Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week December 17, 2007

There are some who become fearful and hesitant when faced with the wickedness of Communism, which aims to rob the faith from those very people to whom it promises material prosperity. . . . Others show themselves no less timid and hesitant in the face of that economic system which is known as Capitalism. The Church has not failed to denounce the grave consequences that can follow from it.

The Church has not only called attention to the wrong use of capital and of the right to property promoted and defended by this system, but has insisted just as much that capital and private property must be a means of production for the benefit of the whole of society and of sustaining and defending the freedom and dignity of the human person.

The errors inherent in both economic systems should convince everybody, priests in particular, that they ought to uphold faithfully the social teaching of the Church, to spread the knowledge of it and to show how its can be applied in practice. This teaching is the only remedy for the evils we have denounced, evils, unhappily, so widespread. This teaching shows the unity and perfection of the demands of justice and the duties of charity, and promotes a social order which does not serve to oppress individuals and isolate them in blind selfishness but brings everybody together in harmony and in the bonds of close brotherhood.

Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Exhortation to the Priess of the World, September 25, 1950

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  • I like this from Pius XII — on the proper function of bankers:

    “How much capital is lost through waste and luxury, through selfish and dull enjoyment, or
    accumulates and lies dormant without being turned to profit! There will always be egoists and self-seekers; there will always be misers and those who are short-sightedly timid. Their number could be considerably reduced if one could interest those who have money in using their funds wisely and profitably, be they great or small. It is largely due to this lack of interest that money lies dormant.

    You can remedy this to a great extent by making ordinary depositors collaborators either as bond or share-holders, in undertakings whose launching and thriving would be of great benefit to the community, such as industrial activities, agricultural production, public works, or the construction of houses for workers, educational or cultural institutions, welfare or social service.

    Boards of directors have been greatly criticized. Such criticism is justifiable insofar as the
    members of these boards envisage nothing but excessive increase of dividends. If, on the contrary, they have at heart the wise and healthy handling of capital, then, by doing this alone they are performing a social activity of the first order. They are assuming an intense, moral, and psychological task that is much different from the simple impersonal transactions at the desk or counter. Who knows, perhaps one day for such transactions some inventor will so perfect adding machines, these mechanical or electric brains, that the client fill have nothing to do but press a button in order to carry out all the business that brings him to the bank. But what machine, however ingenious, what system, however smart, can ever take the place of the banker, the manager of a house of credit, who studies the client, explains to him, and makes him aware of what may interest him in order to direct his cooperation, enabling him to follow intelligently the fortunes of the undertaking he supports? Does this not constitute a social and moral activity of the greatest value, an activity that brings the most fruitful results? ”

    (– address to delegates attending the International Congress on Credit Questions,
    October 24, 1951)

  • SMB

    ‘Who knows, perhaps one day for such transactions some inventor will so perfect adding machines, these mechanical or electric brains, that the client will have nothing to do but press a button in order to carry out all the business that brings him to the bank. ‘

    He got THAT right.

    The problem with P12’s Exhortation to Priests is this: what do we mean by ‘capitalism as a system’? If we mean pure laissez-faire economics, the Church is obviously against it. But no country on earth, as far as I know, actually has such an economic system. What we have instead is some form of ‘corporatism’, in which the state regulates the market, more or less, to maintain social harmony. One can argue that labor and/or consumers are inadequately represented in certain governments, and that international trade is insufficiently regulated; but how is this ‘system’ intrinsically opposed to Catholic Social Teaching?

    Here, I realize, I am touching on another issue: to what extent are right-liberals really ‘liberal’? As I indicated, they are really corporatists, not capitalists. They may say they want government out of the economy, but they would all panic in a truly free market.

  • Policraticus

    SMB,

    I like what you are asking. Similarly, I would wonder if there has ever been an instantiation of Communism as a system. China, the USSR and Cuba would certainly be no more systematically Communist than the U.S. or Britain would be systematically capitalist. However, Pope Pius XII is treating both Capitalism and Communism as realities, and we know that neither has ever been implemented as “systems” in the purest sense of the term. However, the intended practice of both has yielded much injustice and evil, which is what I believe the Pope is addressing.

    As to your question about opposition to Catholic social teaching, I think the key is in Pius XII’s words: “The errors inherent in both economic systems.” He seems to be suggesting that both Communism and Capitalism as theoretical systems contain “inherent” errors, and these errors are manifest in the practical application of each, however pure or adulterated that application may be. Thus, I think Pius XII is vascillating between a theoretical and empirical criticism of the two theories without providing us with much clarity as to which approach he is taking and when.

  • SMB

    ‘Thus, I think Pius XII is vascillating between a theoretical and empirical criticism of the two theories without providing us with much clarity as to which approach he is taking and when.’

    Yes, Policratus; that sounds about right.

  • Kurt

    Many years ago the democratic left coined the phrase “actually exisiting Communism” to help avoid tiresome arguements with the far left.