This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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4.1. Introduction

Abbreviations for Magisterial Documents

The following abbreviations are used through the section on Catholic Social Teaching to refer to official documents.

       AA                          Apostolicam Actuositatem

       AM                          Apostolic Mandate

       CA                           Centesimus Annus

       CC                           Casti Connubii

       CCC                        Catechism of the Catholic Church 

       CSDC                      Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

       CV                           Caritas in Veritate

       DH                          Dignitatis Humanae

       DR                           De Regno

       DV                          Donum Vitae

       EG                           Evangelii Gaudium

       EN                           Evangelii Nuntiandi

       EV                           Evangelium Vitae

       FC                           Familiaris Consortio

       GS                           Gaudium et Spes

       HG                          Humanum Genus

       HV                          Humanae Vitae

       ID                            Immortale Dei

       LC                           Libertatis Conscientia

       LE                            Laborem Exercens

       LP                            Libertas Praestantissimum

       LS                            Laudato Si’

       MM                         Mater et Magistra

       OA                          Octogesima Adveniens

       PDG                        Pascendi Dominici Gregis

       PP                            Populorum Progressio

       PT                           Pacem in Terris

       QA                          Quadragesimo Anno

       RH                          Redemptor Hominis

       RN                           Rerum Novarum

       RP                           Reconciliatio et Paenitentia

       SRS                          Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

       ST                            Summa Theologica

       TFP                         Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus

       UA                          Ubi Arcano

       VS                           Veritatis Splendor

The universality and relativity of social teachings

My interest in the traditional doctrine began with Catholicism, and in that sense, I owe everything to the Church. I emphasize this point because the reservations I am about to put forward regarding the Catholic social doctrine should not be taken as a condemnation of the Magisterium as a spiritual authority tasked with safeguarding a universal doctrine. But even so, all social teachings are, as a matter of course, secondary applications of the doctrine. In that sense they possess relativity, and that is why there is always a multiplicity of correct answers to any social question. This does not mean that all answers are true—most are not, hence the dire need for Magisterial guidance. Only we must not forget that we are dealing with a contingent adaptation of the universal doctrine.

This relativity does not diminish its value or importance. The social theory developed and preserved by the Church is the only halfway sane body of social teachings available to the West. Compared to everything else ‘on the market’, it is the only path to a harmonious balance of freedom and justice because it places them both within the context of truth, and in Catholicism, as in any traditional framework, there is no right superior to that of the truth.

The problem, however, is that the West cannot return to sanity. Its spiritual vision has for centuries been obscured by humanistic cataracts, and it is verging on total blindness. But this blind man will not be led, and the idea of an authoritative truth he cannot see providing direction for his life is odious to him. In such a world, the only way to deploy the social principles of Catholicism would be via an unprecedented totalitarianism, and such a project would obviously contradict its own underlying spirit and would be doomed to failure.

The pope now preaches to a world that has no use for him, because if “God is dead” then what good is a pope? Even the millions of living Catholics who profess the faith only seem to pay attention to the voice of Peter when it is personally and politically expedient. For the modern man, there is no right superior to his own prerogative to do what he pleases, and truth and justice and subordinate to his arbitrary liberty. Everything is now voluntary, and the pope and the Magisterium are artifacts of a bygone age when men had something to learn. Today everyone knows everything, how else could he fill out a ballot with a straight face?

For its part, the Church, while trying to retain its role as ‘interpreter of the signs of the times’ and pursuing the legitimate end of ‘adaptation of principles into temporal applications,’ has unfortunately compromised itself to such a degree that one must go to great lengths to find the connection between the applications currently offered and the traditional principles that, theoretically, act as the animating spirit of such applications.

It seems that in its desperate attempt to continue to speak to a deaf world, the Church invited foreign elements into itself on the assumption that these contaminants could be baptized and Catholicized. Christianity had always done this, and successfully. The difference, however, is that in the past, when the Church integrated and ‘transfigured’ a pagan custom or belief, the alien material was still of a spiritual substance. They were taking an article of a foreign religion and distilling its essence, and then situating that essence within Catholic teachings. But this was not the case with the modern ‘articles of faith’ which were never religious but were the anti-religion. No such transfiguration was possible. These ideas were poison and poison they would remain.

To cite only one example of these imprudent integrations, we can address the concept of ‘natural rights’. The Church had spoken of ‘right’ but had no place in it for these humanistic ‘natural rights’. When these fictions became popular, and the people could no longer think in terms of any other political vocabulary, Pope Leo XIII adopted the language of rights for use in his encyclicals. The hope was that by bringing bad philosophy ‘into the fold,’ it could be purified. Experience has proven that this did not work and almost immediately the effort backfired, since now, having legitimized the terminology of Liberal secularism through use in official documents, the Magisterium would have a difficult time controlling the interpretation of those documents, since the term used was not a Catholic one but was instead invented by secular philosophers. The ‘meaning’ of words used in doctrinal statements would mean whatever the secular world meant when it used the words.

Thus, a kind of authorized profanity makes an appearance in Church rhetoric and teachings, and it could not be taken back, nor would modernist Catholics wish it to be taken back. Pope Leo XIII’s intent was, again, to coopt the terminology, but he overestimated himself, and inaugurated a way of speaking that might have been capable of traditional interpretation but which was doomed to receive an exclusively humanistic one.

We hesitate to say that this was some great error on the part of the Church, and in truth there was probably no other way. It seems distasteful, but at the same time, what was the alternative? To retain a language that no one understands is to choose not to speak to anyone. This is the dilemma that has surrounded debates about the use of Latin, although that question is more nuanced and we intend to address it elsewhere. At any rate, the Enlightenment mentality had already won out and there was no recovery to be had, and to adopt the Liberal vocabulary was not a matter of prudent tactics but of compromise. It is a laudable principle for the shepherd to leave the flock to chase after the lost, but what if the majority of the flock deserts him and the only way to recover them is to lead the few faithful into the bog? Such are the incredibly difficult problems faced by any spiritual authority in this Dark Age, and that is why we emphasize again that these observations are not criticisms, and we do not pretend to know how the catastrophic modernization of Catholicism could have been avoided, and if it could not be avoided, then it is unjust to act as if it should have been.

The question seems to hinge on a balance between two roles played by the Church. She is the great teacher, and has a responsibility to reveal the truth about man and about God to the world, in its purest possible form. Yet she is also the spiritual mother, the good shepherd, and has a pastoral responsibility, implying that she cannot sit in her empty Cathedrals while the sheep scatter, obstinately refusing to sully herself by stepping outside to recover them. Anytime She goes outside of Herself, she gives the appearance of compromise. In a contest between these roles, it seems the responsibility to preserve the truth must win out, but it does not follow that the preservation of the truth necessitates its public profession in all of its nuances, and perhaps this is the answer to such a difficult question. The Church had its beginnings in a kind of necessitated secrecy—no pearls before swine. She rose and flourished to a point where the grand beauty of the doctrine could fine external expression to a wonderful degree. It is conceivable that the deterioration of the world could cause a reversal of the same process, and the truths, once openly promoted, will recede into secrecy in the face of a world filled with decadence.

Reservations about the doctrine and its use

In a decadent age, the Church teaches what it can to those who will listen, and this necessitates the appearance of compromise. This is why we will insist that Catholic Social Teaching as presented here has value in several ways. It might, for one, introduce the Catholic reader of the manual to an aspect of his faith that he has never heard of. For the individual whose vocation is politics or economics, it may turn out to be the Church’s best kept secret. That in itself would be quite a discovery. Such a reader will realize that there is a ‘third way’ and that he is not limited to the two absurd programs proffered by the two leading parties of the day, and that in fact both of those parties are as anti-traditional as they come. Second, this exposition of Catholic Social Teaching might, if the reader happens to be one of those rare individuals called to politics in this age, provide an example of what a very, very attenuated application of traditional principles might look like. In other words, there is much good here, enough for it to serve as a guide for the type of person just mentioned.

The danger, however, is that this material be taken as an example of true doctrinal exposition, uncompromised and retaining its principles in their integrity—this, we must insist, would be a mistake.

These applications are beneficial, even if they sometimes take on an appearance of contrivance and compromise. This also has another consequence. The reader must understand that even if they were embraced by society and implemented in their entirety, the result would still not be a healthy, traditionally-oriented society. The disease that is afflicting the world is fatal, and the Church can at this point only treat some of the symptoms, can only bring some comfort to a doomed civilization. The merciful physician sometimes administers medicines that no truly healthy person should ever take, since they are, strictly speaking, ‘unhealthy’, but to a dying man, they provide solace and might provide benefit against the disease even if they are themselves destructive. In the same way, the anti-traditional concepts that were allowed into the Church are contingent truths, cures for a victim already in the late stages of illness. Catholic Social Teaching would be a godsend in today’s political context, but it isn’t a cure. It is preferable to anything on the menu, but it is not strictly speaking healthy—do not make of it an idol.

Always remember, we hold an already lost position, and we must always be on the lookout for chimeras. I have included this material not because I consider it a matter of doctrinal exposition properly so-called, but as a useful framework to set in opposition to the prevailing social theories, which are entirely debased. This material will also serve as a valuable resource for those individuals called to political life, that they may ‘fight the good fight,’ achieving small victories for their people, even if total victory on the social level is completely out of reach. What follows is a faithful enunciated of Catholic social teaching, as proposed in official documents and with the full authority of the Church behind it.

The legitimacy of the synthesis

Having acknowledged the truth that is in the social teaching without risk of seeing it as a political program to be followed, let us use as our point of departure a challenge issue by in the recently released Laudato Si’, Pope Francis:

We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness.[1]

The material presented here could also be construed as an attempt to meet that challenge. As for the approach we will take in the pages that follow, we may simply borrow the words of Harold Robbins, who opened his most excellent book, The Sun of Justice, by saying:

“This book is not an analysis of what the Church tolerates, and in tolerating guides. It seeks to be a statement of what the Church wants…The distinction, which seems self-evident, is made surprisingly seldom. The Church has her negative standards, to fall below which is to fall into sin. These standards are necessarily minimum standards, for Moral Theology is conditioned by Charity. But she has also her positive standards, which are very different. I am informed by my clerical friends that the only name for these is Ascetic Theology. It seems strange to me that to want to do what the Church approves should be a striving after Asceticism, at least in its ordinary sense. Please God the desire is more general than that would imply. But we need not discuss this further. The point is that our outlook on society has been too much in terms of the confessional, and too little in terms of the City of God. A man could avoid the sin of being theologically drunk every night of his life, and give a very poor impression to his neighbours of the Virtue of Temperance. And millionaires are not excommunicated for being millionaires, but no one who is familiar with the blistering phrases of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI can suppose that they are at all pleased that millionaires should exist. I see no reason why the laity should be pleased, either.”[2]

The first advantage of such a study is to dispel the fog of ignorance that has settled on the faithful in our period; an ignorance which, although understandable for men and women who must work for their bread, and who therefore do not have the time, energy, or desire to thumb through hundreds of years of papal statements, is nonetheless very dangerous. We no longer live in the age of obedience when the unlearned would turn with childlike openness to the Church, ready to trust Rome’s counsel. On the contrary, in democratic ages every man is told to “think for himself.” He is led to believe that the opinions he arrives at by the power of his own judgment are the supreme measure of truth in his world, with the end result that his opinions are formed almost entirely by voices emitting from his television set. For there is no such thing as an opinion formed “independently.” We are all of us under the influence of a million pressures external to ourselves; it is only a matter of which of those influences we allow to guide our reasoning.

And so, in this “age of information,” every man in America knows about the latest earthquake in the third-world, able to cite the “death toll” down to the last woman and child; he knows about the most recent mass-shooting or terrorist plot; he knows which celebrities are getting divorced: but this same man has no idea whatsoever of the Catholic doctrines related to subsidiarity, solidarity, the universal destination of goods, and private property. Even if he has heard of them, they have been filtered through the political medium, which is to say they have been mutilated beyond recognition. Not for a thousand dollars could he name the magnificent documents in which these principles are elaborated, even though they are every one of them at his fingertips, thanks to the internet.

Thus, we find that although we have more information at our disposal than during any previous period, it seems that the truths of Catholic Social Teaching have been enveloped by an ocean of talk shows, radio broadcasts, and webpages, leaving us in the dark to stumble haphazardly through every problem that arises. In this situation, we cannot help but recall the lamentation of Pius X, which applies to our time much more than it did his:

[T]he will cannot be upright nor the conduct good when the mind is shrouded in the darkness of crass ignorance. A man who walks with open eyes may, indeed, turn aside from the right path, but a blind man is in much more imminent danger of wandering away…How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion!…It is indeed vain to expect a fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.[3]

The social teaching has the power to inject the truths of the Christian tradition into the ocean of incoherence in which the modern man is forced to live—to beat back the waters of confusion and ignorance, even if only a little, and give him the opportunity to breath the clean air of Catholic doctrine.

Anyone who makes the claim that “the Church teaches such-and-such” ought to be ready immediately to produce the appropriate documentation as support for their assertion. Therefore, we will attempt to provide a handful of references for each subject we address.  The task has not been difficult, thanks to the constant labor of the Church through the centuries to address problems as they arise. Indeed, we can rest confident that there are few social questions that the Church has not wrestled with in her history. Because of this diligence, any claims as to her opinion one way or the other on some specific issue are almost always readily verifiable. The explanation for the various debates that persist on so many issues is not, we must admit, due to silence on the part of the Church, but rather ignorance on the part of the public. There was perhaps a time when it was legitimate to blame the Church for the ignorance of her people, but today there is simply no excuse for it. The Vatican has taken steps to make thousands of its texts readily available online, including the excellent Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Truthfully, while we could mention a few valid disagreements about the nature of Church teaching, the vast majority of such disputes could be dispelled in a moment if the participants would simply pause to reference their sources. It is our hope that the present work may encourage and facilitate this process.

[1] LS, 121.

[2] Harold Robbins, Sun of Justice (London, 1938), p. 9.

[3] AN, 5-6.

The doctrine of the Jubilee as a summary

In order to set the historical stage for the subject we have before us, we can refer to the Old Testament custom known as the Jubilee. A brief review of this tradition is helpful because the Jubilee has been described by the Church as an illustration of Catholic Social Doctrine in miniature.[1] It can therefore be seen as an incredibly compact summary of the teachings we are about to explore.

Catholic Social Teaching (hereafter “CST”) has for its goal the stability and justice of social life. This means that it is relevant in some way to any society at any time. Most of us tend to imagine CST as a body of Church documents written to combat the evils of the modern industrial period. That is to say, we unconsciously attribute to CST a purely “reactionary” character—something necessitated by extreme circumstances but otherwise irrelevant. But obviously any doctrine that is only reactionary is not a doctrine, because doctrines are timeless, placeless, and purely affirmative. They are positive. If any doctrine seems like a reaction to a specific historical period, it can only be because that period chose to deny it. And so, if the principles enunciated in Rerum Novarum seem to be a reaction to socialism or capitalism, this is only because those two ideologies tried very hard to ignore them, and because they insisted on ignoring them, Pope Leo XIII had to re-affirm them. He said nothing new.

We may pause and make sure we are justified in what we’ve claimed, which is that the social teachings of the Church are not modern, born of the Industrial Revolution, but timeless. If we are going to say that the social teachings of the Church go back further than Rerum Novarum, capitalism, and socialism, then we had better be able to explain where exactly they do go back to. This leads us to refer to one of the oldest records we have—the Old Testament—where God Himself directly specifies the economic institutions of His people. One such institution is the Year of Jubilee. Quoting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

“Among the many norms which tend to give concrete expression to the style of gratuitousness and sharing in justice which God inspires, the law of the sabbatical year (celebrated every seven years) and that of the jubilee year (celebrated every fifty years) stand out as important guidelines…The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature.”[2]

For agreement on this point, the writers of the Compendium turn to St. John Paul II, who said that “The social doctrine of the Church, which has always been a part of Church teaching and which has developed greatly in the last century, particularly after the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, is rooted in the tradition of the jubilee year.”[3]

Clearly, then, when Leo XIII titled his document “On New Things,” the things he had in mind were not the principles he was teaching, but the problems he was solving, problems that would not have arisen if the “Old Things” had not been forgotten.

But if the Jubilee is really the “root” of CST, and if it really does represent this doctrine “in miniature,” then we ought to be able to derive the principles of CST from the Old Testament institution. Therefore, in order to justify the Compendium, let us take the central principles of CST as they are commonly given, namely: solidarity, subsidiarity, justice, the just price, the universal destination of goods, private property, and the preferential option for the poor. Following Pope Francis, we will also examine how the Jubilee expresses respect for creation, showing an explicit concern for the welfare of the land. Let us see how these truths find concise expression in the Old Testament institution.

To get a proper start, we will cite the scriptural outline of the Jubilee as found in the book of Leviticus. The basic principle is cyclical, reflecting the rhythms of human life and nature itself. It revolves around periods of rest (given to the land every seven years) and redemption (a large-scale economic reset every fifty years):

“Six years thou shalt sow thy field and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and shalt gather the fruits thereof: But in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath to the land, of the resting of the Lord: thou shalt not sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.”[4]

 “Thou shalt also number to thee seven weeks of years, that is to say, seven times seven, which together make forty-nine years…And thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year, and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee. Every man shall return to his possession, and every one shall go back to his former family.”[5]

 “In the year of the jubilee all shall return to their possessions.”[6]

The passage continues on at some length, but what can we say of it so far?

Solidarity—First, we see the undeniable expression of solidarity. St. Paul said that we were all one body, and that “if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”[7] While it is common today to applaud this notion in theory, implementing a sentimental but not a practical solidarity, it is another thing entirely to build it into the economic structure of society. Such was the purpose of the Jubilee:

“The jubilee year was meant to restore equality among all the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom. On the other hand, the jubilee year was a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights.”[8]

Subsidiarity—But at the very same time we see the implementation of the other side of the solidarity coin, which is subsidiarity. Consider the fact that in this system economic activity is left to run its course 49 years out of 50. A less obtrusive government policy is indeed hard to imagine. But since the values agreed upon in private exchanges are, like man himself, bound to be imperfect, it is necessary for the political authority to intervene periodically in order to restore harmonious cooperation amongst participants.

Justice—And so we move to a third principle, which is the harmonious relationship between commutative and distributive justice, taught by St. Thomas Aquinas and affirmed by the Church. In the Jubilee framework, individuals are allowed to carry out (provided they do not commit usury and other forms of theft) their day-to-day commerce as they see fit. Yet due to the imperfection of these transactions, errors accumulate in the system, contributing to an ever-increasing economic disharmony. The distribution of wealth inevitably begins to reflect this disharmony, which is to say the system becomes imbalanced. The political authority must then intervene to correct the accumulation of errors by wiping the slate clean, superimposing distributive justice on top of the framework of commutative justice, thereby balancing the scale and completing one “revolution” of the cycle. By incorporating such “intentional revolutions” into economic life, the “unintentional revolutions”—uncontrolled, unjust, and almost always violent—are defused before they begin.

The Just Price—But by what measure are we to judge the justice or injustice of private exchanges in any scheme?—those through which so many small disharmonies are introduced into the overall system? The answer comes in the passage immediately following the one cited above:

“When thou shalt sell any thing to thy neighbour, or shalt buy of him; grieve not thy brother: but thou shalt buy of him according to the number of years from the jubilee.  And he shall sell to thee according to the computation of the fruits.  The more years remain after the jubilee, the more shall the price increase: and the less time is counted, so much the less shall the purchase cost. For he shall sell to thee the time of the fruits.”[9]

Here we find an objective criterion for pricing which results from and presupposes the cyclical aspect of the Jubilee economy. Because land purchased immediately after the Jubilee may potentially have 49 years to produce, the one who acquires it will rightly pay a high price, and this price corresponds to the “computation of the fruits,” which is to say, the produce which the land will yield and which will multiply with each year. Moreover, and for obvious reasons, land acquired a year before Jubilee will cost far less, because the produce of one season is all that will be factored into its price.

Private Property and the Universal Destination of Goods—We can see from the above that the legislation in Leviticus, like the tradition of the Church, affirms the institution of private property, but at the same time, also like the Church, takes care to subordinate private property to the original purpose of creation as a gift to all of mankind. It is within this universal context that the land is bought and sold, and it is for this reason that it cannot be sold permanently:

“The land also shall not be sold for ever: because it is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me. For which cause all the country of your possession shall be under the condition of redemption.”[10]

St. John Paul II elaborates on this principle:

“It was a common conviction, in fact, that to God alone, as Creator, belonged the ‘dominium altum’—lordship over all Creation and over the earth in particular (cf. Lev 25:23). If in his Providence God had given the earth to humanity, that meant that he had given it to everyone. Therefore the riches of Creation were to be considered as a common good of the whole of humanity. Those who possessed these goods as personal property were really only stewards, ministers charged with working in the name of God, who remains the sole owner in the full sense, since it is God’s will that created goods should serve everyone in a just way. The jubilee year was meant to restore this social justice.[11]

Widely Distributed Ownership–Reconciling itself to this theology of property, the Hebrew law ensured that anyone who had been forced through hardship to sell his land to another would be allowed to “redeem” it or buy it back at a later date. The price he must pay would again be computed through the Jubilee-style prorate system.

It is worth pausing to consider the implications of this prorate: if a man lost his land, he could at least rest assured that he had lost it when its price was high. He would know that every year following the loss, its redemption price would decrease, becoming more within his reach. As a consequence, the price for land would be at its lowest toward the end of the Jubilee cycle, even though this is the point at which concentration, and with it demand, would have normally reached its highest. Land speculation in this system is virtually impossible, or if it occurs it is at least not profitable; and this is so not merely because of the Jubilee, but because of the prorate scheme that is made possible by it, which corresponds to the just price and encourages a widely diffused pattern of ownership.

Preferential Option for the Poor—Continuing through the passage:

 “If thy brother be impoverished, and weak of hand, and thou receive him as a stranger and sojourner, and he live with thee, Take not usury of him nor more than thou gavest: fear thy God, that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor exact of him any increase of fruits.”[12]

Obviously the intention here is to prohibit usury and prevent the growth of debt-slavery, but the underlying spirit, if we consider the Jubilee doctrine as a whole, is a concern for the poor. Every limit and mechanism it implements confirms this intention. Thus, we can see again why St. John Paul II said that:

“Justice, according to the Law of Israel, consisted above all in the protection of the weak, and a king was supposed to be outstanding in this regard, as the Psalmist says: ‘He delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy’ (Ps 72:12-13).”[13]

Concern for Creation—Especially in light of Laudato Si’, it is vital to recall the passage quoted at the beginning:

“Six years thou shalt sow thy field and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and shalt gather the fruits thereof: But in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath to the land, of the resting of the Lord: thou shalt not sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.”[14]

Here the Sabbath is granted to the land, which is to say, it is not only a symbolic rest, representative of spiritual rest and nothing else, but rather it has a very real material function. It is both meaningful and necessary. Anyone remotely familiar with agricultural technique can understand why this is so, and what negative results come about if the land is worked ceaselessly, without variety, and without opportunity to replenish itself. It will become sterile, devoid of that natural vigor which only periodic rest can maintain.

ConclusionThe ultimate value of the Jubilee is to remind us that all of our social arrangements—money, property, markets—are human things. They are devised and executed through human reasoning, a noble but imperfect faculty, with the intention of imitating Divine Justice. All of our systems will inevitably fall short, accumulate errors, and crash. And this remains true whether the crash is immediate and obvious and leads to a great depression, or whether it is monotonous, laborious, and even perpetual. The doctrine of the Jubilee serves the twofold purpose of being a reminder in spiritual affairs and providing a reset in material affairs. We need the reminder because we are human, and we forget that our justice is not the ultimate justice.

[1] CSDC, 25; LS, 71.

[2] CSDC, 24, 25.

[3] TMA, 13.

[4] Lev 25:3-6

[5] Lev 25:8-10

[6] Lev 25:13

[7] Cf. 1 Cor 12:12-26.

[8] TMA, 13.

[9] Lev 25:14-17

[10] Lev 25:23-24

[11] TMA, 13.

[12] Lev 25:35-37

[13] TMA, 13.

[14] Lev 25:3-6

Remarks on sources used

We have chosen to dwell at length on the Jubilee because, not only does it serve as a useful illustration of CST, but at the same time it reveals the timelessness of Catholic principles. Having established this basis, we will begin to make extensive use of those documents which are much more recent. In addition to the use of scripture, the Church Fathers, and various official documents produced by the Church itself, we will make frequent use of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. We feel comfortable utilizing an individual such as Aquinas only because, in doing so, we are conforming to the attitude of the popes themselves. St. Pius X was not expressing a private opinion when he said:

“In the first place, with regard to studies, We will and ordain that scholastic philosophy be made the basis of the sacred sciences…And let it be clearly understood above all things that the scholastic philosophy We prescribe is that which the Angelic Doctor has bequeathed to us…Further, let Professors remember that they cannot set St. Thomas aside, especially in metaphysical questions, without grave detriment.”[1]

We will also attempt to limit our study specifically to those sources which are readily available on the internet. Every source used here, from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, to the Catechism, to the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, can be found online by anyone with an internet connection. My hope is that most readers will take advantage of this fact in order to verify and study in greater depth any sources they find meaningful or interesting.

The various encyclicals, the Compendium, the Catechism, and most of the other documents cited below are available at the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/archive/index.htm

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, The Catholic Encyclopedia and many other significant writings are available from New Advent: www.newadvent.org

The remainder of Aquinas’ works can be obtained from the Dominican House of Studies: www.dhspriory/thomas

Finally, the reader should be aware that we will not limit ourselves only to those documents normally associated with CST—which is in fact a very specific and limited corpus. This is because the documents specifically associated with CST, in their approach and in their manner of speaking, often take for granted a certain degree of familiarity with doctrine. This is a degree of familiarity which, in our time, it is not possible to presume.

For example, all of the documents of CST presuppose an acceptance of Catholic moral philosophy, which, sadly, is often lacking. Even those members of the laity who are open to the teachings, and who believe themselves to be in complete conformity with the Magisterial position, may find that in fact they have never even heard of some of her principles. And so, when we arrive in our study at sections which presuppose Catholic moral philosophy, we will veer away from the corpus of CST in order to explore documents from other areas, such as St. John Paul II’s moral encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. This is not because Veritatis Splendor is the only document to speak on morality, but because it is the first document to synthesize the moral teachings of the Church for the benefit of all its members and to publish them in such succinct form. As the document itself states:

“This is the first time…that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial.”[2]

Other “necessary digressions” of this sort may be expected to occur throughout the work.

[1] PDG, 45.

[2] VS, 115.