoral decisions in this area. This truth which comes from God has its centre in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.(4) From him, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), the Church receives all that she has to offer to mankind. Through the mystery of the Incarnate Word and Redeemer of the world, she possesses the truth regarding the Father and his love for us, and also the truth concerning man and his freedom. 

Through his Cross and Resurrection, Christ has brought about our Redemption, which is liberation in the strongest sense of the word, since it has freed us from the most radical evil, namely sin and the power of death. When the Church, taught by her Lord, raises to the Father her prayer: “Deliver us from evil”, she asks that the mystery of salvation may act with power in our daily lives. The Church knows that the redeeming Cross is truly the source of light and life and the centre of history. The charity which burns in her impels her to proclaim the Good News and to distribute its life-giving fruits through the sacraments. It is from Christ the Redeemer that her thought and action originate when, as she contemplates the tragedies affecting the world, she reflects on the meaning of liberation and true freedom and on the paths leading to them. 

Truth beginning with the truth about redemption, which is at the heart of the mystery of faith, is thus the root and the rule of freedom, the foundation and the measure of all liberating action. 

Truth, the condition for freedom 

4. Man’s moral conscience is under an obligation to be open to the fullness of truth; he must seek it out and readily accept it when it presents itself to him. According to the command of Christ the Lord,(5) the truth of the Gospel must be presented to all people, and they have a right to have it presented to them. Its proclamation, in the power of the Spirit, includes full respect for the freedom of each individual and the exclusion of every form of constraint or pressure.(6)

The Holy Spirit guides the Church and the disciples of Jesus Christ “into the full truth” (Jn 16:13). The Spirit directs the course of the centuries and “renews the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). It is he who is present in the maturing of a more respectful awareness of the dignity of the human person.(7) The Holy Spirit is at the root of courage, boldness and heroism: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). 


I. Achievements and dangers of the modern liberation process 

The heritage of Christianity 

5. By revealing to man his condition as a free person called to enter into communion with God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has evoked an awareness of the hitherto unsuspected depths of human freedom. Thus the quest for freedom and the aspiration to liberation, which are among the principal signs of the times in the modern world, have their first source in the Christian heritage. This remains true even in places where they assume erroneous forms and even oppose the Christian view of man and his destiny. Without this reference to the Gospel, the history of the recent centuries in the West cannot be understood. 

The modern age 

6. Thus it is that from the dawn of modern times, at the Renaissance, it was thought that by a return to antiquity in philosophy and through the natural sciences man would be able to gain freedom of thought and action, thanks to his knowledge and control of the laws of nature. 

Luther, for his part, basing himself on his reading of Saint Paul, sought to renew the struggle for freedom from the yoke of the Law, which he saw as represented by the Church of his time. But it was above all in the Age of the Enlightenment and at the French Revolution that the call to freedom rang out with full force. Since that time, many have regarded future history as an irresistible process of liberation inevitably leading to an age in which man, totally free at last, will enjoy happiness on this earth. 

Toward the mastery of nature

7. Within the perspective of such an ideology of progress, man sought to become master of  nature. The servitude which he had experienced up to that point was based on ignorance and prejudice. By wresting from nature its secrets, man would subject it to his own service. The conquest of freedom thus constituted the goal pursued through the development of science and technology. The efforts expended have led to remarkable successes. While man is not immune from natural disasters, many natural dangers have been removed. A growing number of individuals is ensured adequate nourishment. New means of transport and trade facilitate the exchange of food resources, raw materials, labour and technical skills, so that a life of dignity with freedom from poverty can be reasonably envisaged for mankind. 

Social and political achievements

8. The modern liberation movement had set itself a political and social objective. It was to put an end to the domination of man by man and to promote the equality and brotherhood of all. It cannot be denied that in this sphere, too, positive results have been obtained. Legal slavery and bondage have been abolished. The right of all to share in the benefits of culture has made significant progress. In many countries the law recognizes the equality of men and women, the participation of all citizens in political life, and equal rights for all. Racism is rejected as contrary to law and justice. The formulation of human rights implies a clearer awareness of the dignity of all human beings. By comparison with previous systems of domination, the advances of freedom and equality in many societies are undeniable. 

Freedom of thought and of decision

9. Finally and above all, the modern liberation movement was supposed to bring man inner freedom, in the form of freedom of thought and freedom of decision. It sought to free man from superstition and atavistic fears, regarded as so many obstacles to his development. It proposed to give man the courage and boldness to use his reason without being held back by fear before the frontiers of the unknown. Thus, notably in the historical and human sciences, there developed a new notion of man, professedly to help him gain a better self-understanding in matters concerning his personal growth or the fundamental conditions for the formation of the community. 

Ambiguities in the modern process of liberation

10. With regard to the conquest of nature, or social and political life, or man’s self-mastery on both the individual and collective level, anyone can see that the progress achieved is far from fulfilling the original ambitions. It is also obvious that new dangers, new forms of servitude and new terrors have arisen at the very time that the modern liberation movement was spreading. This is a sign that serious ambiguities concerning the very meaning of freedom have from the very beginning plagued this movement from within. 

Man threatened by his domination of nature

11. So it is that the more man freed himself from the dangers of nature, the more he experienced a growing fear confronting him. As technology gains an ever greater control of nature, it threatens to destroy the very foundations of our future in such a way that mankind living today becomes the enemy of the generations to come. By using blind power to subjugate the forces of nature, are we not on the way to destroying the freedom of the men and women of tomorrow? What forces can protect man from the slavery of his own domination? A wholly new capacity for freedom and liberation, demanding an entirely renewed process of liberation, becomes necessary. 

Dangers of technological power

12. The liberating force of scientific knowledge is objectively expressed in the great achievements of technology. Whoever possesses technology has power over the earth and men. As a result of this, hitherto unknown forms of inequality have arisen between those who possess knowledge and those who are simple users of technology. The new technological power is linked to economic power and leads to a concentration of it. Thus, within nations and between nations, relationships of dependence have grown up which within the last twenty years have been the occasion fox a new claim to liberation. How can the power of technology be prevented from becoming a power of oppression over human groups or entire peoples? 

Individualism and collectivism 

13. In the field of social and political achievements, one of the fundamental ambiguities of the affirmation of freedom in the age of the Enlightenment had to do with the concept of the subject of this freedom as an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods. The individualistic ideology inspired by this concept of man favoured the unequal distribution of wealth at the beginning of the industrial era to the point that workers found themselves excluded from access to the essential goods which they had helped to produce and to which they had a right. Hence the birth of powerful liberation movements from the poverty caused by industrial society. 

Certain Christians, both lay persons and pastors, have not failed to fight for a just recognition of the legitimate rights of workers. On many occasions the Magisterium of the Church has raised its voice in support of this cause. But more often than not the just demands of the worker movement have led to new forms of servitude, being inspired by concepts which ignored the transcendental vocation of the human person and attributed to man a purely earthly destiny. These demands have sometimes been directed towards collectivist goals, which have then given rise to injustices just as grave as the ones which they were meant to eliminate. 

New forms of oppression

14. Thus it is that our age has seen the birth of totalitarian systems and forms of tyranny which would not have been possible in the time before the technological leap forward. On the one hand, technical expertise has been applied to acts of genocide. On the other, various minorities try to hold in thrall whole nations by the practice of terrorism. Today control can penetrate into the innermost life of individuals, and even the forms of dependence created by the early-warning systems can represent potential threats of oppression. 

A false liberation from the constraints of society is sought in recourse to drugs which have led many young people from all over the world to the point of self-destruction and brought whole families to sorrow and anguish. 

Danger of total destruction

15. The recognition of a juridical order as a guarantee of relationships within the great family of peoples is growing weaker and weaker. When confidence in the law no longer seems to offer sufficient protection, security and peace are sought in mutual threats, which become a danger for all humanity. The forces which ought to serve the development of freedom serve instead the increase of threats. The weapons of death drawn up against each other today are capable of destroying all human life on earth. 

New relationships of inequality

16. New relationships of inequality and oppression have been established between the nations endowed with power and those without it. The pursuit of one’s own interest seems to be the rule for international relations, without the common good of humanity being taken into consideration. The internal balance of the poor nations is upset by the importation of arms, which introduces among them a divisive element leading to the domination of one group over another. What powers could eliminate systematic recourse to arms and restore authority to laws? 

Emancipation of young nations 

17. It is in the context of the inequality of power relationships that there have appeared movements for the emancipation of young nations, generally the poor ones, until recently subjected to colonial domination. But too often the people are frustrated in their hard-won independence by unscrupulous regimes or tyrannies which scoff at human rights with impunity. The people thus reduced to powerlessness merely have a change of masters. It remains true that one of the major phenomena of our time, of continental proportions, is the awakening of the consciousness of people who, bent beneath the weight of age-old poverty, aspire to a life in dignity and justice and are prepared to fight for their freedom. 

Morality and God: obstacles to liberation? 

18. With reference to the modern liberation movement within man himself, it has to be stated that the effort to free thought and will from their limits has led some to consider that morality as such constitutes an irrational limit. It is for man, now resolved to become his own master, to go beyond it. For many more, it is God himself who is the specific alienation of man. There is said to be a radical incompatibility between the affirmation of God and of human freedom. By rejecting belief in God, they say, man will become truly free. 

Some agonizing questions 

19. Here is the root of the tragedies accompanying the modern history of freedom. Why does this history, in spite of great achievements, which also remain always fragile, experience frequent relapses into alienation and see the appearance of new forms of slavery Why do liberation movements which had roused great hopes result in regimes for which the citizens’ freedom,(8) beginning with the first of these freedoms which is religious freedom, becomes enemy number one? When man wishes to free himself from the moral lazy and become independent of God, far from gaining his freedom he destroys it. Escaping the measuring rod of truth, he falls prey to the arbitrary; fraternal relations between people are abolished and give place to terror, hatred and fear. Because it has been contaminated by deadly errors about man’s condition and his freedom, the deeply-rooted modern liberation movement remains ambiguous. It is laden both with promises of true freedom and threats of deadly forms of bondage. 

II. Freedom in the experience of the People of God 

Church and freedom 

20. It is because of her awareness of this deadly ambiguity that through her Magisterium the Church has raised her voice over the centuries to warn against aberrations that could easily bring enthusiasm for liberation to a bitter disillusionment. She has often been misunderstood in so doing. With the passage of time however it is possible to do greater justice to the Church’s point of view. It is in the name of the truth about man, created in the image of God, that the Church has intervened.(10) Yet she is accused of thereby setting herself up as an obstacle on the path to liberation. Her hierarchical constitution is said to be opposed to equality, her Magisterium to be opposed to freedom of thought. It is true that there have been errors of judgment and serious omissions for which Christians have been responsible in the course of the centuries;(11) but these objections disregard the true nature of things. The diversity of charisms in the people of God, which are charisms of service, is not opposed to the equal dignity of persons and to their common vocation to holiness. 

Freedom of thought, as a necessary condition for seeking the truth in all the fields of human knowledge, does not mean that human reason must cease to function in the light of the Revelation which Christ entrusted to his Church. By opening itself to divine truth, created reason experiences a blossoming and a perfection which are an eminent form of freedom. Moreover, the Second Vatican Council has recognized fully the legitimate autonomy of the sciences,(12) as well as of activities of a political nature.(13)

The freedom of the little ones and the poor

21. One of the principal errors that has seriously burdened the process of liberation since the Age of the Enlightenment comes from the widely held conviction that it is the progress achieved in the fields of the sciences, technology and economics which should serve as a basis for achieving freedom. This was a misunderstanding of the depths of freedom and its needs. 

The reality of the depth of freedom has always been known to the Church, above all through the lives of a multitude of the faithful, especially among the little ones and the poor. In their faith, these latter know that they are the object of God’s infinite love. Each of them can say: ” I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20b). Such is the dignity which none of the powerful can take away from them; such is the liberating joy present in them. They know that to them too are addressed Jesus’ words: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you ” (Jn 15: 15) . This sharing in the knowledge of God is their emancipation from the dominating claims of the learned: “You all know … and you have no need that any one should teach you” (1 Jn 2: 20b, 27b). They are also aware of sharing in the highest knowledge to which humanity is called. (14) They know that they are loved by God, the same as all other people and more than all other people. They thus live in the freedom which flows from truth and love. 

Resources of popular piety 

22. The same sense of faith, possessed by the people of God in its hope-filled devotion to the Cross of Jesus, perceives the power contained in the mystery of Christ the Redeemer. Therefore, far from despising or wishing to suppress the forms of popular piety which this devotion assumes, one should take and deepen all its meaning and implications.(15) Here we have a fact of fundamental theological and pastoral significance: it is the poor, the object of God’s special love, who understand best and as it were instinctively that the most radical liberation, which is liberation from sin and death, is the liberation accomplished by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. 

Salvific and ethical dimension of liberation 

23. The power of this liberation penetrates and profoundly transforms man and his history in its present reality and animates his eschatological yearning. The first and fundamental meaning of liberation which thus manifests itself is the salvific one: man is freed from the radical bondage of evil and sin. In this experience of salvation, man discovers the true meaning of his freedom, since liberation is the restoration of freedom. It is also education in freedom, that is to say, education in the right use of freedom. Thus to the salvific dimension of liberation is linked its ethical dimension. 

A new phase in the history of freedom

24. To different degrees, the sense of faith, which is at the origin of a radical experience of liberation and freedom, has imbued the culture and the customs of Christian peoples. But today, because of the formidable challenges which humanity must face, it is in a wholly new way that it has become necessary and urgent that the love of God and freedom in truth and justice should mark relations between individuals and peoples and animate the life of cultures. For where truth and love are missing, the process of liberation results in the death of a freedom which will have lost all support. A new phase in the history of freedom is opening before us. The liberating capacities of science, technology, work, economics and political activity will only produce results if they find their inspiration and measure in the truth and love which are stronger than suffering: the truth and love revealed to men by Jesus Christ. 


I. Preliminary approaches to freedom 

A spontaneous response 

25. The spontaneous response to the question: “What does being free mean?” is this: a person is free when he is able to do whatever he wishes without being hindered by an exterior constraint and thus enjoys complete independence. The opposite of freedom would therefore be the dependence of our will upon the will of another. But does man always know what he wants? Can he do everything he wants? Is closing in on oneself and cutting oneself off from the will of others in conformity with the nature of man? Often the desire of a particular moment is not what a person really wants. And in one and the same person there can exist contradictory wishes. But above all man comes up against the limits of his own nature: his desires are greater than his abilities. Thus the obstacle which opposes his will does not always come from outside, but from the limits of his own being. This is why, under pain of destroying himself, man must learn to harmonize his will with his nature. 

Truth and justice, rules of freedom 

26. Furthermore, every individual is oriented toward other people and needs their company. It is only by learning to unite his will to the others for the sake of true good that he will learn rectitude of will. It is thus harmony with the exigencies of human nature which makes the will itself human. This in fact requires the criterion of truth and a right relationship to the will of others. Truth and justice are therefore the measure of true freedom. By discarding this foundation and taking himself for God, man falls into deception, and instead of realizing himself he destroys himself. Far from being achieved in total self-sufficiency and an absence of relationships, freedom only truly exists where reciprocal bonds, governed by truth and justice, link people to one another. But for such bonds to be possible, each person must live in the truth. Freedom is not the liberty to do anything whatsoever. It is the freedom to do good, and in this alone happiness is to be found. The good is thus the goal of freedom. In consequence man becomes free to the extent that he comes to a knowledge of the truth, and to the extent that this truth – and not any other forces – guides his will. Liberation for the sake of a knowledge of the truth which alone directs the will is the necessary condition for a freedom worthy of the name. 

II. Freedom and liberation 

Freedom for the creature

27. In other words, freedom which is interior mastery of one’s own acts and self-determination immediately entails a relationship with the ethical order. It finds its true meaning in the choice of moral good. It then manifests itself as emancipation from moral evil. By his free action, man must tend toward the supreme good through lesser goods which conform to the exigencies of his nature and his divine vocation. 

In exercising his freedom, he decides for himself and forms himself. In this sense man is his own cause. But he is this only as a creature and as God’s image. This is the truth of his being which shows by contrast how profoundly erroneous are the theories which think they exalt the freedom of man or his “historical praxis” by making this freedom the absolute principle of his being and becoming. These theories are expressions of atheism or tend toward atheism by their own logic. Indifferentism and deliberate agnosticism go in the same direction. It is the image of God in man which underlies the freedom and dignity of the human person.(16) 

The call of the Creator

28. By creating man free, God imprinted on him his own image and likeness.(17) Man hears the call of his Creator in the inclination and aspiration of his own nature toward the Good, and still more in the word of Revelation, which was proclaimed in a perfect manner in the Christ. It is thus revealed to man that God created him free so that by grace man could enter into friendship with God and share his life. 

A shared freedom 

29. Man does not take his origin from his own individual or collective action, but from the gift of God who created him. This is the first confession of our faith, and it confirms the loftiest insights of human thought. The freedom of man is a shared freedom. His capacity for self-realization is in no way suppressed by his dependence on God. It is precisely the characteristic of atheism to believe in an irreducible opposition between the causality of a divine freedom and that of man’s freedom, as though the affirmation of God meant the negation of man, or as though God’s intervention in history rendered vain the endeavours of man. In reality, it is from God and in relationship with him that human freedom takes its meaning and consistency. 

Man’s free choice 

30. Man’s history unfolds on the basis of the nature which he has received from God and in the free accomplishment of the purpose toward which the inclinations of this nature and of divine grace orient and direct him. But man’s freedom is finite and fallible. His desire may be drawn to an apparent good: in choosing a false good, he fails in his vocation to freedom. By his free will, man is master of his own life: he can act in a positive sense or in a destructive one. By obeying the divine law inscribed in his conscience and received as an impulse of the Holy Spirit, man excercises true mastery ever himself and thus realizes his royal vocation as a child of God. “By the service of God he reigns”.(18) Authentic freedom is the “service of justice”, while the choice of disobedience and evil is the “slavery of sin”.(19)

Temporal liberation  and freedom

31. This notion of freedom clarifies the scope of temporal liberation: it involves all the processes which aim at securing and guaranteeing the conditions needed for the exercise of an authenic human freedom. Thus it is not liberation which in itself produces human freedom. Common sense, confirmed by Christian sense, knows that even when freedom is subject to forms of conditioning it is not thereby completely destroyed. People who undergo terrible constraints succeed in manifesting their freedom and taking steps to secure their own liberation. A process of liberation which has been achieved can only create better conditions for the effective exercise of freedom. Indeed a liberation which does not take into account the personal freedom of those who fight for it is condemned in advance to defeat. 

III. Freedom and human society 

The rights of man and his “freedoms”

32. God did not create man as a “solitary being” but wished him to be a “social being”.(20) Social life therefore is not exterior to man: he can only grow and realize his vocation in relation with others. Man belongs to different communities: the family and professional and political communities, and it is inside these communities that he must exercise his responsible freedom. A just social order offers man irreplaceable assistance in realizing his free personality. On the other hand, an unjust social order is a threat and an obstacle which can compromise his destiny. In the social sphere, freedom is expressed and realized in actions, structures and institutions, thanks to which people communicate with one another and organize their common life. The blossoming of a free personality, which for every individual is a duty and a right, must be helped and not hindered by society. Here we have an exigency of a moral nature which has found its expression in the formulation of the Rights of Man. Some of these have as their object what are usually called “the freedoms”, that is to say, ways of recognizing every human being’s character as a person responsible for himself and his trascendent destiny, as well as the inviolability of his conscience .(21) 

Man’s social dimension and the glory of God

33. The social dimension of the human being also takes on another meaning: only the vast numbers and rich diversity of people can express something of the infinite richness of God. Finally, this dimension is meant to find its accomplishment in the Body of Christ which is the Church. This is why social life, in the variety of its forms and to the extent that it is in conformity with the divine law, constitutes a reflection of the glory of God in the world. (22) 

IV. Human freedom and dominion over nature 

Man’s call to master nature 

34. As a consequence of his bodily dimension, man needs the resources of the material world for his personal and social fulfilment. In this vocation to exercise dominion over the earth by putting it at his service through work, one can see an aspect of the image of God.(23) But human intervention is not “creative”; it encounters a material nature which like itself has its origin in God the Creator and of which man has been constituted the “noble and wise guardian”(24) 

Man, the master of his works

35. Technical and economic transformations influence the organization of social life; they cannot help but affect to some extent cultural and even religious life. However, by reason of his freedom man remains the master of his activity. The great and rapid transformations of the present age face him with a dramatic challenge: that of mastering and controlling by the use of his reason and freedom the forces which he puts to work in the service of the true purposes of human existence. 

Scientific discoveries and moral progress

36. It is the task of freedom then, when it is well ordered, to ensure that scientific and technical achievements, the quest for their effectiveress, and the products of work and the very structures of economic and social organization are not made to serve projects which would deprive them of their human purposes and turn them against man himself. Scientific activity and technological activity each involve specific exigencies. But they only acquire their properly human meaning and value when they are subordinated to moral principles. These exigencies must be respected; but to wish to attribute to them an absolute and necessary autonomy, not in conformity with the nature of things, is to set out along a path which is ruinous for the authentic freedom of man. 

V. Sin, the source of division and oppression 

Sin, separation from God 

37. God calls man to freedom. In each person there lives a desire to be free. And yet this desire almost always tends towards slavery and oppression. All commitment to liberation and freedom therefore presupposes that this tragic paradox has been faced. Man’s sin, that is to say his breaking away from God, is the radical reason for the tragedies which mark the history of freedom. In order to understand this, many of our contemporaries must first rediscover a sense of sin. In man’s desire for freedom there is hidden the temptation to deny his own nature. Insofar as he wishes to desire everything and to be able to do everything and thus forget that he is finite and a created being, he claims to be a god. “You will be like God” (Gen 3: 5). These words of the serpent reveal the essence of man’s temptation; they imply the perversion of the meaning of his own freedom. Such is the profound nature of sin: man rejects the truth and places his own will above it. By wishing to free himself from God and be a god himself, he deceives himself and destroys himself. He becomes alienated from himself. In this desire to be a god and to subject everything to his own good pleasure, there is hidden a perversion of the very idea of God. God is love and truth in the fullness of the mutual gift of the Divine Persons. It is true that man is called to be like God. But he becomes like God not in the arbitrariness of his own good pleasure but to the extent that he recognizes that truth and love are at the same time the principle and the purpose of his freedom. 

Sin, the root of human alienation 

38. By sinning, man lies to himself and separates himself from his own truth. But seeking total autonomy and self-sufficiency, he denies God and denies himself. Alienation from the truth of his being as a creature loved by God is the root of all other forms of alienation. By denying or trying to deny God, who is his Beginning and End, man profoundly disturbs his own order and interior balance and also those of society and even of visible creation.(25) It is in their relationship to sin that Scripture regards all the different calamities which oppress man in his personal and social existence. Scripture shows that the whole course of history has a mysterious link with the action of man who, from the beginning, has abused his freedom by setting himself up against God and by seeking to gain his ends without God.(26) Genesis indicates the consequences of this original sin in the painful nature of work and childbirth, in man’s oppression of woman and in death. Human beings deprived of divine grace have thus inherited a common mortal nature, incapable of choosing what is good and inclined to covetousness.(27) 

Idolatry and disorder 

39. Idolatry is an extreme form of disorder produced by sin. The replacement of adoration of the living God by worship of created things falsifies the relationships between individuals and brings with it various kinds of oppression. Culpable ignorance of God unleashes the passions, which are causes of imbalance and conflicts in the human heart. From this there inevitably come disorders which affect the sphere of the family and society: sexual license, injustice and murder. It is thus that Saint Paul describes the pagan world, carried away by idolatry to the worst aberrations which ruin the individual and society.(28) Even before Saint Paul, the Prophets and wise men of Israel saw in the misfortunes of the people a punishment for their sin of idolatry; and in the “heart full of evil” (Eccles 9: 3 ),(29) they saw the source of man’s radical slavery and of the forms of oppression which he makes his fellowmen endure. 

Contempt for God and a turning toward creatures 

40. The Christian tradition, found in the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, has made explicit this teaching of Scripture about sin. It sees sin as contempt for God (contemptus Dei). It is accompanied by a desire to escape from the dependent relationship of the servant to his Lord, or still more of the child to its Father. By sinning, man seeks to free himself from God. In reality he makes himself a slave. For by rejecting God he destroys the momentum of his aspiration to the infinite and of his vocation to share in the divine life. This is why his heart is a prey to disquiet. Sinful man who refuses to accept God is necessarily led to become attached in a false and destructive way to creatures. In this turning toward creatures (conversio ad creaturam) he focuses on the latter his unsatisfied desire for the infinite. But created goods are limited; and so his heart rushes from one to another, always searching for an impossible peace. In fact, when man attributes to creatures an infinite importance, he loses the meaning of his created being. He claims to find his centre and his unity in himself. Disordered love of self is the other side of contempt for God. Man then tries to rely on himself alone; he wishes to achieve fulfilment by himself and to be self-sufficient in his own immanence.(30) 

Atheism, a false emancipation of freedom

41. This becomes more particularly obvious when the sinner thinks that he can only assert his own freedom by explicitly denying God. Dependence of the creature upon the Creator, and the dependence of the moral conscience upon the divine law, are regarded by him as an intolerable slavery. Thus he sees atheism as the true foam of emancipation and of man’s liberation, whereas religion or even the recognition of a moral law constitute forms of alienation. Man then wishes to make independent decisions about what is good and what is evil, or decisions about values; and in a single step he rejects both the idea of God and the idea of sin. It is through the audacity of sin that he claims to become adult and free, and he claims this emancipation not only for himself but for the whole of humanity.

Sin and unjust structures 

42. Having become his own centre, sinful man tends to assert himself and to satisfy his desire for the infinite by the use of things: wealth, power and pleasure, despising other people and robbing them unjustly and treating them as objects or instruments. Thus he makes his own contribution to the creation of those very structures of exploitation and slavery which he claims to condemn. 


Gospel, freedom and liberation 

43. Human history, marked as it is by the experience of sin, would drive us to despair if God had abandoned his creation to itself. But the divine promises of liberation, and their victorious fulfilment in Christ’s Death and Resurrection, are the basis of the “joyful hope” from which the Christian community draws the strength to act resolutely and effectively in the service of love, justice and peace. The Gospel is a message of freedom and a liberating force (31) which fulfills the hope of Israel based upon the words of the Prophets. This hope relied upon the action of Yahweh, who even before he intervened as the “goel”,(32) liberator, redeemer and saviour of his People had freely chosen that People in Abraham,(33) 

I. Liberation in the Old Testament 

The exodus and the liberating acts of Yaweh

44. In the Old Testament, the liberating action of Yahweh which serves as model and reference for all others is the Exodus from Egypt, “the house of bondage”. When God rescues his People from hard economic, political and cultural slavery, he does so in order to make them, through the Covenant on Sinai, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). God wishes to be adored by people who are free. All the subsequent liberations of the people of Israel help to lead them to this full liberty that they can only find in communion with their God. The major and fundamental event of the Exodus therefore has a meaning which is both religious and political. God sets his People free and gives them descendants, a land and a law, but within a Covenant and for a Covenant. One cannot therefore isolate the political aspect for its own sake; it has to be considered in the light of a plan of a religious nature within which it is integrated.(34)

The law of God 

45. In his plan of salvation, God gave Israel its Law. This contained, together with the universal moral precepts of the Decalogue, religious and civil norms which were to govern the life of the people chosen by God to be his witness among the nations. 

Of this collection of laws, love of God above all things (35) and of neighbour as oneself (36) already constitute the centre. But the justice which must govern relations between people, and the law which is its juridical expression, also belong to the sum and substance of the biblical law. The Codes and the preaching of the Prophets, as also the Psalms, constantly refer to both of them, very often together (37) It is in this context that one should appreciate the biblical law’s care for the poor, the needy, the widow and the orphan: they have a right to justice according to the juridical ordinances of the People of God.(38) Thus there already exist the ideal and the outline of a society centered upon worship of the Lord and based upon justice and law inspired by love. 

The teaching of the Prophets

46. Prophets constantly remind Israel of the demands made by the Law of the Covenant. They condemn man’s hardened heart as the source of repeated transgressions, and they foretell a New Covenant in which God will change hearts by writing on them the Law of his Spirit.(39) In proclaiming and preparing for this new age, the Prophets vigorously condemn injustice done to the poor: they make themselves God’s spokesmen for the poor. Yahweh is the supreme refuge of the little ones and the oppressed, and the Messiah will have the mission of taking up their defence (40) The situation of the poor is a situation of injustice contrary to the Covenant. This is why the Law of the Covenant protects them by means of precepts which reflect the attitude of God himself when he liberated Israel from the slavery of Egypt.(41) Injustice to the little ones and the poor is a grave sin and one which destroys communion with God. 

The “Poor of Yahweh” 

47. Whatever the forms of poverty, injustice and affliction they endure, the “just” and the “poor of Yahweh” offer up their supplications to him in the Psalms.(42) In their hearts they suffer the servitude to which the “stiff-necked” people are reduced because of their sins. They endure persecution, martyrdom and death; but they live in hope of deliverance. Above all, they place their trust in Yahweh, to whom they commend their cause (43) The “poor of Yahweh” know that communion with him (44) is the most precious treasure and the one in which man finds his true freedom (45) For them, the most tragic misfortune is the loss of this communion. Hence their fight against injustice finds its deepest meaning and its effectiveness in their desire to be freed from the slavery of sin. 

On the threshold of the New Testament 

48. On the threshold of the New Testament, the “poor of Yahweh” make up the first-fruits of a “people humble and lowly” who live in hope of the liberation of Israel.(46) Mary, personifying this hope, crosses the threshold from the Old Testament. She proclaims with joy the coming of the Messiah and praises the Lord who is preparing to set his People free (47) In her hymn of praise to the divine mercy, the humble Virgin, to whom the people of the poor turn spontaneously and so confidently, sings of the mystery of salvation and its power to transform. The sensus fidei, which is so vivid among the little ones, is able to grasp at once all the salvific and ethical treasures of the Magnificat.(48) 

II . Christological significance of the Old Testament 

In the light of Christ 

49. The Exodus, the Covenant, the Law, the voices of the Prophets and the spirituality of the “poor of Yahweh” only achieve their full significance in Christ. The Church reads the Old Testament in the light of Christ who died and rose for us. She sees a prefiguring of herself in the People of God of the Old Covenant, made incarnate in the concrete body of a particular nation, politically and culturally constituted as such. This people was part of the fabric of history as Yahweh’s witness before the nations until the fulfilment of the time of preparation and prefigurement. In the fullness of time which came with Christ, the children of Abraham were invited to enter, together with all the nations, into the Church of Christ in order to form with them one People of God, spiritual and universal. (49) 

III. Christian liberation 

The Good News proclaimed to the poor

50. Jesus proclaims the Good News of the Kingdom of God and calls people to conversion.(50) “The poor have the good news preached to them” (Mt 11:5). By quoting the expression of the Prophet,(51) Jesus manifests his messianic action in favour of those who await God’s salvation. Even more than this, the Son of God who has made himself poor for love of us (52) wishes to be recognized in the poor, in those who suffer or are persecuted:(53) “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”.(54) 

The Paschal mystery 

51. But is it above all by the power of his Paschal Mystery that Christ has set us free.(55) Through his perfect obedience on the Cross and through the glory of his Resurrection, the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world and opened for us the way to definitive liberation. By means of our service and love, but also by the offering up of our trials and sufferings, we share in the one redeeming sacrifice of Christ, completing in ourselves “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24), as we look forward to the resurrection of the dead.

Grace, reconciliation and freedom 

52. The heart of the Christian experience of freedom is in justification by the grace received through faith and the Church’s sacraments. This grace frees us from sin and places us in communion with God. Through Christ’s Death and Resurrection we are offered forgiveness. The experience of our reconciliation with the Father is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. God reveals himself to us as the Father of mercy, before whom we can come with total confidence. Having been reconciled with him,(56) and receiving this peace of Christ which the world cannot give,(57) we are called to be peacemakers among all men.(58) In Christ, we can conquer sin, and death no longer separates us from God; death will finally be destroyed at our resurrection, which will be like that of Jesus.(59) The “cosmos” itself, of which man is the centre and summit, waits to be ” set free from its bondage to decay and to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8: 21 ). Even now Satan has been checked; he who has the power of death has been reduced to impotence by the death of Christ.(60) Signs are given which are a foretaste of the glory to come. 

Struggle against the slavery of sin 

53. The freedom brought by Christ in the Holy Spirit has restored to us the capacity, which sin had taken away from us, to love God above all things and remain in communion with him. We are set free from disordered self-love, which is the source of contempt of neighbour and of human relationships based on domination. Nevertheless, until the Risen One returns in glory, the mystery of iniquity is still at work in the world. Saint Paul warns us of this: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). We must therefore persevere and fight in order not to fall once more under the yoke of slavery. Our existence is a spiritual struggle to live according to the Gospel and it is waged with the weapons of God.(61) But we have received the power and the certainty of our victory over evil, the victory of the love of Christ whom nothing can resist.(62) 

The spirit and the Law 

54. Saint Paul proclaims the gift of the New Law of the Spirit in opposition to the law of the flesh or of covetousness which draws man toward evil and makes him powerless to choose what is good.(63) This lack of harmony and this inner weakness do not abolish man’s freedom and responsibility, but they do have a negative effect on their exercise for the sake of what is good. This is what causes the Apostle to say: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19). Thus he rightly speaks of the “bondage of sin” and the “slavery of the law”, for to sinful man the law, which he cannot make part of himself, seems oppressive. However, Saint Paul recognizes that the Law still has value for man and for the Christian, because it “is holy and what it commands a is sacred, just and good” (Rom 7: 12).(64) He reaffirms the Decalogue, while putting it into relationship with that charity which is its true fullness.(65) Furthermore, he knows well that a juridical order is necessary for the development of life in society.(66) But the new thing he proclaims is God’s giving us His Son “so that the Law’s just demands might be satisfied in us” (Rm 8:1). 

The Lord Jesus himself spelled out the precepts of the New Law in the Sermon on the Mount: by the sacrifice he offered on the Cross and by his glorious Resurrection he conquered the power of sin and gained for us the grace of the Holy Spirit which makes possible the perfect observance of God’s law (67) and access to forgiveness if we fall again into sin. The Spirit who dwells in our hearts is the source of true freedom. Through Christ’s sacrifice, the cultic regulations of the Old Testament have been rendered obsolete. As for the juridical norms governing the social and political life of Israel, the Apostolic Church, inasmuch as it marked the beginning of the reign of God on earth, was aware that it was no longer held to their observance. This enabled the Christian community to understand the laws and authoritative acts of various peoples. Although lawful and worthy of being obeyed,(68) they could never, inasmuch as they have their origin in such authorities, claim to have a sacred character. In the light of the Gospel, many laws and structures seem to bear the mark of sin and prolong its oppressive influence in society. 

IV. The New Commandment 

Love, the gift of the Spirit 

55. God’s love, poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, involves love of neighbour. Recalling the first commandment, Jesus immediately adds: “And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22: 39-40). And Saint Paul says that love is the fulfilment of the Law.(69) Love of neighbour knows no limits and includes enemies and persecutors . The perfection which is the image of the Father’s perfection and for which the disciple must strive is found in mercy.(70) The parable of the Good Samaritan shows that compassionate love, which puts itself at the service of neighbour, destroys the prejudices which set ethnic or social groups against one another.(71) All the New Testament witnesses to the inexhaustible richness of the sentiments which are included in Christian love of neighbour.(72) 

Love of neighbour 

56. Christian love, which seeks no reward and includes everyone, receives its nature from the love of Christ who gave his life fox us: “Even as I have loved you …, you also love one another” (Jn 13:34-35).(73) This is the ” new commandment” for the disciples. In the light of this commandment, Saint James severely reminds the rich of their duty,(74) and Saint John says that a person who possesses the riches of this world but who shuts his heart to his brother in need cannot have the love of God dwelling in him.(75) Fraternal love is the touchstone of love of God: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). Saint Paul strongly emphasizes the link between sharing in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ and sharing with one’s neighbour who is in need.(76) 

Justice and charity 

57. Evangelical love, and the vocation to be children of God to which all are called, have as a consequence the direct and imperative requirement of respect for all human beings in their rights to life and to dignity. There is no gap between love of neighbour and desire for justice. To contrast the two is to distort both love and justice. Indeed, the meaning of mercy completes the meaning of justice by preventing justice from shutting itself up within the circle of revenge. The evil inequities and oppression of every kind which afflict millions of men and women today openly contradict Christ’s Gospel and cannot leave the conscience of any Christian indifferent. The Church, in her docility to the Spirit, goes forward faithfully along the paths to authentic liberation. Her members are aware of their failings and their delays in this quest. But a vast number of Christians, from the time of the Apostles onwards, have committed their powers and their lives to liberation from every form of oppression and to the promotion of human dignity. The experience of the saints and the example of so many works of service to one’s neighbour are an incentive and a beacon for the liberating undertakings that are needed today. 

V. The Church, People of God of the New Covenant 

Toward the fulness of freedom 

58. The People of God of the New Covenant is the Church of Christ. Her law is the commandment of love. In the hearts of her members the Spirit dwells as in a temple. She is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God here below, which will receive its completion at the end of time with the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of the whole of creation.(77) Thus possessing the pledge of the Spirit,(78) the People of God is led towards the fullness of freedom. The new Jerusalem which we fervently await is rightly called the city of freedom in the highest sense.(79) Then, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). Hope is the certain expectation ” of new heavens and of a new earth where justice will dwell” (2 Pet 3:13).

The final meeting with Christ 

59. The transfiguration by the Risen Christ of the Church at the end of her pilgrimage in no way cancels out the personal destiny of each individual at the end of his or her life. All those found worthy before Christ’s tribunal for having, by the grace of God, made good use of their free will are to receive the reward of happiness.(80) They will be made like to God, for they will see him as he is.(81) The divine gift of eternal happiness is the exaltation of the greatest freedom which can be imagined. 

Eschatological hope and the commitment for temporal liberation 

60. This hope does not weaken commitment to the progress of the earthly city, but rather gives it meaning and strength. It is of course important to make a careful distinction between earthly progress and the growth of the Kingdom, which do not belong to the same order. Nonetheless, this distinction is not a separation; for man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress but confirms his task of using the energies and means which he has received from the Creator for developing his temporal life.(82) Enlightened by the Lord’s Spirit, Christ’s Church can discern in the signs of the times the ones which advance liberation and those that are deceptive and illusory. She calls man and societies to overcome situations of sin and injustice and to establish the conditions for true freedom. She knows that we shall rediscover all these good things – human dignity, fraternal union and freedom – which are the result of efforts in harmony with God’s will, “washed clean of all stain, illumined and transfigured when Christ will hand over to the Father the eternal and universal kingdom”,(83) which is a Kingdom of freedom. The vigilant and active expectation of the coming of the Kingdom is also the expectation of a finally perfect justice for the living and the dead, for people of all times and places, a justice which Jesus Christ, installed as supreme Judge, will establish.(84) This promise, which surpasses all human possibilities, directly concerns our life in this world. For true justice must include everyone; it must bring the answer to the immense load of suffering borne by all the generations. In fact, without the resurrection of the dead and the Lord’s judgment, there is no justice in the full sense of the term. The promise of the resurrection is freely made to meet the desire for true justice dwelling in the human heart. 


The Church and the anxieties of mankind 

61. The Church is firmly determined to respond to the anxiety of contemporary man as he endures oppression and yearns for freedom. The political and economic running of society is not a direct part of her mission.(85) But the Lord Jesus has entrusted to her the word of truth which is capable of enlightening consciences. Divine love, which is her life, impels her to a true solidarity with everyone who suffers. If her members remain faithful to this mission, the Holy Spirit, the ‘ source of freedom, will dwell in them, and they will bring forth fruits of justice and peace in their families and in the places where they work and live.

I. For the integral salvation of the world 

The Beatitudes and the power of the gospel  

62. The Gospel is the power of eternal life, given even now to those who receive it.(86) But by begetting people who are renewed,(87) this power penetrates the human community and its history, thus purifying and giving life to its activities. In this way it is a “root of culture”.(88) The Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus express the perfection of evangelical love, and they have never ceased to be lived throughout the history of the Church by countless baptized individuals, and in an eminent manner by the saints. The Beatitudes, beginning with the first, the one concerning the poor, form a whole which itself must not be separated from the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount.(89) In this Sermon, Jesus, who is the new Moses, gives a commentary on the Decalogue, the Law of the Covenant, thus giving it its definitive and fullest meaning. Read and interpreted in their full context, the Beatitudes express the spirit of the Kingdom of God which is to come. But, in the light of the definitive destiny of human history thus manifested, there simultaneously appear with a more vivid clarity the foundations of justice in the temporal order. For the Beatitudes, by teaching trust which relies on God, hope of eternal life, love of justice, and mercy which goes as far as pardon and reconciliation, enable us to situate the temporal order in relation to a transcendent order which gives the temporal order its true measure but without taking away its own nature. In the light of these things, the commitment necessary in temporal tasks of service to neighbour and the human community is both urgently demanded and kept in its right perspective. The Beatitudes prevent us from worshipping earthly goods and from committing the injustices which their unbridled pursuit involves.(90) They also divert us from an unrealistic and ruinous search for a perfect world, “for the form of this world is passing away ” (1 Cor 7:31). 

The proclamation of salvation 

63. The Church’s essential mission, following that of Christ, is a mission of evangelization and salvation.(91) She draws her zeal from the divine love. Evangelization is the proclamation of salvation, which is a gift of God. Through the word of God and the Sacraments, man is freed in the first place from the power of sin and the power of the Evil One which oppress him; and he is brought into a communion of love with God. Following her Lord who “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), the Church desires the salvation of all people. In this mission, the Church teaches the way which man must follow in this world in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Her teaching therefore extends to the whole moral order, and notably to the justice which must regulate human relations. This is part of the preaching of the Gospel. But the love which impels the Church to communicate to all people a sharing in the grace of divine life also causes her, through the effective action of her members, to pursue people’s true temporal good, help them in their needs, provide for their education and promote an integral liberation from everything that hinders the development of individuals. The Church desires the good of man in all his dimensions, first of all as a member of the city of God, and then as a member of the earthly city. 

Evangelization and the promotion of justice 

64. Therefore, when the Church speaks about the promotion of justice in human societies, or when she urges the faithful laity to work in this sphere according to their own vocation, she is not going beyond her mission. She is however concerned that this mission should not be absorbed by preoccupations concerning the temporal order or reduced to such preoccupations. Hence she takes great care to maintain clearly and firmly both the unity and the distinction between evangelization and human promotion: unity, because she seeks the good of the whole person; distinction, because these two tasks enter, in different ways, into her mission. 

The Gospel and earthly realities 

65. It is thus by pursuing her own finality that the Church sheds the light of the Gospel on earthly realities in order that human beings may be healed of their miseries and raised in dignity. The cohesion of society in accordance with justice and peace is thereby promoted and strengthened.(92) Thus the Church is being faithful to her mission when she condemns the forms of deviation, slavery and oppression of which people are victims. She is being faithful to her mission when she opposes attempts to set up a form of social life from which God is absent, whether by deliberate opposition or by culpable negligence,(93) She is likewise being faithful to her mission when she exercises her judgment regarding political movements which seek to fight poverty and oppression according to theories or methods of action which are contrary to the Gospel and opposed to man himself.(94) It is of course true that, with the energy of grace, evangelical morality brings man new perspectives and new duties. But its purpose is to perfect and elevate a moral dimension which already belongs to human nature and with which the Church concerns herself in the knowledge that this is a heritage belonging to all people by their very nature. 

II. A love of prefererence for the poor 

Jesus and poverty 

66. Christ Jesus, although he was rich, became poor in order to make us rich by means of his poverty.(95) Saint Paul is speaking here of the mystery of the Incarnation of the eternal Son, who came to take on mortal human nature in order to save man from the misery into which sin had plunged him. Furthermore, in the human condition Christ chose a state of poverty and deprivation (96) in order to show in what consists the true wealth which ought to be sought, that of communion of life with God. He taught detachment from earthly riches so that we might desire the riches of heaven.(97) The Apostles whom he chose also had to leave all things and share his deprivation.(98) Christ was foretold by the Prophets as the Messiah of the poor; (99) and it was among the latter, the humble, the “poor of Yahweh”, who were thirsting for the justice of the Kingdom, that he found hearts ready to receive him. But he also wished to be near to those who, though rich in the goods of this world, were excluded from the community as “publicans and sinners”, for he had come to call them to conversion.(100) It is this sort of poverty, made up of detachment, trust in God, sobriety and a readiness to share, that Jesus declared blessed. 

Jesus and the poor 

67. But Jesus not only brought the grace and peace of God; he also healed innumerable sick people; he had compassion on the crowd who had nothing to eat and he fed them; with the disciples who followed him he practised almsgiving.(101) Therefore the Beatitude of poverty which he proclaimed can never signify that Christians are permitted to ignore the poor who lack what is necessary for human life in this world. This poverty is the result and consequence of people’s sin and natural frailty, and it is an evil from which human beings must be freed as completely as possible. 

Love of preference for the poor 

68. In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illnesses, and finally death – human misery is the obvious sign of the natural condition of weakness in which man finds himself since original sin and the sign of his need for salvation. Hence it drew the compassion of Christ the Saviour to take it upon himself (102) and to be identified with the least of his brethren (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). Hence also those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a love of preference on the part of the Church, which since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members has not ceased to work for their relief, defence and liberation. She has done this through numberless works of charity which remain always and everywhere indispensable.(103) In addition, through her social doctrine which she strives to apply, she has sought to promote structural changes in society so as to secure conditions of life worthy of the human person. By detachment from riches, which makes possible sharing and opens the gate of the Kingdom,(104) the disciples of Jesus bear witness through love for the poor and unfortunate to the love of the Father himself manifested in the Saviour. This love comes from God and goes to God. The disciples of Christ have always recognized in the gifts placed on the altar a gift offered to God himself. 

In loving the poor, the Church also witnesses to man’s dignity. She clearly affirms that man is worth more for what he is than for what he has. She bears witness to the fact that this dignity cannot be destroyed, whatever the situation of poverty, scorn, rejection or powerlessness to which a human being has been reduced. She shows her solidarity with those who do not count in a society by which they are rejected spiritually and sometimes even physically. She is particularly drawn with maternal affection toward those children who, through human wickedness, will never be brought forth from the womb to the light of day, as also for the elderly, alone and abandoned. The special option for the poor, far from being a sign of particularism or sectarianism, manifests the universality of the Church’s being and mission. This option excludes no one. This is the reason why the Church cannot express this option by means of reductive sociological and ideological categories which would make this preference a partisan choice and a source of conflict. 

Basic communities and other Christian groups 

69. The new basic communities or other groups of Christians which have arisen to be witnesses to this evangelical love are a source of great hope for the Church. If they really live in unity with the local Church and the universal Church, they will be a real expression of communion and a means for constructing a still deeper communion.(105) Their fidelity to their mission will depend on how careful they are to educate their members in the fullness of the Christian faith through listening to the Word of God, fidelity to the teaching of the Magisterium, to the hierarchical order of the Church and to the sacramental Life. If this condition is fulfilled, their experience, rooted in a commitment to the complete liberation of man, becomes a treasure for the whole Church. 

Theologcal reflection 

70. Similarly, a theological reflection developed from a particular experience can constitute a very positive contribution, inasmuch as it makes possible a highlighting of aspects of the Word of God, the richness of which had not yet been fully grasped. But in order that this reflection may be truly a reading of the Scripture and not a projection on to the Word of God of a meaning which it does not contain, the theologian will be careful to interpret the experience from which he begins in the light of the experience of the Church herself. This experience of the Church shines with a singular brightness and in all its purity in the lives of the saints. It pertains to the pastors of the Church, in communion with the Successor of Peter, to discern its authenticity. 


The Christian practice of liberation 

71. The salvific dimension of liberation cannot be reduced to the socio-ethical dimension, which is a consequence of it. By restoring man’s true freedom, the radical liberation brought about by Christ assigns to him a task: Christian practice, which is the putting into practice of the great commandment of love. The latter is the supreme principle of Christian social morality, founded upon the Gospel and the whole of tradition since apostolic times and the age of the Fathers of the Church up to and including the recent statements of the Magisterium. The considerable challenges of our time constitute an urgent appeal to put into practice this teaching on how to act. 

I. Nature of the social doctrine of the Church 

The Gospel message and social life 

72. The Church’s social teaching is born of the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands summarized in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbour in justice (106) with the problems emanating from the life of society. This social teaching has established itself as a doctrine by using the resources of human wisdom and the sciences. It concerns the ethical aspect of this life. It takes into account the technical aspects of problems but always in order to judge them from the moral point of view. 

Being essentially orientated toward action, this teaching develops in accordance with the changing circumstances of history. This is why, together with principles that are always valid, it also involves contingent judgments. Far from constituting a closed system, it remains constantly open to the new questions which continually arise; it requires the contribution of all charisma, experiences and skills. As an “expert in humanity”, the Church offers by her social doctrine a set of principles for reflection and criteria for judgment (107) and also directives for action (108) so that the profound changes demanded by situations of poverty and injustice may be brought about, and this in a way which serves the true good of humanity. 

Fundamental principles

73. The supreme commandment of love leads to the full recognition of the dignity of each individual, created in God’s image. From this dignity flow natural rights and duties. In the light of the image of God, freedom, which is the essential prerogative of the human person, is manifested in all its depth. Persons are the active and responsible subjects of social life.(109) Intimately linked to the foundation, which is man’s dignity, are the principle of solidarity and the principle of subsidiarity. By virtue of the first, man with his brothers is obliged to contribute to the common good of society at all its levels.(110) Hence the Church’s doctrine is opposed to all the forms of social or political individualism. By virtue of the second, neither the State nor any society must ever substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and of intermediate communities at the level on which they can function, nor must they take away the room necessary for their freedom.(111) Hence the Church’s social doctrine is opposed to all forms of collectivism. 

Criteria for judgment 

74. These principles are the basis of criteria for making judgments on social situationsstructures and systems. Thus the Church does not hesitate to condemn situations of life which are injurious to man’s dignity and freedom. These criteria also make it possible to judge the value of structures. These are the sets of institutions and practices which people find already existing or which they create, on the national and international level, and which orientate or organize economic, social and political life. Being necessary in themselves, they often tend to become fixed and fossilized as mechanisms relatively independent of the human will, thereby paralysing or distorting social development and causing injustice. However, they always depend on the responsibility of man, who can alter them, and not upon an alleged determinism of history. Institutions and laws, when they are in conformity with the natural law and ordered to the common good, are the guarantees of people’s freedom and of the promotion of that freedom. One cannot condemn all the constraining aspects of law, nor the stability of a lawful State worthy of the name. One can therefore speak of structures marked by sin, but one cannot condemn structures as such. The criteria for judgment also concern economic, social and political systems. The social doctrine of the Church does not propose any particular system; but, in the light of other fundamental principles, she makes it possible at once to see to what extent existing systems conform or do not conform to the demands of human dignity. 

Primacy of persons over structures 

75. The Church is of course aware of the complexity of the problems confronting society and of the difficulties in finding adequate solutions to them. Nevertheless she considers that the first thing to be done is to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the individual and to the permanent need for inner conversion, if one is to achieve the economic and social changes that will truly be at the service of man. The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order.(112) On the other hand, the recognized priority of freedom and of conversion of heart in no way eliminates the need for unjust structures to be changed. It is therefore perfectly legitimate that those who super oppression on the part of the wealthy or the politically powerful should take action, through morally licit means, in order to secure structures and institutions in which their rights will be truly respected. It remains true however that structures established for people’s good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good. The corruption which in certain countries affects the leaders and the State bureaucracy, and which destroys all honest social life, is a proof of this. Moral integrity is a necessary condition for the health of society. It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust situations is, in a true and imgnediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this sense can one speak of “social sin”,(113) Moreover, in the process of liberation, one cannot abstract from the historical situation of the nation or attack the cultural identity of the people. Consequently, one cannot passively accept, still less actively support, groups which by force or by the manipulation of public opinion take over the State apparatus and unjustly impose on the collectivity an imported ideology contrary to the culture of the people.(114) In this respect, mention should be made of the serious moral and political responsibility of intellectuals. 

Guidelines for action 

76. Basic principles and criteria for judgment inspire guidelines for action. Since the common good of human society is at the service of people, the means of action must be in conformity with human dignity and facilitate education for freedom. A safe criterion for judgment and action is this: there can be no true liberation if from the very beginning the rights of freedom are not respected. Systematic recourse to violence put forward as the necessary path to liberation has to be condemned as a destructive illusion and one that opens the way to new forms of servitude. One must condemn with equal vigour violence exercised by the powerful against the poor, arbitrary action by the police, and any form of violence established as a system of government. In these areas one must learn the lessons of tragic experiences which the history of the present century has known and continues to know. Nor can one accept the culpable passivity of the public powers in those democracies where the social situation of a large number of men and women is far from corresponding to the demands of constitutionally guaranteed individual and social rights. 

A struggle for justice 

77 . When the Church encourages the creation and activity of associations such as trade unions which fight for the defence of the rights and legitimate interests of the workers and for social justice, she does not thereby admit the theory that sees in the class struggle the structural dynamism of social life. The action which she sanctions is not the struggle of one class against another in order to eliminate the foe. She does not proceed from a mistaken acceptance of an alleged law of history. This action is rather a noble and reasoned struggle for justice and social solidarity.(115) The Christian will always prefer the path of dialogue and joint action. Christ has commanded us to love our enemies.(116) Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is therefore incompatible with hatred of others, taken individually or collectively, and this includes hatred of one’s enemy. 

The myth of revolution 

78. Situations of grave injustice require the courage to make far-reaching reforms and to suppress unjustifiable privileges. But those who discredit the path of reform and favour the myth of revolution not only foster the illusion that the abolition of an evil situation is in itself sufficient to create a more humane society; they also encourage the setting up of totalitarian regimes.(117) The fight against injustice is meaningless unless it is waged with a view to establishing a new social and political order in conformity with the demands of justice. Justice must already mark each stage of the establishment of this new order. There is a morality of means.(118) 

A last resort 

79. These principles must be especially applied in the extreme case where there is recourse to armed struggle, which the Church’s Magisterium admits as a last resort to put an end to an obvious and prolonged tyranny which is gravely damaging the fundamental rights of individuals and the common good.(119) Nevertheless, the concrete application of this means can not be contemplated until there has been a very rigorous analysis of the situation. Indeed, because of the continual development of the technology of violence and the increasingly serious dangers implied in its recourse, that which today is termed “passive resistance” shows a way more conformable to moral principles and having no less prospects for success. One can never approve, whether perpetrated by established power or insurgents, crimes such as reprisals against the general population, torture, or methods of terrorism and deliberate provocation aimed at causing deaths during popular demonstrations. Equally unacceptable are detestable smear campaigns capable of destroying a person psychologically or morally. 

The role of the laity 

80. It is not for the pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political construction and organization of social life. This task forms part of the vocation of the laity acting on their own initiative with their fellow-citizens.(120) They must fulfill this task conscious of the fact that the purpose of the Church is to spread the Kingdom of Christ so that all men may be saved and that through them the world may be effectively ordered to Christ.(121) The work of salvation is thus seen to be indissolubly linked to the task of improving and raising the conditions of human life in this world. The distinction between the supernatural order of salvation and the temporal order of human life must be seer in the context of God’s singular plan to recapitulate all things in Christ. Hence in each of these spheres the layperson, who is at one and the same time a member of the Church and a citizen of his country, must allow himself to be constantly guided by his Christian conscience.(122) Social action, which can involve a number of concrete means, will always be exercised for the common good and in conformity with the Gospel message and the teaching of the Church. It must be ensured that the variety of options does not harm a sense of collaboration, or lead to a paralysis of efforts or produce confusion among the Christian people. The orientation received from the social doctrine of the Church should stimulate an acquisition of the essential technical and scientific skills. The social doctrine of the Church will also stimulate the seeking of moral formation of character and a deepening of the spiritual life. While it offers principles and wise counsels, this doctrine does not dispense from education in the political prudence needed for guiding and running human affairs. 

II. Evangelical requirements for an in-depth transformation 

Need for a cultural transformation 

81. Christians working to bring about that “civilization of love” which will include the entire ethical and social heritage of the Gospel are today faced with an unprecedented challenge. This task calls for renewed reflection on what constitutes the relationship between the supreme commandment of love and the social order considered in all its complexity. The immediate aim of this indepth reflection is to work out and set in motion ambitious programmes aimed at the socio-economic liberation of millions of men and women caught in an intolerable situation of economic, social and political oppression. This action must begin with an immense effort at education: education for the civilization of work, education for solidarity, access to culture for all. 

The Gospel of work 

82. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real “Gospel of work”, offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though he was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of his earthly life to manual labour.(123) The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of Creation and Redemption.(124) Recognized as a form of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort. 

A true civilization of work 

83. Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.(125) It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary precondition for a system of political community capable of favouring the integral development of every individual. If the system of labour relations put into effect by those directly involved, the workers and employers, with the essential support of the public powers succeeds in bringing into existence a civilization of work, then there will take place a profound and peaceful revolution in people’s outlooks and in institutional and political structures.

National and international common good

84. A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of frank and vigorous dialogue. 

As a result, the political authorities will become more capable of acting with respect for the legitimate freedoms of individuals, families and subsidiary groups; and they will thus create the conditions necessary for man to be able to achieve his authentic and integral welfare, including his spiritual goal.(126)

The value of human work 

85. A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will emphasize the subjective dimension of work.(127) The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fact that the one who does it is a person,(128) There we have an ethical criterion whose implications cannot be overlooked. Thus every person has a right to work, and this right must be recognized in a practical way by an effective commitment to resolving the tragic problem of unemployment. The fact that unemployment keeps large sectors of the population and notably the young in a situation of marginalization is intolerable. For this reason the creation of jobs is a primary social task facing individuals and private enterprise, as well as the State. As a general rule, in this as in other matters, the State has a subsidiary function; but often it can be called upon to intervene directly, as in the case of international agreements between different States. Such agreements must respect the rights of immigrants and their families.(129) 

Promoting participation 

86. Wages, which cannot be considered as a mere commodity, must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way round. Whatever the type of work, the worker must be able to perform it as an expression of his personality. There follows from this the necessity of a participation which, over and above a sharing in the fruits of work, should involve a truly communitarian dimension at the level of projects, undertakings and responsibilities.(130) 

Priority of work over capital 

87. The priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and in making investments to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all.(131) 

Indepth reforms 

88. This teaching must inspire reforms before it is too late. Access for everyone to the goods needed for a human, personal and family life worthy of the name is a primary demand of social justice. It requires application in the sphere of industrial work and in a particular way in the area of agricultural work.(132) Indeed, rural peoples, especially in the third world, make up the vast majority of the poor.(133) 

III. Promotion of solidarity 

A new solidarity 

89. Solidarity is a direct requirement of human and supernatural brotherhood. The serious socio-economic problems which occur today cannot be solved unless new fronts of solidarity are created: solidarity of the poor among themselves, solidarity with the poor to which the rich are called, solidarity among the workers and with the workers. Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the State, must share in a general movement of solidarity. When the Church appeals for such solidarity, she is aware that she herself is concerned in a quite special way. 

Goods are meant for all 

90. The principle that goods are meant for all, together with the principle of human and supernatural brotherhood, express the re sponsibilities of the richer countries toward the poorer ones. These responsibilities include solidarity in aiding the developing countries, social justice through a revision in correct terms of commercial relationships between North and South, the promotion of a more human world for all, a world in which each individual can give and receive, and in which the progress of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, nor a pretext for their enslavement.(134)

Aid for development 

91. International solidarity is a necessity of the moral order. It is essential not only in cases of extreme urgency but also for aiding true development. This is a shared task, which requires a concerted and constant effort to find concrete technical solutions and also to create a new mentality among our contemporaries. World peace depends on this to a great extent.(135) 

IV. Cultural and educational tasks 

Right to education and culture 

92. The unjust inequalities in the possession and use of material goods are accompanied and aggravated by similarly unjust inequalities in the opportunity for culture. Every human being has a right to culture, which is the specific mode of a truly human existence to which one gains access through the development of one’s intellectual capacities, moral virtues, abilities to relate with other human beings, and talents for creating things which are useful and beautiful. From this flows the necessity of promoting and spreading education, to which every individual has an inalienable right. The first condition for this is the elimination of illiteracy.(136) 

Respect for cultural freedom 

93. The right of each person to culture is only assured if cultural freedom is respected. Too often culture is debased by ideology, and education is turned into an instrument at the service of political or economic power. It is not within the competence of the public authorities to determine culture. Their function is to promote and protect the cultural life of everyone, including that of minorities.(137) 

The educational task of the family 

94. The task of educating belongs fundamentally and primarily to the family. The function of the State is subsidiary: its role is to guarantee, protect, promote and supplement. Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. It is parents who have the right to choose the school to which they send their children and the right to set up end support educational centres in accordance with their own beliefs. The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance.(138) 

Freedoms and sharing 

95 . The education which gives access to culture is also education in the responsible exercise of freedom. That is why there can only be authentic development in a social and political system which respects freedoms and fosters them through the participation of everyone. This participation can take different forms; it is necessary in order to guarantee a proper pluralism in institutions and in social initiatives. It ensures, notably by the real separation between the powers of the State, the exercise of human rights, also protecting them against possible abuses on the part of the public powers. No one can be excluded from this participation in social and political lif a for reasons of sex, race, colour, social condition, language or religion.(139) Keeping people on the margins of cultural, social and political life constitutes in many nations one of the most glaring injustices of our time. When the political authorities regulate the exercise of freedoms, they cannot use the pretext of the demands of public order and security in order to curtail those freedoms systematically. Nor can the alleged principle of national security, or a narrowly economic outlook, or a totalitarian concept of social life, prevail over the value of freedom and its rights.(140) 

The challenge of inculturation 

96. Faith inspires criteria of judgment, determining values, lines of thought and patterns of living which are valid for the whole human community.(141) Hence the Church, sensitive to the anxieties of our age, indicates the lines of a culture in which work would be recognized in its full human dimension and in which all would find opportunities for personal self-fulfilment. The Church does this by virtue of her missionary outreach for the integral salvation of the world, with respect for the identity of each people and nation. The Church, which is a communion which unites diversity and unity through its presence in the whole world, takes from every culture the positive elements which she finds there. But inculturation is not simply an outward adaptation; it is an intimate transformation of authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the planting of Christianity in the different human cultures.(142) Separation between the Gospel and culture is a tragedy of which the problems mentioned are a sad illustration. A generous effort to evangelize cultures is therefore necessary. These cultures will be given fresh life by their encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter presupposes that the Gospel is truly proclaimed.(143) Enlightened by the Second Vatican Council, the Church wishes to devote all her energies to this task, so as to evoke an immense liberating effort.


The canticle of the Magnificat 

97. Blessed is she who believed {Lk 1:45). At Elizabeth’s greeting, the heart of the Mother of God would burst into the song of the Magnificat. It tells us that it is by faith and in faith like that of Mary that the People of God express in words and translate into life the mysterious plan of salvation with its liberating effects upon individual and social existence. It is really in the light of faith that one comes to understand how salvation history is the history of liberation from evil in its most radical form and of the introduction of humanity into the true freedom of the children of God. Mary is totally dependent on her Son and completely directed towards him by the impulse of her faith; and, at his side, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission. It is altogether remarkable that the sense of faith found in the poor leads not only to an acute perception of the mystery of the redeeming Cross but also to a love and unshakable trust in the Mother of the Son of God, who is venerated in so many shrines. 

The “sensus fidei” of the People of God 

98. Pastors and all those who, as priests, laity, or men and women religious, often work under very difficult conditions for evangelization and integral human advancement, should be filled with hope when they think of the amazing resources of holiness contained in the living faith of the people of God. These riches of the sensus fidei must be given the chance to come to full flowering and bear abundant fruit. To help the faith of the poor to express itself clearly and to be translated into life, through a profound meditation on the plan of salvation as it unfolds itself in the Virgin of the Magnificat – this is a noble ecclesial task which awaits the theologian. Thus a theology of freedom and liberation which faithfully echoes Mary’s Magnificat preserved in the Church’s memory is something needed by the times in which we are living. But it would be criminal to take the energies of popular piety and misdirect them toward a purely earthly plan of liberation, which would very soon be revealed as nothing more than an illusion and a cause of new forms of slavery. Those who in this way surrender to the ideologies of the world and to the alleged necessity of violence are no longer being faithful to hope, to hope’s boldness and courage, as they are extolled in the hymn to the God of mercy which the Virgin teaches us. 

Dimensions of an authentic liberation

99. The sensus fidei grasps the very core of the liberation accomplished by the Redeemer. It is from the most radical evil, from sin and the power of death, that he has delivered us in order to restore freedom to itself and to show it the right path. This path is marked out by the supreme commandment, which is the commandment of love. Liberation, in its primary meaning which is salvific, thus extends into a liberating task, as an ethical requirement. Here is to be found the social doctrine of the Church, which illustrates Christian practice on the level of society. The Christian is called to act according to the truth,(144) and thus to work for the establishment of that “civilization of love” of which Pope Paul VI spoke,(145) The present document, without claiming to be complete, has indicated some of the directions in which it is urgently necessary to undertake indepth reforms. The primary task, which is a condition for the success of all the others, is an educational one. The love which guides commitment must henceforth bring into being new forms of solidarity. To the accomplishment of these tasks urgently facing the Christian conscience, all people of good will are called. It is the truth of the mystery of salvation at work today in order to lead redeemed humanity towards the perfection of the Kingdom which gives true meaning to the necessary efforts for liberation in the economic, social and political orders and which keeps them from falling into new forms of slavery. 

The task that lies ahead 

100. It is true that before the immensity and the complexity of the task, which can require the gif t of self even to an heroic degree, many are tempted to discouragement, scepticism or the recklessness of despair. A formidable challenge is made to hope, both theological and human. The loving Virgin of the Magnificat, who enfolds the Church and humanity in her prayer, is the firm support of hope. For in her we contemplate the victory of divine love which no obstacle can hold back, and we discover to what sublime freedom God raises up the lowly. Along the path which she shows us, the faith which works through love must go forward with great resolve.(146)

During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Instruction, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published. 

Given at Rome, from the Congregation, March 22, 1986, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord. 

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 

Alberto Bovone 
Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia 


(1) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” (Libertatis Nuntius), Introduction: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 867-877. 

(2) Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes and the Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council; the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra, Pacem in TerrisPopulorum Progressio, Redemptor Hominis and Laborem Exercens; The Apostolic Exortations Evangelii Nuntiandi and Reconciliatio et Paenitentia; the Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens. Pope John Paul II dealt with this theme in his Opening Address to the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Puebla: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 187-205. He has returned to it on numerous other occasions. The theme has also been dealt with at the Synod of Bishops in 1971 and 1974. The Latin-American Episcopal Conferences have made it the immediate object of their reflections. It has also attracted the attention of other Episcopal Conferences, as for example the French: Liberation des hommes et salut en Jesus-Christ, 1975.

(3) Paul. VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 1-4: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 401-404.

(4) Cf. Jn 4, 42; 1 Jn 4, 14.

(5) Cf. Mt 28, 18-20; Mk 16, 15.

(6) Cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 10.

(7) Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 78-80: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 70-75; Dignitatis Humanae, 3; John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 12: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 278-281.

(8) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, XI, 10: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 905-906.

(9) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 17: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 296-297; Discourse of 10 March 1984 to the Fifth Conference of JuristsL’Osservatore Romano, 11 March 1984, p. 8.

(10) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, XI, 5: AAS 76 (1984), p. 904; John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla: AAS 71 (1979), p. 189.

(11) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36.

(12) Cf. ibid

(13) Cf. op. cit., 41.

(14) Cf. Mt 11, 25; Lk 10, 21. 

(15) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 48: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 37-38. 

(16) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, VII, 9; VIII, 1-9: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 892 and 894-895. 

(17) Cf. Gen 1, 26. 

(18) John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 21: AAS 71 (1979), p. 316. 

(19) Cf. Rom 6, 6; 7, 23. 

(20) Cf. Gen 2, 18. 23, “It is not good that man should be alone” … “This is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones”: in these words of Scripture, which refer directly to the relationship between man and woman, one can discern a more universal meaning. Cf. Lev 19, 18. 

(21) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, 5-15: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 259-265; John Paul II, Letter to Dr Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General o f the United Nations, on the occasion o f the Thirtieth Anniversary o f the Universal Declaration on Human Rights: AAS 71 (1979), p. 122; The Pope’s Speech to the United Nations, 9: AAS 71 (1979), p. 1149.

(22) Cf. St. AUGUSTINE, Ad Macedonium, II, 7-17 (PL 33, 669-673); CSEL 44, 437-447. 

(23) Cf. Gen 1, 27-28. 

(24) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 15: AAS 71 (1979), p. 286.

(25) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 13 § 1. 

(26) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 13: AA S 77 (1985), pp. 208-211. 

(27) Cf. Gen 3, 16-19; Rom 5, 12; 7, 14-24; Paul VI, Sollemnis Professio Fidei, 30 June 1968, 16: AAS 60 (1968), p. 439. 

(28) Cf. Rom 1, 18-32. 

(29) Cf. Jer 5, 23; 7, 24; 17, 9; 18, 12. 

(30) Cf. ST. AUGUSTINE, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 28 (PL 41, 435; CSEL 40/2, 56-57; CCL 14/2, 451-452). 

(31) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, Introduction: AAS 76 (1984), p. 876. 

(32) Cf. Is 41, 14; Jer 50, 34. “Goel”: this word implies the idea of a bond of kinship between the one who frees and the one who is freed. Cf. Lev 25, 25. 47-49; Rth 3, 12; 4, 1. “Padah” means “to obtain for oneself”. Cf. Ex 13, 13; Deut 9, 26; 15, 15; Ps 130, 7-8. 

(33) Cf. Gen 12, 1-3. 

(34) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 3: AAS 76 (1984), p. 882. 

(35) Cf. Deut 6, 5. 

(36) Cf. Lev 19, 18. 

(37) Cf. Deut 1, 16-17; 16, 18-20; Jer 22, 3-15; 23, 5; Ps 33, 5; 72, 1; 99, 4. 

(38) Cf. Ex 22, 20-23; Deut 24, 10-22. 

(39) Cf. Jer 31, 31-34; Ex 36, 25-27. 

(40) Is 11, 1-5; Ps 72, 4. 12-14; Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 6: AAS 76 (1984), p. 883. 

(41) Cf. Ex 23, 9; Deut 24, 17-22. 

(42) Cf. Ps 25; 31; 35; 55; Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 5: AAS 76 (1984), p. 883. 

(43) Cf. Jer 11, 20; 20, 12. 

(44) Cf. Ps 73, 26-28. 

(45) Cf. Ps 16; 62; 84. 

(46) Cf. Zeph 3, 12-20; Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 5: AAS 76 (1984), p. 883. 

(47) Cf. Lk 1, 46-55. 

(48) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, 37: AAS 66 (1974), pp. 148-149. 

(49) Cf. Acts 2, 39; Rm 10, 12; 15, 7-12; Eph 2, 14-18. 

(50) Cf. Mk 1, 15. 

(51) Cf. Is 61, 9. 

(52) Cf. 2 Cor 8, 9. 

(53) Cf. Mt 25, 31-46; Acts 9, 4-5. 

(54) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 9: AAS 76 ( 1984), p. 884. 

(55) Cf. John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla, I, 5: AAS 71 (1979), p. 191. 

(56) Cf. Rm 5, 10; 2 Cor 5, 18-20. 

(57) Cf. Jn 14, 27. 

(58) Cf. Mt 5, 9; Rm 12, 18; Heb 12, 14. 

(59) Cf. 1 Cor 15, 26. 

(60) Cf. Jn 12, 31; Heb 2, 14-15. 

(61) Cf. Eph 6, 11-17. 

(62) Cf. Rom 8, 37-39. 

(63) Cf. Rom 8, 2.

(64) Cf. 1 Tim 1, 8. 

(65) Cf. Rom 13, 8-10. 

(66) Cf. Rom 13, 1-7. 

(67) Cf. Rom 8, 2-4. 

(68) Cf. Rom 13, 1. 

(69) Cf. Rom 13, 8-10; Gal 5, 13-14. 

(70) Cf. Mt 5, 43-48; Lk 6, 27-38. 

(71) Cf. Lk 10, 25-37. 

(72) Cf, for example 1 Th 2, 7-12; Ph 2, 1-4; Gal 2, 12-20; 1 Cor 13, 4-7; 2 Jn 12; 3 Jn 14; Jn 11, 1-5. 35-36; Mk 6, 34; Mt 9, 36; 18, 21 ff. 

(73) Cf. Jn 15, 12-13; 1 Jn 3, 16. 

(74) Cf. Jas 5, 1-4. 

(75) Cf. 1 Jn 3, 17. 

(76) Cf. 1 Cor 11, 17-34; Libertatis Nuntius, IV, 11: AAS 76 (1984), p. 884. St. Paul himself organizes a collection for the “poor among the saints at Jerusalem” (Rm 15, 26). 

(77) Cf. Rom 8, 11-21. 

(78) Cf. 2 Cor 1, 22. 

(79) Cf. Gal 4, 26. 

(80) Cf. 1 Cor 13, 12; 2 Cor 5, 10. 

(81) Cf. 1 Jn 3, 2. 

(82) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 39, § 2. 

(83) Cf. ibid., 39, § 3. 

(84) Cf. Mt 24, 29-44. 46; Acts 10, 42; 2 Cor 5, 10. 

(85) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 42, § 2. 35 

(86) Cf. Jn 17, 3. 

(87) Cf. Rm 6, 4; 2 Cor 5, 17; Col 3, 9-11. 

(88) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18 and 20: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 17 and 19. 

(89) Cf. Mt 5, 3. 

(90) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 37. 

(91) Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 17; Church’s Decree on Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, 1; Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14: AAS 68 (1976), p. 13. 37 

(92) Gaudium et Spes, 40, § 3. 

(93) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 14: AAS 77 (1985), pp. 211-212. 

(94) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, XI, 10: AAS 76 (1984), p. 901. 

(95) Cf. 2 Cor 8, 9. 

(96) Cf. Lk 2, 7; 9, 58. 

(97) Cf. Mt 6, 19-20; 24-34; 19, 21. 

(98) Cf. Lk 5, 11. 28; Mt 19, 27. 

(99) Cf. Is 11, 4; 61, 1; Lk 4, 18. 

(100) Cf. Lk 19, 1-10; Mk 2, 13-17. 

(101) Cf. Mt 8, 6; 14, 13-21; Jn 13, 29. 

(102) Cf. Mt 8, 17. 

(103) Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 12 and 46:AAS 59 (1967), pp. 262-263 and p. 280; Document of the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Puebla, 476. 

(104) Cf. Acts 2, 44-45.

(105) Cf. Second Extraordinary Synod, Relatio Finalis, II, C, 6: L’Osservatore Romano, 10 December 1985, p. 7; Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 58: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 46-49. 

(106) Cf. Mt 22, 37-40; Rm 13, 8-10. 

(107) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 4: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 403-404; John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla, III, 7: AAS 71 (1979), p. 203. 

(108) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 235: AAS 53 ( 1961 ), p. 461. 

(109) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 25. 

(110) Cf. John XXI II, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 132-133 : AAS 53 ( 1961 ), p. 437. 

(111) Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, 79-80: AAS 23 (1931), p. 203; John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 138: AAS 53 (1961), p. 439; Encyclical Pacem in Terris, 74: AAS 55 ( 1963 ), pp. 294-295.  

(112) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 17-18; Libertatis Nuntius, XI, 9: AAS 76 (1984), p. 901. 

(113) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 16: AAS 77 (1985), pp. 213-217. 

(114) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 25: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 419-420. 

(115) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 20: AAS 73 (1981), pp. 629-632; Libertatis Nuntius, VII, 8; VIII, 5-9; XI, 11-14: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 891-892, 894-895 and 901-902. 

(116) Cf. Mt 5, 44; Lk 6, 27-28. 35. 

(117) Cf. Libertatis Nuntius, XI, 10: AAS 76 (1984), pp. 905-906. 

(118) Cf. Document of the Third General Con ference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Puebla, 533-534. Cf. John Paul II, Homily at Drogheda, Sept. 30, 1979: AAS 71 (1979). pp. 1076-1085. 

(119) Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 31: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 272-273. Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Nos es muy conocida: AAS 29 (1937), pp. 208-209. 

(120) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 76, § 3; Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7. 

(121) Cf. op. cit., 20. 

(122) Cf. op. cit., 5. 

(123) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 6: AAS 73 ( 1981 ), pp. 589-592. 

(124) Cf. op. cit., ch. V: ibid., pp. 637-647. 

(125) Cf. op. cit., 3: ibid., pp. 583-584; Address at Loreto on 10 May 1985: AAS 77 (1985), pp. 967-969. 

(126) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens, 46: AAS 63 (1971), pp. 633-635.

(127) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 6: AAS 73 ( 1981 ), pp. 589-592. 

(128) Cf. ibid

(129) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 46: AAS 74 (1982), pp. 137-139; Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 23: AAS 73 ( 1981 ), pp. 635-637. Cf. Holy See, Charter of Rights of the Family, art. 12, L’Osservatore Romano, Nov. 25, 1983. 

(130) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 68; John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 15: AAS 73 (1981), pp. 616-618; Discourse of 3 July 1980: L’Osservatore Romano, 5 July 1980, pp. 1-2. 

(131) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 69; John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 12 and 14: AAS 73 (1981), pp. 605-608 and 612-616. 

(132) Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, 72: AAS 23 (1931), p. 200; John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, 19: AAS 73 ( 1981 ), pp. 625-629. 

(133) Cf. Document of the Second General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Medellin, Justice, I, 9; Document of the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Puebla, 31. 35. 1245. 

(134) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 163: AAS 53 (1961), p. 443: Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 51: AAS 59 (1967), p. 282; John Paul II, Discourse to the Diplomatic Corps of 11 January 1986: L’Osservatore Romano, 12 January 1986, pp. 4-5. 

(135) Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 55: AAS 59 (1967), p. 284. 

(136) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 60; John Paul II, Discourse to UNESCO of 2 June 1980, 8: AAS 72 (1980), pp. 739-740. 

(137) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 59. 

(138) Cf. Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 3 and 6; Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, 28, 38 and 66: AAS 22 (1930), pp. 59, 63 and 68. Cf. Holy See, Charter of Rights of the Family, art. 5: L’Osservatore Romano, Nov. 25, 1983. 

(139) Cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 29; John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in Terris, 73-74 and 79: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 294-296. 

(140) Cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 7; Gaudium et Spes, 75. Document of the Third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate at Puebla, 311-314; 317-318; 548. 

(141) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 19: AAS 68 (1976), p. 18.  

(142) Cf. Second Extraordinary Synod, Relatio Finalis, II, D, 4: L’Osservatore Romano, 10 December 1985, p. 7. 

(143) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 20: AAS 68 (1976), pp. 18-19. 

(144) Cf. Jn 3, 21. 

(145) Cf. Paul VI, General Audience of 31 December 1975: L’Osservatore Romano, 1 January 1976, p. 1. John Paul II took up this idea again in the Discourse to the “Meeting for Friendship Between People” of 29 August 1982: L’Osservatore Romano, 30-31 August 1982. The Latin-American Bishops also alluded to this idea in the Message to the Peoples of Latin-America, 8, and in the Puebla Document, 1188 and 1192. 

(146) Cf. Gal 5, 6.

Benedict XVI’s Address to British Society at Westminster Hall

Pope Benedict XVI

Mr Speaker,

Thank you for your words of welcome on behalf of this distinguished gathering. As I address you, I am conscious of the privilege afforded me to speak to the British people and their representatives in Westminster Hall, a building of unique significance in the civil and political history of the people of these islands. Allow me also to express my esteem for the Parliament which has existed on this site for centuries and which has had such a profound influence on the development of participative government among the nations, especially in the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world at large. Your common law tradition serves as the basis of legal systems in many parts of the world, and your particular vision of the respective rights and duties of the state and the individual, and of the separation of powers, remains an inspiration to many across the globe.

As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides. In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose “good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.

This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today. And it finds expression in the fields of concern in which your Government has been engaged with the Holy See. In the area of peace, there have been exchanges regarding the elaboration of an international arms trade treaty; regarding human rights, the Holy See and the United Kingdom have welcomed the spread of democracy, especially in the last sixty-five years; in the field of development, there has been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development, particularly through the International Finance Facility, the International Immunization Bond, and the Advanced Market Commitment. The Holy See also looks forward to exploring with the United Kingdom new ways to promote environmental responsibility, to the benefit of all.

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare. Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

This overview of recent cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Holy See illustrates well how much progress has been made, in the years that have passed since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, in promoting throughout the world the many core values that we share. I hope and pray that this relationship will continue to bear fruit, and that it will be mirrored in a growing acceptance of the need for dialogue and respect at every level of society between the world of reason and the world of faith. I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with this Parliament’s historic practice of invoking the Spirit’s guidance upon those who seek to improve the conditions of all mankind. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed. The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.

Mr Speaker, I thank you once again for this opportunity briefly to address this distinguished audience. Let me assure you and the Lord Speaker of my continued good wishes and prayers for you and for the fruitful work of both Houses of this ancient Parliament. Thank you and God bless you all!

September 17, 2010
City of Westminster

Benedict XVI’s Address to World of Culture at College des Bernardins

Pope Benedict XVI

I thank you, Your Eminence, for your kind words.  We are gathered in a historic place, built by the spiritual sons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and which Your venerable predecessor, the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, desired to be a centre of dialogue between Christian Wisdom and the cultural, intellectual, and artistic currents of contemporary society.  In particular, I greet the Minister of Culture, who is here representing the Government, together with Mr Giscard d’Estaing and Mr Jacques Chirac. I likewise greet all the Ministers present, the Representatives of UNESCO, the Mayor of Paris, and all other Authorities in attendance.  I do not want to forget my colleagues from the French Institute, who are well aware of my regard for them. I thank the Prince of Broglie for his cordial words.  We shall see each other again tomorrow morning.  I thank the delegates of the French Islamic community for having accepted the invitation to participate in this meeting: I convey to them by best wishes for the holy season of Ramadan already underway. Of course, I extend warm greetings to the entire, multifaceted world of culture, which you, dear guests, so worthily represent.

I would like to speak with you this evening of the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture.  I began by recalling that the place in which we are gathered is in a certain way emblematic.  It is in fact a placed tied to monastic culture, insofar as young monks came to live here in order to learn to understand their vocation more deeply and to be more faithful to their mission.  We are in a place that is associated with the culture of monasticism.  Does this still have something to say to us today, or are we merely encountering the world of the past?  In order to answer this question, we must consider for a moment the nature of Western monasticism itself.  What was it about?  From the perspective of monasticism’s historical influence, we could say that, amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old.  But how did it happen?  What motivated men to come together to these places?  What did they want?  How did they live?

First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past.  Their motivation was much more basic.  Their goal was: quaerere Deum.  Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential – to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself.  They were searching for God.  They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is.  It is sometimes said that they were “eschatologically” oriented.  But this is not to be understood in a temporal sense, as if they were looking ahead to the end of the world or to their own death, but in an existential sense: they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional.  Quaerere Deum: because they were Christians, this was not an expedition into a trackless wilderness, a search leading them into total darkness.  God himself had provided signposts, indeed he had marked out a path which was theirs to find and to follow.  This path was his word, which had been disclosed to men in the books of the sacred Scriptures.  Thus, by inner necessity, the search for God demands a culture of the word or – as Jean Leclercq put it: eschatology and grammar are intimately connected with one another in Western monasticism (cf. L’amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu).  The longing for God, the désir de Dieu, includes amour des lettres, love of the word, exploration of all its dimensions.  Because in the biblical word God comes towards us and we towards him, we must learn to penetrate the secret of language, to understand it in its construction and in the manner of its expression.  Thus it is through the search for God that the secular sciences take on their importance, sciences which show us the path towards language.  Because the search for God required the culture of the word, it was appropriate that the monastery should have a library, pointing out pathways to the word.  It was also appropriate to have a school, in which these pathways could be opened up.  Benedict calls the monastery a dominici servitii schola.  The monastery serves eruditio, the formation and education of man – a formation whose ultimate aim is that man should learn how to serve God.  But it also includes the formation of reason – education – through which man learns to perceive, in the midst of words, the Word itself.

Yet in order to have a full vision of the culture of the word, which essentially pertains to the search for God, we must take a further step.  The Word which opens the path of that search, and is to be identified with this path, is a shared word.  True, it pierces every individual to the heart (cf. Acts 2:37).  Gregory the Great describes this a sharp stabbing pain, which tears open our sleeping soul and awakens us, making us attentive to the essential reality, to God (cf. Leclercq, p. 35).  But in the process, it also makes us attentive to one another.  The word does not lead to a purely individual path of mystical immersion, but to the pilgrim fellowship of faith.  And so this word must not only be pondered, but also correctly read.  As in the rabbinic schools, so too with the monks, reading by the individual is at the same time a corporate activity.  “But if legere and lectio are used without an explanatory note, then they designate for the most part an activity which, like singing and writing, engages the whole body and the whole spirit”, says Jean Leclercq on the subject (ibid., 21).

And once again, a further step is needed.  We ourselves are brought into conversation with God by the word of God.  The God who speaks in the Bible teaches us how to speak with him ourselves.  Particularly in the book of Psalms, he gives us the words with which we can address him, with which we can bring our life, with all its highpoints and lowpoints, into conversation with him, so that life itself thereby becomes a movement towards him.  The psalms also contain frequent instructions about how they should be sung and accompanied by instruments.  For prayer that issues from the word of God, speech is not enough: music is required.  Two chants from the Christian liturgy come from biblical texts in which they are placed on the lips of angels:  the Gloria, which is sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus, and the Sanctus, which according to Isaiah 6 is the cry of the seraphim who stand directly before God.  Christian worship is therefore an invitation to sing with the angels, and thus to lead the word to its highest destination.  Once again, Jean Leclercq says on this subject:  “The monks had to find melodies which translate into music the acceptance by redeemed man of the mysteries that he celebrates.  The few surviving capitula from Cluny thus show the Christological symbols of the individual modes” (cf. ibid. p. 229).

For Benedict, the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine – in the presence of the angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) – are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks.  What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards:  that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres.  From this perspective one can understand the seriousness of a remark by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who used an expression from the Platonic tradition handed down by Augustine, to pass judgement on the poor singing of monks, which for him was evidently very far from being a mishap of only minor importance.  He describes the confusion resulting from a poorly executed chant as a falling into the “zone of dissimilarity” – the regio dissimilitudinis.  Augustine had borrowed this phrase from Platonic philosophy, in order to designate his condition prior to conversion (cf. Confessions, VII, 10.16):  man, who is created in God’s likeness, falls in his godforsakenness into the “zone of dissimilarity” – into a remoteness from God, in which he no longer reflects him, and so has become dissimilar not only to God, but to himself, to what being human truly is.  Bernard is certainly putting it strongly when he uses this phrase, which indicates man’s falling away from himself, to describe bad singing by monks.  But it shows how seriously he viewed the matter.  It shows that the culture of singing is also the culture of being, and that the monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty.  This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music.  It was not a form of private “creativity”, in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion.  Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the “ears of the heart” the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity.

In order to understand to some degree the culture of the word, which developed deep within Western monasticism from the search for God, we need to touch at least briefly on the particular character of the book, or rather books, in which the monks encountered this word.  The Bible, considered from a purely historical and literary perspective, is not simply a book, but a collection of literary texts which were redacted over the course of more than a thousand years, and in which the inner unity of the individual books is not immediately apparent.  On the contrary, there are visible tensions between them.  This is already the case within the Bible of Israel, which we Christians call the Old Testament.  It is only rectified when we as Christians link the New Testament writings as, so to speak, a hermeneutical key with the Bible of Israel, and so understand the latter as the journey towards Christ.  With good reason, the New Testament generally designates the Bible not as “the Scripture” but as “the Scriptures”, which, when taken together, are naturally then regarded as the one word of God to us.  But the use of this plural makes it quite clear that the word of God only comes to us through the human word and through human words, that God only speaks to us through the humanity of human agents, through their words and their history.  This means again that the divine element in the word and in the words is not self-evident.  To say this in a modern way:  the unity of the biblical books and the divine character of their words cannot be grasped by purely historical methods.  The historical element is seen in the multiplicity and the humanity.  From this perspective one can understand the formulation of a medieval couplet that at first sight appears rather disconcerting:  littera gesta docet – quid credas allegoria … (cf. Augustine of Dacia, Rotulus pugillaris, I). The letter indicates the facts;  what you have to believe is indicated by allegory, that is to say, by Christological and pneumatological exegesis.

We may put it even more simply:  Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived.  This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up.  To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word.  Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity.  Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense (cf. par. 108).  It perceives in the words the Word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity and the reality of a human history.  This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation.  It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism.  In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text.  To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living.  Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book.  The Word of God and his action in the world are revealed only in the word and history of human beings.

The whole drama of this topic is illuminated in the writings of Saint Paul.  What is meant by the transcending of the letter and understanding it solely from the perspective of the whole, he forcefully expressed as follows:  “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).   And he continues: “Where the Spirit is … there is freedom (cf. 2 Cor 3:17).  But one can only understand the greatness and breadth of this vision of the biblical word if one listens closely to Paul and then discovers that this liberating Spirit has a name, and hence that freedom has an inner criterion:  “The Lord is the Spirit.  Where the Spirit is … there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).  The liberating Spirit is not simply the exegete’s own idea, the exegete’s own vision.  The Spirit is Christ, and Christ is the Lord who shows us the way.  With the word of Spirit and of freedom, a further horizon opens up, but at the same time a clear limit is placed upon arbitrariness and subjectivity, which unequivocally binds both the individual and the community and brings about a new, higher obligation than that of the letter: namely, the obligation of insight and love.  This tension between obligation and freedom, which extends far beyond the literary problem of scriptural exegesis, has also determined the thinking and acting of monasticism and has deeply marked Western culture.  This tension presents itself anew as a challenge for our own generation as we face two poles: on the one hand, subjective arbitrariness, and on the other, fundamentalist fanaticism.  It would be a disaster if today’s European culture could only conceive freedom as absence of obligation, which would inevitably play into the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness.  Absence of obligation and arbitrariness do not signify freedom, but its destruction.

Thus far in our consideration of the “school of God’s service”, as Benedict describes monasticism, we have examined only its orientation towards the word – towards the “ora”.  Indeed, this is the starting point that sets the direction for the entire monastic life.  But our consideration would remain incomplete if we did not also at least briefly glance at the second component of monasticism, indicated by the “labora”.  In the Greek world, manual labour was considered something for slaves.  Only the wise man, the one who is truly free, devotes himself to the things of the spirit;  he views manual labour as somehow beneath him, and leaves it to people who are not suited to this higher existence in the world of the spirit.  The Jewish tradition was quite different: all the great rabbis practised at the same time some form of handcraft.  Paul, who as a Rabbi and then as a preacher of the Gospel to the Gentile world was also a tent-maker and earned his living with the work of his own hands, is no exception here, but stands within the common tradition of the rabbinate.  Monasticism took up this tradition; manual work is a constitutive element of Christian monasticism.  In his Regula, Saint Benedict does not speak specifically about schools, although in practice, he presupposes teaching and learning, as we have seen.  However, in one chapter of his Rule, he does speak explicitly about work (cf. Chap. 48).  And so does Augustine, who dedicated a book of his own to monastic work.  Christians, who thus continued in the tradition previously established by Judaism, must have felt further vindicated by Jesus’s saying in Saint John’s Gospel, in defence of his activity on the Sabbath: “My Father is working still, and I am working” (5:17).  The Graeco-Roman world did not have a creator God; according to its vision, the highest divinity could not, as it were, dirty his hands in the business of creating matter.  The “making” of the world was the work of the Demiurge, a lower deity.  The Christian God is different:  he, the one, real and only God, is also the Creator.  God is working; he continues working in and on human history.  In Christ, he enters personally into the laborious work of history.  “My Father is working still, and I am working.”  God himself is the Creator of the world, and creation is not yet finished.  God works, ergázetai!  Thus human work was now seen as a special form of human resemblance to God, as a way in which man can and may share in God’s activity as creator of the world.  Monasticism involves not only a culture of the word, but also a culture of work, without which the emergence of Europe, its ethos and its influence on the world would be unthinkable.  Naturally, this ethos had to include the idea that human work and shaping of history is understood as sharing in the work of the Creator, and must be evaluated in those terms.  Where such evaluation is lacking, where man arrogates to himself the status of god-like creator, his shaping of the world can quickly turn into destruction of the world.

We set out from the premise that the basic attitude of monks in the face of the collapse of the old order and its certainties was quaerere Deum – setting out in search of God.  We could describe this as the truly philosophical attitude: looking beyond the penultimate, and setting out in search of the ultimate and the true.  By becoming a monk, a man set out on a broad and noble path, but he had already found the direction he needed:  the word of the Bible, in which he heard God himself speaking.  Now he had to try to understand him, so as to be able to approach him.  So the monastic journey is indeed a journey into the inner world of the received word, even if an infinite distance is involved.  Within the monks’ seeking there is already contained, in some respects, a finding.  Therefore, if such seeking is to be possible at all, there has to be an initial spur, which not only arouses the will to seek, but also makes it possible to believe that the way is concealed within this word, or rather: that in this word, God himself has set out towards men, and hence men can come to God through it.  To put it another way: there must be proclamation, which speaks to man and so creates conviction, which in turn can become life.  If a way is to be opened up into the heart of the biblical word as God’s word, this word must first of all be proclaimed outwardly.  The classic formulation of the Christian faith’s intrinsic need to make itself communicable to others, is a phrase from the First Letter of Peter, which in medieval theology was regarded as the biblical basis for the work of theologians:  “Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason (the logos) for the hope that you all have” (3:15).  (The Logos, the reason for hope must become apo-logía; it must become a response).  In fact, Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, designed to enlarge their particular group, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith:  the God in whom they believed was the God of all people, the one, true God, who had revealed himself in the history of Israel and ultimately in his Son, thereby supplying the answer which was of concern to everyone and for which all people, in their innermost hearts, are waiting.  The universality of God, and of reason open towards him, is what gave them the motivation—indeed, the obligation—to proclaim the message.  They saw their faith as belonging, not to cultural custom that differs from one people to another, but to the domain of truth, which concerns all people equally.

The fundamental structure of Christian proclamation “outwards” – towards searching and questioning mankind – is seen in Saint Paul’s address at the Areopagus.  We should remember that the Areopagus was not a form of academy at which the most illustrious minds would meet for discussion of lofty matters, but a court of justice, which was competent in matters of religion and ought to have opposed the import of foreign religions.  This is exactly what Paul is reproached for:  “he seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities” (Acts 17:18).  To this, Paul responds:  I have found an altar of yours with this inscription:  ‘to an unknown god’.  What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you (17:23).  Paul is not proclaiming unknown gods.  He is proclaiming him whom men do not know and yet do know – the unknown-known; the one they are seeking, whom ultimately they know already, and who yet remains the unknown and unrecognizable.  The deepest layer of human thinking and feeling somehow knows that he must exist, that at the beginning of all things, there must be not irrationality, but creative Reason – not blind chance, but freedom.  Yet even though all men somehow know this, as Paul expressly says in the Letter to the Romans (1:21), this knowledge remains unreal:  a God who is merely imagined and invented is not God at all.  If he does not reveal himself, we cannot gain access to him.  The novelty of Christian proclamation is that it can now say to all peoples: he has revealed himself.  He personally.  And now the way to him is open.  The novelty of Christian proclamation does not consist in a thought, but in a deed: God has revealed himself.  Yet this is no blind deed, but one which is itself Logos – the presence of eternal reason in our flesh.  Verbum caro factum est (Jn 1:14): just so, amid what is made (factum) there is now Logos, Logos is among us.  Creation (factum) is rational.  Naturally, the humility of reason is always needed, in order to accept it:  man’s humility, which responds to God’s humility.

Our present situation differs in many respects from the one that Paul encountered in Athens, yet despite the difference, the two situations also have much in common.  Our cities are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities.  God has truly become for many the great unknown.  But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning him.  Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times.  A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences.  What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture. Thank you.

September 12, 2008

Benedict XVI on Music

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave this talk, when he was conferred with a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the John Paul II Pontifical University of Krakow and from the Academy of Music of Krakow, Poland.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Castel Gandolfo, July 4, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen!

At this moment, I cannot but express my greatest and most cordial gratitude for the honor you have given me conferring the Doctoratus Honoris Causa. I thank the Grand Chancellor, his dear Eminence Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the academic Authorities of both Athenaeums. I rejoice above all over the fact that in this way my bond with Poland, with Krakow, with the homeland of our great Saint John Paul II has become more profound, because without him, my spiritual and theological journey would not have even been imaginable. With his brilliant example he also showed us how the joy of great sacred music and the task of common participation in the sacred liturgy, the solemn joy and the simplicity of the humble celebration of the faith can go hand in hand.

In the years after the Council, on this point a very old disagreement was manifested with renewed passion. I myself grew up in the Salisburghese marked by the great tradition of this city. It was a given here that Sunday Masses accompanied by the choir and orchestra were an integral part of our experience of the faith in the celebration of the liturgy. Indelibly impressed in my memory, for instance, is how, when the first notes of Mozart’s Coronation Mass sounded, Heaven virtually opened and the presence of the Lord was experienced very profoundly. And thanks also to you, who enabled me to hear Mozart and also the Choir for the great songs! Beside this, however, already present in any case also was the new reality of the Liturgical Movement, especially through one of our chaplains who later became Vice-Regent and then Rector of the Major Seminary of Freising. Then, during my studies at Monaco of Bavaria, I entered ever more concretely in the Liturgical Movement through the lessons of Professor Pascher, one of the most significant experts of the Council in liturgical matter, and above all through the liturgical life in the community of the Seminary. Thus little by little the tension became perceptible between the participatio actuosa in keeping with the liturgy and the solemn music that enveloped the sacred action, even if it was not yet perceived so strong.

Written very clearly in the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican Council II is that “The patrimony of sacred music be preserved and incremented with great care” (1124). On the other hand, the text evidences, as a fundamental liturgical category, the participatio actuosa of all the faithful in the sacred action. What in the Constitution was still peacefully together, subsequently, in the reception of the Council was often in a relation of dramatic tension. Significant environments of the Liturgical Movement held that, for the great choral works and even for the Masses for orchestra there would be room in the future only in concert halls, not in the liturgy. Here there could be a place only for the common singing and prayer of the faithful. On the other hand, there was consternation over the cultural impoverishment of the Church, which would necessarily flow from this. In what way could both things be reconciled? How could the Council be implemented in its entirety? These were the questions posed to me and to many other faithful, to simple people as well as to persons in possession of theological formation.

At this point, it is right, perhaps, to pose the basic question: What is music in reality? From where does it come and what does it tend to?

I think that three “places” can be localized from which music flows.

One of the first sources is the experience of love. When men are seized by love, a new dimension of being opens in them, a new grandeur and breadth of reality, and it also drives one to express oneself in a new way. Poetry, singing and music in general stem from this being struck, by this opening of oneself to a new dimension of life.

A second origin of music is the experience of sadness, being touched by death, by sorrow and by the abysses of existence. Opened also in this case, in an opposite direction, are new dimensions of reality that can no longer find answers in discourses alone.

Finally, the third place of origin of music is the encounter with the divine, which from the beginning is part of what defines the human.  All the more so here in which the totally other and the totally great is present, which arouses in man new ways of expressing himself. Perhaps, it is possible to affirm that in reality also in the other two ambits – love and death – the divine mystery touches us and, in this sense, it is the being touched by God that, overall, constitutes the origin of music. I find it moving to observe how, for instance, in the Psalms singing is no longer enough for men — an appeal is made to all the instruments: reawakened is the hidden music of creation, its mysterious language. With the Psalter, in which the two motives of love and death also operate, we find directly the origin of sacred music of the Church of God. It can be said that the quality of the music depends on the purity and the grandeur of the encounter with the divine, with the experience of love and of pain. The more pure and true this experience is, the more pure and great also is the music that is born and develops from it.

At this point, I would like to express a thought that has gripped me increasingly, all the more so in as much as the different cultures and religions enter into relation among themselves. Present in the ambit of the different cultures and religions is great literature, great architecture, great painting and great sculptures. And everywhere there is also music. And yet in no other cultural ambit is there music of equal grandeur to that born in the ambit of the Christian faith: from Palestrina to Bach, to Handle, up to Mozart, Beethoven and Bruckner. Western music is something unique, which has no equal in other cultures. And this – it seems to me – should make us think.

Certainly, Western music goes beyond by far the religious and ecclesial ambit. And yet it finds its most profound origin, in any case, in the liturgy of the encounter with God. In Bach, for whom the glory of God represents ultimately the end of all music, this is altogether evident. The great and pure answer of Western music was developed in the encounter with that God that, in the liturgy, makes himself present to us in Christ Jesus. For me, that music is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. Wherever such an answer is developed, there has been an encounter with truth, with the true Creator of the world. Therefore, great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent meaning for the faith of the whole of Christianity, even if it is not necessary that it be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand,  however, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an altogether special way of participation in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of the faith.

If we think of the liturgy celebrated by Saint John Paul II on every continent, we see all the breadth of the expressive possibilities of the faith in the liturgical event; and we also see how the great music of the Western tradition is not foreign to the liturgy, but is born and grows from it and in this way contributes ever again to give it form. We do not know the future of our culture and of sacred music. However, there is something that seems clear to me: where there is really an encounter with the living God who comes to us in Christ, born and growing there again is the answer, whose beauty comes from truth itself.

The activity of the two universities that confer on me – that have conferred on me – this Doctorate Honoris Causa – for which I can say again my wholehearted thank you – represents an essential contribution so that the great gift of music, which comes from the tradition of the Christian faith, may remain alive and be of help in order that the creative force of faith is not extinguished also in the future. For this, I thank you all wholeheartedly, not only for the honor that you have bestowed on me, but also for all the work you carry out at the service of the beauty of the faith. May the Lord bless you all.

July 4, 2015
Castel Gandolfo

Pope St John Paul the Great on Evolution

Pope St John Paul the Great

To the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in plenary assembly:

It is with great pleasure that I send my cordial greetings to you, Mr. President, and to all of you who constitute the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your plenary assembly. I send my particular best wishes to the new members of the Academy, who come to take part in your work for the first time. I also wish to recall the members who have died in the course of the past year; I entrust them to the Maker of all life.


In celebrating the 60th anniversary of the re-foundation of the Academy, it gives me pleasure to recall the intentions of my predecessor, Pius XI, who wished to bring together around him a chosen group of scholars who could, working with complete freedom, inform the Holy See about the developments in scientific research and thus provide aid for reflections.

To those whom he enjoyed calling the Scientific Senate of the Church, he asked simply this: that they serve the truth. That is the same invitation which I renew today, with the certainty that we can all draw profit from “the fruitfulness of frank dialogue between the Church and science.” (Discourse to the Academy of Sciences, October 28, 1986, #1)


I am delighted with the first theme which you have chosen: the origin of life and evolution—an essential theme of lively interest to the Church, since Revelation contains some of its own teachings concerning the nature and origins of man. How should the conclusions reached by the diverse scientific disciplines be brought together with those contained in the message of Revelation? And if at first glance these views seem to clash with each other, where should we look for a solution? We know that the truth cannot contradict the truth. (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus) However, in order better to understand historical reality, your research into the relationships between the Church and the scientific community between the 16th and 18th centuries will have a great deal of importance.

In the course of this plenary session, you will be undertaking a “reflection on science in the shadow of the third millennium,” and beginning to determine the principal problems which the sciences face, which have an influence on the future of humanity. By your efforts, you will mark out the path toward solutions which will benefit all of the human community. In the domain of nature, both living and inanimate, the evolution of science and its applications gives rise to new inquiries. The Church will be better able to expand her work insofar as we understand the essential aspects of these new developments. Thus, following her specific mission, the Church will be able to offer the criteria by which we may discern the moral behavior to which all men are called, in view of their integral salvation.


Before offering a few more specific reflections on the theme of the origin of life and evolution, I would remind you that the magisterium of the Church has already made some pronouncements on these matters, within her own proper sphere of competence. I will cite two such interventions here.

In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.

For my part, when I received the participants in the plenary assembly of your Academy on October 31, 1992, I used the occasion—and the example of Gallileo—to draw attention to the necessity of using a rigorous hermeneutical approach in seeking a concrete interpretation of the inspired texts. It is important to set proper limits to the understanding of Scripture, excluding any unseasonable interpretations which would make it mean something which it is not intended to mean. In order to mark out the limits of their own proper fields, theologians and those working on the exegesis of the Scripture need to be well informed regarding the results of the latest scientific research.


Taking into account the scientific research of the era, and also the proper requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis treated the doctrine of “evolutionism” as a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and serious study, alongside the opposite hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions for this study: one could not adopt this opinion as if it were a certain and demonstrable doctrine, and one could not totally set aside the teaching Revelation on the relevant questions. He also set out the conditions on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith—a point to which I shall return.

Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.  In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

What is the significance of a theory such as this one? To open this question is to enter into the field of epistemology. A theory is a meta-scientific elaboration, which is distinct from, but in harmony with, the results of observation. With the help of such a theory a group of data and independent facts can be related to one another and interpreted in one comprehensive explanation. The theory proves its validity by the measure to which it can be verified. It is constantly being tested against the facts; when it can no longer explain these facts, it shows its limits and its lack of usefulness, and it must be revised.

Moreover, the elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution, while obedient to the need for consistency with the observed data, must also involve importing some ideas from the philosophy of nature.

And to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here—in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution, and in part because of the diversity of philosophies involved. There are materialist and reductionist theories, as well as spiritualist theories. Here the final judgment is within the competence of philosophy and, beyond that, of theology.


The magisterium of the Church takes a direct interest in the question of evolution, because it touches on the conception of man, whom Revelation tells us is created in the image and likeness of God. The conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes has given us a magnificent exposition of this doctrine, which is one of the essential elements of Christian thought. The Council recalled that “man is the only creature on earth that God wanted for its own sake.” In other words, the human person cannot be subordinated as a means to an end, or as an instrument of either the species or the society; he has a value of his own. He is a person. By this intelligence and his will, he is capable of entering into relationship, of communion, of solidarity, of the gift of himself to others like himself. St. Thomas observed that man’s resemblance to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, because his relationship with the object of his knowledge is like God’s relationship with his creation. (Summa Theologica I-II, q 3, a 5, ad 1) But even beyond that, man is called to enter into a loving relationship with God himself, a relationship which will find its full expression at the end of time, in eternity. Within the mystery of the risen Christ the full grandeur of this vocation is revealed to us. (Gaudium et Spes, 22) It is by virtue of his eternal soul that the whole person, including his body, possesses such great dignity. Pius XII underlined the essential point: if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God (“animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides non retimere iubet”). (Humani Generis)

As a result, the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. They are therefore unable to serve as the basis for the dignity of the human person.


With man, we find ourselves facing a different ontological order—an ontological leap, we could say. But in posing such a great ontological discontinuity, are we not breaking up the physical continuity which seems to be the main line of research about evolution in the fields of physics and chemistry? An appreciation for the different methods used in different fields of scholarship allows us to bring together two points of view which at first might seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure, with ever greater precision, the many manifestations of life, and write them down along the time-line. The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed in this way—although we can nevertheless discern, through experimental research, a series of very valuable signs of what is specifically human life. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-consciousness and self-awareness, of moral conscience, of liberty, or of aesthetic and religious experience—these must be analyzed through philosophical reflection, while theology seeks to clarify the ultimate meaning of the Creator’s designs.


In closing, I would like to call to mind the Gospel truth which can shed a greater light on your researches into the origins and the development of living matter. The Bible, in fact, bears an extraordinary message about life. It shows us life, as it characterizes the highest forms of existence, with a vision of wisdom. That vision guided me in writing the encyclical which I have consecrated to the respect for human life and which I have entitled precisely The Gospel of Life.

It is significant that in the Gospel of St. John, life refers to that divine light which Christ brings to us. We are called to enter into eternal life, which is to say the eternity of divine beatitude.

To set us on guard against the grave temptations which face us, our Lord cites the great words of Deuteronomy: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4)

Even more, life is one of the most beautiful titles which the Bible gives to God; he is the living God.

With a full heart, I invoke upon all of you, and all to whom you are close, an abundance of divine blessings.

October 22, 1996

Christopher Dawson on Technology and Demise of Liberalism by Russell Hittinger

Christopher Dawson & Francis Russell Hittinger

Having accepted the Stillman Chair of Catholic Studies at Harvard, Christopher Dawson arrived in New York City on September 30, 1958. He summarized his impression of the new world in this way:

No one from the Old World can land at New York without being immediately impressed by this spectacle of gigantic material power….There is nothing like it in Europe or I think anywhere else. It seems to mark the coming of a new age and a new civilization….But viewed in the perspective of history it is a very strange and surprising thing. The ancient Egyptians built pyramids that were even greater than the skyscrapers of New York, in terms of the human effort expended, but they were for the tombs of God-Kings. The relatively poverty stricken peoples of medieval Europe erected vast cathedrals and abbeys, but these were the expression of their common faith and their hopes for eternity. But to-day we build temples greater than the Egyptian pyramids or the Gothic Cathedrals and they are dedicated to toothpaste or chewing gum or anything that anyone wants… [1]

One might suspect that these were the grumpy remarks of an Englishman who was born in 1899, in a 12th century Welsh castle. But Dawson was only preparing his audience for a far more serious evaluation of the culture. Modern technology, he went on to say, is a “Frankenstein” that increases governmental power and decreases individual liberty. [2] Of course, this was a time in which Americans thought rather well of themselves. But Dawson contended that the ideology of the Cold War distracts our attention from the fact that the democracies and the totalitarian regimes converge in at least one important respect: namely, that they are planned societies, organized around technology, and governed by technocratic elites. [3] Dawson concluded by insisting that “the ultimate issue for modern civilization” is the recovery of a humanism sufficient to withstand “the disintegrating and dehumanizing influences of technology.”[4]

It would be a mistake to attribute Dawson’s remarks about technology to his aristocratic dislike of Gotham, and to his even deeper antipathy for the managerial class. I say that it would be a mistake, because such remarks were not mere obiter dicta. In fact, Dawson’s criticism of the technological society is one the most persistent themes in his books and lectures. From his first published work Progress and Religion (1929), to the lectures given during the twilight of his career in America, he was emphatic in the judgment that the chief enemy of culture is not liberalism or the other secular religions of progress, but technology. The secular religions of progress which arose during the 18th and 19th centuries expressed an older humanistic culture, going back at least to the Renaissance. These ideologies defined progress in humane terms. They envisioned perfections which belong or ought to belong to individuals: e.g. enlightenment, benevolence, justice, and rights. In Dawson’s estimation, however, liberalism was a transitory and relatively brief phase of culture, lasting less than a century. It was a mere bit player on a stage controlled by larger forces, which measured progress in terms of an array of tools, not the least of which are the methods of the managerial class. This class that represented to Dawson what St. Paul meant when he spoke of the “Cosmocrats of the Dark Aeon”—that is, of rational powers which make use of things below reason to conquer and rule the world of man.

I must admit that in previous readings of Dawson’s work, I was not persuaded by the critical, if not apocalyptic remarks he made about technology. But the thesis that technology is the basis of secular culture, and that liberalism was but a transitory phrase en route to technocracy, was argued so forcefully, from the beginning to the end of his career, that we ought to take stock of what he had to say.

This afternoon I will revisit Dawson’s thought on this subject. First, I will give a Dawsonian definition of liberalism. In particular, I want to mention why Dawson thought that liberalism was a humane culture, and why we should fear, rather than gloat over its demise. Second, I will discuss his thesis that technology is the real basis of secular culture; that liberalism failed to control technology, by failing to assign to the machine some end beyond a merely materialistic idea of progress and well-being. Third, I will take one technology, as a case in point illustrating Dawson’s thesis. II

Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding, there is no precise definition of liberalism, either in ordinary speech or in professional scholarship. Liberalism can denote institutions and cultural practices, as well as ideas and theories about those institutions and practices. In the 19th century, especially in the Anglophone world, liberalism first denoted a set of ideas about how the legal system ought to be reformed, particularly the system of criminal law. Liberals like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill argued that the penal code should reflect enlightened principles of social utility rather than the moral taboos and passions of public opinion. Reform of the penal system was the pivotal idea for a broad ranging set of reforms concerning child labor, mandatory education, women’s suffrage, and economic markets. In all of these areas, and in many more, the liberal called first for legal, and then for full-scaled institutional reforms which separated the coercive force of law from the customary notions of morality. The liberal believed that the individual, emancipated from the public force of religion and custom, is the engine of cultural, economic, and even religious creativity. (No doubt, Pope Pius IX had all of this in mind when he declared in 1854 that it is “an error to believe that the Roman pontiff can or should reconcile himself to, and agree with progress, liberalism and modern civilizations.”) [5]

It would be impossible to give a definition that captures (at a proper level of detail and complexity) all of the different aspects and phases of liberalism. Rather than define it, I will read a single passage from J.S. Mill’s On Liberty (1859). If this text does not capture the soul of liberalism, then I suspect that nothing will. Mill wrote that:

There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices and set the example of more enlightened conduct and better taste and sense in human life. This cannot well be gainsaid by anybody who does not believe that the world has already attained perfection in all its ways and practices. It is true that this benefit is not capable of being rendered by everybody alike; there are but few persons, in comparison with the whole of mankind, whose experiments, if adopted by others, would be likely to be any improvement on established practice. But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist; it is they who keep the life in those which already exist….There is only too great a tendency in the best beliefs and practices to degenerate into the mechanical; and unless there were a succession of persons whose ever-recurring originality prevents the grounds of those beliefs and practices from becoming merely traditional…there would be no reason why civilization should not die out… [6]

Mill went on to add the following thought:

The progressive principle…whether as the love of liberty or of improvement, is antagonistic to the sway of custom, involving at least emancipation from that yoke; and the contest between the two constitutes the chief interest of the history of mankind [7] ….Europe is, in my judgment, wholly indebted to this plurality of paths for its progressive and many-sided development. [8]

This, I propose, is the genuine article. Liberalism was not a theory of democracy. Liberals of all stripes, from Mill to de Tocqueville, feared the leveling effects of democracy, egalitarianism, and mass public opinion. Nor should liberalism be equated with the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for liberals championed the spontaneous genius, who more resembled the artist than the scientist or the philosopher. In this regard, it should be recalled that Liberalism arose during the period of Romanticism. Nor should liberalism be equated with the scientific rationality of the industrial revolution, for liberals also feared the alliance between democratic opinion and the machine. Indeed, in On Liberty the machine is almost always the metaphor for the anti-liberal principle.

The idea of the free market of economic exchange was actually a small piece of a much larger metaphor of the free market of ideas, of what Mill called “experiments in living.” For the liberal, the state and its rule of law had the limited role of providing only the skeletal structure of procedures which facilitate the liberty of individuals. Liberals contended that the state should not have the role of central planning or management. Adam Smith, for example, observed that the legislator “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chessboard. He does not consider that…in the great chessboard of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own…” [9] It was a chief tenet of the liberal creed that society must defer to this individual “principle of motion.” The liberal believed that any social order worth living in, will emerge in unplanned ways, as a result of individual creativity.

Of course, liberals devoted themselves to a plethora of reform movements which used coercive power to change the law; but, at least in theory, these reforms were not supposed to dictate, from on high, the results of individual liberty; rather, they were meant to remove cultural and societal impediments to liberty.

Liberalism was truly a new and awesome idea of how culture ought to be reproduced. It was to be reproduced not by custom and habit, not by central management, but pell-mell, by spontaneous individual choices. For the liberal, individual liberty is the goose that lays the golden egg. Of course, liberalism never was purely embodied in any nation or political party — and history clearly teaches the liberals could not resist using governmental power to make the goose lay the egg. But here, we are speaking of liberalism as an ideal; and, as an ideal that captured the imagination of the educated classes of the West, it was different from other secular religions of progress (e.g. Marxism) precisely because it eschewed the idea that progress is dependent on the coercive apparatus of Caesar.

Dawson was very respectful of liberalism. In a number of his books, he depicted it as a secularized version of Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities. In the City of God, St. Augustine depicts two cities. On the one hand, there is the civitas terrena, which because of self-love is always dying, and therefore cannot be an agent of progress. At best, the earthly city can maintain a kind of external order of justice. On the other hand, there is the civitas dei, temporally embodied in the Church. This city, bound together by charity rather than coercion, is the agent of progress. As Dawson writes, Augustine’s theology deprived “the state of its aura of divinity,” and “for all its unworldliness, first made possible the ideal of a social order resting on the free personality.” [10]

Again, to quote Dawson:

It is only in Western Europe that the whole pattern of culture is to be found in a continuous succession and alternation of free spiritual movements; so that every century of Western history shows a change in the balance of cultural elements, and the appearance of some new spiritual force which creates new ideas and institutions and produces a further movement of social change. [11]

Of course, this sounds very similar to passage we read earlier from Mill’s On Liberty. [12] The liberal vision of history and culture, Dawson explained, took over from Christendom not only its universalism, its sense of a spiritual purpose higher than the state, but also its dualism—although now it is the Church that is “the liberal equivalent of the powers of darkness, while the children of this world have become the children of light.” [13] Dawson called liberalism a “sublimated Christianity” [14] —a humanitarian Christianity, relieved of the burdens of the supernatural and ecclesial authority. But he argued that liberalism was not relieved of the archetypal pattern of western culture; it only changed the dramatic cast of the story.

It should be emphasized that Dawson did not begrudge liberalism its virtues.

— It advocated limited government, and taught that nothing of lasting value can take place behind the back of the moral effort of the free individual. [15]

— Despite its more or less explicit doctrine of individualism, liberal culture embodied a kind of humanitarian idealism. [16] Cruel penal codes were reformed, famine and disease were combated, education was mandated. [17]

— And despite its doctrine of emancipation from custom, in the golden age of liberalism (Victorian England, and America at the turn of the century), the family thrived as an independent social unit. Though sentimentalized and privatized, the family was at least somewhat protected from the forces of government and the market. [18]

— It developed a system of economic markets, which Dawson said was a “vast cooperative effort” requiring “a very high degree of social discipline and organization.” [19] Moreover, like the older pattern of Christendom, liberal culture was trans-national, trans-ethnic and trans-racial. Like the Christian missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries, who took the religious seed of European culture to all the continents, liberalism also had international aspirations. The domestic reforms of liberal culture were exported internationally.

Thus, Dawson dreaded the passing of liberal culture, for its demise deprived the West of a cultural pattern that had persisted for nearly two millennia. In The Judgment of the Nations, he wrote that “Christians have no reason to look on the defeat of this spirit with complacency or indifference…[for] these [liberal] ideas are not empty abstractions. They are the foundations of human life; and when they are undermined, the whole edifice of civilization is dissolved…” [20]

According to Dawson, liberalism was “transitional and impermanent,” lasting for less than a century. [21] What took its place was what Dawson called “the planned society,” [22] which aspires to reproduce culture by means of technology. Technological order, he claimed, is “now the real basis of secular culture.” [23] The only thing it shares with liberalism is the faith in a progress that is merely temporal and this-worldly. In all of the other relevant respects, the new order is the opposite of liberalism. Where liberals had faith in individual liberty and creativity, the technological order bespeaks necessity and uniformity; where liberals wanted to break the monopoly of the state, the technological order guarantees that only the state can mobilize the forces necessary for basic human undertakings. But the most important point is that liberal culture was still humanistic; despite liberal ideas, most people continued to live in the fashion of what C.S. Lewis called “old western man.” Real secularism, according to Dawson, could not emerge until technology made it possible for most people to live without the ideals and practices of the older western order. Modern science changed the way that the educated class conceived of the world; but technology changed the way people lived.

Now, it must be said that by technology Dawson did not mean science, which is simply the effort to understand the natural environment. Nor did he mean merely the tools of applied science, e.g. steam engines, computers, etc. Rather, he meant the systematic application of tools to culture, especially to those areas of culture that had always been reproduced by humanistic activity, e.g. sexual intercourse, family, religion, and economic exchange. In short, by technology, Dawson meant the practice(s), via an interlocking set of technologies, of treating culture in the same way that the tool treats the natural environment. And this is simply another way of saying that the tool is no longer an instrument, but rather the measure of the humane world.

Modern technologies are not only “labor saving” devices. A labor saving device, like an automated farm implement or a piston, replaces repetitive human acts. But most distinctive of contemporary technology is the replacement of the human act; or, of what the scholastic philosophers called the actus humanus. The machine reorganizes and to some extent supplants the world of human action, in the moral sense of the term. [24] Hence, the policy of mutual assured destruction supplants diplomacy; the contraceptive pill supplants chastity; the cinema supplants recreation, especially prayer; managerial and propaganda techniques replace older practices and virtues of loyalty, etc. Therefore, it is important to understand that Dawson’s criticism of technology is not aimed at the tool per se. His criticism has nothing to do with the older, and in our context, misleading notion of “labor saving” devices. Rather, it is aimed at a new cultural pattern in which tools are either deliberately designed to replace the human act, or at least have the unintended effect of making the human act unnecessary or subordinate to the machine. Of course, Dawson did not live to see the emergence of “virtual reality” technology, but he would have recognized it as part (perhaps the culminating part) of the continuum of technologies that he had in mind.

Consider, for example, the following remark written in 1870 by a British officer in the Indian Civil Service:

Railways are opening the eyes of the people who are within reach of them….They teach them that time is worth money, and induce them to economise that which they had been in the habit of slighting and wasting; they teach them that speed attained is time, and therefore money, saved or made….Above all, they induce in them habits of self-dependence, causing them to act for themselves promptly and not lean on others. [25]

What is most striking about this statement is that the machine is regarded as the proximate cause of the liberal virtues; habits of self-dependence are the effect of the application of a technology. The benighted peoples of the sub-continent are to be civilized, not by reading Cicero, not by conversion to the Church of England, not even by adopting the liberal faith, but by receiving the discipline of trains and clocks. The machine is both the exemplar and the proximate cause of individual and cultural perfection.

The quote is also interesting because it supports Dawson’s notion that liberalism was unable to impart liberal culture to non-western peoples. (I cannot think of a single non-western culture that was liberalized in the 19th or 20th century). Rather, the liberal imparted to these peoples Western technology: principally, military and managerial techniques, as well as the technologies of mass culture, especially those related to the entertainment industry and to propaganda.

It is worth mentioning that John Dewey’s most popular book, Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), was based upon his lectures in Tokyo, Peking, and Nanking. Dewey preached abroad what he preached at home: namely, that the main purpose of the human mind is not truth, but praxis; we think not so much to know, but to change our environment, especially the human environment. Above all, Dewey taught that we must have the audacity to think and to act beyond the limits of traditional habits and customs. Yet, as Americans discovered in 1941, the Japanese did not become liberals; rather, they became armed to the teeth. And even after we imposed a liberal constitution on Japan after the War, it was a mere legal template laid over a modern technological society. In fact, post-war Japan was the first industrial society to sponsor abortion and contraception. Dawson believed that liberalism weakened the immune systems of traditional cultures; and indeed history itself testifies to the fact that rather than moving from Confucianism to liberalism, they moved straight-away to the ideal of the social engineer. They become modernized, and adopted the economic, social, and military imperatives of the machine.

Today, across all of the different political cultures, technology is required for the state’s administration, for its military security, its propaganda, its markets, indeed for its very legitimacy. Governments rise and fall on the basis of their success in supplying the population with the technological means to achieve temporal happiness. The older liberal ideals of limited government, individual creativity, of an autonomous private sphere more or less immune from centralized planning are violated whenever the technological imperative dictates otherwise.

In this respect, liberalism everywhere failed to hold the line. It did not control the erosion of local liberty by nation states, but rather on its cultural watch the individual became dependent on government in ways that would have been unimaginable by despots of the old regime; local liberty became nothing more than a euphemism for a different sector of the nation state’s administration. It did not check the ideology of planned economies; rather, in what may be the cruelest irony of all for the liberal, the term liberalism became synonymous with the state managed economy; in all of the western democracies today, the “liberal” party stands for a state managed economy. It did not succeed in its cultural mission of creating societies based upon freedom and persuasion, but rather succumbed to the militarization of state, and to the creation of new police powers and systems of surveillance.

Dawson held that liberal culture paved the way for the technological order by separating the private and the public spheres, leaving the latter defenseless against the new technologies. [26] It was the ideal, and to some extent, the practice, of liberalism to prohibit the state from acting for substantive moral and religious ends. The public sector was enlisted to facilitate what seemed, at first, to be relatively non-controversial, even “neutral” ends: e.g. security from enemies abroad, and material well being at home. These ends do not seem to dictate to the individual any particular version of the good life. Left to his own private discretion, the individual seemed to remain his own “principle of motion.”

It is easy to understand why the liberal would regard technological order as something that leaves liberal values intact. Technology is not an ideology, or a religion; it is not a person, or even an institution. Nor does it have any inherent cultural properties; for we see that technology can be transferred from culture to culture, working just as well in Cambodia as in Cleveland. But, of course, modern technology is not neutral. In The Judgment of the Nations, Dawson explained that the spiritual elements in the Liberal culture were not strong enough to control the immense forces which had been released by the progress of the applied sciences and the new economic techniques. The advent of the machine, which was in a sense the result of the liberal culture, proved fatal to the liberal values and ideals, and ultimately to the social types which had been the creators and bearers of the culture. [27]

The new technological order exacted as its first price the liberal, who it made obsolete (the Hillary Clintons of this world only pronounce a humanitarian benediction over the work of the social engineer); but the technological order exacted as its ultimate price the traditional humanistic culture, of which the liberal was bearer. By 1942, Dawson concluded that this transition was complete, and that for any foreseeable future, irreversible.

There are a myriad of examples which could be cited to illustrate why this conviction about the neutrality of technology is mistaken. But I will give one specific example, that happens to be one that Dawson himself discussed in an essay entitled “The Patriarchal Family in History” (1933): namely, the problem of contraception. I will focus on contraception for three reasons: (1) Quite apart from any issues of moral theology (and I have no intention here of engaging in any moral homiletics on the subject), contraception is a civilizational issue because it bears upon the basic cell of society, the family; (2) Contraception provides an especially vivid example of how a technology can completely re-organize a cultural order, from its system of justice, to its economic markets, to its religious institutions; (3) It is a case in point for how liberalism does not define or control, but only rationalizes technology; by rationalize, I mean that liberal rhetoric only hands out permission slips, as it were, for bringing the individual under the dominion of technology.

Contraception has a long history, which I cannot rehearse in detail here. But I will pick the story up during the golden age of liberalism, which in this country would be the late 19th century. In the last decade of that century, the Massachusetts legislature passed an anti-contraceptive statute, which read, in part, as follows:

whoever sells, lends, gives away an instrument or other article intended to be used for self-abuse, or any drug, medicine, instrument or article whatever for the prevention of conception or for causing unlawful abortion, or advertises the same, or writes, prints, or causes to be written or printed a card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement or notice of any kind stating when, where, how, of whom or by what means such articles can be purchased obtained, or manufactured or makes any such article shall be punished… (MA c.272, section-21)

In 1917, this statue was interpreted by the MA Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Allison (1917):

[its] plain purpose is to protect purity, to preserve chastity, to encourage continence and self restraint, to defend the sanctity of the home, and thus to engender in the State and nation a virile and virtuous race of men and women.

Such statutes were passed by several state legislatures, consisting for the most part of secularized Protestants. Anti-contraceptive laws were but one facet of a larger reform movement that tried to protect the family, and women in particular, from the disintegrating forces of industrialization and the mass market. For example, laws were passed which held industry to higher standards with respect to female employees—precisely because they were mothers or prospective mothers. The Mann Act (1910) made it a felony to transport or to aid the transport of a woman in interstate commerce for the purpose of “debauchery.”

The point I want to make is that even during the hay-day of laissez faire, the principle was well established, and often followed, that technology ought to be subordinated to society’s moral interest in the family. With respect to contraceptives, it was a matter of common sense that, if widely distributed, they would undermine the principal cell of society. Writing in 1933, Dawson did not find it necessary to invoke any specifically Christian, much less Catholic, principles when he said that contraception “must lead inevitably to a social decadence far more rapid and more universal than that which brought about the disintegration of ancient civilization.” [28] The patriarchal family, he noted:

requires chastity and self-sacrifice on the part of the wife and obedience and discipline on the part of the children, while even the father himself has to assume a heavy burden of responsibility and submit his personal feelings to the interests of the family….for these very reasons the patriarchal family is a much more efficient organ of cultural life. It is no longer limited to its primary sexual and reproductive functions. It becomes the dynamic principle of society and the source of social continuity. [29]

In 1930, Anglicans broke ranks with nearly the whole of Christian tradition with a declaration at the Lambeth Conference that permitted use of contraceptives by married couples, for grave reasons. Though the Anglicans greatly weakened the moral case against contraceptives, the Lambeth statement was exceedingly “conservative” and cautious by our standards today. The fact remained, that until the 1960’s, no one claimed fundamental rights to have contraceptive sex; nor did anyone seriously challenge the authority of the state to pass morals legislation of this sort.

What changed? Was society more liberal in the 1960’s than it was at the turn of the century? The change took place primarily because of a technological advance. The progesterone pill was developed in the late 1950’s, and shortly thereafter was marketed in the United States. The technological characteristic of the pill was crucial: orally administered, requiring no surgical procedure, it was seemingly a pill alongside other pills. Significantly, it was marketed as a birth-control pill rather than as a contraceptive. In a technological society, the word “control” signifies a responsible act. And because it was not a barrier method, even Catholic physicians urged that the pill was not a contraceptive.

Although barrier methods of contraception had been known about for decades, it was only after the introduction of the progesterone pill that there was any significant movement for a reform of the law. In 1965, in “Griswold v. Connecticut”, the Court found anti-contraceptive laws to be unconstitutional. In fact, the Court went so far as to invent a new, fundamental right of privacy. But what was especially interesting about the case is that although this new right was justified in the name of individual liberty and marital privacy, it actually emancipated manufacturers and physicians. The Connecticut statute had not only prohibited the use of contraceptives, but had made criminally liable “[a]ny person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to [use contraceptives]…” The litigant in the case was not a married couple, suing over governmental intrusion into the sacred precincts of the bedroom; rather, the appellant, Dr. Buxton, was a professor at the Yale Medical School, who also served as Medical Director for Planned Parenthood. In other words, the rhetoric of individual liberty was mere window-dressing for a liberty of the manufacturers and purveyors of the pill, who allied themselves with the managerial class. This became undeniably clear in a 1977 case, “Carey v. Population Services”, when the state of New York’s ban on the distribution of contraceptives to minors was challenged, and found unconstitutional. Here, the Court said that “[r]estrictions on the distribution of contraceptives clearly burden[s] the freedom to make such [reproductive] decisions.” Thus, what began rhetorically as a solemn right of married couples against the state became in reality a right of social engineers to accustom minors to the new standards of technological hygiene.

In “Roe v. Wade”, of course, the Court extended the right of privacy to abortion. Once again, it is interesting that the Court used the rhetoric of individual liberty to make more palatable a decision addressed chiefly to the technological elites, which in this case were medical professionals. Before writing his opinion, Justice Blackmun visited the Mayo clinic, where he learned that anti-abortion legislation only had the goal of protecting women from incompetent medical procedures. Thus, the emergence of safe abortion procedures removed the rationale of those laws. The moral and legal orders, in other words, are to be defined by the efficiency of modern medicine. Indeed, the trimester scheme, which defined legal personhood in terms of “viability,” did not really designate ontological properties of the fetus, so much as to align fetal development with a medical schedule. (It is tantamount to the idea that someone riding on Metro-North is a traveller, not by dint of being on the train, but by virtue of whether he gets off at Pelham or New Rochelle).

In “Roe”, Justice Blackmun spoke in almost sacred terms not of the woman’s liberty, but of her relationship to the physician. But even more to the point was the companion case, “Doe v. Bolton” (1973), which effectively secured a right to abortion on demand by defining the idea of maternal health so broadly as to justify virtually all third trimester abortions. In the “Doe” case, the Court struck down any criteria other than the individual physician’s “best clinical judgment” as the standard for undertaking the abortion procedure. “Roe” and “Doe” did not directly emancipate women, but emancipated their physicians—first from the police powers of the state governments, and then from their own hospitals and peer review boards. In the name of individual liberty, the multi-million dollar industry of the clinic was brought into being.

Twenty years later, in “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” (1992), the Court reconsidered the constitutionality of “Roe”. Admitting that the decision had dubious constitutional credentials, the Court was remarkably candid about why it cannot be overturned:

Abortion is customarily chosen as an unplanned response to the consequence of unplanned activity or to the failure of conventional birth control…for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized their intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.

The key is the word “unplanned,” for it indicates that human activity is to be regarded in the same fashion as impersonal nature. Like lightening, floods, and tumors, the event of pregnancy follows a line of causality independent of a truly human act; hence, it needs to be brought under the control of a technology. The Court frankly admitted not only that abortion is practiced for the most part as ex post facto birth control, but that the practice has become a necessity.

In other words, the increments of legal emancipation track the increments of technology, and the increments of technology are recast as kinds of social necessity. In order to make room for what was, in itself, a relatively small part of the pharmacological revolution, the entire legal and moral order of the polity was changed: (1) the Bill of Rights was reinterpreted, to make what was once homicide at criminal law a fundamental right at Constitutional law; (2) all common law pertaining to the responsibility of husbands over wives and children was summarily struck down; (3) divorce laws were changed; (4) professional associations of physicians and lawyers changed their by-laws to condemn any opposition to this continuum of technologies; (5) churches changed their moral theologies to accommodate the separation of sex and procreation; (6) public school curricula changed, and indeed new cabinet offices invented for the purpose of habituating even pre-pubescent children to the use of the technology; (7) even a conservative writer like George Will, who authored the book Statescraft As Soulcraft, now recommends Norplant patches as a remedy for the breakdown of the family in the inner city.

No culture would permit its basic institutions and practices to be so dramatically changed simply by the dictate of individual liberty, or for that matter, as a rationalization for sexual pleasure; the remarkably rapid nature of these changes can be understood only if we realize that the technological order is regarded as a necessity. And, as the ancient legal dictum put it, “necessity knows no law.”

I am not so naive as to suggest that this one little device, swallowed with a glass of water, is the efficient cause of all of these troubles. The pill was received in the post-WWII suburbs, in which an array of technologies (chiefly the automobile) made possible a form of family life functionally independent of paternal authority. But the pill does give an especially vivid example of how the humane elements of a culture are reinterpreted to render technology immune from the direction of any higher principle. Even justice turns out to be the right of individuals to have equal access to the technology. The separation of sex from procreation, and the separation of procreation from the social roles and social virtues of motherhood, are not the result of feminism; rather, feminism is the result of these increments of technology. (The same can be said for homosexual parents. It is not merely coincidental that cultural and legal approbation of the homosexualist family followed after the contraceptive pill, and after the development of the in vitro technologies which reproduce human life independent of any particular social form).

Edmund Burke wrote that:

To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind…. Such complaints and humours have existed in all times; yet as times have not been alike, true political sagacity manifests itself in distinguishing that complaint which only characterizes the general infirmity of human nature, from those which are symptoms of the particular distemperature of our own air and season. [30]

As an historian of culture, Dawson tried to provide this discernment. He insisted that: “The problem that faces us today is, therefore, not so much the result of an intellectual revolt against the traditional Christian morality; it is due to the inherent contradictions of an abnormal state of culture.” [31] The late George Grant said that technology is the “ontology of the age.” [32] Although Dawson himself never used these exact words “ontology of the age,” they convey his fully considered judgment of the state of modern society.

The modern religions of progress, including liberalism, were religiously heterodox expressions of the older Christian and humanistic culture. Liberalism could be understood in older, more familiar categories. Technologism, however, is something brand new. In the face of the technological society, the culture forming mission of Christianity will have to begin from scratch—but begin at a much lower level than did the missionaries of the dark ages, who brought the vestiges of high Roman culture to the barbarian peoples of northern Europe. The Venerable Bede and St. Boniface, however, did not have to teach those Celtic and Gothic peoples the rudiments of culture itself. It was a dark age, but it was dark, Dawson said, “with the honest night of barbarism.” [33] The terrifying thing about modern barbarism is that it is not only more culturally primitive than barbarians of old, but it is immeasurably more powerful, prosperous, and ruthless. [34]

Born in the waning Victorian liberal culture, Dawson lived to see its demise. By the end of his career, Dawson seemed to understand that the new culture is something for which there is no history, for it has no precedent. Perhaps the verdict is still out on the Islamic states, who are attempting to preserve a traditional religious culture even while embracing the necessities of modern technology. But everywhere else, traditional cultures have folded under the technological order. I cannot think of a single success story of a society preserving its humanistic culture against technology. Even the Catholic Church, which has longer experience than any institution in dealing with bad governments, with human frailty, with heretics and ideologues of every stripe, nevertheless seems deeply perplexed at how to deal with a people who are convinced that their everyday well-being depends upon the technological order—on what the Encyclical Veritatis Splendor calls the “all intrusive culture.” [35]

St. Boniface instructed the pagans not to worship a tree, for which he was martyred. But what is the proper address to the technological society? To give up the contraceptives, but keep the microwaves? To use machines in moderation? The difficulty in even formulating the issue accurately indicates the perplexing nature of the problem. Abstractly considered, most technologies are not in themselves designed for morally wicked ends; the distinction between proper and improper use is always relevant. But we are not speaking abstractly. Rather, we have investigated the problem of an ensemble of technologies with their corresponding cultural habits. Whereas the moralist will examine human choices one by one, focusing upon the particular act, the cultural historian is interested in cultural habits and institutions; for these trace out the actual and imaginative bounds of men and women as social beings. It is in this latter respect that the problem of modern technology is something more than the moral problem of individual choices. As any parent who has tried to discipline the television watching habits of his children can attest, the moral effort of picking and choosing when and where to “plug in” does not adequately represent the full nature of the problem. George Grant has correctly pointed out that we cannot understand the novelty of our technological society until we appreciate the extent to which it is a “package deal.” [36]

At least for me, it indicates that Dawson was on the right track when he called our attention to the dominion of technology, and why it has changed the nature of the game. As a cultural historian, Dawson understood that the core of a culture is found once we locate the thing that the culture would never relinquish, or even imagine itself relinquishing. I submit that in our case it is not individual liberty, or sex, and certainly not religion. It is not even the machine. Rather, it is the machine insofar as it promises an activity superior to the human act.


  1. America and the Secularization of Modern Culture (Houston: University of St. Thomas, 1960), p. 12.
  2. Ibid., 21.
  3. Ibid., 18-19.
  4. Ibid., p. 25.
  5. Syllabus of Errors (1854), #69.
  6. On Liberty (Indianapolis: Hackett edit.), p. 61-2.
  7. Ibid., p. 67.
  8. Ibid., p. 69.
  9. The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie (Oxford, 1979), VI, 2.17.
  10. Enquires into Religion and Culture (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1933), p. 62. 
  11. Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (New York: Doubleday, 1958), p. 21.
  12. It is obvious that there is a profound difference between the old dualism of the Christian way of life and unregenerate human nature on the one hand, and the new dualism between the revolutionary ideas of liberalism…but there is a certain relation between the two, so that it is possible to maintain that the whole revolutionary tradition is a post-Christian phenomenon which transposes a pre-existent psychological pattern to a different sociological tradition. Understanding Europe (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952), p. 28.
  13. Dynamics of World History (LaSalle: Sherwood Sugden, 1978), p. 355.
  14. The Judgment of the Nations (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1942), p. 31-2.
  15. America and the Secularization of Modern Culture (Houston: University of St. Thomas, 1960), p. 20.
  16. The Judgment of the Nations (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1942), p. 105.
  17. Progress & Religion (Peru, Illinois: Sherwood Sugden & Co., 1992), p. 207.
  18. America and the Secularization of Modern Culture (Houston: University of St. Thomas, 1960), p. 17.
  19. Progress & Religion (Peru, Illinois: Sherwood Sugden & Co., 1992), p. 206.
  20. The Judgment of the Nations (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1942), p. 31-2.
  21. Progress & Religion (Peru, Illinois: Sherwood Sugden & Co., 1992), p. 97.
  22. The Judgment of the Nations (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1942), p. 113.
  23. America and the Secularization of Modern Culture (Houston: University of St. Thomas, p. 10.
  24. That is to say, techne is a substitute for praxis.
  25. Cited in Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), p. 226.
  26. Liberal culture sought to avoid the danger of complete secularization by insisting on the preservation of a margin of individual freedom, which was immune from state control and to which, in theory at least, economic life was subordinated. And within the zone of individual freedom, religious freedom was the ultimate stronghold which defended the human personality. But the progress of mechanization and the social organization which it entails, has steadily reduced this margin of freedom, until today in the totalitarian states, and only to a slightly less degree in the democratic ones, social control extends to the whole life and consciousness. And since this control is exercised in a utilitarian spirit for political, economic and military ends, the complete secularization of culture seems inevitable. The Judgment of the Nations , p. 107.
  27. The Judgment of the Nations, p. 106.
  28. “The Patriarchal Family in History,” Dynamics of World History p. 165.
  29. Ibid., p. 159.
  30. Thoughts on the Present Discontents (1770).
  31. “The Patriarchal Family in History,” Dynamics of World History, p. 163-4.
  32. Technology and Justice (Notre Dame: Univ. Notre Dame Press, 1986), p. 32.
  33. Christianity and the New Age (Manchester: Sophia Instit. Press, 1985), p. 3.
  34. The Judgment of the Nations, p. 10.
  35. VS, #88.
  36. Technology and Justice (Notre Dame: Univ. Notre Dame Press, 1986), p. 32.

Winston Churchill: Christianity vs Socialism, or All Mine Is Yours vs All Yours Is Mine

Winston Churchill

I am very glad indeed to be back among Cheetham friends. I have often thought of Cheetham when I have been travelling in districts even more remote from the Midland Hotel than this – [Laughter], – and I have always felt, when I thought of Cheetham, that I was thinking of a place where, in spite of all that we hear nowadays, I have a few friends to back me. [Hear, hear.] I am very sorry that I have not been able to come here earlier. But I have a horrible toothache. A very clever and skilful Manchester man has relieved it to a considerable extent, and your kind welcome will, I have no doubt, remove a large amount more of the pain.

I observe there is to be a most interesting debate next week in the Free-trade Hall – a very proper place for a debate of that character – between Mr. Victor Grayson, a prominent member of the Socialist party, and Mr. Joynson-Hicks, of whom we have also heard. [Laughter.] I think it is a very good thing-a very right and proper thing – that these young men, who have to win their spurs by work in their particular parties, should come forward and get a chance of cutting their combs against each other. [Laughter.] Why not? I must say, from what I know of Mr. Joynson-Hicks, I should think he will have no difficulty in making hay of Mr. Victor Grayson, and I hope he will succeed. Certainly if he is not able to show the folly and the fallacy which his opponent is responsible for defending he may as well give up at the very beginning any attempt to appeal to such a hard-headed and sensible community as is gathered together in North-West Manchester. [Cheers.] I will venture to give him an argument beforehand, in order to help him out.[Laughter.]

The Socialists – the extreme and revolutionary party of Socialists-are very fond of telling us they are reviving in modern days the best principles of the Christian era. They consider they are the political embodiment of Christianity, though, to judge by the language which some of them use and the spirit of envy, hatred, and malice with which they go about their work, you would hardly imagine they had studied the teaching of the Founder of Christianity with the attention they profess to have given to the subject. [Hear, hear.]

But there is one great difference between Socialists of the Christian era and those of which Mr. Victor Grayson is the apostle. The Socialism of the Christian era was based on the idea that “all mine is yours,” but the Socialism of Mr. Grayson is based on the idea that “all yours is mine.” [Cheers.]

And I go so far as to say that no movement will ever achieve any real advantage for the mass of the people that is based upon so much spite and jealousy as is the present Socialist movement in the hands of its extreme men. We are all of us prepared to recognise that in a great many ways the community must come more together. I am prepared to go a very long way in the direction of trying to build up and fortify a minimum standard of life, but if that is to be done, if you are to have greater combinations and greater harmonies in society you can only have it by becoming better men and women. [Hear, hear.]

Any attempt to replace the existing organisation of society by an official hierarchy, for that is what it means – to replace the men who now manage mills by officials who are elected in some way will end in failure.

It is very easy to make promises of pensions and the like when you have no prospect of being called to make them good. An extreme Socialist policy would plunge the country into a violent social struggle, and there would be no pensions for anybody at all. No, the future lies with us. We tread the middle path between the party of reaction on the one side and the party of revolution on the other. Move forward. Don’t let us be content with the existing state of society, with all its anomalies and injustices. Round them off, rub the edges off, and reconstruct on a sound basis.

I am most earnestly desirous of seeing the condition of our people improved. It is not right that men should be forced to work for wages which will not keep them in comfort and physical health. You cannot expect the children to do justice to their country and their race as long as they are not properly fed when they have to attend school and are allowed at the age of 14 to pick up odd jobs when they should be learning a trade and fitting themselves to carry on the industries of the country. You cannot say that we are making the best of our opportunities while half the land is in the hands of seven or eight hundred persons, mostly members of the House of Lords. You cannot say that we are doing our duty, that we have a fair and just social system when you see millions of money accumulated without effort and service rendered to society by the persons who enjoy all that advantage.

So we have a great field in which we can work. Our work is practical, and must lead to a substantial amelioration of the people. Let us go on and steadily build up, stage by stage, and tier by tier, the assured and comfortable happiness of English homes.

I hope that the coming session of Parliament will see a substantial scheme which will sensibly mitigate the lot of a portion, at any rate, of the aged poor.

January 22, 1908

Winston Churchill on Liberal and Socialism

Winston Churchill

This is a great meeting – [hear, hear] – and it augurs well for our cause. [Applause.] I am very sorry that there is no more room in the hall, because I have seen outside a great many gentlemen – [A Voice: “Why did you not keep the women out?”] – who are electors, and who earnestly desired to be present, but I think the great gathering which is assembled here, which fills this spacious building, is a sign that the Liberal cause has behind it the driving power that is necessary for victory. [Applause.] And, gentlemen, this election is one of special and peculiar importance. We meet together to take a decision which will be judged by the whole country. [Applause.] You will have many votes to cast in your lives, but I think it is no exaggeration to say that the vote which you will cast on Saturday will be probably the most important vote which as citizens of Dundee you will have to record. [Hear, hear.] Don’t let it be wasted. Don’t let it be misapplied. [Hear, hear.] Let it go to support the good old cause and strengthen the hands of the Government now doing good work. Let it be a solid vote a vote which makes its effect felt, not only on the politics of the day but on the whole politics of this island in which we live for the year or two years to come.

A new Government has come into being under a Prime Minster who, like his predecessor whose loss we all profoundly deplore, and whose many virtues all parties have joined to celebrate – a new Prime Minister has come into power, tied to Scotland by strong and intimate bonds. Give him a fair chance. [Hear, hear.] Give the Government which he has brought into being the opportunity of handling the great machinery of State. Be assured that, if you do, they will employ it for the greatest good of the greatest number. I am well satisfied at what has taken place in the last four or five days since I have been in Dundee. I see a great concentration of forces throughout the constituency. I see the opportunity of retrieving, and more than retrieving, the injury which has been done to the cause of progress and reform by elections in other parts of our land. [Applause.]

Ah, but, gentlemen, a very sad thing has happened; an awful thing has happened – [A Voice: “Ringing the bell”] – the Liberal party has gone in for Home Rule. [Laughter.] The “Scotsman” is shocked, the “Times” is speechless, and takes three columns to express its speechlessness in; the “Spectator,” that staid old weekly, has wobbled back to where it never should have wobbled from [applause and laughter]? The Ulster Unionists declare that the Government has forfeited all the confidence that they never had in it – [laughter] – and thousands of people who never under any circumstances voted Liberal before are saying that under no circumstances will they ever vote Liberal again. And I am supposed to be responsible for this revolution in our policy.

Why, gentlemen, the statements I have made on the Irish question are the logical and inevitable conclusion of the resolution which was passed by the House of Commons, in which every member of the Government voted, which was carried by an enormous majority – more than 200 – a month or five weeks ago – a resolution which, after explaining the plain and lamentable evils which can be traced to the existing system of government in Ireland, affirmed that the remedy for these evils would be found in a representative body with an Executive responsible to it, subject to The supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament [Cheers.] The Irish question at the present time occupies a vastly different position to what it did in the year 1886. Ever since 1880 the attention of Parliament has been devoted constantly to Ireland, and the attention of Parliament, when devoted constantly to one object, is rarely fruitless. The 25 or 26 years that have passed have seen great changes in Ireland, and I think that time has largely vindicated the action which Mr. Gladstone took in 1886. [Cheers.] We have seen a great scheme of local government, which Lord Salisbury said would be more disastrous than Home Rule itself, actually put into force. We have seen the land policy in Ireland, the scheme of land purchase which in the year 1886 did more to injure the Home Rule Bill than anything else – we have seen that policy actually carried, not to a complete conclusion, but carried into practical effect by a Unionist Administration.

These are great events, and their consequences, I think, ought to encourage us to move forward – [hear, hear] not to lead us to move back. They have produced results in Ireland which are good and beneficent results, and the Irish question no longer presents itself in the tragic guise of the early eighties. They have produced an effect on England too. All over our country people have seen Bills which they were told beforehand would be ruinous to the unity and integrity of the United Kingdom – Land Bills and Local Government Bills passed into law, and so far from the dire consequences which were apprehended from these measures, they have found – you here have found – that great good has resulted from that legislation. People are encouraged by what has taken place to exert themselves to make a step forward in the future, and I think if we need or look for any further encouragement we should find it in the great success, the great and undisputed triumph which under the mercy of Heaven has attended our policy in South Africa. [Cheers.] It has resulted in bringing into the circle of the British Empire a grand and martial race, which a foolish policy might easily have estranged for ever. [Cheers.]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Irish polity finds its fellow nowhere in the world. It is a Government responsible neither to King nor people. It is not a democratic Government, not an autocratic Government, nor even an oligarchical Government. It is a Government overridden by 41 administrative Boards whose functions overlap one another and sometimes conflict with one another. Some are fed with money from the Consolidated Fund, some are supplied by vote of the House of Commons, some are supplied from savings from the Irish Development grant. Some of these Boards are under the Viceroy, some under the Chief Secretary, some under Treasury control, and some are under no control at all. [Laughter.]

You have an administration resulting from that system costly, inefficient, unhandy beyond all description. You have a mighty staff of officials and police; a people desperately poor; you have taxation which rises automatically with every increase in the expenditure of this vast and wealthy island. You have a population which dwindles year by year – terribly and tragically dwindles. Add to all this a loyalist caste. What an old man of the sea that is to get on the back of any country! – a class of people apart from the feelings of the mass of those in the land in which they live looking for their support, not to the people but to external force derived from across the sea. You have in effect in Ireland at the present time almost exactly the same situation which would have grown up in South Africa if we had not had the wit and the nerve to prevent it by bold and daring treatment of the question. [Hear, hear.] Take the whole of this situation as I have described it. Thrust it into the arena of British politics to be the centre of contending factions, thrust it into our turbulent arena here at home, and the panorama of Irish Government is complete.

With these facts before us, upon the authority of men like Lord Dunraven, SirJoseph West Ridgeway, Sir Anthony MacDonnell, Lord Dudley, and others who have served the Crown in Ireland – is it wonderful that we should refuse to turn our eyes away from the vision of that other Ireland, that Ireland free to control her own destiny in all that properly concerns herself; free to devote the native genius of her people to the purposes of her own self-culture, the vision of that other Ireland which Mr. Gladstone had reserved as the culminating achievement of his long and glorious career? [Cheers.] Is it wonderful that we should refuse to turn our eyes away from that? No, I say that the desire and the aim of making a national settlement with Ireland on lines which would enable the people of that country to manage their own purely local affairs is not an aim that can be separated from the general march of the Liberal army. [Cheers.]

If I come forward on your platform here at Dundee it is on the clear understanding that I do not preclude myself from doing something to try to reconcile Ireland to England on a basis of freedom and justice. [Cheers.] I said just now that this was an important election. Yes, the effect upon His Majesty’s Government and upon the Liberal party for good or ill from this election cannot fail to be great and far-reaching. There are strong forces against us. Do not underrate the growing strength of the Tory reaction now in progress in many of the constituencies in England. I say it earnestly to those who are members of the Labour party here today – do not underrate the storm which is gathering over your heads as well as ours. [Hear, hear, and cheers.] But I am not afraid of the forces which are against us. [Cheers.] With your support we shall overwhelm them – with your support we shall beat them down. Ah, but we must have that support. – [Cheers, and a voice: “2300.”]

It is not the enemy in front that I fear, but the division which too often makes itself manifest in progressive ranks – it is that division, that dispersion of forces, that internecine struggle in the moments of great emergency, in the moments when the issue hangs in the balance – it is that division which, I fear, may weaken our efforts and may perhaps deprive us of success otherwise within our grasp.

There are cross-currents in this election. You cannot be unconscious of that. They flow this way and that way, and they disturb the clear issue which we should like to establish between the general bodies of those whose desire it is to move forward on the lines of modern civilization and those who wish to revert to the old and barbarous prejudices and contentions of the past to their fiscal systems and to their methods of government and administration, and to their Jingo foreign policies across the seas, from which we hoped we had shaken ourselves clear. [Cheers.]

I want tonight to speak about three cross-currents, and let me first say a word about Socialism. There are a great many Socialists whose opinions and whose views I have the greatest respect for – [hear, hear] – men some of whom I know well, and whose friendship I have the honour to enjoy. A good many of those gentlemen who have these delightful, rosy views of a great and brilliant future to the world are so remote from hard facts of daily life and of ordinary politics that I am not very sure that they will bring any useful or effective influence to bear upon the immediate course of events. I am dealing rather with those of violent and extreme views who call themselves Socialists in the next few observations I shall venture with your indulgence to address to you.

To the revolutionary Socialist I do not appeal as the Liberal candidate for Dundee. I recognise that they are perfectly right in voting against me and voting against the Liberals, because Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. [Cheers.]There is a great gulf fixed. It is not only a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. There are many steps we have to take which our Socialist opponents or friends, whichever they like to call themselves, will have to take with us; but there are immense differences of principle and of political philosophy between the views we put forward and the views they put forward.

Liberalism has its own history and its own tradition. Socialism has its own formulas and its own aims. Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. [Loud cheers.] Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling them with public right. [Cheers.] Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. [Cheers.] Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass. [Cheers.] Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly. [Cheers.] These are the great distinctions which I draw, and which, I think, you will think I am right in drawing at this election between our philosophies and our ideals. Don’t think that Liberalism is a faith that is played out; that it is a philosophy to which there is no expanding future. As long as the world rolls round Liberalism will have its part to play – a grand, beneficent, and ameliorating part to play – in relation to men and States. [Cheers.]

Ah, gentlemen, I don’t want to embark on bitter or harsh controversy, but I think the exalted ideal of the Socialists – a universal brotherhood, owning all things in common – is not always supported by the evidence of their practice. [Laughter.] They put before us a creed of universal self-sacrifice. They preach it in the language of spite and envy, of hatred, and all uncharitableness. [Cheers.] They tell us that we should dwell together in unity and comradeship. They are themselves split into twenty obscure factions, who hate and abuse each other more than they hate and abuse us. [Hear, hear, and laughter.] They wish to reconstruct the world. They begin by leaving out human nature. [Laughter.] Consider how barren a philosophy is the creed of absolute Collectivism. Equality of reward, irrespective of service rendered! It is expressed in other ways. You know the phrase – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” [Laughter.] How nice that sounds. Let me put it another way – “You shall work according to your fancy; you shall be paid according to your appetite.” [Cheers.]

Although I have tried my very best to understand these propositions, I have never been able to imagine the mechanical heart in the Socialist world which is to replace the ordinary human heart that palpitates in our breasts. What motive is to induce the men, not for a day, or an hour, or a year, but for all their lives, to make a supreme sacrifice of their individuality? What motive is to induce the Scotsmen who spread all over the world and make their way by various paths to eminence and power in every land and climate to make the great and supreme sacrifice of their individuality? I have heard of loyalty to a Sovereign. We have heard of love of country. Ah, but it is to be a great cosmopolitan, republic. We have heard of love of family and wives and children. These are the mere weaknesses of the bad era in which we live. We have heard of faith in a world beyond this when all its transitory pleasures and perils shall have passed away, a hope that carries serene consolation to the heart of men. Ah, but they deny its existence. [Laughter.] And what then are we to make this sacrifice for? It is for the sake of society.

And what is society? I will tell you what society is. Translated into concrete terms, Socialistic “society” is a set of disagreeable individuals who obtained a majority for their caucus at some recent election, and whose officials in consequence would look on humanity through innumerable grills and pigeon-holes and across innumerable counters, and say to them, “Tickets, please.” [Laughter.] Truly this grey old world has never seen so grim a joke. [Applause.] Now, ladies and gentlemen, no man can be either a collectivist or an individualist. He must be both; everybody must be both a collectivist and an individualist. For certain of our affairs we must have our arrangements in common. Others we must have sacredly individual and to ourselves. [Cheers.]We have many good things in common. You have the police, the army, the navy, and officials – why, a President of the Board of Trade you have in common. [Applause.] But we don’t eat in common; we eat individually. [Laughter.] And we don’t ask the ladies to marry us in common. [Laughter.]

And you will find the truth lies in these matters, as it always lies in difficult matters, midway between extreme formulae. It is in the nice adjustment of the respective ideas of collectivism and individualism that the problem of the world and the solution of that problem lie in the years to come. [Applause.] But I have no hesitation in saying that I am on the side of those who think that a greater collective element should be introduced into the State and municipalities. I should like to see the State undertaking new functions, particularly stepping forward into those spheres of activity which are governed by an element of monopoly. [Applause.] Your tramways and so on; your great public works, which are of a monopolistic and privileged character there I see a wide field for State enterprise to embark upon. But when we are told to exalt and admire a philosophy which destroys individualism and seeks to replace it by collectivism, I say that is a monstrous and imbecile conception which can find no real foothold in the brains and hearts – and the hearts are as trustworthy as the brains – in the hearts of sensible people. [Loud cheers.]

I make my respectful acknowledgement to those here who are strong supporters of the Socialistic creed for the courtesy and patience with which they have listened to some observations to which they may not possibly agree. But I pass over the convinced Socialists, who, I admit, if they feel inclined, are justified in throwing away their votes on Saturday next – [laughter] – and I come to the Labour influence – the Labour element – the Trades Union element in our midst. There I have one or two words to say of a rather straight character, if you don’t object, and which, I hope, will be taken in good part, and will be studied and examined seriously. [Applause.] Now, Labour in Britainis not Socialism. It is quite true that the Socialistic element has imposed a complexion on Labour, rather against its will, and has been largely supported in its actions by funds almost entirely supplied by Trade Unions. But Trade Unions are not Socialistic. They are the antithesis of Socialism. They are undoubtedly individualistic organisations, more in the character of the old Guilds, and much more in the direction of the culture of the individual, than they are in that of the smooth and bloodless uniformity of the masses.

Now, the Trade Unions are the most respectable and the most powerful element in the labour world. They are the bulwarks of our industrial system. They are the necessary guard-rails and bulwarks of a highly-competitive industrial system, and I have the right, as a member of His Majesty’s Government, to speak with good confidence to Trade Unionists, because we have done more for Trade Unionists than any other Government that has ever been. [Cheers.] We have given them a charter.

By the judicial decisions of 10 years Trade Unions had been displaced from the position which they had been intended to occupy by a Liberal Administration in 1870, and under a Conservative Administration in 1874 and 1876. We have given them back that position in the Trades Disputes Bill, and I do not doubt we have been attacked and penalised in the country by those who disapprove of that measure inconsequence of what we have done. And I say to the Trade Unionists, many of whom support the Government on all occasions – all of whom support the Government on 99 occasions out of 100, according to Mr. Shackleton, one of the most respected leaders of the Labour party – it is to the Trade Union element in Labour that I now venture to address myself. How stands the case of the Trades Unionists? Do they really believe – I put this question to them fairly – do they really believe that there is no difference whatever between a Tory and a Liberal Government? [A Voice: “None.”] One gentlemen in this great gathering believes that there is no difference between a Tory and a Liberal Government. [Laughter.]

Now, his cure is simple. He has only to listen to Sir George Baxter. [Laughter.] The Unionist candidate is quite capable of telling him of the difference between a Tory and a Liberal Government. Do Trade Unionists really desire the downfall of the existing Liberal Government? Would they really like to send a message of encouragement to the House of Lords-for that is what it comes to-to reject and mutilate Liberal and Radical legislation-and Labour legislation now before Parliament? Would they really send such a message of encouragement to the House of Lords as this – “House of Lords, you were right in your estimate of public opinion when you denied the extension of the Provision of Meals to School Children Bill to Scotland, when you threw out the Scottish Land Valuation Bill, when you threw out the Scottish Small Holders Bill – when you did all this you were right.” Do you wish to send that message to the House of Lords? [Cries of “No.”] But that will be the consequence of every vote subtracted from the Liberal majority. [Hear, hear.]

Well, it may be said, what we think about is not so much politics as Labour representation. Let me look at that? Is their claim really a just one at the present moment? [“No,” and cheers.] After all, 9000 Radical and Liberal votes were cast for my esteemed and respected friend, your late member, Mr. Edmund Robertson. It is no longer a question of whether the Labourist element in this city should find effective representation in the House of Commons. They have representation in the very capable and well qualified member, Mr. Wilkie. [Cheers.] It is no longer a question whether they should have representation, but it is a question of whether they will deny to the great majority of the citizens of this important city of Dundee the right to return a representative of their own. [Great cheering.] When I am told that the campaign on which they are now embarked is destined to further the cause of Labour representation I should like to say – Ask Labour representatives who sit for double-barrelled constituencies in England or Scotland whether they really think the cause of Labour representation is advanced or retarded by so wanton and so reckless an escapade as what we are now witnessing.

Why, gentlemen, let me return to the general current of events. What is the Government doing at present, and what has it done in its brief existence? Within the limits under which it works, and under the present authority of the House of Lords, what has it done and what is it doing for Trade Unionists? It has passed the Trades Disputes Act. [Cheers.] The Workmen’s Compensation Act has extended the benefits of compensation to six million persons not affected by previous legislation. The qualification of Justices of the Peace – the citizens’ Privy Councillorship, as I call it – [laughter and cheers] – has been reduced so as to make it more easy for persons not possessed of this world’s goods to qualify to take their places on the civic Bench. You know the land legislation for England, which is designed to secure to the suitable man who wants a small parcel of land to cultivate for his own profit and advantage – it secures to that man that he shall not be prevented from obtaining it by feudal legislation, by old legal formalities or class prejudice. And is the Licensing Bill not well worth a good blow struck, and struck now while the iron is hot? [Great cheers.]

Then there is the Mines Eight Hours Bill, a measure that has been advocated by the miners for 20 years, and justified by the highest medical testimony on humanitarian and hygienic grounds. It is costing us votes and support. It is costing us bye-elections, yet it is being driven through. [Hear, hear.] Have we not a right to claim the support of The Trades Unionists who are associated with the miners? Don’t they feel that this measure is hanging in the balance, not in the House of Commons? No, we shall run it through the House of Commons – [cheers] – but it is hanging in the balance in the House of Lords, which attaches to bye-elections an importance which in their arrogant assertion entitles them to mutilate or reject legislation even although it comes to them by the majority of a Parliament elected on a suffrage of six millions. Then there is the question of old age pensions, a question that has been much misused and mishandled in the past, and one which ought not to be used for the purpose of obtaining votes. [Cheers.]

It was taken up by us in fulfilment of pledges given by our opponents to win the election of 1895, and after the lapse of 13 years of toil and stress the Liberal party is able to take it up, and will implement it in an effective fashion. Now, is there one of all these subjects which does not command – which ought not to command – the support of Trade Unionists and responsible Labour leaders? The Government is fighting for these measures. The Government is risking its life and power for these and similar objects. The Tory party is opposing it on every point. The Tory party is gaining popularity – [“No, no”] – from the interests which are affected by the passing of such measures of social reform. The House of Lords is the weapon of the Tory party. With that weapon they can make a Liberal Government look ridiculous. Are the Labour leaders, are the Trade Unionists, confronted as they are with the menace of reaction, deliberately to throw in their lot with the House of Lords? I don’t think they will, in their consciences and in their hearts, when they apply their minds to the existing situation. No! I say the record I have read out to you of useful legislation in the existence of the present Government is a record which deserves and will, I believe, command the support of the great masses of the labouring classes of our country. [Cheers.]

But I say, in all seriousness, that if the Liberal Government is on the one hand confronted by the House of Lords, fortified by sporadic bye-elections, and on the other hand is attacked, abused, derided by those for whom it is fighting, then that Government, whatever its hopes, whatever its energies, whatever its strength, will be weakened, will perhaps succumb, and will be replaced by another Government. And by what other Government will it be replaced? The only possible result of such division of the progressive forces – the wanton division of the progressive forces as I see at this election, and as I saw at the Manchester election, where a candidate who had no chance whatever was put in the field simply in order to queer the pitch, simply in order to distract a few votes to give the Tory a chance. There can be no other result, I say, from such a division of progressive forces than to instal a Tory and Conservative Government in power.

Liberalism will not be killed. [Cheers.] Liberalism is a quickening spirit – it is immortal. [Loud cheers.] It will live on through all the days, be they good days or be they evil days. No, I believe it will even burn stronger and brighter and more helpful in evil days than in good – [cheers] just like your harbour lights which shine out across the waters, and which on a calm night gleam with soft refulgence, but through the storm flash a message of life to those who toil on the rough waters. [Cheers.] But it takes a great party to govern Great Britain – no clique, no faction, no cabal, can govern the 40 millions of people who live in this island. It takes a great concentration of forces to make a governing instrument.

You have now got a Radical and democratic governing instrument, and if this Administration is broken that instrument will be shattered. It has been re-created painfully and laboriously after 20 years of courage and fidelity. It has come into being – it is there. It is now at work in legislation and in the influence which it can exercise throughout the whole world, making even our opponents talk our language [laughter] – making all parties in the State think of social reform, and concern themselves with social and domestic affairs. I say, beware of how you injure that instrument – that great instrument as Mr. Gladstone called it – or weaken it at a moment when I think the masses of this country have great need of it. Why, what would happen if this present Government were to perish? On its tomb would be written – “Beware of social reform. [Laughter.] The working classes – the labour forces will not support a Government engaged in social reform. Every social reform will cost you votes. Beware of social reform. Learn to think Imperially.” [Great laughter and tremendous cheering.]

An inconclusive verdict from Dundee, the home of Scottish Radicalism – [hear, hear] an inconclusive or, still more, a disastrous verdict – [loud cries of “No” and “Never”] would carry a message of despair to every one in all parts of our island and in our sister island who is working for the essential influences and truths of Liberalism and progress. Down, down, down would fall the high hopes and elevated aspirations of the social reformer. The constructive plans now forming in so many nimble brains would melt into air -the light which had begun to gleam over the mountains would fade and die. The old regime would be reinstated, reinstalled; the Balfours and the Chamberlains, the Arnold-Forsters and the Lansdownes, and the Cecils will return. Like the Bourbons they will have learned nothing and will have forgotten nothing. [Loud cheers.] We shall step out of the period of adventurous hope in which we have lived for a brief spell – we shall step back to the period of obstinate and prejudiced negations. [Cheers.] For Ireland ten years of resolute government; for England dear food and cheaper gin – [great laughter] – and for Scotland – the superior wisdom of the House of Lords. [Laughter.] Is that the work you want to do, men of Dundee? [Loud cries of “No, no.”] Is that the work to which you will put your precious franchises – your votes which have been won for you by so much exertion and struggle in the past? Is that the work you want to do on Saturday? No, I think not. I have a great confidence that the message you will send will be to encourage different work to that. [Hear, hear, and cheers.]

I am confident that this city which has of its own free will plunged into the very centre of national politics will grasp the opportunity now presented – that its command will not be back but forward- [loud cheers] that its counsel will be not timidity but courage, and that it will aim not at dividing but at rallying the progressive forces, not at dissipating but at combining the energies of reform. That will be the message which you will send in tones which no man can make [cheers] – so that a keen, strong northern air shall sweep across our land to nerve and brace the hearts of men, to encourage the weak, to fortify the strong, to uplift the generous, to correct the proud. When an action has been joined for a long time, and the lines are locked in fierce conflict, and stragglers are coming in and the wounded drifting away, when the reserves begin to waver here and there, it is on such an occasion that Scottish regiments have so often won distinction; it is on these occasions that you have seen some valiant brigade march straight forward into the battle smoke, into the confusion of the battlefield, right into the heart of the fight. That is what you have to do at this moment. “Scotland to the front.”

Now I turn my argument to the other side of the field, to the other quarter, from which we in this hall [for I think we are all pretty well agreed] are subject to attack – I turn in my appeal from Trade Unionists, from the Labour men, who ought in all fairness to recognise the work this Government is doing and back them in their sore struggle – I turn to the rich and the powerful, the Unionist and the Conservative elements, who nevertheless upon Free Trade, upon temperance, and upon other questions of moral enlightenment, feel a considerable sympathy with the Liberal party – I turn to those who say “We like Free Trade and we are Liberals at heart, but this Government is too Radical, we don’t like its Radical measures, why can’t they let well alone, what do they mean by introducing all these measures, all these Bills, which disturb credit and trade and interfere with the course of business and cause so many class struggles in the country”? – I turn to those who say that, who say we are too Radical in this and in that, and that we are moving too quickly, and I say to them – Look at this political situation, not as party men, but as Britons; look at it in the light of history, look at it in the light of philosophy, and look at it in the light of broadminded Christian charity. [Cheers.]

Why is it that life and property are more secure in Britain than in any other country in the world? Why is it that our credit is so high and that our commerce stretches so far? Is it because of the repressive laws which we impose? Why, gentlemen, there are laws far more severe than any prevailing in this country or that have prevailed here for many years now in force in great States in Europe, and yet there is no security of life and property for all these repressive laws. [Cheers.] Is it because of the House of Lords that life and property is secure? [Laughter.] Why, orders of aristocracy more powerful, much more homogeneous, of greater privileges, acting with much greater energy than our aristocracy, have been swept away in other countries until not a vestige, or scarce a vestige, of their existence remains. [Hear, hear.] Is it because of the British Constitution that life and property are so secure? Why, the British Constitution is mainly British common-sense. [Cheers.] There were never 40 millions of people dwelling together who had less of an arbitrary and rigid Constitution than we have here.

The Constitution of France, the Constitution of Germany, the Constitution of the United States, are far more rigid, far more fortified against popular movements, than the Constitution under which we in these islands have moved steadily forward abreast of the centuries to a better state than any other country. I will tell those wealthy and powerful people what the secret of the security of life and property in Britain is. The security arises from the continuation of that very class struggle which they lament and of which they complain, which goes on ceaselessly in our country, which goes on tirelessly, with perpetual friction, a struggle between class and class in this country, which never sinks into lethargy, and never breaks into violence, but which from year to year makes a steady and constant advance. It is on that class struggle that the security of life and property in our country is fundamentally reposed.

We are always changing; like nature we change a great deal, although we change always very slowly. We always change, and consequently we are always reaching a higher level after each change, but yet with the harmony of our life unbroken and unimpaired. And I say also to those persons here, to whom I now make my appeal – wealthy men, men of light and leading have never been all on one side in our country. There have always been men of power and position who have sacrificed and exerted themselves in the popular cause, and that is why there is so little class hatred in our land in spite of all the squalor and misery which we see around us There, gentlemen, lies the true evolution of democracy. That is how we have preserved the golden thread of historical continuity when so many other nations have lost it for ever. That is the only way in which your island life as you know it, and love it, can be preserved in all its grace and in all its freedom, can be elevated, expanded, and illumined for those who will occupy our places when our share in the world’s work is done. [Applause.]

And I appeal to the leaders of industry and of learning in this city to range themselves on the side of a policy which will vigilantly seek the welfare of the masses, and which will strictly refuse to profit to their detriment, and, in spite of the violence of extremists, in spite of the harshness of controversy which hard conditions produces, in spite of the forces which may seem to those gentlemen ungrateful, I ask them to pursue and preserve in their crusade – for it is a crusade – of social progress and advance. [Cheers.] Cologne Cathedral took 600 years to build. Generations of architects and children lived and died while the work was still in progress. Still the work went on. Sometimes a generation built wrongly, and the next generation had to unbuild, and the next generation had to build again. Still the work went on through all the centuries till at last there stood forth to the world a mighty monument of beauty and of truth to command the admiration and inspire the reverence of mankind.

So let it be with the British Commonwealth. [Cheers.] Let us build wisely, let us build surely, let us build faithfully, let us build not for the moment, but for the years that are to come, and so establish here below what we hope to find above – a house of many mansions, where there shall be room for all. [Loud cheers.]

May 4, 1908
Kinnaird Hall, Dundee

Charles De Koninck on Respect for Person of Agnostics

Charles De Koninck
Are you aware of the demands that certain citizens of the province of Quebec make for the foundation of non-confessional schools?

I can reply in all truth that I am not.  If such a movement exists, it does not surprise me in any way, because the population of the province of Quebec has indeed changed since I came to live here, more than a quarter of a century ago.  I know, on the one hand, that apostasies are numerous and that immigration has indeed changed things.  It seems to me as well that in general our teaching, at every level, is far from having been able to respond to the the requirements of the day.

What do you think of the right claimed by the agnostics to obtain a non-confessional education at the expense of the state?

Permit me to recall at the beginning that the principles of morality are not applied in the same way in all circumstances. . . their application is a matter of practical wisdom.  Here are some examples of general propositions:  

a) It is on parents that falls the duty, founded on the natural right, to raise their children;

b) Parents have the duty to raise their children in the belief that appears to them to be true.

If the parents are agnostics, if they think that the religious teachings given in the schools are harmful to the ideal that they conceive for their children, if they sincerely believe that in a confessional school, where some neutral disciplines are taught, their children will be exposed to influences that they judge contrary to the good of their children, it seems to me that they have not simply the right, but the duty, to do all that they can, in the limits of the law, to obtain for their children, at the expense of the civil society, the institution of a non-confessional school.  Liberty of religion implies liberty of not adhering to any given religion.  It is a right that, in their fashion, all religions must protect if they wish to guard their own.  This is the question of principle.   

What do you think of the exercise of this right in a Quebec of today?

You are posing to me a question to which the response is of the prudential order.  Do I know sufficiently the Quebec of today to be able to suggest a sensible opinion?  Let us see.  Are there sufficient agnostic parents in the large towns of the province to justify the foundation of non-confessional schools?  You understand why I say “sufficient”.  There is a great variety of agnosticisms, as there is of religions.  What number of agnostic families of a given character is necessary to justify the foundation of a school?  It is a little as if one asked:  “When is a number large?”  It seems impossible to me to give a concrete answer to so abstract a question.  But it does seem to me that in certain towns of the province the number of agnostic families is sufficient to justify the institution of non-confessional schools, at all levels, at the expense of the political society – of course!  I add that this opinion is personal.

Would such an education, neutral from the religious point of view, lead to an increase in crimes against social morality?

When you say “against social morality”, I understand [you to mean] especially against justice.  You know as well as I do that religion, such as it exists in individuals, does not prevent these individuals from committing the most frightful crimes.  There exist, on the other hand, modern states, of which the citizens are in great majority agnostic, which give us an example of justice to imitate.  It is understood that in political society the citizens must conform themselves to the laws of this society.  But, and we are in agreement on this subject, these laws cannot be be such as to constrain the citizens to adhere to a given religion, whatever it may be.  For millennia the distinction has been made between the good man and the good citizen.  One can be a good man without being what we call a good man.  It does not pertain to political society to judge man absolutely, but solely to judge man as a citizen, which is defined by his power to contradict.

It is believed that a person who believes neither in God nor in the devil does not have, therefore, any reason to act well, even in public.  I do not share this opinion.

Moral philosophy does not follow from metaphysics, any more than good behaviour follows from a good moral philosophy.  If, in our mind, our practical behaviour were to depend on a well articulated and correct moral philosophy, where would we be?  It is fortunate that men are not logical in all points.  From the point of view of political society, man deserves to be protected against the totalitarian tyranny that denies this irrationality.  

I am not speaking of the irrationality of men from the heights of a condescending tolerance; I am thinking first of all of my own.  The tolerance that we all should have is only the positive recognition of the improbable contingency of the human situation.

It should not be concluded from my remarks that I advocate the non-confessional school as an ideal even for the children of religious families.  I maintain absolutely the contrary.  How could I be a Christian without hoping that the need for non-confessional schools be as minimal as possible.  It is Christian society that remains the ideal for me.  However, this society would not merit its name if it wished to impose by force the beliefs of the majority on all its members.  This would be to deny the gratuity of the faith, the gratuity of grace.  Christian society must respect the natural right even of those who do not believe in natural right.  

Permit me to express the hope that agnostics will show to us, to us who hold firmly to our confessional schools, the respect that we should to them.

Translated by David Quackenbush

Le Devoir
April 2, 1962

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